Monday, August 1, 2011

What is a room mom?

The responsibilities of a room mom vary with different schools, teachers, and grades.  However, room moms are generally responsible for planning parties, teacher gifts, and helping the teacher out.  Talk with the teacher at the beginning of the year to get specifics about what is expected of you.

PARTIES: Most schools have a fall/Halloween party, Christmas/winter party, Valentine's party, and end of the year party.  There may also be celebrations for Thanksgiving, 100th day of school, and spring/Easter.  Before planning a party, you should ask your teacher about the day and time and if they have anything in particular in mind and always run your ideas by the teacher before contacting parents.  For parties, I usually plan a food menu, minimal decorations (tablecloths cheaply set the scene), paper products, crafts, games, and little prizes/favor (not required but always fun!).  Once I have a plan that the teacher has approved, I will email parents and ask them to sign up for the different items.  Sometimes getting parents to sign up for things is easy and sometimes it is not.  Try to be specific and keep requests to a minimum.  If a particular parent offers to do extra or to help you, let them!  The season/holiday parties are easy to plan a theme for although you could pick a specific holiday item for the theme (like a Reindeer party for Christmas/winter).  Ideas for an end of the year party are: beach/luau, picnic/bugs, fiesta, colors/crayons, alphabet/books, balloons, and award show.  Parties are fun!

GIFTS:  Generally, the room mom will coordinate a gift for the teacher at Christmas, for Teacher Appreciation Week, and for the end of the year.  You can ask parents to send in money or specific items.  Be mindful of families having different financial resources.  At the beginning of the year, I have the teacher fill out a "Teacher Likes List" that gives me gift ideas for the year.  For Teacher Appreciation Week, there may be specific things to do each day laid out by the school or it may be up to you to plan something.  Here are some ideas: bring the teacher lunch, have each child send in a flower/candy bar/little something, keep the class during lunch so the teacher can have a break (may not be allowed at all schools/classes - ask first), have the kids clean their classroom desks, have the class draw a picture/write a card, give a memento from the class (scrapbook/cookbook/class photo), or stock the classroom with the teacher's requested items (kleenex, clorox wipes...). 

HELPING:  You might be asked to get parent volunteers to assist on field trips, to help in the classroom, to help the teacher laminate/bind/cut class supplies, and more.  I try to be available if possible and ask the teacher if they need anything periodically.  Sometimes picking parent volunteers can be tricky and lead to hurt feelings.  Try to be sensitive and include all parents at some point during the year.  One idea for picking volunteers is to let the teacher draw a name out of a hat for each event.

MISC: You may also be asked to get volunteers from your classroom and provide food or drinks for different fundraising events through the year.  Be sure to attend or find a substitute for any room mom meetings and get information out to the class parents in a timely manner.  I know I am more likely to volunteer an item or my time if I have advance notice.  Be sure to send reminders closer to time as well.  Always be courteous and friendly to other parents.  If you are having a trouble with a particular parent, let the teacher know if it becomes a big issue.  Be organized and plan ahead!

I am often in the classroom for a couple of hours during parties and am amazed anyone is able to do it all day every day!  Be thankful and appreciative of your teacher!  They all do things differently, but the vast majority are doing their best to teach and nurture your children!  The room mom's job is to support the teacher and take over some of the responsibility so the teacher has time to teach!

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