Over the summer, my mother-in-law sent me Laurie Gelman’s book You’ve Been Volunteered. I laughed out loud as I read the title. Had I told my mother in law that this year, our sixth year at our local public elementary school, I would be serving as a room parent for the first time? Or that when my son’s teacher recruited me to the role she reminded me kindly though forcefully that this was a two year commitment now, okay?
Dixon is primed to have some fun with the new, younger parents, to send snarky emails and jokingly ask for bribes for prime parent-teacher conference times or a chance to bring a less cumbersome contribution for class events. It’s a great spoof (and at times only slight exaggeration) on what parents are asked to contribute to classrooms in terms of volunteer support.
As the school year approached, I anticipated my duties and hoped I would have the enthusiasm and technical savvy to follow through. What is the best way to communicate with parents anyway? Google docs? Google spreadsheet? Regular email? Paper flyers? Electronic sign-up services like SignUp Genius? And how often should I contact parents?
And then the fateful day arrived, the day my son’s teacher handed me a list of names and emails. My first task was deciphering handwriting and hoping I had the correct information. Then, I composed my first email as class mom.
Here’s something about me: I tend to pick up people’s mannerisms very easily. And apparently I can even pick them up through reading about them because as I typed out my first words, the voice that came through wasn’t my own but that of sarcastic and over-the-top Jen Dixon from Laurie Gelman’s imagination! For sure, the book was hilarious. But definitely not a rule to live by!
After a couple of revisions and three re-reads, I finally clicked send and held my breath.
Only two emails bounced back. Over the course of the next week I was able to correct the spelling of one.
Since then, I have braced myself to be the go-between for my son’s teachers and have looked for opportunities to serve the class. I signed up to help chaperone an apple picking field trip which unfortunately was cancelled due to the threat of the EEE virus. Going forward, I strive to inform the class parents of classroom and school-wide events to keep them informed and involved as best I can without inundating anyone’s inbox.
It’s a new type of service work for me. I’m in it for the long-haul, and I hope I can bring unity to my son’s class without any of Jen Dixon’s distracting antics! At the same time, I am eager to crack the cover of Gelman’s sequel.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the requests flowing your way for how you can be more involved at your kids’ school, check out Gelman’s books and enjoy a laugh!
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.