how I support my school MY way — family mentors & kindergarten orientation

volunteer spot supporting school, family mentors, kindergarten orientationWhen I had kids, it was like hitting the jackpot in more ways than one.

Not only did I have three little sweets to love on, I was able to play with them, teach them, and support their early learning–putting into action all of the tricks of the trade that I learned through my classroom teaching and in my Reading Specialist program.

Long, long ago, I envisioned myself volunteering in my kids’ schools several times a week, helping out where needed and really rockin’ the PTA.

Right about now that’s not happening.

The reality is that I’ve morphed from a stay-at-home mom who tutored a few times a week to a work-at-home mom who needs to do just that–work–while my kids are at school.  Even in the teeeny, tiny 90 minutes of free time I had three mornings a week while Owen and Cora were in preschool last year, I zipped home, pounded out some articles, sent out queries, managed clients, and buzzed around on my blog and we teach.

While I’m certainly doing something I love–writing about teaching and learning for awesome, reputable publications, reviewing and writing curriculum, and a bit of this and that, while maintaining a pretty flexible schedule–I never would have guessed I’d be here even two or three years ago.

And I never would have guessed that my real life would have shattered my dreams of becoming an elementary school volunteer superstar.

However, like many, I have carved out my own, perfect-for-me ways of supporting my children’s school that fits my schedule and works for our family.

I am proud to support my school. . . MY way.

volunteer spot supporting school, family mentors, kindergarten orientation

Even playing school at home supports your school–there are tons of ways to show support!

  • Kindergarten Orientation: Two  years ago, when Maddy began Kindergarten, I enjoyed her Kindergarten Orientation.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it. And I so wanted to love it. I needed to love it.

So I joined the Kindergarten Orientation Committee that year so I could kinda-just-a-little-bit tweak it and be that happy, welcoming face I needed to see when I walked in.  And the following year, I took the reins, and now I’m in charge.

We’re working on adding tours for families, making everyone feel welcome, and keeping the whole event simple but meaningful.

And only because I worked with an incredible administrative team, fabulous Kindergarten teachers, awesome support staff, and a handful of super-duper volunteers (thanks to Volunteer Spot!!), it was a success. And I’ll keep doing it as long as I am able, because this event is important to me–and it’s really nice to plan an event, facilitate it, and then have it be over until the next year.

I’m already looking forward to planning this spring’s Orientation.


  • Family Mentoring Program:  Two years ago, I was a totally freaked out, new-to-elementary school parent.  Being on the other side of the teacher’s desk was foreign to me, and I was a mess.volunteer spot supporting school, family mentors, kindergarten orientation

It’s one thing to have the school event calendar in hand; it’s another thing to understand the culture of a school, and that’s what I was missing. I wanted Cliff’s Notes. I wanted a manual.  I wanted a friend who knew the ropes and could fill me in.

So after meeting with our principal this year, I created a Family Mentoring Program at our school.

It’s a Guide-type program where we connect one ‘seasoned’ family (the Guides) to one ‘new-to-the-school’ family (New Families).  We have cute and catchy names, and we’re learning as we go, but so far, we’ve got 15 families on board–a pretty good start for a new program!

If you’re interested in starting your own Family Mentoring Program, you can use my document (the Family Mentoring Program) and tweak it to fit your needs.

Here’s what I did:

  • emailed the principal and explained my proposed the program;
  • met with the principal to discuss it;
  • sent an information sheet to our PTA to solicit Guide Families;
  • sent information over our PTA list serve about the program;
  • spoke at Kindergarten Orientation about the program and included an information sheet and hard copy sign-up sheet in each family’s folder;
  • created a Google doc for online sign-ups;
  • matched families;
  • sent an email introduction to both Guide Family and New Family;
  • encouraged pairs to connect at the Spring Fair (or pool, park, etc);
  • included an information sheet and hard copy sign-up sheet in each family’s back-to-school folder;
  • offered participating families a ‘free’ PTA family directory.

So now that the program’s established, I connect families as needed, hand out directories, and send out email reminders.  There’s probably a ton more I could be doing to make the program much more awesome, but right now, this is all I can handle.

But I honestly feel good knowing that other new-to-the-school families have an opportunity to meet others and find support if they want–or need it. I know I sure did.

  •  Twitter: I tweet for our school. Seriously.

It took a bit of coercing, and I’m not sure many people follow my tweets, but I use Twitter each day, so I thought that creating an account for our school wouldn’t be too hard. And it wasn’t.

I set the badboy up with a @[schoolname]pta , added our logo to the profile, and I was good to go.  I created a Bring Twitter to Our School handout for those who were interested.  The PTA communication chair sends out information to our list serve, and I cut it to 140 characters and tweet it.

If you think you want to bring Twitter to your school, here’s the Twitter Information for School Blank handout.  Tweak it, and let me know how it goes!



Classroom Party Ideas

View more presentations from VolunteerSpot


  • Co-Room Parent: yep. I couldn’t even go for the gold solo. Last year, under extreme, last-minute coercion, I agreed to be co-room mom with a woman I had never even met. Turns out, she is one of the coolest gals around, and we had an absolute blast.

We chatted for hours ‘planning parties’ while our kids ran crazy around the house, and we laughed our way through our silly Halloween and Valentine’s Day parties.  We were a great team, and being partners in room-parent crime was a riot. I’d totally do it again with her in a heartbeat.

