Volunteer turnout surprises staff.

When I showed up for volunteer orientation at Avery-Parsons Elementary School this past Monday morning, I thought I’d be part of a group of a dozen or so. But there were almost 50 of us crowded around the tables in the school library – a great tribute to this community’s support for its elementary school.

The turnout surprised the staff, too, but they adapted by bringing in more chairs and making more copies of volunteer packets.

Acting principal Judy Lynn and instructional coach Emily Madler did a great job walking us through the rules and guidelines and describing the different roles we might play – from making copies and helping supervise recess to working with small groups or assisting the new Spanish enrichment teacher.

But they spent most of the time teaching us about the school’s learning approach and culture, which is so different from when I went to school.

The teachers design their classroom work with the goal of empowering students to “Be the 7 Cs”: Curious, connected, constructive, critically competent, creative, collaborative and character-centered. Wow!

To illustrate, Emily asked us to imagine we were elementary school students and to work together in small groups to figure out some geometry and word puzzles.

It was fascinating, and a lot to absorb. But she and Judy assured everyone that we’d have plenty of time and support to get up to speed.

They suggested that before diving into working in small groups or one-on-one with students that we spend some time just observing the classroom of the teacher we’re assigned to.

As we neared the end of the hour, Judy called on some parent leaders who were recruiting for their own special projects: An after-school math club, a group of parents who will act as mentors and coaches during recess and a wellness initiative that aims to come up with ways of celebrating milestones like birthdays that don’t revolve around sugary treats but use healthy goodies like extra recess time or even a talent show.

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