Ideas and Opinions about
Teaching, Learning, and
the Educational System
Ideas and Opinions about
Teaching, Learning, and
the Educational System
How many schools do you drive past on your daily commute? One? Two? More? Even if you don’t have school-aged children, you probably wonder what’s going on in there. The marquee announces the upcoming carnival, book fair, or band concert. Occasionally you see an article in the local newspaper featuring the honor roll members or the winners at the science fair. This is your neighborhood school; all of the children in your community attend this school. You’re naturally interested in the success of this school, but your job and family commitments make it nearly impossible to support the school – or so you think!
In this TeacherScope post, I’ll explain five ways that you can contribute to the success of your local schools.
Most schools are continuously recruiting responsible adult volunteers. There are dozens of opportunities to give as little as an hour or two a week to your local school. Most elementary teachers would love to have someone grade spelling tests and worksheets. You can also help arrange the classroom materials, distribute papers, and type the weekly newsletter. And I can tell you from experience that every classroom has at least one boy or girl who has no one at home to help them with their math facts, call out their spelling words, or listen to them read. An adult volunteer who tutors that child can make a significant impact on their educational success.
Volunteer opportunities are varied and plentiful. Some volunteers perform regular duties on a set schedule. Others volunteer for annual events, such as the school walk-a-thon or the chorus uniform distribution. Many schools have a School Advisory Council, and “community member” – a person who is not a teacher or parent – is often a difficult seat to fill on that council. Even if you work full-time or have other obligations, there are likely opportunities to help your local school.
Becoming a school volunteer is a process, and it varies from school to school. You may be asked to fill-out a form, agree to a background check, or even be fingerprinted at the district office. Don’t take it personally – it’s just the world we live in. The principal will probably also meet with you and introduce you to the school volunteer coordinator, who will make volunteer opportunities available.
School volunteers typically aren’t responsible for planning lessons and designing curricular materials – that’s the teacher’s job. Your job as a volunteer will be to help the school achieve their stated educational goals. The main thing is to relax, be comfortable and enjoy the school and the school setting. If you’d like to read more about school volunteerism, check out my previous TeacherScope post.
#2 Buy School Supplies
How do we know summer’s almost over? Our favorite stores are filled with school supplies! And those pencils, notebooks, and packs of paper are usually offered at deeply-discounted prices. You can support your local school by purchasing some of those supplies and delivering them to the school. The typical teacher spends $100 or more of their personal money each year buying classroom supplies. You can help with that expense. If you don’t already have a teacher connection, just fill a shoebox with pencils, markers, staples, and paperclips and mark it “for the NEW teacher!” That will be a wonderful gift to a new professional who’s probably a few weeks away from their first post-college paycheck.
And realize that every classroom will have at least one child who comes to school the first day empty-handed. Schools publish their supply lists on the school web-site. Frequently stores like Wal-mart also provide printed copies of the lists. If you’re feeling especially charitable, you can provide supplies for a child in need. Just toss the list into the shopping bag, and drop it off at the school’s front office.
#3 Donate New Clothes for a Needy Student
Any teacher can also tell you about a boy or girl who doesn’t have the basic clothing they need for school. That’s sad to think about, but it’s true. When winter’s cool breezes blow, they’re still wearing their summer shorts and t-shirts. Or maybe they continue to wear their jeans long after they’ve outgrown them, or they’ve become embarrassingly tattered.
You can help by buying an outfit or two in a typical child’s size and delivering your purchase to your local school. Keep it simple and basic – you don’t need to buy clothes with fancy decorations or popular labels. Kids clothes typically go on sale right before school begins, and then again after Christmas. If you shop the sales and discount racks, you can stretch your donation dollars.
Perhaps you are doubting that the need for clothing or school supplies impacts the students at your local school. And you may be right. Neighborhood schools are once again becoming the norm, and your neighborhood may not have any needy children. If that’s the case, I challenge you to drive a few miles or do a little research online. A nearby school likely has children who can use this special assistance.
#4 Provide Rhetorical Support
Even if you don’t have extra funds to buy school supplies and clothing, and there’s no time in your schedule for volunteer efforts, here’s something everyone can do: support your local school and school system with your voice and your vote.
Schools often find themselves in the cross-hairs of our media-addicted society. Thousands of students and teachers can have great success in the classroom, only to be seemingly cancelled-out by one bad act. And the media – both broadcast and social – seems to pounce on the mistakes. Have you ever tried to get the local TV station to report from the district science fair? Good luck! But if a teacher gets arrested, it will be the lead story at 5, 6, and 11. Should bad acts or criminal behaviors be excused or minimized? Of course not! But your vocal support of all the good things happening in education can help your friends and neighbors achieve the correct perspective.
Schools – unlike most government institutions – are frequently forced to propose an additional sales tax to fund much-need renovations and construction. Those additional taxes are usually decided at the voting booth. Take the time to carefully investigate the funding request, and support those requests that seem reasonable. Even the sturdiest school buildings can deteriorate over time, and we certainly need safe schools.
I am a Christian, and prayer is an important part of my life. If you share similar beliefs, I encourage you to pray for our schools, our students, our teachers, and our school leaders. Pray for wisdom and strength. Pray that the children will be clothed and well-fed. Pray that the teachers will be encouraged and energized. Pray that the administrators will have vision and direction. I have seen the powerful effects of a community praying for a school. If you ask a few teachers, you’ll likely get a similar response.
Simply stated, our schools could use your support. The funds provided by the government allow a school to operate somewhere between “adequate” and “average.” And as the world becomes more competitive and demanding, our students deserve an excellent education. Like the firehouse and the police station, the neighborhood school belongs to everyone. Strong schools are essential for vibrant, safe, and productive communities.
Keith Kyker (M.Ed)
is a career educator with 35 years of teaching experience. He has worked with every age group from Pre-K to college. Keith's experience includes stints at suburban mega-high schools, neighborhood elementary and middle schools, and a tiny K-12 school in a Yupik village on the Bering Sea.
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Important note: the ideas and opinions expressed on this blog are the those of the author, Keith Kyker, and in no way reflect the opinions, policies, or practices of any of Keith's current or former employing school districts.
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