An Open Letter From a Parent Volunteer


chaperoneDear Parents,

I volunteer at my children’s school a fair amount. I do it for a lot of reasons, but believe it or not, I actually enjoy spending time with school age kids. Most of the time. I complain about it and I’m often exhausted by it. Often times it’s thankless. Sometimes it’s downright appalling how badly you’re treated. Sometimes spending time with kids not your own makes you come home and appreciate the ones you’ve got a little more. After a few trips around the field trip block, there are a few things I’ve noticed, things your kid is doing or not doing. Because the majority of them are. Or aren’t as the case may be. Things that are easily fixed…and taught.

Teach your child to say please or thank you to the parent volunteering in their class or school. When I volunteer for a school event, it means I’m giving up time I could be doing something else. Napping, food shopping, trying to sell my novel, starting the next one. Doesn’t matter what. It means I’ve given up a portion of my day. Usually it means I’m doing it because no one else would. When a child demands, or don’t even bother to say please or thank you? You can be pretty sure I make sure they’re the last to get whatever it is I’m handing out. You may think younger kids are the worst offenders, but you’d be wrong. It’s the older ones who seem to have lost their manners with their baby teeth. And it’s most of them.

Teach your kids to listen to the adult volunteer in charge. Many kids talk over, ignore, and in some cases even mock the adult who is there to look out for them. The behavior ranges from rude to downright dangerous. If I’m responsible for your child on public transportation or outside of school grounds, you’d better make damn sure they know to listen to whatever I’m saying and the instructions I’m giving.

Teach your child to have realistic expectations, the old ‘you get what you get’ platitude. Not everyone is going to get their first choice. Not everyone is going to get what they like. Pitching a fit, ‘accidentally’ on purpose dropping it, or just plain lying gets your child nothing but a reputation as that kid.

Teach them to appreciate the fact that so many adults in their life are willing to give up their time to help out.

The one who brings cupcakes into class or chaperones a field trip to the recycling plant, the one who organizes a group gift for the teacher (and the six teacher’s aides, four coaches, and seventeen admin assistants who grease the wheels of your kid’s day)–they’re not doing it for the glory. Or the money. Make sure your child thanks them.

The one who plans a Halloween event, helps out with the stupid holiday craft or spends hours decorating a barren hall. No, volunteers don’t have to do it, though truth be told, sometimes the only thing standing between the planned field trip and a classroom full of disappointed kids is the one parent everyone knows will say yes. Your kids need to thank that person. You should too.


Your child should be pleasing and thanking just about everyone in their life considering how much is done for them. Not just a parent volunteer or two, but the person serving them lunch and the one cleaning up their mess (and trust me, it’s disgusting). The person who cleans the toilet five times a day because, well…kids often miss. The secretary who calls home and the guy who makes sure they don’t get run over in the morning.

Sometimes there is an event to say a formal thank you to all those people who keep your child’s day running smoothly. And that’s nice. But if you want to know the truth, it’s not even close to being enough. So teach your child to say please, to say thank you. To listen respect, and appreciate the people behind the scenes as well as the ones who don’t have to be there, but are anyway.

It goes a long way.


16 Comments Add yours

  1. aviets says:

    Oh, I’ve SOOOO been there. On the one hand, I’ve experienced every one of those nasty behaviors in kids. On the other hand, when I was an all-the-time volunteer for our high school kids’ choir and theater program for three years, the kids we worked with in those departments were totally delightful. Always thanked us for helping out, for bringing treats or providing a meal, for just being there. Those were awesome years.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      There are kids who are great and appreciative, and I totally appreciate them back (and try to make sure I seek out the parents to let them know as well). But they’re not in the majority for sure. I know that kids are kids and they get excited and they’re not perfect, but sometimes I watch the way they treat the adults in their lives, and the way some of those adults tolerate it, and I am left scratching my head.


  2. My son was in band. The kids were, on the whole, pretty great, though I’ll admit the volunteers were mostly invisible to them. The angriest I ever was with him the entire time he was in band (maybe ever…), though, was when he was inexcusably rude to another parent. And yeah, he heard about it.

    Thanks for volunteering. It makes a big difference in a lot of people’s lives, not just the kids’.


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Thank you, Melanie. It does, and I have to say, most of the time the other parents are really great about acknowledging that (not always, there have been some doozies, but definitely the majority). I’m sure there have been plenty of times my own kids have not thanked someone or been rude, but I think it’s important to keep modeling the behavior ourselves of being thankful to the people who help you out. I bet your son never forgot that lesson, and he’ll likely pass it down to his own kids one day!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    there’s no excuse for rudeness. Agree on all fronts.


  4. I’m surprised how many kids just don’t realize these simple rules of etiquette.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      The younger ones are actually pretty good, I think they’re still used to having it drummed into them every, single time. But the older kids forget–I hope. Forgetting is the best case scenario. What I worry is that they just expect that there’s going to be someone there to do shit for them at every turn of life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I agree. Kids are usually pretty sweet until they get to about 7. I’ve seen a few act out but they’re usually not as spiteful into later. I have a problem with lots of the girls my daughter is friends with especially, not so much the boys.


  5. Alison Toni says:

    Dina, you couldn’t have published this at a more opportune moment. It’s the annual PTA Board election at our school tomorrow. I’m not standing this year. Nor are some of the most giving volunteers I know. I’m so very grateful to those who have put their hand up this year. God knows someone’s gotta do it!


    1. Dina Honour says:

      The amount of shit the PTA chair gets is ASTOUNDING. Honestly. A volunteer position, and really…I’ve seen friends in tears after PTA meetings because people can be horrible. We all have to learn where our strengths and boundaries are and unfortunately, like you say, you lose some really great, caring people along the way. I now only volunteer for the things I enjoy and I have no problem saying ‘no’. It makes a big difference.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Alison Toni says:

        I’ve almost mastered sitting on my hands when they call for volunteers …


    1. Dina Honour says:

      I think it has to be an ongoing conversation and modeling too. I need to sit my own kids down and remind them all the time!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cherry says:

    Nail it !
    It is sad that these simple things needed to be reminded but someone got to do it and you made it loud and clear. Fantastic and THANK YOU. 🙂


    1. Dina Honour says:

      You’re welcome. The thing is, they are simple things, and they go a long way, which to me is just another reason to make sure they’re happening!


  7. vinneve says:

    I totally understand you as I wouldn’t be patient or happy about it too if most students behave badly or without manners. I sometimes think it is better to teach it from day 1 in school as some parents are can I say don’t have manners too? Peace. 🙂


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