How to Be a Great Room Mom…

When my daughter started Kindergarten a few years ago, it was my first time walking into a classroom as a mom… and not the teacher.  It was so strange to sit across the desk from her pleasant smiling face, knowing exactly how she must be feeling and all the work she still had ahead of her.

I remember being that teacher at Open House night.  I remember pasting on the confident smile and trying to calm my wildly beating heart.  I distinctly remember working tirelessly to keep the high pitch panic from my voice as I “casually” introduced myself to 25 new parents and students.  It was probably the scariest moment of my life!  Of course, to the casual observer, I probably looked calm, cool, and collected (or at least I hope I did).  And even though I lounged and chatted with parents for as long as they wanted to stay that night, only I knew the mountain of tasks I still had to complete before the first day of school would even begin.  Only I could feel the knot of terror forming in my stomach at the thought that I might not be able to complete it all in time.

Those years were probably the most intense and difficult years of my life… but they also prepared me to be that much more patient and understanding for all of the teachers that enter my daughter’s life in the years to come.  You see, I know my teaching days were actually quite easy by comparison to some.  I had a LOT of help!  I had no kids to take care of,  a team of passionate teachers to support me, an amazingly crafty mother who would do anything I asked of her, and an awesome husband who never complained about how many take out meals or frozen pizza he had to consume.  Being a teacher was the absolute hardest thing I had ever set out to do… and by comparison, I had it pretty easy.  I will never take a teacher for granted.  No matter what their circumstances, that job is not easy!  And yet, it is so very essential!

So, when my daughter entered school for the first time, I knew I wanted to jump and help out in any way I could.  I readily agreed to take on the Room Rep position, even though I didn’t know anything about what that job would mean.  When I taught, I never had a room mom.  Sure, I had a terrific group of moms to help me out, but I never had one point of contact who took on all the menial tasks that kept my class running smoothly.  That would have been amazing! I was bound and determined to be the best Room Mom EVER!  🙂

So…How does one go about being a great Room Mom?  Easy as 1, 2, 3…

1.  Find Out Exactly What Your Teacher Wants.

You see, there are two kinds of teachers… those who want you there, and those who don’t.  Some teachers just don’t really like having parents in the classroom all the time.  They might find your presence in the room as a disruption to the flow of his/her daily routine.  Don’t take this personally.  It really has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how that teacher works.

2.  Find Out What Your Teacher Needs…

Sometimes teachers want snacks organized, parties planned, field trips organized, and lesson materials prepped… other teachers want you to make a few copies every now and again.  The best thing you can do is sit down with your teacher that first week of school and start making a list of items.  Chances are you will find out pretty quickly what your teacher’s expectations are for the school year.  No matter what your teacher might need, know your limits and be very honest about what you feel comfortable with.  If you aren’t up to a task, chances are there is another mom in the classroom who has been looking for something they can do to help too….which bring us to…

3.  Learn to Delegate! 

If you have a teacher that needs a lot of help, don’t try to do it all yourself.  This isn’t a contest on how exhausted you can get in the course of 9 months.  Remember, you are the room mom because you are trying to make things better at your child’s school… if you burn out in the first year, you will not be able to do that beyond the first year.  The best thing you can do is to establish an email list for all the parents in the classroom.  Once you have them all together, send out an introduction email and let them know who you are.  Once you begin to communicate with parents in this way, let them know the needs for your classroom and request volunteers.  You will be amazed at how many parents want to help out!  You will also be rewarded with making a few new friends – some of my best friends are parents I met in my daughter’s kindergarten class.

Now, I won’t be bragging about how I mastered the art of being the “perfect” Room Mom my first time out…hey, I’m an ordinary mom, remember?!  There were several things that I did wrong that year… but there were also a lot of things I did right!  More than anything though, my daughter knew I was working hard to make her school better!  I still remember that day when my precious little six year old came up to me, while I sat cross legged in from of the television cutting out shapes for a future lesson, and told me, “thank you for being the bestest mommy ever!  I want to be a mommy just like you when I grow up!”  Talk about tugging at the heart strings!  Can payment get any better than that?!  I think not!

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