I’m not certain if the question referred to a request for volunteer hours, but here’s my interpretation and the answer I provided.
Providing children the best possible environment that helps them succeed is the single best thing that parents can do to help the school. Providing for the basic needs of the child is conducive to learning: sufficient sleep, nutritious food, and comfortable clothes. If there is anything that parents can do to help us, it’s helping kids get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and come to school appropriately dressed.
The single best thing parents can do to help teachers is help the kids get the amount of sleep they need the night before. Tired children can be cranky children. Tired children have a difficult time concentrating. Tired children can be fidgety children. Just think about those days when you’ve had to concentrate for extended periods of time but only slept 4 hours the night before. How difficult was your day?
Eating a healthy breakfast before school can’t be stressed enough. The effects of nutrition on learning are well documented. There are many children who skip breakfast every morning. I was one of those kids in high school. The first step is to have breakfast. The second step is to have a non-sugary breakfast. I grew up eating cereal for breakfast. Imagine my shock as an adult when I saw a nutritionist that considered most cereals to be breakfast dessert. To me, breakfast dessert was a warm Krispy Kreme donut, cereal was healthy. Her recommendation to me? Don’t eat carbs first. Give your body protein to break the fast first.
This is an odd one, but something that a teacher brought up. The moment she mentioned it, it made complete sense. The clothes should be appropriate for what is being done in school that day and something that feels good to them. If we’re going to be outside for 30 minutes in 30 degrees, we need coats, gloves, long pants, closed-toe shoes. Not only are there safety considerations when working on experiments or engineering projects, but also it should be one less thing to think about when trying to learn. Too tight clothes, clothes not appropriate for the weather, too loose clothes, too short clothes, or too long clothes - many of today’s styles can get in the way of learning.
If parents help kids with these three things, as teachers, we’ll be eternally grateful. We know that it’s hard to get a child who wants to keep reading to go to sleep. Or we know it’s hard when a child can’t fall asleep because they are still wound up from the video game he or she had been playing that you had asked to be turned off an hour before. We know that it’s hard to rush home to make a healthy dinner. We know that it’s hard to get that same child that was up until 11:30 pm reading awake in time for breakfast. We know that a power struggle can quickly develop when the clothes the child chose to wear are not appropriate.
These three seemingly simple and basic requests, can in fact be a lot of work. So, when asked what, as a parent, can be done to help, getting kids to bed so that they get about 10 hours of sleep that night, having a healthy breakfast (and diet in general) and coming to school in comfortable, appropriate clothes is what we’d answer.