Being Co-Room Mom made writing the Volunteer Spot Class Party Guide eBook (it’s free! they all are!) much more meaningful for me, because I knew–firsthand–how desperately Room Parents need those ideas.  Check it out.

And be sure to check out the free Room Mom Survival Guide, eBook or use the sample back-to-school signup sheets  to help you if you decide to support your school as a room parent.


When we first had kids, my husband openly admitted that he worried about my participation in our children’s schooling: 

You really have to promise me you’re not going to become one of those parents, Ame.  You can’t call the teacher every day.  You can’t email every day.  You can’t just walk in the classroom; you have to know that our kids will be fine, and they will have great teachers and not-so-great teachers, and either way, they’ll be fine.

He was correct when he said that our kids would be fine–no matter the teacher–but he was off when he thought I’d be a school and teacher-stalker.  We were both wrong.  I’m just not the volunteer super mom I thought I’d be–I don’t have the time.

But I am supporting our school. . . my way.  And it feels fine to me.


Parent leader free online sign up sheets with volunteerspot

I SUPPORT MY SCHOOL.. MY WAY! And I’m joining VolunteerSpot’s sponsored Back To School campaign to help raise visibility for parent involvement in schools.

Save time {and sanity} and get more parents involved at school with!

VolunteerSpot’s FREE online signup sheets make it easy to organize parents and signup to help for just about anything: classroom helpers, snack schedules, carnivals, library volunteers, parent-teacher conferences and more…. No more ‘Reply-All’ email chains or clipboard sign up sheets! Please share with your room mom, teachers and parent leaders…

Plus there’s a huge Sweepstakes on VolunteerSpot’s Facebook page!
Win $500 worth of school supplies for YOUR School! Enter here




  1. says

    Thanks for joining our MySchool…MyWay campaign, Amy! You’re a powerhouse and your school is SOOO lucky to have you!

    Love that you tweet for your school & your Twitter handout is super helpful {will be linking to it soon on VolunteerSpot’s blog}! We’ve learned some Twitter-savvy schools & teachers are inviting parents to “Text Follow” their Twitter accounts. By sending a text to follow the account, parents can get alerts and updates to their phones when Tweets are sent. {e.g. bus delays, homework alerts, bad weather alerts, etc.}

    • amy says

      Karen!! Thanks so much for the invite to join the MySchool..MyWay campaign! I love what you’re doing at Volunteer Spot and am more than happy to support you in any way I can! LOVE the idea to text follow tweets–SO smart, and I’ll add that to our handout this year! You ROCK!

  2. says

    I really love these ideas. But…can I add just one more thing? The Kindergarten orientation is fantastic, and the new families hooking up is something my children’s preschool is starting, but since my son is entering first grade, rather than Kindergarten at our public school (he did Kindergarten at his preschool), I would love to have been included in the Kindergarten orientation. As it is, my son’s teacher is being very accommodating, having him come in a day before the open house and check the school out without so many kids there, but I have a feeling I’m going to be playing catch up with the school culture stuff. So…maybe if the Kindergarten Orientation could be for new parents entering at other points too, it would be nice, even if the focus remained on Kindergarten. All in all though, you’re making me feel good about finding a way to fit into our new school!

    • amy says

      Great idea! I am not sure if there’s a ‘new to the school’ orientation, but there should be! I think our school does it so that there’s a Kindergarten/ New Family Back-to-School Night before school begins (one night this week), and the Open House is for everyone the next day (where kids see their classes for the first time). Our Family Mentoring program is for everyone, though–new fam’s and kindergarten fam’s because the school culture is hard to pick up on, for sure. Good luck and here’s to a happy 2011/2012 school year!

  3. says

    This is really great, Amy!! I’m the PTA prez at Lucas’s new school and we’re nearly starting from the ground up. I definitely love the concept of supporting your way…that’s what we’re really trying to emphasize, that it’s important to be involved in whatever way you can.

    • amy says

      Thanks for writing, my friend! Please let me know if you need anything else–I know it’s hard, and there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel!!

  4. Brandy says

    The schools here in our county do a Kindergarten Camp for 3 or so half days (mornings) in the summer about 2 weeks before school begins. It’s for the kids to come and spend time in their classrooms, meet some new friends (and teachers/admin./etc), play games, tour the school (practicing going through the lunch line, finding the bathroom, etc.), and other really fun things to get the kids excited about coming. We’re homeschoolers for the first time this year, but when my daughter went through it she was thankful for it. We were able to meet a couple of other families during drop off and pick up each day and meet for play dates before school started so the kids knew their new friends even better. Just a thought.

    • amy says

      Brandy–I LOVE this idea, and I think it would be so beneficial. We are always on the same line–we do play with friends each day after school at the school’s playground, and it has helped so much with getting all of my kids adjusted to the space, meeting new friends, and also getting to know my mom friends as well.
      Had NO idea you were homeschooling this year!! How exciting!!?? Email me and give me the skinny, girl!!

  5. says

    “You really have to promise me you’re not going to become one of those parents, Ame. You can’t call the teacher every day. You can’t email every day. You can’t just walk in the classroom; you have to know that our kids will be fine, and they will have great teachers and not-so-great teachers, and either way, they’ll be fine.”

    I needed to hear that. Thank you for sharing.

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