New Jersey Teacher
As a teacher, life gets very busy. There are times when there is so much to do, it seems impossible that everything will get done in a timely fashion. That’s when you call on volunteers to help you with what you need in the classroom!
If you are lucky, many parents and community members will want to volunteer for your classroom. But, how can you determine who to choose? How many volunteers are too many? What information is necessary when creating a signup sheet? Follow this guide to create a perfect volunteer sign-up!
Why do you need volunteers?
This is very important. Just like us educators, parents are busy. So, make sure you think about why you need volunteers at all — or if you even need them
For elementary school, you may potentially want volunteers to come into the classroom to help out! Perhaps a parent would like to volunteer to read to the students during the literacy block. Maybe you are having a classroom party, and a parent would like to volunteer to help set up the event.
In upper grades, perhaps a parent or community member is going to come in for an assembly because they have a cool job. You never know — at a certain school in New Jersey, I had a student’s aunt, an author, come in to talk to my English classes about the steps of the editing process, as well as the steps it takes to publish her books! It is something I won’t forget. At other schools throughout NJ, so many cool people have come simply because they were related to students or active members of the community – including flamenco dancers, football players, and Holocaust survivors.
Volunteer sign up is also important if there is a school-wide event. Parents can sign up to provide goods (such as cookies for a bake sale or bags of chips for a sporting event) or be there to watch the event and make sure that everything is going well (such as ensuring students are at a good distance at the prom or handing out programs at a concert or play).
For elementary school, you may potentially want volunteers to come into the classroom to help out. Perhaps a parent would like to volunteer to read to the students during the literacy block.
Creating the signup sheet
When asking for volunteers, it would be in your best interest to create a sheet to keep track of who signed up! But, what should be on the sheet?
To begin with, make sure you have the reason for sign-ups on the sheet. This may seem obvious, but I have had parents in the past sign up for a bake sale with treats when they actually signed up to chaperone a dance later that evening.
You should also have a slot for the first and last name of the person signing up, as well as the relation to the child in the school. Often, children have different last names than their parents, or children may live with family members other than parents. From an organizational standpoint, asking how a family member is related to the child is a good idea because you have a list of all of the adults who are helping with the event.
Additionally, you should include contact information on your sheet. There should be a spot with how to get in contact with you as the organizer, as well as how to get in contact with the volunteers. In the event of an emergency, you want to be able to immediately get in touch with your volunteers.
Make sure that you include three sections for volunteers — email, phone number, and preference of how to be reached. As a teacher, I have found that parents often either do not respond to emails in a timely manner, or they don’t pick up the phone from strange phone numbers. By including a preference section, parents will know to be on the lookout for an email or a strange phone number from you.
Some activities, such as a school party or holiday event, may have different sections for volunteering. Make sure to include these on the sign-up sheet. I recommend writing a disclaimer saying that while you will try to get everyone’s first or second choice, it is not a guarantee.
It is recommended that you have both a paper copy of the volunteer sheet, as well as a virtual copy of it. There are plenty of ways to create a virtual copy, such as utilizing Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to create one.
What if you are creating a volunteer sign-up sheet for an event that occurs weekly? All the above information should still be on your sheet — however, include an additional column that asks for the specific dates and times available. Also, make sure to call or email volunteers a few days before an event. After all, if you assume that a volunteer can come in every single Wednesday, you will not be prepared for the day that they cannot make it.
Make sure that you put a cap on how many volunteers are in the same spot at once. When I taught third grade several years ago, four parent volunteers came in the classroom to set up for the Christmas party. This was very kind of them to do — but there were too many people in the room at the time. The parents often got in each other’s way instead of helping each other out.
At the time of this writing, we are in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. This likely puts a natural limit on the number of volunteers who sign up. However, you can still have volunteers!
For example, rather than having a parent physically come into the classroom to discuss their cool job, parents and community members can sign up through a virtual platform, such as Zoom. This is also a great way to get other interesting people to discuss things with your students — I once got a Florida author to discuss the writing process with my New Jersey students.
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