Parenting Magazine asked readers if schools should make it mandatory for parents to volunteer. Only 36% were in favor of mandatory volunteering, while 64% gave the idea two thumbs down. To those results, I have one thing to say: No duh!
That poll was a while ago, September 2010 to be exact, but I’ve got to believe the numbers still hold true.
The case for mandatory volunteering is a shaky one
As absurd as I find the idea of forcing a parent to volunteer at their child’s school, I can’t completely dismiss those who see it differently. Here are a few arguments for mandatory volunteering:
- Even a busy stay-at-home mom (or work-outside-the-home mom) can prep materials and send supplies for lessons
- Parents inside the classroom show kids that education is important and that their parents care
- All parents should share the burden instead of a small group of parent volunteers
I doubt many parents would balk at the idea of sending in materials for a class lesson. That’s just a couple of inches over from shopping for school supplies. But it’s such a slippery slope.
First it’s, “Can you put together a few science fair kits for the kids?” Then it’s, “I bet the kids would love to see your beans and cotton ball experiment in person. Can you come in?” As much as you might be willing, even honored, to share your brilliance with your child’s class, making such a thing mandatory is a bad move for all involved.
Parents inside the classroom may send kids a powerful message, but is that the only way to show your kids that education is important? Books before bedtime, help with homework, conversations about goals and how to achieve them–does that count for anything?
I agree that it’s unfortunate when a small number of parent volunteers, or volunteers in any situation, have to pull everyone else’s weight. The solution can’t be to force others to work in their place because…
Forced volunteers smell funny
I have nothing against high school students who volunteer to satisfy a school requirement. I was right there with my hour sheet a few years ago. Okay, more than a few years ago.
What’s not cool is the student who contributes little as a volunteer, counts the seconds until they leave, and gripes about it. Sadly, this kind of lackluster community service isn’t limited to kids.
I don’t want uninspired, unenthused people anywhere near my children. That goes for parents, teachers, and pumpkin eaters.
Don’t be a slave to the volunteer sign-up sheet
If you’ve decided to volunteer–let’s hope you still have a say in the matter–don’t think that you have to jump on whatever crumby assignment comes your way. Instead:
- Ask your child’s teacher if there is something you can assist with on your lunch break
- Volunteer your skills, talents, and interests. Are you a writer? Help the Science Club with flyers? Were you inspired by that article on recycling? Set up a station in the lunchroom to collect soda cans.
- Use a vacation day from work to handle a big project at your child’s school.
Readers: Should every parent have to volunteer at school? How do you show your kids that education matters?
Play nice: around here all opinions are respected, encouraged, and appreciated.