23 May 2017

Tales of a Preschool Room Mom

When Jane started preschool three years ago I signed up to be one of her class room moms because the teacher said something like "it's really easy to do it now when they're small" ... and that was true. The time/energy input was very minimal. I can't remember anything I did except the teacher gave me an orchid plant at the end as a thank you (which promptly died because I have black thumbs).

We switched schools after that year, just because Jane became old enough and got accepted into the university's preschool program. I was pregnant so didn't act as room mom last year, but this year, her second in the program I did volunteer.

There was not a whole lot to do, because the teachers manage most everything. But the teacher appreciation stuff led to some work, not so much in time investment but stress and annoyance (and money). The school's parent committee did a center-wide effort to give the teachers' lunches during the week, but they needed money for that. I also needed to ask for money for our class teacher gifts (the whole school decided to just do the same thing -- Visa gift cards -- which is smart and surely more appreciated than tchotckes). The mom in charge of that center-wide effort certainly had more work to do than me, but my part with our class was certainly enough for me.

In reality it was just a few emails, accepting the money from people and then buying the cards and gift cards. I also took a class picture because the center didn't do photo day this year. A couple things I learned that could be helpful for other room parents:
  • PayPal does not take a percentage of money when it's marked as a gift. This was a gift for our teachers, so no ethical concerns either. I had assumed PayPal would reduce the money for the teachers and discouraged people from using that (just give me cash or check directly). But some did anyway and there was no problem. It was much easier for all involved, since I could just transfer it into my bank account. If I ever do that again I will definitely ask people to just do PayPal!
  • The bank sells Visa gift cards, at least our credit union does. And they only cost $2.50 each. At a store, where I intended to buy them, they'd be at least $6 each! That was a good tip from another mom who had been room mom before, and I'm glad she told me that!
I definitely had to pitch in more money than I probably would have had I just been donating to the effort. I wanted to get it to a round number, and I had to contribute more than our share for the center effort of lunches because the ask for that came late and most parents didn't even respond to that request.

We had almost 100% participation in the teacher gift. I put all the kids' names on the card of course though! The amount of money varied from $10 up to $65! The one family that didn't give was surprising to me, and it was hard to restrain myself from directly asking that mom to be sure she'd received my emails asking for the donations! In the end we collected $400, to be split between our two teachers. Not a bad thank you gift!

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