September 30, 2008
My grandson Michael started kindergarten this year. Besides being a milestone for him, it became an eye opener for me. At Back To School night, we came to tour his classroom and to meet officially with his teacher for the very first time. I was amazed at the enrollment in the classroom. Due to financial cutbacks at the district level, there were 33 children in one class and it was obvious that this teacher was going to need some serious help. Although the district was paying for a full time aide, I quickly realized that any child that was going to need a little extra help was in no way going to get it.
Now I believe in our children and I know that they are our future. The district did finally decide that our school needed two kindergarten classes but that still left 16 children to be taught. In the area where, I live most families are low incomes; a lot of these children did not have the advantage of preschool. When most of us went to kindergarten if you can still remember that (written with a laugh), it was mostly about learning our numbers and colors and shapes, nap time and snack time were the highlight of our day but now kindergarten is much more. Children are expected to already know the basics and are learning to add and subtract and write stories in kindergarten. I taught seven children the basics before they left for school but a lot of our parents here also have the disadvantage of English as a second language. Even if you live where kids are less disadvantaged, you can still help to educate our future. So this is where you come in.
Sitting out there right now in front of their computers are, I know, a lot of grandmothers who are retired and their children have moved on with their lives. Maybe you don't get to see your grandchildren very often or it is just a long distance phone call once or twice a week. Now imagine your self sitting with a child that is struggling with their ABC's and you are helping them. All of a sudden, you see it in their eyes! They got it. You cannot imagine the joy that you will feel in your heart. Do you love history and The History Channel, you can help kids with Social Studies. Love music? You can help teach the kids about classic or jazz or even old rock and roll. Do you speak Spanish? Become an interpreter. Do you know American Sign Language? You too could become an interpreter or teach the kids to sign by starting a Sign Club after school for a half hour.
When I went into the classroom as a volunteer, it was only going to be until they could get another teacher (hopefully) for another kindergarten class. But I stayed because it was obvious that these children needed me. I was shocked at the lack of supplies for the classroom. My first thought was to ask the teacher what she really needed and that turned out to be something I could help with. Now not being a teacher myself, I needed a crash course in technical terms like tactile learning and manipulative but once I got that down I was able to go on the Internet and come up with some really great ideas. I even used some of the ideas that I had written about for ThriftyFun. Every thing that I made for the classroom was either recycled materials or stuff I just had hanging around.
I made a sand paper alphabet so the kids could feel what an "A" felt like. I took some old dry erase boards and made individual storyboards for them. I copied and pasted free clipart from the Internet into a word document and cut them out and covered them with clear contact paper so they could have felt boards for story writing or in our case story telling. My husband cut some boards we got from the cut off bin and made shoes for learning how to tie. I found tons of sites that had free flash cards and even some that had signs and calendars that could be printed off the Internet for free.
Even if you could not spend half a day in the classroom, doing these simple things would really help. Most teachers do not have the time to do these things. They are struggling on low budgets just like everyone else. Organize a book drive so that each child has a book to take home for the start of a home library. Pass on your love of reading. Most school libraries these days only want new books. But your old well-loved children's classic can start an in-classroom library so they even have more chances to read.
To get you started here is what you do. Contact the elementary school nearest your home. Tell them that you would like to volunteer and what skills you have. If you can read and write, you have skills. Did you raise your kids? Help with homework, you have skills. Maybe you have a little college, you have skills. Did you help run your family business, you have skills. When you get to your classroom, ask the teacher where she needs help. Offer to help the kids that need extra help. Maybe he/she will only need help with organizing the classroom or maybe just supervision but your time will be well spent.
So you're thinking to yourself "I really get along better with older children", every grade needs volunteers. You will be making a big difference. There are always going to be kids that need extra help and with your life experience maybe you can bring some different perspective to a learning problem that helps that child. We are all teachers in one-way or another! The United States in the last 20 years has fallen way down the list for quality education. Our teachers are over worked and underpaid. Parents now days have to work two and sometimes three jobs just to keep body and soul together. This leaves them with little time to teach their children. They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. Well, here is where you can start. If you are lonely and need a grand child fix this could be an answer to your prayers and the children will benefit so much from your involvement. Wish me luck as I continue to learn and benefit from the love of my kindergarten class.
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