To room parent or to not room parent – ABCs of Room parenting

So now that we are mentally prepared for back-to-school (yeah right), the next big pressing decision is to room parent or to not room parent.

Now I admit, I have heard/read all the horror stories, but with a little organization, a lot of delegation, and help from Qlubb, it can be a very rewarding and fun experience. Below are some tips from my many years (I am a three-peater) of being a room parent…
Communicate clearly.
Parents actually love to help, but most of the time, they just don’t know what to do and where. Busy parents just don’t have the time nor patience to dig through stuff or inquire about how to help in the classroom – so spell it out clearly and have it easily available.

Do NOT send out a general email that says “Volunteers needed for September” – Trust me NO ONE will sign up.

Setup an online group site and email.
Utilize the Internet and set up a classroom site on the Internet. With a shared calendar, online sign-up sheets, shared to-do lists, roster management, photo sharing, etc… – online group sites are the best and easiest way to keep everyone on the same page and informed.

Some of the newer services like Qlubb also have integrated email distribution lists that help remind parents of events, tasks, etc.

But do NOT spam.
While email is very tempting as a communication tool, do NOT send out more than one room parent-related email to the parent. Any more than that, parents will tune your email out (“mental spam filter”). Keep emails short and concise with links to sign-up sheets, calendars, information, etc.

Delegate, delegate, delegate.
By signing on as room parent, you are not volunteering for every event and every task – you are the organizing person, not the only do-er. So use sign-up sheets (online is best – ubiquitous and real-time) frequently – this is the best way to communicate with other parents what is needed, when, and where.

With Qlubb’s online sign-up sheets, I have been completely hands-off when it comes to organizing and staffing classroom events. In other words “awesome.” Everyone knew who was doing what/when and where – no staffing redundancies, no miscommunication and the reminders went out automatically to the volunteers!

Communicate frequently with the teacher.
Make time each week to spend 10 minutes with the teacher to discuss upcoming events, needs, and activities. Some teachers even prefer to connect via email since their classroom time and afterschool time is very hectic.

You are a room parent not a therapist.
Do not try to mediate problems between families and teachers. Don’t take sides. If there are issues, lead the family to the correct school staff (e.g., learning specialist, school psychologist, principal, etc.)

Collect a classroom slush fund.
If your school allows it, build a classroom slush fund at the beginning of the year. Ask the parents to contribute $25 dollars to the fund to cover various expenses during the year, including special event expenses, costumes for plays. Having a classroom pot makes it MUCH easier to plan events, buy supplies, etc – no need to hassle every parent every month for a few dollars. Any money left over can be used for the end of school year or holiday gift.

(caveat: some schools discourage this because it conflicts with their Annual Fund or fundraising, so find out the school’s policy)

Share photos.
Parents love photos. Use the online group sites or other photo sites to share photos of events.

(caveat: some parents are cautious about putting their children’s images on the Web. Some of the photo sites, flickr, picasa, shutterfly, use security through obscurity (i.e. they use a long, obscure URL, but no password). Qlubb protects all photos marked private via the Qlubb password.)
As a founder of Qlubb, I know it sounds self-serving, but I REALLY love using Qlubb in my children’s classrooms. I don’t know how many countless events, field trips, garage sales, parties that were planned via Qlubb.

Qlubb really takes out all the overhead, the extra emails, the phone calls, the miscommunication, the hassle, the reminders, the organization… and really allows me and the other parents to just enjoy the events.

If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear from you.
Posted by Room mom at 9:17 AM
Labels: classroom volunteer, preschool, PTA, room mother, room parent, roommother, roomparenting
G said…
I can’t thank you enough for this article. Being an extremely disorganized person, I have been working up the nerve to volunteer to be room mother for three years and have finally taken the plunge! I’ve had a difficult time finding basic advice about this monumental (for me) undertaking – most stuff is centered on parties and activities, not the nuts and bolts of things. Your guidelines are clear, concise, and will be pinned to my bulletin board for the rest of the year. I’ll check back often in case you are inspired to share more of your thoughts. Thanks again!

August 6, 2008 2:06 PM
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