Last year I helped out quite a bit in Miss C’s kindergarten class. I knew her teacher, having volunteered in her class two years in a row through Junior Achievement, and because of that, her teacher never hesitated to ask me to do some additional take home tasks, such as assembling class packets, which, unfortunately, turned into the volunteer job from hell and me toting a box of worksheets from home to work and then back home again. I also volunteered in the classroom every Friday that I could since that’s my work from home day.
This year it’s a different song and dance. Miss C’s teacher is new to our school system. During the first grade parents meeting last week she asked that no parents volunteer for the entire month of September so that the kids could get acclimated to her.
You could have heard a PTO pen drop when she made her request.
Our elementary school is known for the zealous army of parent volunteers willing to take on the most difficult of fundraising tasks. We need to sell five tons of frozen gourmet cookie dough in a week? No problem! We need to organize and throw the biggest fundraising carnival featuring a special performance of Cirque deu Soleil in the school gym? Let’s do it!
Frankly, I wasn’t too surprised by her request since one of my friend’s daughters is one year older than Miss C and she’d already told me that first grade teachers don’t want as much in room volunteer time by the parents.
At first I felt rejected not having Miss C’s new teacher assign me with a volunteer project within 48 hours of school starting, but then I came to my senses and realized “Good God Woman You HAVE IT MADE!” I happily filled out the volunteer form and noted that I can help with field trips and with reading to the class, but it’s nice to not feel obligated to spend my Fridays hovering over the laminating machine in the teacher’s work room. I’m planning on eating lunch with Miss C in the school cafeteria on most Fridays, but I can merrily be on my way and not feel pressured into “just one little project” by her teacher.
I think the helicopter room moms are starting to relax with the new teacher, but I’m trying to avoid them like the plague because the only thing worse than the teacher who knows how to push your volunteer buttons, is the elementary school helicopter mom.
Here are some tips for avoiding them:
Make no eye contact with other parents. You can get away with dark sunglasses inside the school building the first week, but after the second week it gets suspicious as people may suspect you’re hung over.
Don’t linger after school meetings and never arrive early for school meetings.
Never voluntarily give out your phone number or e-mail address as it will be distributed soon enough.
Consider setting up a separate e-mail address that you only give out for school information.
Always be prepared with a pat excuse for rushing off after school (i.e. we have soccer practice, dance class.)
Use your other children as an excuse. (i.e. “I’d love to talk more about the XXXXX, but I need to pick up Sallie Mae by 3:30 for a dental appointment.)
Use your spouse as an excuse. (i.e. “I’ve got to run, hubby needs me to drop something off at the post office.”)
Use your dog as an excuse (i.e. “Fluffy’s in the car, gotta run, byeeeeeeeee!”)
So do you have any tips for avoiding signing your life away to the PTO? Is there a balance?