how does the "open door" work now? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 11-22-2010, 04:56 PM - Thread Starter
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i'm not new to public schooling, i had three step-kids in schools. i generally came early to pick them up, and volunteered and observed then. or i'd bring them in and have breakfast with them and do some work for the teacher. this was in the 90's, though. i feel really out of date!


the PTA here is a set of rigidly enclosed women who've had multiple kids in the local system for years. i'm shy anyway, so i'd much rather volunteer more directly.


what does "open door policy" really mean? everyone at my girl's school has to sign in at the office, and has to have a specific reason for being there at that time. i mean, for her birthday party, i signed in, took the cupcakes to her class, had fun for a bit. there wasn't anything the teacher needed that day, so i left. one day when i was near the school, i swung by to see if i could do stuff, cut shapes or whatever. the office lady - the "dragon-lady who rules the school" is the rumor, it's only half-joking though! - had me sign in, but when i said where i was going, she said "they're at the library." literally, she has to buzz each person in ... so, i didn't get to go to the library, because "it would disrupt the class." i wanted to stay until they were done, so i went down to the class. when they came in the teacher and assistants seemed really shocked, somewhat uncomfortable, "no thank you, nothing we need today" and the whole atmosphere felt like "get out of here so we can get back to our normal routine." i mean that literally, the kids could not settle down with a parent in the class, i had to leave before they could resume their schedule, even though my daughter of course ignored me ;)


i've emailed asking when's the best time, the answer is "anytime." when i come in "anytime" it's the worst time. the one parent that was praised for parental involvement during the Sept. orientation was a parent who brought lots of paper towels, wipes, etc. to the school - i found out later she doesn't go in to volunteer. i've asked for volunteer work to be sent home, it's just cutouts, but nothing ever gets sent home.


so, how do i work this? i really want to be an involved parent.

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#2 of 10 Old 11-22-2010, 07:53 PM
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Our school requires all visitors to check in with the office and get a visitor's badge.  After that, I can go eat lunch with my child or meet her for the book fair--things like that. 


The teachers in our school have sign up sheets at the beginning of the year for volunteers (marking general availability and interest).  I can not volunteer because I have a younger child at home, but I imagine the teacher and parent communicate to set up times for the parent to come in.  I do know that my dd has had plenty of parent/grandparent volunteers in her classroom, some coming every week. 


Maybe "anytime" is ok, as long as they have some notice?  I teach (adults), and it takes some prep to be ready for a volunteer.  If I know I will have a volunteer, I will have something ready for them to do. 

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#3 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 12:47 AM
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Have you considered going in "anytime" and asking them as they tell you that it's a bad time when a good "anytime" would be? I mean, at the very least if they try to say "anytime" you could just go "well, in that case..."


Surely they have some sort of schedule and there could be a time you could come in and listen to a kid read or watch the playground or whatever it is they let parent volunteers do these days. (I know my mom also helped out in the library and supervised crafts and things, but she also brought in my little brother and volunteered in the kindergarten after I was in older grades, so clearly things have changed since 20-25 years ago.)

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#4 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 12:50 AM
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Originally Posted by sunnmama View PostMaybe "anytime" is ok, as long as they have some notice?  I teach (adults), and it takes some prep to be ready for a volunteer.  If I know I will have a volunteer, I will have something ready for them to do. 

Ah, so rather than a "when do you want me?" email, it'd be better to send a "I'll be there Thursday at 1:30!" email? that makes sense. Why can't the school communicate that more clearly, I wonder.

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#5 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 07:04 AM
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Depends on the school. Ours just require you to sign in at the office. It is wise to give the teacher a heads up though if your intention is to stay and help. My kids teachers ALWAYS wanted help but they also wanted to be prepared for it. They wanted a day or two to get they papers together that needed copying or stuff that needed to be cut. I could see the frustration when a willing body appeared but they weren't set-up to use the help that day.


So, for me, coming in was simple but I always gave a days notice to the teacher.

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#6 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 07:43 AM
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There have been incidents in local schools with non-custodial parents showing up at school to see or remove their children. It's a difficult problem for schools, especially when the parent is under court order and only allowed supervised visit - or no access at all.  


There was also a very ugly incident of a sexual assault on a young girl by a stranger on school premises at a local private school. After that, I think all schools in the area, public and private, tightened up their procedures. 


I don't know any parents who object to sign-in procedures and wearing a badge while volunteering. Most are comforted that the school takes security seriously. 


I don't take it personally if a teacher has declined my offer of help. Sometimes I would be at the school for one purpose (helping in the library, photocopying for school council) and I'd check in with the teacher to see if s/he needed some extra help that day. Sometimes they were happy and had something for me to do. Other times, it wasn't convenient. No biggie. If I particularly wanted to volunteer in the classroom, we would set a mutually convenient time. 


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#7 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 08:07 AM
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When I was teaching, I would have told parents, "Oh, you're welcome to volunteer anytime! Lunch is at xyz, and my planning time is abc, but other than that, just let me know when you would like to come in."


My guess is that "anytime" doesn't mean, "just drop in without advanced planning" but rather, "let us know ahead of time so we can put you to work!"


If someone had just showed up at my door to volunteer, I wouldn't have known what to do with them--even though I had lots of things that could have been done.


I worked in a middle school, and never had a parent volunteer to do anything in my classroom ever. at that age, there were parents who volunteered, but they were typically put to work in the office, or the library--maybe occasionally in the home ec or art room.

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#8 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 11:52 AM
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When my son was in K, the teachers had parents fill out a form if they wanted to help/how much/when. Also, the school pulled from that pool for help with cutting/copying/laminating in the workroom that wasn't specific to one classroom.


I'd ask the teacher directly. Tell her your experience and find out if she really needs help, and what kind of help that is.

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#9 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 12:58 PM
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I have no idea if this would work. But, you mentioned the PTA is not your thing. How about volunteering to set up a volunteer schedule? There may be other Mama's out there who also aren't into the PTA that would love a set time to come in and do stuff.


It seems like maybe there is mostly no policy and no guidance about how to become involved. Perhaps that is where you could focus your efforts. And then it would also help you meet all the teachers and really enable you to see how the school works.

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#10 of 10 Old 11-23-2010, 06:29 PM
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This is the first year I've had a child in public school so I'll explain my experience so far. My son is in pre-k from 8:30-10:55 M-F. I've come into the classroom for the Halloween party/parade and as a volunteer one day. I had to sign in at the office and get a badge. I went to my son's classroom and did a couple of busy work assignments for his teacher (cut outs, pasting, assembling books) and then I helped out with the children in the centers, explained directions for a project at the art center and then we went to library where I was assigned three children to help pick out their books, helped walk the children on an evacuation drill and sat with them for snack. It was really nice to be there and I felt quite welcome by the teacher and the assistants in the room. Really though they didn't need the extra help, the classroom seemed to run pretty smoothly with the teacher and the assistants. I did arrange to be in the classroom ahead of time with the teacher. I told her when I was available and she let me know what day would be good to come in.


I know in the beginning of the year they asked for volunteers but wanted a regular commitment for a certain day of the week, I didn't sign up for that because I am pregnant, working and in school so I didn't feel like I could come in every week. I also volunteered through the PTO for certain after school events. So far it was just to help serve at the ice cream social but there will be more events coming up.

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