Establishing a role inside the busy beehive of a school can confound even the best-intentioned volunteer. Where do you begin? How can I put my skills to use? The answers to these common questions will get you started.
How can I help?
Whatever your talents and interests, there is a way for you to help. Could you see yourself starting a book club, assisting with science activities, helping in the computer lab, or tackling some paperwork in the office, for example?
Be prepared to be flexible, however: When you make contact with a school, you will learn how to match your preferences with their needs.
Who do I approach with my intent to volunteer?
You might start by attending a school board meeting, joining a community organization that works with schools, or approaching a principal or teacher directly. Some schools have volunteer positions listed with United Way of Greater Lafayette Volunteer Center.
Would Mentoring be a good role for me?
Mentors are a special type of volunteer, dedicated to helping students on many levels: academically, socially, mentally, and physically. Mentors commit to becoming a consistent presence in a person's life, and serving as a positive role model. There are a lot of different ways to be a mentor, and finding your own personal style may take a bit of time.
What if I am a busy person?
Even if you work long or irregular hours, or have young children at home, you can still find a way to volunteer. Think about what is possible for you: Could you commit to being at a school at certain times, work occasional week days or weekends, or find a way to make an impact from home? Then see whether your school of choice has a job that would meet your needs.
I don't know how to teach, can I still volunteer?
Short answer: Yes! You can still be helpful by assisting teachers, or helping with sports or other activities. Or, if you prefer, you can support the school without working directly with children. Share your experience, and any concerns you might have, with the person coordinating your volunteer job. Schools want to place you were you feel the most comfortable and will make the greatest impact.
What are potential barriers?
If you have spent any time in schools, you know they are busy places! Teachers and staff may need a helping hand, but not have time to stop and think about ways volunteers can support their work. You can lighten their load by first creating a list of your strengths and skills, then coming up with a few volunteer roles that would draw on these strengths.
What if students misbehave?
Always consult with the teacher or administrator if you are working with a student who might not listen or follow directions in a way that you would like. You will need to redirect negative behaviors to keep the students on task. Ask a teacher, administrator, or the school's volunteer coordinator about best ways to handle.
How do I become a successful volunteer?
There is not one "correct" way to become a volunteer. There are many points of entry and multiple ways to serve. You will find a path that suits you as well as your school of choice.
Do you have more questions about in-school volunteering? Contact United Way Volunteer Center today!
Information provided by HandsOn Network