Ten fourth graders just completed their engineering class focused on gears by giving presentations to all the fourth grade classes.
Teaching a class was a great experience! The goal was to take ten talented fourth graders and give them an extra challenge by introducing them to the world of engineering through the subject of gears. The kids not only learned something about how gears worked, but I was told by several parents how much enthusiasm the kids exhibited. I could see that during the class also.
There are a million things that we don’t teach our kids at school – public, private or homeschool. And that means there are a million opportunities to organize an after school or lunch hour class.
However, it’s important to know a few things in order to be successful. Here’s what I’ve learned.
- Understand what the teachers need. Ask what areas they wish they had time to explore further. Your skills will probably match, but maybe not in the way you might expect.
- Be flexible. Just because you’re free from 12-1 doesn’t mean the school can accommodate. Try to be flexible.
- Do any background checks early. Every organization that works with kids probably has a required background check. Plan to do it a couple weeks in advance.
- Be open to assisting, rather than leading a class. Not everyone can teach. Being willing to assist a class may be more useful to the school.
- Be humble, ask for advice. Teaching rocket science is *not* doing rocket science. What’s easy to you will not be easy to everyone. If you’re not getting through to the kids, schedule a time to sit with a professional teacher.
- Adapt. Lesson plans are necessary, but they will change. Sometimes on a daily basis.
- Be as independent as possible. Teachers are really busy. Use the office when possible for basic things.
- Don’t expect to be thanked every day. Do you thank your child’s teacher everyday? Probably not. As hard as a day might have been, understand that your class is only one of many in the school that day.
- Establish credibility. Volunteer in other ways to show that you’re dependable and won’t abandon the project three weeks in.
To the teachers out there – If there are other things which can help a volunteer be successful in a school, please add them in the comments.