Dear Lord, that title. I obviously didn’t title this post. That title was granted to me by an amazing TME editor, thanks Lex. (Don’t we all love when our friends take a loving jab?) OK, fine, for all the hats I try to wear (many of which I fail miserably in), heck yes, will I take a crown too. Queen for a day. Why not, right? (Great, A…thanks! Now I can’t even change the title since you mentioned it…sigh...xo, Lex)
I always volunteer to be the class parent. For all three of my kids. Every year. And…luckily for me, I have enough experience in doing so that at this point I am sometimes also granted the privilege of being asked to class parent. That always makes me feel kinda great, especially on a really bad day. Because what’s better than teachers, kids and fun, really? And being asked. That makes all of us feel more warm.
Truth? If there were a way I could spend my day, all day, every day, I’d take it with people under 20 years old, making fun, always. Yup, I’d choose that way to spend my time over just about anything and everything! We all have our safe, happy places. The vast majority of my girlfriends/momfriends would all be like, “hell no.” For me, kids, crafts, parties, are one of my safe/fun/love/happy places. It’s like taking a vacation from adulting. Which frankly is not one of my happy/safe places. Not, at, all.
More truth? Just like everything in life, I have a few lessons learned in having done so 3X/year for 8+ years. Because heck no, it’s not all fun always. And plenty of mistakes have been made along the way. Interested? Read on.
First: Major Lessons Learned
Apparently, taking an electric skillet, a food processor, large knives, peelers, and 40lbs of Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes into a classroom to teach kids to make Latkes, is a no, no. Who knew? OK, I can see after the fact where that’s dangerous. In many ways. And maybe against a few codes. But it happened one year, times three classes because, well, I’m more of a beg forgiveness than ask permission kinda girl.
Also on the “no-no” list? Taking tea lights for 33 kids and having them discuss diversity and their experiences, and then lighting their own candles from a common peace candle in the center of a rug, in the center of a classroom….Well, apparently that’s a fire hazard, lovely as it might be in celebration of MLK day…yup, still a fire hazard. Of course it is. OK, lesson learned.
And be careful what you say in an email. You can’t take it back.
Those are my three big ones. The rest of my experience has mostly gone swimmingly well. And even my mistakes were fun and/or valuable learning lessons.
My Fairly Easy Recipe for Class Parenting Success
(And absolutely, yes, am I open to your suggestions too. Please share them in comments, that would be amazing!)
Teamwork and Sign-ups
Partner this. Partner everything you can in life. It’s more fun, and there’s always a better result. Ask someone to do it with you, or accept the invitation to do it with someone else. One of you will be the ‘creative/energetic’ one, one of you will be the ‘organized/good communicator’ one; together, you’ll get the job done well. Or you’ll be the same and laugh your way through the other parts. Any way you look at it, it’s all more fun together.
More on Partnering
I remember one time, a parent stopped me in the hall of school and said, “Hey, you’re that Mom.” I asked her, in earnest, “What Mom?” And then we sat on the floor and commiserated. About all the ways in which our kids love and hate us. That no matter how much you show up, and no matter how, it’s never enough, and on one hand that’s OK, and on another hand, they need to be taught to appreciate all that we all do do for them. Life is hard. And we’re all just doing the best we can. In the end, we hugged, we laughed, and we understood one another in each of our own successes and failures. Our kids had both loved and hated both of us, that very day, and if nothing else, we had that in common, and much else we learned too.
All parents work. We just all do it in our own way. This my friends, is where SignUpGenius becomes your best friend in class parenting. Some people can donate their time, some their talents, and some the supplies you need to get it all done. Giving everyone the chance to participate is what really seems to be most super-important. Even just including all the parents in knowing what’s going on is helpful. And a tool makes that easy. SignUpGenius is the one I find that makes it easiest. Make a list of contacts for each class early in the year, choose an easy, free, cute invite for each event, and then make the wish list of everything you need from volunteers and hands-on-deck, to all the supplies etc. You’d be surprised how quickly people show-up, in many ways, just because you ask. And how helpful automatic reminder emails, and public task lists are to all of us! People can even ‘switch’ tasks all by themselves. It’s an amazing and wonderfully helpful tool.
A Few More Notes on Teamwork
- The Teacher is always the Team Leader; follow their lead. Some like lots of participation; some can only handle so many parents in a classroom at a time. Some like lots of parties, others, like events other than parties. Ask them, early in the year, what they want, and what you can do to help them, and then wave your magic class-parent wand and make it happen.
- The easiest way to decide how many activities for class parties are enough, is stations. Just look at how a classroom is set up. Often the desks/tables/work areas are grouped. One activity, or set of activity tools at each of those natural places is what already works best for that classroom; don’t undo what works, just go with it.
- Sensitivity matters, right? To all of us, always. Accommodating everyone might seem like a challenge, but challenges can also be made to be fun. Your teacher probably knows what the food allergies and other specific concerns are, just ask them. Then do your best to work around them creatively. I promise it’s possible to make an egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, strawberry-free something that still tastes delicious and/or is fun. And it’s probably better for everyone anyway. So just go with that flow.
Pinterest is Your Other New Best Friend
You DO NOT need to be the most creative person in the world with the best ideas to class parent. You just need to execute the most creative best ideas. They are all, I promise, to be found on Pinterest. Here’s the best of what I’ve found there for Halloween fun:
Crafts do double duty when they are also the snack. So make food fun, and let the kids create it in all these super-fun ways that genius people have brainstormed for us! The ones I’ve pinned, we’ve actually done and have all been both super-fun and super-doable. Listing out and requesting supplies by item gives all parents an opportunity to participate and lets everyone share in the fun, and help manage the projects in ways that would otherwise be a challenge.
Another secret to success: make an example of each of the crafts, and take a print out of the ‘how to’ with you. Then your parent volunteers can each set up and manage their own stations without you needing to be right there micromanaging. No one likes to be micromanaged. Just make it easy for them to figure out.
Games are also a blast, and Bingo never gets old. Use candy corn as your pieces, and themed, formatted, printable cards, and voila, everyone has fun!
Music: The Essential Ingredient
I love Spotify. You can easily search a themed playlist for just about anything. On Spotify, Ultimate Halloween is my personal favorite for class parties. I’d be happy to listen to MJ Thriller on auto repeat, but you know, variety helps. Take a Bluetooth speaker, b/c you might not have Wi-Fi. And maybe make sure it’s charged the night before. Music makes a mood. Just go with it. Sometimes it’s background. Sometimes you’ll have 30 kids dancing. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t violate code and isn’t a fire hazard. And it will definitely be the highlight of your day.
Last, Last, Always the Final Step: Clean Up
How does that saying go? “Leave only footprints, take only memories.” Or something like that. Clean up when you are done. Leave the classroom the way you found it, just full of more love and fun. And take a few photos and share them in whatever safe, secure way your school does so. Everyone will appreciate that. Always. xoxo A