Volunteering is most prominent when a natural disaster takes place…at least it seems to be the American way of doing things. I am quite proud of the way our citizens handle such catastrophes. Here in Oklahoma’s tornado alley location, people are called upon to face annual disasters of one kind or another. When my cousin’s grandson was killed in the Joplin tornado, I was told that we were most fortunate to have the excellent weather warning systems we enjoy. I certainly agree.
In our city of Lawton, there is hardly a weekend or two in the entire year without some kind of volunteer race for raising awareness, money, etc. Perhaps it is related to Ft. Sill, our Army base here, which is staffed with our nation’s volunteer army. To these soldiers and their families, it is a way of life.
We encourage volunteers in our school. The honor society requires volunteer hours of our students. The students in all grades participate in local activities and donate items for Christmas boxes for Third World children. Many of our parents volunteer to help transport children on trips, and we even have a family who has volunteered their wonderful fifteen passenger van for us to use various times.
However, as I continue to think about volunteering, I am aware of another situation in which I am extremely discouraged. I do not see the aforementioned acts of volunteering evident when it comes to the simple things. Why don’t people see the need to volunteer to pick up trash left by someone else who doesn’t care about community beauty? I often see students disregard items on the hall floors that need to be picked up, and I usually get the reply, “Why? It’s not mine!”
I am emphasizing to my young preschoolers and kindergarten students the excellence of picking up after themselves, especially during and after snack times, so the teacher doesn’t have extra work to do. I believe the point was driven home when they were shown that it took them collectively three to five minutes to pick up their spills, wrappers, etc. but it took fifteen to twenty minutes for the teacher to do it by herself.
I do know that my teaching in this area of volunteering is beginning to pay off because I returned to my classroom yesterday from emptying the paint dishes they used in our art class to find all sixteen students washing the tables with Lysol wipes, stacking the brushes appropriately, and drying off everything. They were quite proud of themselves…as was I!
One other thought comes to mind about this subject. As teachers, we often receive volunteered information about private matters at home. We do not solicit such information. It can be a very disturbing situation since we are held accountable by the law to notify authorities if we feel the child could be in danger. Our policy will always follow the law, and we will always volunteer to protect our students.
I’ve spoken of all kinds of volunteering, but what about me? I think the most courageous thing I’ve volunteered to do was to let the students make me over in a contest to raise funds for a noteworthy cause. I was slimed, pinned, slopped, painted with all kinds of things, and then worst of all…made to look that way the entire school day! I did, however, survive! Ha!