Room Parent Ideas for When Class Is Virtual
Being a class parent in 2020 looks a little different, but there are still many worthwhile volunteer opportunities within the role.
October 6, 2020
Back in my day, as they say, being a room parent was pretty straightforward. I did it for about six years, from the time my younger son was in kindergarten until middle school. In fact, in 2013 I wrote an article for PTOtoday.com, our sister site, about my experience as class parent. In it, I advised moms and dads not to be overwhelmed and that the job mostly consisted of communicating with the teacher on what she needed, and then following through with her requests.
But it’s not 2013 anymore, and this school year has its own unprecedented set of challenges. We’ve seen lots of questions about whether it’s even possible to be a room parent if you can’t get into your child’s school. The broad answer to this is whether your school has an established history of room parents; it’ll just be easier to adapt the role to current times if it’s something your teachers and administration are used to.
Here are some specific ways room parents can help their classrooms virtually, as well as some alternate suggestions for the term “room parent.”
Helping Teachers and Showing Them Appreciation
✓ Moderate chat rooms during class. Having kids and parents type questions and comments in chat can be a distraction. Ask your teacher if this is something she’d like some assistance with.
✓ Organize teacher appreciation efforts. Teachers are working harder than ever right now, and even small pick-me-ups mean a lot.
“I’m hoping to try to organize a weekly or bi-weekly teacher appreciation thing. A different student each week can bring in a thank you card and snack or drink or whatever they choose just to show teachers how much we appreciate the extra work they are doing,” says class parent Tracey M.
Another nice idea that works any time is collecting notes or drawings from students (emailed if needed), printing them, and giving them to the teacher in a pretty folder or album.
✓ Organize holiday gifts. This is a typical room parent task, and it can continue fairly easily even from a distance. Some easy holiday gifts include gift cards or a basket with items donated by families.
Setting up a wish list for your teacher is a simple, seamless way to get teachers what they really need for their classrooms. Just ask the teacher what she’d like for the holidays, and post a holiday wish list on TeacherLists. Parents can see what teachers need (as well as what’s already been bought), and purchase items right through Amazon—even e-gift cards. Parents can have gifts shipped to the school, or straight to a teacher’s home.
✓ Liaise between the teacher and parents. There’s a lot of information going around, and your teacher would probably appreciate a hand in getting it out to parents.
✓ Collect supplies. If your school is meeting in person full- or part-time, your teachers will love donations of sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. But even if your school is fully remote right now, supplies will keep till it reopens.
✓ Just ask! It’s an overwhelming time for teachers, and many would welcome knowing you’re there as a go-to when they need help. Check in often and let them know you’re on hand to help.
✓ Coordinate special days like virtual spiritwear, school colors, or dress-up days. They’re easy ways for kids to connect and have a little fun.
✓ Work with other room parents or the PTO to do some sprucing up, if possible. This could be an outside effort, or something inside (if and when you’re allowed there) like making a cheerful bulletin board with messages of encouragement.
Organizing Class Activities
✓ If in-person class parties aren’t allowed, make them virtual. For typical classroom party celebrations, you could ask parents to have their kids wear their costumes (Halloween) or share loving messages with their classmates (Valentine’s Day), for example.
✓ Coordinate a virtual “bring your pet to class” day—kids love showing off their pets, and it’s one thing they really don’t get to do during “normal” school!
✓ Set up a monthly book group. This could be to discuss required reading or a book kids choose. It doesn’t even have to be the same book.
✓ Put together kits or contained activities: “Our room parents are putting together kits for the teachers and their classes for a fun day each month. Each month will be different and it’ll depend on the grade level. But coloring sheets for littles, outdoor games, movie/popcorn days, some things like that,” says room parent Rachelle D.
Alternative Names for Room Parent
The “room parent” title is evolving to be more inclusive and account for non-parent adults volunteering for the role. Here are a few we’ve seen (and like!):
✓ Room representative
✓ Class captain
✓ Classroom connector
✓ Name after the school mascot, e.g. “Room panda”
✓ Room coordinator
✓ Homeroom helper
✓ Class liaison
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