Encouraging volunteering in the classroom

Schools thrive when they can count on the added (unpaid) resource of classroom volunteers throughout the school year. But how do you get—and keep—them?

Teachers need help every day but classroom volunteers can be hard to get without some broad thinking and ‘job’ sweeteners.

Finding classroom volunteers

  • Include ‘classroom help’ as a category in a volunteer survey used during your school information evenings.
  • Put out a call for volunteers in the school newsletter.
  • Remind teachers to specifically mention their need in parent-teacher interviews.
  • Be flexible in rostering. Think ‘job-share’ to accommodate parents who can only help out once a month or once a term.
  • Specifically ask grandparents. (Be aware that in Australia, some states —Queensland, Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia—require criminal checks of volunteers other than parents. Your school administration can advise whether this will be needed.)

What can classroom volunteers do?

Some volunteers become familiar faces in the classroom, regularly working with a child or supervising a small group in early literacy or numeracy activities or computer studies.

Some share their gift or passion for art, or music or environmental science with a class of youngsters.

Still others are needed on a less regular basis, on school excursions or during swim carnivals or sports afternoons.

5 keys to keeping volunteers involved

  1. Make new volunteers feel welcome. Have someone show the volunteer vital locations (like the bathroom or photocopy room).
  2. Be clear about what is needed of the volunteers.
  3. Use volunteers’ time wisely. There’s nothing worse than making time to help in class and then finding out you’re not needed!
  4. Incentivise!!
  5. Say thank you. A personal note from the teacher (or principal) will go a long way to showing your volunteers that they are valued.
  6. Be aware of volunteer burnout.

Incentivising volunteering in the classroom

It’s nice to be appreciated but these suggestions may be a further sweetener…and will definitely affirm their appreciation.

  • Every time volunteers help out, their names go into a monthly draw. The winner receives a prize. Think creatively about the prize. It could be…

– a designated car space in the staff car park for a week

– free lunch from the canteen
– a small gift (bottle of wine), preferably donated.

  • Gold stars aren’t just for kids. But for volunteers, a pre-determined number of hours equates to a voucher at a local coffee shop.
  • Include a presentation of certificates of appreciation to all volunteers at the end of year concert or speech night.