More than 60 volunteers showed up last week when Button Gwinnett Elementary opened its doors to willing mothers for the first Moms’ Monday of the school year.
The quarterly Moms’ Mondays event began after mothers demanded their own version of the monthly Fathers’ Fridays, school guidance counselor Frednell Walthour said.
Walthour launched monthly Fathers’ Fridays two years ago as a way to enhance the visibility of positive male role models, and more than 70 men participated in the first event, she said.
“I love this program because it allows parents to see the entirety of what goes on in the classroom,” Walthour said.
In teacher Ana Llavona’s kindergarten class, two mothers helped students with reading and craft activities.
While volunteer Elena Brathwaite read to the students, Candi Varnedoe worked with students one-on-one, applying paint to their hands so they could make hand turkeys for Thanksgiving booklets.
“We enjoy having company because you can do so much more when you have extra hands,” Llavona said, explaining that it’s hard for a single teacher to cover the required curriculum while offering crafty, holiday-related activities.
For Varnedoe, the program allows her to watch her son, Stefon Varnedoe, in motion, and it offers insight into what and how he’s learning.
“I get to see how he’s achieving,” she said, beaming about her son’s knowledge of the classroom sight words, words considered to be the most frequently used in the English language.
“It shows how parents can work with the teachers to make it better for the students,” Varnedoe said as Stefon came over and gave her a hug.
When asked how he feels to have his mother in the classroom, Stefon grinned and said, “Happy!”
In higher grades, parents offered teachers additional assistance with flash cards, Accelerated Reader tracking and social studies reviews.
Fourth-grade teacher Marie Glenn said her class was excited to interact with someone aside from the teacher.
And like Varnedoe, Glenn said the program offers parents great insight into how modern classrooms work.
“They see how it really is different from when they were children,” she said.
“We’re all grateful and welcome them to come whenever they can as long as they’re willing to lend a helping hand,” Glenn said.
Principal Mary Guiendon said the programs push the school toward its goal of being open and inviting, where parents are comfortable volunteering in their children’s rooms and teachers enjoy the help.
“It’s important for parents to take part and be around, and I think it helps show their children how important education is,” Guiendon said.
In addition to offering insight into how their children learn, bringing parents into the classroom sometimes builds greater appreciation for a teacher’s responsibilities, Walthour added.
“Some parents even say, ‘Wow, I could never be a teacher.’”