Thank you to Dr. Oetker USA LLC for sponsoring this post. Visit the store locator to find Virtuoso Pizza by Dr. Oetker in a retailer near you!
I had this friend in grade school whose mom was pretty much the best. We all thought so. When she volunteered for field trips, we collectively clamored to be assigned to her since those kids were guaranteed to have the most fun. Another one of my friend's parents used to bring their pet Beagle to school at lunchtime, and he quickly became the unofficial mascot. Then there was the dad with all the cool arts and crafts stuff! I want to be THAT parent. Problem is, I'm a little short on time.
With two of my four kids in elementary school now, the pressure is mounting quickly. I'm determined to volunteer as much as possible and make my presence known so that I can be totally involved in my children's education. I just never realized what a juggling act it would be to do all of that…times four. Thankfully, I have a couple years as an elementary teacher under my belt so I know how to strategically manage my presence in the classroom.
Getting Involved in your Kids' School
Hit the ground running. I come out of the gate strong every year. Our boys' school has a “parent lunch” day where we're able to join our kids in the cafeteria. I show up bearing pizza. And I bring enough for the whole dang class! There are always kids whose parents couldn't make it, so I invite them to sit with my little lunch crew. It's a small gesture, but it means a lot to them to have peace of mind that they'll never be left out. It's also a great way to break the ice with your children's peers.
Introduce yourself – with a gift. While I'm at it, I bring extra pizza for the teacher's lounge. We keep Virtuoso Pizza by Dr. Oetker on-hand at home because they have wholesome ingredients and unique flavor combinations that keep the kiddos and the adults happy. I cook up some Kale & Bacon with Ricotta and Vegetable & Goat Cheese for the grown-ups, while the kids indulge in Mediterranean Style Chicken and Pepperoni in the Classic crust. The best part? It’s so quick and easy to make – just preheat the oven to 425°F and less than 15 minutes later, we have a delicious pizza in front of us. I also take the opportunity to stock up on extra stuff from the teacher's supply list and drop it off at their room. Tissue boxes for everyone!
Strategically commit. I'm PTO-averse because I don't do well in any sort of structured group activity. I just don't. I know this about myself, so instead I approach the teacher individually and ask if there is anything I can do that doesn't have a strict timeline or planning schedule. I love grading papers, mounting artwork, helping with the school garden, creating decorations and activities at home, or in the classroom before school. It's also pretty great to get that quiet one-on-one time with my child's educator so I can receive additional insight and know when/if/how I should step in to support the curriculum.
Bring in help. I have so many kids – so many little kids – and it's very challenging for me to have meaningful conversations at back-to-school night or school functions. Where we live, though, these are very family-oriented events and it's not typical for people to leave younger kids at home. So I ask friends and family members to come help me. It's fairly standard for us to roll 12 people deep to the Halloween carnival. We may be a little chaotic at times, but we're impossible to miss and we've met a ton of interesting new friends who are drawn into our bustling activities. There's something to be said for making your presence known and always having an extra hand to lend to various needs that pop up at the last minute.
Use what you've got. Whatever talents or resources you have, there is always a way to put them to use in a school. I remember a local woman who would bring her horse in a trailer to teach us about riding for enrichment day. When I worked in Hollywood, one of the kids' parents donated space at his movie studio for us host the annual fundraiser dinner (coolest job perk ever). Nowadays, I wind up with a ton of random props and photo backdrops that I offer up for use in the classrooms. No matter who you are, you have something to give that will make a difference – and it will absolutely be noticed and appreciated.
Don't forget holidays. I send candles and gift cards to teachers and administration for all of those “acknowledgement days.” The kids even make their teachers special little ornaments every year.
Linger. If you can't dedicate much in the way of time or resources, it never hurts to just hang around for a few extra minutes after drop-off or pickup. This year I stuck around after Meet the Teacher day for an extra half hour, and I got my TK kid's teacher all to myself. We had a nice long chat about the school's priorities and shifting administrative board. Last year I'd occasionally take time to sit on the playground while the kids played after school, and I had a couple teachers come talk to me about small behavioral things that they probably would have let slide otherwise. I was able to nip those issues in the bud before they got out of hand. Carve those moments out whenever you can! They're really important. It's also never a bad idea to exit past the office and give a little wave on your way out.
How do you make an impact at school?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dr. Oetker USA LLC. I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.