There is a special joy that grandchildren bring to the family. In the 21st century, grandparents are finding themselves more involved with their school-aged grandchildren than any other generation as they take on roles as guests, volunteers, teacher aides and storytellers at local schools.
Dr. Carol Rosiak, principal of Goldwood Primary School in Rocky River, sees grandparents as a welcome addition to the classroom.
“We are very fortunate in our school to have strong parental involvement,” she says. “When grandparents also get involved in education, the children see how the whole family unit supports education. Grandparents who come into our school either to volunteer or to be part of special events show a genuine love and excitement for education and are so supportive of the teachers and staff.
“They share their appreciation for the educators and are very kind when they are in the building. This is witnessed by all and again positively impacts our school community,” Rosiak says.
GETTING INVOLVED — GRANDPARENT STYLE
To accommodate a variety of family situations, Goldwood Primary celebrates “Special Persons’ Day” because some children do not have grandparents.
“On this special day, the special person comes to school, the children sing songs and show their guests how technology in the classroom enhances educational opportunities with Smart Boards, iPads, specific software programming and other tools,” Rosiak explains. “Some do a craft with their special person or go to the book fair hosted by the PTA so their grandparents are able to take them to shop.”
Bob Whitaker, principal at Fort Island Primary School in Copley, sees many opportunities for grandparents to become active in their grandchildren’s schools.
“Our PTA sponsors two Grandparents Day breakfasts with over 250 participants each day,” he says. “We also have had a ‘Silver Readers’ program in collaboration with the local Copley seniors group. These individuals would visit our classrooms once or twice a week to read with students, practice flash cards and assist the teachers.”
He continues, “One of our most important events is our Veterans Day Celebration. We invite veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to visit us each year. They share their stories in our assembly or in classrooms, and share a snack with their grandchildren.”
Whitaker believes it’s important to keep grandparents involved because “Grandparents bridge the gaps in the generations by telling stories about their family’s adventures from when Mom and Dad were children, historical events they experienced and life lessons they learned the hard way that may benefit their grandchildren.
“They also build the feeling of family pride, community and country,” he says. “Grandparents often model respect and responsibility that schools try to instill. Grandparents can also tell children about when letters were handwritten, when you had to leave your chair to change one of three TV channels, and there was only one telephone and it was attached to the wall.”
TIME TO HELP
At Cleveland Montessori School, each family is required to perform volunteer hours each year, completed by parents, grandparents or other relatives.
“Some of these tasks are directly with students and others may be a service of some kind. Some grandparents have helped with school fundraisers, baked with students or are involved with drop-off and pick-up so they become very connected with the community,” Executive Director Tina Schneider explains.
In addition, Schneider notes that the students have a unique opportunity to connect with seniors on a regular basis because the building that houses the school is also home to the Alta House community center.
“A small group of seniors gets together twice a week for lunch and games,” Schneider says. “Students have begun to prepare and serve the lunch for them once a week. The children are eager to have their turn to assist with the process, and the ladies who attend are always excited to see what the children have done for them. It has been a lovely connection for all.”
Schneider adds that helping in the classroom is different in every school.
“A grandparent’s involvement sends a strong message to the child that they care and are interested in them in a very meaningful way,” she says. “Parents can help to make the connections between school and grandparent as well by including them in educational and social events so they are connected to the greater community.”
If grandparents want to get more involved with their grandchildren, Rosiak advises, “Just do it. The beauty of volunteering at a primary or elementary school is that there is so much to do, and each task is important in making the school day a success.”