Research has demonstrated that parent involvement in the educational process impacts positively on the attitude and conduct of children in school. One significant vehicle for parent involvement is a structured volunteer program.
Volunteers in your CCD classroom can be a blessing IF done correctly and IF it is planned ahead. Nothing is worse than having a volunteer not know what to do or be in the way.
So what should be done to have a good volunteer program in your classroom?
Parent Volunteer Tips
• Have a Volunteer Sign Up Sheet. Have one available on the first day of class, or better yet for CCD Open House.
office.microsoft.com- Volunteer Sign Up Sheet Template
vertex42.com- Use this volunteer sign up form to collect contact information from people interested in helping. You'll probably want to customize it a bit, but starting with the template should save you quite a bit of time. (Scroll down to this.)
templates.services.openoffice.org- This Volunteer Sign Up sheet help you collect contact information from people interested in helping in your organization or service activity. This template is pretty easy to customize and lets the person indicate what job or activity they are interested in, as well as what day or time they will be available.
familyfun.go.com- Classroom Volunteer Sign Up Sheet (PDF)
docstoc.com- Volunteer Sign Sheet Template
Use the information that you gathered (what the parents would like to do, when it is convenient for them to help, etc.) to make up a schedule that works with these times. Create a list of what you want the parent to do in the classroom. Be thorough and exact so they know what to do and when to do it.
• Have a Parent Volunteer Night. Have a short orientation meeting for parents who want to help in the classroom. At this meeting remind parents to please remember that your priority is to use parents to enhance the program for the students, and to assist the teacher with daily tasks so that you can focus on the instruction of the students. This means that helpers may be asked to do something that will seem very repetitious to them. For example, parents may be doing the same activity for the whole time they are in the classroom with different groups of students; or they may have the same routine for volunteering each time they come. Also, at the meeting give the parents various handouts that will be helpful to a volunteer, discuss proper praise, how to read with children, some simple tutoring techniques, basic do's and don'ts, class rules and discipline, etc.
• Volunteers must be accountable and dependable. Emphasize to your volunteers that if they plan to be absent to contact you well in advance so you can find a replacement for that day or time. Frequent absenteeism can be frustrating and cannot be tolerated. Classroom schedules must run smoothly to promote good learning for the students. Volunteers who are absent repeatedly cause unwanted disorder in the classroom making it hard for the teacher to conduct class properly. Let the volunteers know that you need someone to be there when they are scheduled and ready to help.
• Volunteers need to be trained. Show them exactly how you want them to do something. You should also teach them how to run the copier machine, where to find various activities and supplies, etc. Be very clear and specific in your expectations.
• Volunteers must keep all information confidential. Emphasize to the volunteers if they overhear anything personal about a student, keep it to yourself. What you hear in the classroom should stay there. After all, you wouldn't want your child gossiped about, would you?
• Volunteers need to be flexible. Be prepared to do what the teacher needs when you arrive. Sometimes something urgent comes up and must be addressed right then. You might have been told you would help with reading, but cutting paper stars is more of an immediate necessity at the moment. Keep a perspective: Your role is to help free up the teacher's time so she can teach.
• Volunteers must be positive and in a good mood. Negativity reflects poorly in a classroom and disrupts the flow of good learning.
• Volunteers need to be patient. Volunteers need to be patient when working with students because when they are having difficulty with a subject, they do not need additional pressure.
• Volunteers need to be consistent. Be consistent with the teacher’s rules for the classroom schedules and behavior.
• Volunteers praise and encourage others. Volunteers do not: berate or belittle, criticize students or teachers, lose control and say something that is inappropriate or might be regretted, acts in a cold or indifferent manner, get physical with others, compare students within the classroom, etc.
• Volunteers use their voice correctly. Use a tone of voice that will encourage students and make them feel confident.
• Volunteers are role models. Let students observe you as a model for appropriate behavior (sharing, showing respect, talking quietly, taking turns, etc.).
• Volunteers encourage students to learn. Let students participate in activities as frequently as possible. Ask students questions that may lead them to the correct answer instead of telling them directly. Let students explore and discover by themselves. Encourage students to feel, smell, taste, and listen, as well as look at objects. Let students try new methods of doing things even though you already know an easier way. Let students sort and combine according to their own ideas.
• Volunteers follow and sign the guidelines and rules set forth by the diocese and/or DRE. If there are not any, the DRE should write up some guidelines for the volunteers to sign to verify that they understood what their responsibilities are and the rules that they must follow. Be sure to have in it an absenteeism policy and what they are supposed to do when they are absent. Include that frequent absenteeism cannot be tolerated and volunteers can be dismissed if this becomes a problem.
Copyright 2010 Laura Grace
About the Author
Laura Grace was a special education teacher years ago and has taught CCD for 16 years. She has been a contributor at catholicmom.com since 2006, is part of the Gospel Reflections Team, and creates lesson plans for religious education and homeschooling. In 2008 Laura started her own blog, The Catholic Toolbox where she posts activities, crafts, games, worksheets, puzzles, lesson plans, classroom tips, etc. for all ages.