Aaaaah yes, it is time. Time for the big yellow buses taking those kids in our neighborhoods back to the classrooms and buildings where learning, play, and friends coalesce into memories, lessons, and laughter. Whether they are in school full time, half time, or heading back to the couch to go to school virtually, the beginning of the school year brings so many blessings for teachers and students alike. Now is also an amazing time for the seniors in our communities to also become blessings to those who give their all in the classrooms, lunchrooms, playgrounds, and school offices all around us.
What better cause is there to give back to than our schools? Volunteers are the backbone of so many schools – from classroom aides to reading tutors, lunchroom monitors to office assistants – there is no shortage of opportunities for you to give back and contribute to local schools. And, the bonus is that volunteering does not always have to happen during school hours! You can help set up for special events, assist teachers in building lesson kits at home, or even tutoring students after hours at a local library or other neutral setting.
So, why choose schools for your volunteer giving? There are many reasons, including…
- Volunteering in the schools allows you to play a direct role in community improvement. What greater moment can you have than sparking a young child’s interest in math, or helping a student figure out how to apply for college and all that comes with it? By showing up for the students, you are showing up for your community. “Studies show that children who grow up with mentors are more likely to want to become mentors themselves, and people who are more educated are more likely to give back to their communities by volunteering.” So, you have the power to empower future volunteers!
- It does not take much time to make a true difference in the lives of students. Just being able to give one hour of your time gives so much back to those who need it. Whether it’s an hour in the library, reading to third graders or an hour after school of SAT prep for high school seniors, you may find that the time you spend in the schools gives you a welcome break from your own everyday life. One volunteer reports, “For years, every time I entered a third grade classroom, everyone cheered. Volunteering is the only place in my life where I’ve gotten that kind of reception on a consistent basis.” That had to feel good! Making an impact does not mean making an all-day or full time commitment.
- Teachers do a big job with sometimes limited resources. They cannot do this amazing work alone. This is why they need volunteer support! If you’re a retired teacher, getting back into the classroom for a little bit of time to help spot learning disparities or pinpoint students who may need additional support could be a great way to add your expertise and take that burden off of the teacher. Retired project managers may find that they can use their skills to help a teacher running a complex STEM project. Anyone with an area of expertise (and that’s all of you who are reading this) has the chance to use that expertise in the classroom. Why not use your skills to help ease the load on a teacher?
- Giving back to others allows your body and mind to continue to give back to you! How? Well, volunteering can ease stress, takes you away from your own everyday challenges, adds joy and meaning to your life, increases your physical activity (because kids are always on the move!) and also makes you less likely to develop high blood pressure. “According to a study done by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Americans over the age of 60 that volunteered reported lower disability and higher levels of well-being compared to those who did not volunteer.” Volunteering with kids may lower your risk of dementia and other health concerns related to aging, including social isolation. Working with children provides a sense of purpose that cannot be replicated by anything else; the benefits to the body and mind are undeniable.
- Volunteering helps bridge the all-too-widening generation gap. Seniors carry with them incredible lessons that only age can bring, while children teach us all new ways to look at life. By combining your experience with their fresh perspective, connections are made that will benefit both individuals! We often hear that the greatest teacher is time, so why not use those lessons time has taught you to benefit those with so much ahead of them?
- Volunteering to others also allows you to feel like you have more time to give. In a Wharton College study, people who gave their tome reported feeling more capable, confident, and useful. By accomplishing one thing as a volunteer, they felt more capable to accomplish tasks in the future. “So, even though realistically, they have less time, they feel as though they have more time.” Make every moment in your golden years count while watching your capabilities and confidence grow through volunteering!
Ready to volunteer but don’t know where to start? Reach out to your local school districts and find out how you can help. Every school can benefit from the power of volunteers. Whether the school is fully in person right now, working on some hybrid model, or fully online, you can still donate your time in some capacity. Know your strengths and what you can offer to the students. Be confident, yet flexible, in what you can bring to the table. And, be open to also learning more for yourself! Students often become our best teachers. School systems usually require a background check for volunteers as well, so once you clear that hurdle, it should be off to the races on your journey to school volunteering. This school year, compared to past years, a sense of community and enrichment is more important than ever. Committing to enriching the lives of students in your area is a gift that truly will give back.
*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.