I had a parent volunteer today.
I'm pretty sure she isn't the first parent volunteer I've ever had, but I'm not positive. I've had scores of parents volunteer for field trips, and a few who have come in to help out during an intensive hands-on kind of day, but this mom came in to just do...whatever. Copying. Cutting things out. Sorting things into little baggies to make kits for math or thinking skills lessons or whatever. Stapling. Those things which take a fair amount of time to do, and tend to pile up as I'm usually busy teaching or lesson planning or meeting or searching for any number of the thousand things I'm always trying to find. My filing system is less than optimal. Even when I have everything saved into the server, I don't always remember what I called it whenever I created it originally, and often it's less time-consuming to just re-create it rather than try to find it in our jungle of a server.*
She came in, with her pre-school aged daughter and took a vast pile of copying and went and did it for me. She's the mom of one of my gifted kids, and is a smart woman herself. I don't know her story. Maybe she's taking time off from a career so she can be home with her kids. Maybe she works from home but does this in her spare time because she enjoys a few hours of somewhat mindless work, and knowing that she's giving something back. Maybe she works 2nd shift but likes to get out of the house with her young daughter during the day just for the change of scenery. I don't know. Maybe I should ask, but I don't want to pry, really, or have it look like I'm devaluing any choice she's made to be doing this, and sometimes even asking can seem like judging.
She, or another parent of my students have said they'll volunteer for me again. And the 5th grade teachers always offer to share the volunteer who comes in for them since they sometimes don't have things organized enough to give to her. That's the rub, really. I have to be prepped in advance to have the thing I need to have copied, or the stuff I need put together set out with instructions. I like that it compels me to be more organized and prepared. I've been flying by the seat of my pants for most of this year (and I'm not the only one by a long shot. It's been a very, very hard year all across the district.) That's not the point, though.
The point, which I keep wandering away from, is that she volunteered.
She is helping.
Like Mr. Rogers said, "Look at the helpers."
This whole year has felt like we are in crisis mode and it's all I can do not to melt down regularly. I am angry. A lot. I am outraged. A lot. I feel helpless in the face of a corporate steamroller, coming to destroy the institution I love with the assistance of elected officials they are paying a lot more money to than I ever could.
But I'm not helpless! I have a helper. And she doesn't ask for anything in return. There are lots of parents, every day, trying to take a little of the load off.
So maybe I'll focus on that for a bit, instead of all the rest, and see if it helps. If it does, then what she does for me is worth even more than just the photocoyping.**
*It's happened more than once that I've totally re-created something I made two years ago and then found the original. They will look like near-exact replicas. It's a little spooky.
**Which is worth a lot. Don't get me wrong.