Managing volunteers in the classroom is an important part of being a teacher. Extra help can turn into extra work for teachers if we’re unprepared. Yesterday we talked about how to recruit volunteers for the classroom. Stay tuned for tomorrow when I’ll share resources for creating an effective volunteer program.
Below are my tips for managing volunteers in the classroom.
Make volunteers feel welcome. Let them know where the coffee is or get some for them. Greet them when they arrive and have students greet them. Find out what they would like the students to call them.
Make a project list. Your volunteers don’t want to bother you. They feel better if they have a detailed list that tells them what to do and where to find necessary supplies. A to do list with instructions on what to do if they run into trouble will make helpers feel self-sufficient and effective.
Be prepared with a volunteer basket. I plan to add this helpful tool to my volunteer program this year. I have a parent who volunteers in the classroom every Monday. She puts together any needed homework packets, makes copies for the week, and researches crafts and activities on Pinterest. I spend a little time on Friday afternoon preparing so she knows exactly what to copy and put in the homework packets. The volunteer basket should have a copy of the Project List, needed supplies and master copies.
Set them up for success. If they’re leading an activity or game with students, make sure to include the instructions. Provide examples or pictures if needed. Pinterest is a great tool to for managing volunteers in the classroom. Direct parents to an activity on your Pinterest board the day before they’re scheduled to volunteer. They’ll appreciate having some time to look at the activity ahead of time.
Step in quickly if there is a problem. When a volunteer is working with a small group, I arrange them to be near me. This way I can step in quickly if there are any behavior problems. Assure them that you will handle any discipline that needs to be done. I tell my students that it’s a privilege to work with a volunteer. I will quickly regroup a student who isn’t showing respect or being attentive.
Express your appreciation in many ways. Not everyone wants public recognition, but it’s important to communicate frequently how much your helpers mean to you and the students. Write out a thank you card ahead of time and put it in the front of the volunteer basket or on the volunteer’s seat. Express appreciation in front of the students. Give hugs. Say thank you. In many ways and many times, let your volunteers know they make a difference.
By being organized and approachable we make our helpers feel welcome and effective. And a happy volunteer is a returning volunteer!
Don’t miss the other posts in this three-part series on Working with Volunteers in the Classroom.