TEACHABLE MOMENTS: How to support schools and school children
American democracy depends on an educated public. The news, whether TV or print, constantly indicates our educational system is poor compared to other countries. Well, one of the reasons is that the system is expected to do so much without support. The purpose of this article is to suggest ways you can help your school.
One of the best ways to help schools is to volunteer your time and effort. Most schools have training sessions at the beginning of the year and then assign the volunteers to help specific teachers. The jobs vary, from listening to children read to helping them learn math facts. You can also be asked to help put up bulletin boards or file papers. Schools also use volunteers to help with book fairs or work in the library. Sometimes schools need volunteers to help with health screenings. The volunteers escort classes to the screening area. When schools have special events, extra volunteers beyond the parents are very helpful. Even with ordinary events like football games, there is always a need for volunteers to help at the refreshment stand. Smart principals can think of hundreds of ways to use volunteers.
If you can’t volunteer time at the school, there are many other ways to help. One is to donate supplies. Just call the school and ask what the school needs. The answer to this will vary from school to school. I do know of two items that would make a great difference. One suggestion is to buy reams of paper and donate one a month to the school. Another is to bring tissue to school. Teachers often have to buy these items themselves out of their meager salaries.
Schools can use extra money, because the state and county provide the schools only so much. There are many ways your money would be helpful. You can purchase picture books or chapter books to help some new teacher fill her classroom library. Or, donate bookstore gift cards. It is well known that linking art expression to a subject helps children remember what they are learning. To do this, teachers need supplies and gift cards to art supply stores will be most helpful.
Some schools need money to help children in need. If the school requires uniforms, there are often children whose parents cannot afford to purchase them. Hoodies, for example, cost about $27 and that is a lot of money for a family struggling just to eat.
If you own a business, you might want to support the school by offering prizes for specific contests. Children get excited about learning when they are writing for an authentic audience. You could provide a monetary prize for writing the best essay for a specific topic of your choice or ask the principal to pick the topic. Or, you could consider offering a prize for the child that reads the most books in the school to help encourage reading.
Beyond schools there is a non-profit organization that provides food for needy children to eat over the weekends. The program, Food for Thought, can use volunteers and monetary donations. This organization packs backpacks with enough food to feed the child over the weekend when the free and reduced meals are not available. According to a recent news report, one in five American families is considered food insecure. Many of these families live on the coast. Your donation will help these children have food that will help them be better learners and hopefully break the cycle of poverty through education.
These are just a few of the ways that you might choose to support the schools. In giving of yourself or some of your money, you will receive much more than you give because you will know that you made a difference.
Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher and educational consultant who lives in Destin.