There are politics surrounding school volunteers. There are also types of school volunteers. So figure out which one you are and then embrace it.
Nothing sorts the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the mums from the dads from the school teachers, more than volunteering at your child's school.
Some parents love it. They throw themselves into the task, frantically volunteering for as much as they can with delightful enthusiasm. Others slink away, missing the gene or the time or the energy to volunteer. And it's all good. As long as you know which tribe you are from and don't try and go all 'divergent' on the school. That only confuses them.
If you want to volunteer at your child's school, first you need to figure out where you are on this list.
Do you know who you are?
You only THINK you do.
Here are the definitive six types of school parent volunteers:
1. The Over-Volunteer
There are some parents who have their tentacles in every volunteer pie at the school, and what talented tentacles they are. The over-volunteers love volunteering, are good at volunteering, and put all other volunteers to shame.
And they are the ones who are WATCHING you. They are the ones who can tell if you bought a cake from the shops instead of baking it.
They are connected. They have connections to local businesses only happy to help the school out or worse, they own one.
Just give up already. You'll never beat them.
These parents have school wired and normally have equally successful children. Remember that line from the song 'Wind Beneath My Wings'? It must have been cold there in my shadow.... You can only ever be in their shadows, but don't let that stop you.
You must not give up!
2. The Reluctant Volunteer
New parents are easy targets and can be easily swayed to volunteer, even though they had no plans to. It happens at that first parent meeting, that meet-and-greet, that impressive school assembly... Before you know what is happening your arm is up and your smile is faltering.
My God, what did you just volunteer for?
Oh, to bake something for the first principal's morning tea. Phew, that was close. You can do that.
That slice that everyone always raves about, that cake that never fails, those biscuits that are simple and delicious, are most likely to FAIL for the first time in your life.
Then what are you going to do? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?
Panic-buy something from the shops? They'll be able to tell. Serve them your failed goods? They'll just feel sorry for you. Keep volunteering?
Sure. It can only get better (worse).
3. The Non-Volunteer
These types of volunteers fall into two sub-categories:
a. The Proud Non-Volunteers
b. The Guilty Non-Volunteers
"I pay school fees, why should I also be required to volunteer," those most proud declare. These are people to be admired. They don't care what anyone thinks about their decision to not volunteer. It's school, not a cult. Right?
Proud non-volunteers can be working parents, too busy to even think about volunteering. Sometimes they don't work, and plan to relish every moment of freedom their child's start at school has given them.
Some just don't have any energy left for volunteer politics. Oh, didn't you know there was politics when it comes to school volunteers?
Then go back to the top and read again.
The guilty non-volunteers slink in and out of school, heads hanging low as the scuttle past bake sales, organised events, fundraisers and suggestion boxes. They are happy to enjoy the fruits of everybody else's labour but not actually contribute. And they are ashamed.
Shake it off, peeps. It doesn't matter. You can transform yourself into a proud non-volunteer. Just observe and copy.
4. The Martyr
Sometimes these are the most productive volunteers in the school however you'd never know it because they'd never tell you what they go through in order to contribute to the school. They leave it to everyone else to tell. They may even be humble but are forced to become martyrs by acting humble whenever they are singled out for praise.
"No no, it was nothing."
"It's no trouble at all."
"It was nothing. Really."
Except there's something not quite right about them. They're a little too gleeful in their shrugging off of praise. They're never happy about attention they receive and when they volunteer, it's always with a cross on their back, like they are suffering but are happy to suffer because it's for the children. THE CHILDREN!
5. The Selective Volunteer
Careful, measured parents who are selective volunteers remind people a little of Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife. They are calm, in control, aware of their strengths and limitations and stick to what they're good at.
A selective volunteer would never volunteer for a bake sale if they can't bake. They dip in and out of opportunities to volunteer. They save their efforts for events that mean something to them, that they know they can contribute to.
You'll see them stepping up to organise the school Fun Fair when the previous organiser leaves. You'll see them at the school working bee, expertly trimming hedges and showing others how to do it.
They're really the ideal because while they do volunteer, they do so cautiously and carefully while maintaining balance in their lives.
6. The Cheerful Volunteer
You know how you meet some people and immediately feel the urge to hug them? These are the cheerful volunteers who are just rays of sunshine. They aren't even annoying.
They are an absolute pleasure to be around. They make everything fun. Their chocolate brownies taste like happiness, they can wrap gifts for the Father's Day Stall like professionals, they never get tired, and they actually enjoy cleaning.
You want to be their friends but really, everyone wants to be but get real. You'll never be their friend.
But feel free to join their fan club. Anyone can join.
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