It is difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that summer is winding down and school will begin again for lots of kids in just a few days or weeks! Seems like it was just last week when end-of-the year activities wound down—and we don’t even have any school-age kids or grandkids. Recently, though, we have heard quite a few parents say they have had enough of the “fun” and are counting down till that school bell rings again. Ahh, we remember those days!
While parents may be cheering at the thought of the first day of school, many teachers and administrators are probably experiencing lots of conflicting emotions. Most are probably excited at the opportunities to affect young, developing minds, but they may also be apprehensive at the huge task and responsibilities associated with teaching children with fewer and fewer needed resources available to them. Everything from money to teacher assistants to textbooks seem to be in short supply.
One resource that would not seem to be in short supply is retirees or older adults who may be available to volunteer in their local schools. Many retirees have a lifetime of acquired skills to share, and when coupled with a love of encouraging children to learn, they may have a huge, positive influence on children and their schools. They can help children learn to read, tutor specific subjects like math, share their work experiences on Career Day, or volunteer in the classroom, media center or school office—the possibilities are vast and varied.
Older adults can have profound effects on the lives of young children by becoming involved in their schools. Other than the obvious effects they may have on children’s academic progress, they may provide positive role models the children may be lacking in their lives. Many children are missing out on grandparental or intergenerational relationships for any number of reasons; having “grandparent” mentors at school can help to fill that void. These types of interactions can be a win-win for everyone.
Grandparents, if they are able, may want to consider volunteering in the schools their grandchildren attend. Schools have traditionally relied on young mothers to fill most of the volunteer positions available during the school year. A large number of those mothers must now seek employment and are not available to volunteer. Grandparents can step in (with their family’s consent) to help fill those volunteer roles.
As I listened to my pastor challenge us, recently, with his belief that all of us are called to do something, I looked around the room and noticed that all of us come in varying shapes and sizes and AGES. Many older adults are not ready to be put out to pasture in retirement. Rather, they are seeking meaningful purpose for the next phase of life. Maybe, just maybe, positively influencing the life of a young child is a calling more and more older adults will answer.
How to Get Started
• Think about your skill set & life experience. Over a lifetime you have developed special talents and abilities that can be useful to the schools. Perhaps you were an accountant or an engineer and would be especially suited to tutoring math. Maybe you were an administrative assistant or homemaker and have developed special organizational skills. You get the picture—everyone has at least one skill they can share.
• Find out what your particular school needs. Meet with the principal to determine how you may best assist in his/her school.
• Contact the PTA/PTO Volunteer Coordinator for guidance on how you may help that organization be successful.
• In the Lake Norman area, you can also reach out to The Lake Norman Education Collaborative through their Facebook page or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about volunteer needs in the North area schools.
The possibility for making a difference in the lives of children, teachers, parents & administrators is very exciting for older adults. Let us know how you decide to volunteer in your local school. We can’t wait to hear your story!