I received an email from someone who follows me on Twitter asking my opinion on how parents can best help the teachers of their children, whether through volunteering, helping to secure resources, or what. Since that may be a matter of somewhat broader interest, my response is below.
I’m sure different teachers have different takes on this, but I pretty much always welcome any parent involvement that is not just hostility. Any degree of involvement other than that, in my experience, pays immediate and often profound dividends in at least the performance of that parent’s child.
There are different ways to be involved, and which are best depends on the particular teacher, the particular parent, the particular student, and sometimes the particular school and district. Being known helps. Just dropping in after school and introducing yourself and giving an email address, along with the expression of willingness to do anything else if the teacher ever has any ideas or suggestions. If all my students had parents who did that, my job would be much easier and all of my students would learn a lot more.
As for things like books and classroom resources, that depends a lot on where you are. Sometimes school or district-level policies make things harder for direct donations or non-approved components of curricula, and sometimes it’s pretty much all up to the teacher. Some teachers actually have such a mess of mediocre resources it’s hard to figure out what would be helpful and what wouldn’t, and unsolicited additions just end up sitting on a shelf or in a closet. Donorschoose.org is a great resource for this, and you could ask the teacher if they know of it and if they’ve ever used it, and let them know to tell you if they ever put a project up because you’ll be happy to donate.
Sometimes things like volunteering with after-school clubs or tutoring can be very nice, but sometimes awful, depending on personalities and relevant knowledge and so on—also sometimes districts have difficult policies with this, since having volunteers in contact with kids is a potential liability for them, and they usually require some sort of background check and so on. Being involved with any PTA or similar organization is helpful, too, especially if you make it clear you’re advocating for the teachers.
But with all of these things, it really comes down to the particular teacher and particular parent. So I’d just recommend putting yourself out there— give an introduction, several kinds of contact info (different teachers prefer different kinds), make yourself very easy to get ahold of, and make it clear that you’re up for helping in any way they might want it. Just don’t make it seem like you’re making any demands or expecting them to do any more work than they’re already doing. If they’re super busy and stressed out, they may not ever come up with any way for you to help; but just making yourself available can be nice, and having even that level of relationship will probably benefit your kid(s).