Giving Back

From the moment Brendan went into Kindergarten I have given as much of my time as I could to his school.  Back then I was still working full time, and I had a toddler at home to boot, so my time was extremely limited.  But I still signed up to be a “take home” volunteer.  Which meant that whenever his teacher had something that needed cut out for an art project or things like that, she’d send home an envelope with instructions and I would take care of it during the evenings.

That was my main source of volunteer work until Brendan entered 3rd grade.  By that time I was no longer working, and my former toddler was now in pre-school 3 days a week.  I still had another toddler at home so my time was still somewhat limited, but I managed to get up to the school and volunteer in Brendan’s classroom about once a month.  In fourth grade I managed to up that a little bit more since Cameron was now in school full time as well and Kaylee started going to pre-school 2 days a week.

Our big parental failure that school year was field trips.  My contribution to the boys school was always in the classroom, while Matt handled the field trip front.  He managed at least one field trip per kid per school year every year, except last year.  Last year his work kept him so busy that he was never available when the field trips came around.  Along with that, it seems as though the school schedules all of their field trips on Tuesdays or Thursdays.  With Kaylee attending pre-school on those days I never made it to any field trips either because I would have needed to find someone to pick Kaylee up in the middle of the day or have her miss pre-school all together and have someone babysit for the full day.

This year with Kaylee in pre-school 3 days a week and no toddlers at home keeping me busy, I have managed to really up my time volunteering at the boys school.  I made sure both boys teachers knew that I would be free most Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, and I volunteered to stuff folders for the school on Friday mornings.  My original plan was going to be to work in the library once a week as well, but within a few weeks I realized that my time was going to be eaten up by another project almost exclusively and so I shelved the library plan and gave almost all of my time to Cameron’s teacher.

When she first contacted me back in September she added me to her volunteer calendar to come in about twice a month for a couple of hours to help with various projects, or working one on one with some of the kids in the classroom.  When I arrived for my first shift of volunteer work she had me work on her math workbooks.

Basically, the school had gotten new math books for their curriculum this year, and instead of being a text book, they were workbooks.  The thought being that the kids could work out the problems right on the page and everything would be awesome.  Unfortunately, the pages were too difficult for the average first grader to rip out.  So plan B was to have the teachers/parent volunteers rip out the pages.  The class was about to begin working on Chapter 3 so she asked if I would be willing to spend my hour there ripping all of the chapter out of 25 workbooks and separating them out by page so she could hand out one worksheet per lesson.

I took to the work immediately.  There is something weirdly satisfying about ripping pages along a perforation, and organizing the pages was right up my alley.  I love putting things in order.  In just over an hour I had the project completed.  On my way out the door I let her know how much I enjoyed the project, and let her know I would be in the following week (my next day on the volunteer schedule).

The next week she had 3 or 4 projects that needed completed and I wasn’t going to be the only volunteer that morning.  One of the projects she wanted to have worked on was the math books again, so I immediately volunteered for that, and in just over an hour I had 2 more chapters ripped out and sorted.  I was getting into a good groove and finding ways to speed up the process.

The week after that I was not on the volunteer calendar, but I had some free time one morning and contacted the teacher to see if I could come in and help out in any way.  She immediately agreed and put me to work on the math books again.  After that I just started coming in whenever I had free time available and began plowing my way through all 12 chapters in the books.  His teacher was immensely grateful for my help, and every once in a while she would have a project that needed done beyond the math books, but for the most part that is how I spent my mornings at their school.

About a month into the project, she stopped me in the hall and asked for a favor.  It turned out that the teacher in the classroom next door was having difficulty getting parents to come in and volunteer.  She was behind on getting her math worksheets ripped out for the upcoming lessons, and I was asked if I would be willing to rip out the upcoming chapter for that teacher’s class.  I immediately agreed.  I knew what it was like to be a parent who couldn’t come into the classroom very often, and while I hope that Brendan’s teachers had other parents available to take up the slack in the years I wasn’t able to be there I don’t know if all the parents were as unavailable as I was.

By the time I left that morning I had the chapter she needed all finished, and a good start onto the following one.  I made sure Cameron’s teacher knew that I was more than happy to volunteer in both classrooms and that the other teacher should feel free to contact me for projects any time she was in need.

Around Halloween I finished up the math workbooks for Cameron’s teacher.  She was amazed that it was only the end of the first quarter and her math worksheets were all ready to go for the rest of the school year.  I was also still plugging away at the workbooks for the other teacher as well.  I was my original goal to get them finished up by Thanksgiving, but we had a few bouts of illness go through our house and I was not able to get up to the school as much as I had been.

That all changed today.  I finally had some free time that wasn’t being eaten up by sick children this week and I spent most of Monday and Wednesday morning up at the school.  I was able to finish off the rest of the math workbooks for the other teacher and get everything organized for both teachers.  I left with a feeling of accomplishment, but also a little emptiness.  This project has taken so much of my time that I was not sure at first what I would do with myself.

However, Cameron’s teacher was in touch with me and said that if I was up for it she and the other teacher would have plenty of other projects for me to work on starting in January.  I’m looking forward to it already.

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