Developing a Parent Volunteer Handbook is important if you plan on utilizing the help fo family in your preschool classroom. You need to be clear about your expectations. Don't assume parents know what to do to help once they are there!
A Volunteer Handbook should be a part of your volunteer program whether you have 2 or 3 parents volunteer in the classroom or 10-20 throughout the year.
Parent volunteers and participation is one of the most important aspects of the preschool program.
Volunteers are necessary as contributors to their child’s learning process and are essential to a well functioning, successful preschool program.
We rely on parent volunteers to maintain a ratio of 1:8 in the classroom. (This means that for every eight children in the classroom, we need to have one adult).
Many times, we utilize the help of Parent Volunteers to maintain that ratio in the case of a teacher being out sick or on vacation.
If you are utilizing parents as volunteers in your classroom either as a substitute or as an extra helper, it is important that you have a Parent Volunteer Handbook in place.
Let's look at a few areas that your handbook should include.
The handbook should include the following sections:
1. Details (a paragraph or less) of the paperwork they need to complete prior to volunteering.
2. What their responsibilities and expectations are and are NOT in the classroom.
3. A Checklist for the Parent Volunteer
4. A signature section for both the parent and you to sign and date.
Let's look at each section.
Your Parent Handbook should include details regarding the paperwork they must fill out prior to volunteering.
Much of this will be determined by your state regulations and requirements.
Examples are: CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information); SORI (Sexual Offender Record Information); Current health forms/immunization record; application to volunteer.
It is important that parents know what they should and should not do in the classroom. Your Parent Volunteer Handbook is the perfect place to detail this information for them.
Let them know what their responsibilities are in the classroom such as sitting with the children during Circle Time, at Center Time, getting ready to go outside, etc.
Let them know what responsibilities they need to defer to the teacher and should NOT help with such as bringing children to the bathroom, disciplining children (even and ESPECIALLY their own).
Let them know what the program's expectations are of them while they are in the classroom. Some of these items may cover dress code, not using their cell phones, how to let someone know if they can not make their scheduled volunteer shift.
Also consider: What are your rules regarding volunteers transporting children, discipline of children, bringing siblings with them while volunteering?
A Checklist is a summary of the items you want the parent to know/do at each shift. Most parents do not volunteer on a regular basis so this checklist serves as a reminder for them.
My checklist includes items such as: How/where to sign in and out; checking in with the teacher and items to find out from the teacher before the shift begins (such as how the teacher would best like the volunteer to work with the children that day), and other items.
In addition, I have a page (or section at the end of the Parent Volunteer Handbook) for both the parent and me to sign and date. It shows that they have read the handbook and checklist, understand it and agree with it. This may become important if you need to end a parent's in-class volunteer work for not following expectations.
That is what I include in a Parent Volunteer Handbook.
In most cases (in smaller programs), you can give your handbook to the volunteer to review on their own and have a quick meeting and cup of coffee with them to go over it and sign it together.
If you have a larger program, consider having a Preschool Volunteer Orientation meeting where you can go over the Parent Volunteer Handbook with the volunteers as a group.
Sometimes it just doesn't work out to have a parent in their child's classroom. Sometimes, it was GREAT!
Once you've had a parent volunteer in the classroom, be sure to assess how it went. I use an Observation form that the teacher fills out after each volunteer shift. Click here to read about Parent Observations.