It’s Friday. And I love Fridays.
For the last couple of months I’ve been volunteering on Friday mornings at my son’s school. I was nervous at first because I’m not someone who volunteers for anything. I’ll happily lend support from the sidelines where I can blog and snark from the cozy, reclusive cheap seats, but actually volunteering? It always gave me the willies.
But after getting leveled with some hurtful but totally accurate criticism from my wife about being a naysayer who never throws his hat in the ring to actually make a difference, I decided it was time to put up or shut up.
Best. Decision. Ever.
The work itself isn’t glamorous, as it mostly consists of making photocopies. And by mostly, I mean all I do is make photocopies. And after my first time, I almost never came back. Between learning the copier, correcting and preventing paper jams, figuring out the toner, getting paper cuts, and getting interrupted by teachers who need to make emergency copies on the spot, it’s a bit overwhelming at first.
I guess the rational part of my mind knew all those copies had to be made by someone, and that someone is usually the teacher. But as a parent, all the worksheets just magically appear in Will’s backpack. It’s kind of like sausage in that regard — I don’t really think about how it’s made. I’m just glad it’s there.
Well let me tell you something folks, I’ve now seen how the sausage is made and how much time it takes to produce. And frankly, I’m not sure how teachers have the time to, you know, actually TEACH with all the damn copies they have to make. Needless to say, I’m happy to take some of the copying and stapling duties off the plates of teachers if it means they can spend more time instructing students.
And speaking of the classroom, that’s by far my favorite part.
I get a sneak peek into Will’s classroom during the day. On Valentine’s Day, I even got to chaperone a little party they had. I get to put faces with all the stories Will brings home about his classmates. I get to see the classroom Will describes in vivid detail. But most importantly, I get to be his hero during this unbelievably brief time that hero status can be achieved just by showing up to school to make a few copies.
When he sees me walk in his face lights up and he’s proud that I’m there. All the other kids rush over and greet me by my new name — “Will’s Dad.” I’m not Aaron or Mr. Gouveia or even Mr. G. Just Will’s Dad, which might sound like a loss of identity, but is actually anything but.
Will leans his head against me and whispers “I’m glad you’re here.” The other kids recognize me and wave. Some of them show me their new Patriots shirts, others have bracelets they’ve made, and I’m always besieged by play date requests for them to play with Will. I know almost all of their names now, and I’m a tiny part of their routine. And it’s glorious.
When I’m done making my copies, they’re usually at gym or music so the classroom is empty. I drop the gargantuan pile of copies on the teacher’s desk and then I grab a sticky note. Every week I write a message to my son and leave it on his desk as a surprise when he gets back. I tell him I love him and I sign it the same way.
If you can find the time, volunteer at your child’s school. It helps the teacher, your kids will love it, and you’ll find joy in a completely unexpected place. And if you need help with the copier, just holler.