Addictive. That’s the only way to describe my experience volunteering as a room mom in my son’s kindergarten class. Each week, I show up for two hours to help facilitate early childhood development by testing children on their sight words and phonetic words. If they aren’t progressing as quickly as the teacher expects, I play games to facilitate reading. But seeing them progress is just one reason this is the best unpaid job I’ve ever had. Here’s five more:
1. Constant Presence
When you show up in your child’s classroom, your saying, “School is important,” and “I care about your education.” It’s beneficial if you child is accustomed to your presence, preferably beginning in preschool or elementary school. Oftentimes, parents wait until there is a problem at school to get involved. This can be met with resistance from their child. If you start volunteering early in your child’s education, it can keep the lines of communication open with your child who will be more likely to discuss school issues with you.
2. Know Their Peers
Simply put, you’ll know which children you want your child spending time with outside of school. If you hear your child’s classmate Johnny cursing up a storm on the playground or teasing other children, you’ll know to steer away from playdates with him. To the contrary, you may notice a particular child who is shy, or has difficulty making friends. Use that as an opportunity to discuss compassion by asking your child, “What if you didn’t have any friends? Maybe we can invite them to the park with us.”
3. You’re “In” with the Teacher
Many room moms are privy to information that isn’t shared with all parents, simply because they’re in the classroom when things go down. Perhaps a student is sent home sick. The teacher may say to you, “That’s the third child sent home this week!” You know to pack the (alcohol free) hand sanitizer in your child’s backpack.
As a room mom, you may also find yourself sympathizing with the teacher as you help her distribute art supplies to the children that she purchased with her own money the night before. Or maybe you observe her disciplining children who seem to all-at-once exhibit unruly behavior one day. Teachers are human. They have ups and downs too. Having an adult present on a particularly rough day may provide a teacher with a much-needed adult to speak to, which strengthens your relationship with her. Bonding with your child’s teacher can make it easier to discuss any issues concerning your child, and therefore, help boost your kid’s early childhood development.
4. In the Know
How many times have you said “Where did you learn that?” or “What do you do in school all day?” or simply “How was school?” If you are in the classroom, you’ll witness early childhood development in the making so you won’t need to ask. Instead, you can engage your child in conversation about a specific project he enjoyed, or a book that had the entire class laughing. I’ve heard parents complain about homework, “It makes you wonder what they do all day in the classroom,” one mom said. Those concerns can be confirmed or put to rest if you are present.
5. Contagious Hugs
If you love working with kids, they’ll love you back. When I show up to my son’s school during recess, I’m greeted with several hugs. Those hugs are contagious. I have children running up to embrace me who I’ve never even met. Once we’re inside the classroom, many of the children plead to be first to sit with me to review their reading words (score for engaged learning!). This week, one little girl even said “I love you.” What can be more rewarding than that?