Search form

About The Blogger

Les Potter's picture
Les Potter is currently the director of the American International School West in Cairo, Egypt. Les has over 40 years in educational leadership in the US and Egypt and most recently has been a...
Back to Blog

Maintaining a Volunteer and Mentoring Program at Your School

The accountability standards mandated by state and federal legislators are becoming increasingly difficult to meet for many schools. Using volunteers and mentors are one strategy that can go a long way toward helping meet accountability standards.

There is a common belief as well as research that parental involvement and strong schools are inseparable and that each one makes the other stronger. What better way to get parents and the community involved than to get them volunteering/mentoring at the school.

If community and parental involvement in the school is to be successful, there are a number of factors to consider. If their assistance is to benefit students and staff, the process has to be carefully structured.

Often in public secondary schools, getting parents and the community involved is difficult. It can also be challenging to find volunteers/mentors willing to do the tasks that are really needed. Staff members may need one thing while the volunteers want to do another. Such as volunteering/mentors in their child’s classes when you need something to assist in the media center. All volunteers/mentors should be carefully screened before they are allowed to work in the school and with students. With the Jessica Lunsford Law, it is important to have them cleared by the district and school.

The principal should be the leader in the volunteer and mentoring initiative. To have an effective program, a thoughtful and well-executed process must take place. Attention to the following elements will ensure a successful program.

  • Identify and establish the needs of the school: Work with faculty, staff, students, and parent groups to determine what parental and community support are needed. Decide how volunteers and mentors can be the most useful.
  • Select a volunteer and mentor leader: If these programs are going to be successful, it must be done correctly. Make sure the selected volunteer faculty member takes his/her assignment seriously and gives it the time and effort needed. The program may be important enough to hire a full-time person to lead and manage the program. If the financial resources are not available, the best coordinator may be a volunteer rather than a faculty member. Sometimes this person is better work with a problem volunteer or mentor than a faculty member or faculty member. Often the volunteer leader is a member of the community and knows the volunteers and mentors personally.
  • Establish a selection process: It is imperative that volunteers be carefully selected and screened. Today, many districts do their own screening and processing. Know who they are and what they will be doing. Try advertising for volunteers and mentors using your district, word of mouth, email, webpage, PTO, school business partners, local colleges, retirement homes (and retired teachers), alumni, etc.
  • Be specific about what is needed, the time commitment required and who to contact for further information: Devise an application (or use the district’s or another school’s) to gain important information from willing participates. Make every effort to talk and work with these volunteers/mentors prior to “letting them loose in the building”.
  • Match needs with interests: Know the skills, interest and limitations of the volunteers/mentors. Time, experience and level of commitment are factors to be considered when trying to match a person to a job.
  • Develop a volunteer/mentor training program: Reduce or eliminate the uncertainty of the volunteers by asking making sure they understand their responsibilities. Conduct orientation and be as through as possible. A volunteer handbook should be developed that lists---school policies, calendar, phone numbers, crisis manual, names of administrators, school map, class and school times, and other useful information that will help the volunteers/mentors feel welcome.
  • Monitor volunteers’ time spent in the building: Develop a process for volunteers to check in and out of the building. Perhaps, devise an ID badge for them. Volunteers and mentors were recognized to show our appreciation for their services at our school.
  • Monitor and evaluate the activities: It is very important to monitor the volunteer and mentor activities to ensure that the program is benefiting the students and faculty. If a program is not, then decide whether to discontinue the activity, modify it or maybe get a new volunteer/mentor for the activity.
  • Celebrate success: Be sure to thank your volunteers in person, drop by to see what they are doing, send them notes and maybe have a luncheon for your volunteers/mentors. They have done something to help the school and the students. They must be thanked in a sincere manner as you certainly appreciate all that they do.

I will have suggestions for activities on my next blog.

 

Les Potter, Ed. D.

Director
American International School West
Cairo, Egypt