My Days As a School Volunteer - Drawing to a Close

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April 17, 2012. My liberation day. My parole. My don’t-let-the-door-hit-ya-on-the-way-out day.

At 9 a.m., I exited the elementary school a free woman. My days as a classroom volunteer were behind me for good. The Boy will be in sixth grade next year, the magical year when parents are no longer needed, guilted into or required to help out ever again in the classroom.

Alleluia.

When The Girl was in kindergarten eight years ago, I signed up with gusto. Need a reading helper? You got it. Need a library shelver? I’m your gal. Need snacks for the classroom? I can channel Betty Crocker.

And so it went, year after year. Then The Boy started school. Then came double. Until I got smart. Until I had whittled down my volunteering to just one activity – Gallery Time.

During Gallery Time, a parent spends an hour in the classroom teaching the students about famous artists and then helping them create a work of art. You get one or two assignments for the entire school year. The curriculum is planned out. All information and supplies are provided. Gallery Time just needs a body. I can be a body. Just being a body is perfect for The Mediocre Mom.

But in the hands of Mediocre Mom, even the spoon-fed assignment of Gallery Time can be watered down.

• I scanned the information at stoplights on the way to the school.
• I picked activities that required the least amount of clean up. (One round with 20 paint brushes was all I needed to never do that again.)
• I had the students make the display signs I was expected to create. It is an art lesson after all, right?

One might be embarrassed by this display of minimal effort. Not me. I’m a genius. For four years, I played the part of a devoted, involved parent while simultaneously giving off the impression that I’m some sort of an art buff.

All the while, I had chosen the easiest task with the least time commitment – and then made it even easier.

So on April 17, as I said goodbye to The Boy’s classroom and rolled that Gallery Time cart back to its closet, I slowed my gait a little. I soaked in the memories. I had a brief flirtation with misty eyes.

And then I saw her. The parent in the on-deck Gallery Time position. She had a pile of white T-shirts and was slipping cardboard into each one of them. Her class was going to decorate them with fabric paints and markers. That wasn’t even one of the suggested activities on the information sheet. She had come up with her own.

Fool.

Seeing her enthusiasm and creativity might have burdened me. Might have made me think twice the next time I was scheduled for Gallery Time. Might have … if it wasn’t my last day.

No, she gave me a gift instead. She wiped away my nostalgia. She reminded me of why I love being mediocre. And she got to see me sprinting for the door.

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