Kids Like Their School When I Know It & Like It

“How was school?” inquires Dad.  “Ugh,” replies his son. 

Thankfully, all children don’t respond with lethargy when it comes to school, but how absolutely frustrating it is when they do.  For on-line gaming and virtual networking they overflow with enthusiasm.  Reading, writing (u :( textin), or arithmetic = inertia.  (What’s that?  Review physics!)

One of our four sons regularly seems apathetic about his education.  Out of desperation we even proposed spending an afternoon at the local fast food to observe the employees...if he keeps up not caring about school, this could be his future.  

We found another strategy—knowing and liking his school—to be more inspiring for us all.  It’s harder for him to slouch off to school when I trot over with a bouncy step.  I find out about school by volunteering...and not even that much because time and energy are limited.  Our principal asked me to write about why I volunteer at school.  Because I benefit!  Here’s how:

1.       To Communicate Vital Family Principles

Have you ever felt like the maid or the wallet for your children?  Of course, the cherished one!  And yet an uncomfortable sensation lingers that parents do the work and the kids enjoy it.   I tell our sons that any community—be it family, school, office—is like a body.  We are meant to function (step 1) and together (step 2). “Don’t be the appendix.  No one knows you’re there until you’re about to explode!”  The message speaks more loudly and clearly at home when I put it into practice with the school.  “As part of the school body, I’ll be a healthy arm, leg or a ‘coup de pouce .’” (French expression for “helping hand”)

2.       To Help Build a “Village”

Hillary Clinton says we need a village to raise our kids, yet oftentimes I feel alone in the universe facing children who think they know how to parent better than I do.  Where can today’s parents get answers to normal yet annoying family issues?  At work the subject is deemed unprofessional.  Dinner parties aren’t always the right setting either.    It’s through fellow school volunteers that I learn what really goes on in other families.  “Oh, your child has limited computer time too!...Your “high schooler” does his own laundry? J...What do you when____?”    

3.       To Enable the Village to Help Raise My Kids

With the influx of the mobile phone into our home, it is much more difficult to know what the kids are planning…they bypass the public modes of communication (the family phone and in-person) to privately organize their social life and then (hopefully) inform me of their decision.  Thanks to the parent network expanded through the volunteering at SCHOOL, I know more about what my kids are doing.   “Your son was in our neighborhood the other day.”  Really?  Food for discussion at home!

4.       To Focus, Focus, Focus and Gain Value-Added Time

With limited time and energy, any additional demand—such as school volunteering options—encourages me to focus.  Do I want to spend time with children (library) or with other adults (Parent-Teachers Association)?  Am I looking to catch up with many people (be a greeter) or to engage with a selected few (recruit a friend to volunteer together...and bring tea)?  In an ideal world, I might be able to organize time with the kids’ friends or in one-on-one conversations with other parents…but I live life at a frenzied speed.  The commitment to a school volunteering task requires me to carve out time to engage in school-related relationships.

5.       To Enjoy School…for MOI!

Lastly, and not the least, it’s a lot easier to motivate the kids for classes when I like their school too!  Every school family has a unique and fascinating story.  I am “wowed” by the exotic travel, multi-cultural and multi-racial heritages, and hunger for open-mindedness that make up our community.   (Our family is part of the international community in Paris. ) It’s by being involved in the school community that I learn about these amazing experiences…and the more I know the more I want to belong. 

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