When your child is in elementary school, volunteering is easy. There are events nearly every week, and the media center and classrooms could always use a helping hand.
Not just that, but every time you see your adorable darling walking down the hallway, their little eyes light up, and they run up to you with a big hug!
Ahhh elementary school… If only it could last forever.
But then… (cue scary music) your child gets older, becomes a preteen, and transitions into middle school.
Oh no! What now? Are your days of being a partner in education over?
Not by a long shot, says Wilson Middle School Principal Keith Fantauzzo. Principal Fantauzzo says parent involvement remains important during the middle school years. However, it may look a little different.
Volunteering in Middle School
“Parent involvement in middle school is important because it allows parents to be more involved in their student’s school experience,” said Fantauzzo. “Parents being here gets them more connected to everything. They can see their child’s teachers and they can see their kids interact with friends on campus.”
Kellie Hall agrees. She is a sixth-grade counselor at Coleman Middle School. She says parent involvement at school drops off between elementary and middle school for a variety of reasons. “Beginning in fifth grade, most teachers are encouraging parents to help their children be more independent,” said Hall. “Middle school is a time for students to become more organized, responsible and learn to self-advocate. Students have seven classes, and they stay quite busy throughout the day. There is less of an opportunity for parental involvement in both the classrooms and around campus.”
So, how do parents get involved, without infringing on their child’s independence?
Three letters: P.T.A.
“We always promote how important it is to get involved with the PTA. That’s a great way to learn about all the events,” says Fantauzzo. “We have found that a lot of our families want to be on campus. Especially since COVID, everyone wants to be on campus and be involved with their child.”
But what if the child doesn’t really want their parent hanging around them on campus?
Don’t sweat! There are ways to be involved and be invisible at the same time.
“There are ways to volunteer behind the scenes where the student would never see their parent,” says Principal Fantauzzo. “Once a month we have meetings, and we have parents sponsor the breakfasts and come set it up. The parent is gone before the first bell even rings! Additionally, we never want the student to feel uncomfortable. For example, we’re having an eighth-grade celebration, and the eighth-grade parents cannot volunteer during the event. So, it’s always the sixth and seventh grade parents volunteering there. It works perfectly!”
Hall sums it up, “I have three middle schoolers of my own, and I do think the students appreciate when their parents are contributing. Parents just can’t be upset if their child pretends not to know them in the halls!”
Originally published in May 2023 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.