Thursday, May 12, 2011

31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Work in Their Classroom

Shelly Final

I realize I've been all over the place throughout this series. I've done posts that pertain largely to teenagers; I've done posts that have more to do with younger kids (today's, for example). I guess that's because I've had 20 years of experience as a parent, and I've seen many different phases and stages of this journey. Bear with me, please, and take what you can from each post. Thanks!

I’ll just go ahead and say it: our kids attend public school. We have loved public school for many reasons, but one of the main reasons has been the opportunity I’ve had to work in the classroom.

I’m sure private schools need classroom helpers, too, and that’s great because my point today really isn’t about public school at all—it’s that you’ll connect with your kids if you help out at school. (And if you home school, hopefully you’ve got this one down pat!)

I guess you could say I was the quintessential PTA mom. I’ve helped out in the library; I’ve helped out in the computer lab; I’ve logged many an hour in my children’s classrooms; and I’ve chaperoned more field trips than I’d care to remember. I’ve even served as PTA president.

Being in the classroom has so many benefits:

I get to see my child in action. I can see how she interacts with the other kids in the classroom. I can tell whether she has respect for her teacher. I can get an up-close-and-personal glimpse into her daily life, which helps me get a feel for how she’s really doing at school. I can peek into her desk and see how messy it is (not that I’d ever do such a thing!).

I get to see her friends in action. Our neighborhood elementary school is really small, so chances were good that at least a couple of my daughters’ friends were in their classes. I could get a good idea of whether that friend was a positive influence on my child . . . or not. And I also got to know the cast of characters who made up the drama of their day. Such fun!

I got to see her teacher in action. Every class has its own tone, so being in the classroom allowed me to see whether the teacher had set a positive tone for the year. It also helped build a relationship with the teacher that I would not otherwise have had. This came in handy a few times when I needed to talk to the teacher about an issue with my child.

Best of all, being in the classroom gave me a lot to talk about with my kids. By having this common experience, and by my knowing their friends and their teachers very well, my girls and I shared much more that a superficial “How was your day?” We shared knowledge about the people they interacted with all the time.

When my girls told a story about what happened at school, I could really relate because I knew that characters in that story. I knew about the girl who came in second grade without knowing one word of English (by the end of the year she was fluent). I knew about the boy who thought he was a character in a video game (sad, but true). I could laugh with them about the first graders who sat at the “overflow” table at lunch because they didn’t eat fast enough (my child was one of them).

Want a shared experience with your child? Want something to talk about at dinner? Head into their classroom and see what happens.



  1. Great advice! I home schooled for years before my kids started Christian school in 7th and 8th grades. I must admit when they went "out" to school, I took a break although I still had my youngest at home to teach - so not a huge break!

  2. First, I just hate that sending our kids to public school is something we have to "admit." Where did this unspoken (and maybe not so un-spoken) judgement come from? My daughter goes to public school and my little one will be following in her footsteps in August. God can lead us to all sorts of places and just because it's public school doesn't make it any less okay. So, you know, I'm not yelling at you. I'm just frustrated that public school is not considered "good" in the blog world sometimes. I'll be quiet now.

    But, first, I want to say that I'm really excited that Hannah is going to school in August because I will have lots more time to be involved in both my daughter's classroom. Yet another reason why I feel good about quitting my job! Hooray!

    And, one last thing, I've been all over the place with my 31 Days posts, too, so no worries. You are doing a great job!

  3. Wow...what a great post and a sweet mumma. Love that you are getting in your child's world :)....and check out Jen's lovely post on my blog. So nice to meet you via Jen's.

  4. I am popping over from Gg - Notes on the Journey to say thanks from the bottom of my heart for your recent support during my dad's open heart surgery. He is doing so well.

    Over 60 comments with prayers and well wishes, including yours. Such sweetness. It helped me not feel quite so alone, having recently moved to Chicago.