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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is it the end of the year already?

It is officially the end of the school year. I know this because my children have started to count down by days (not weeks) and they are TOTALLY slacking-off on their homework. “You haven’t crossed the finish line yet. I need you to hold it together for three more weeks—that is only 3 more spelling tests. I need to see your A-game. Can you do that for mommy?” I think that we all know the answer is a big fat NO, but I wouldn’t be giving it my A-game if I didn’t try. One of my lesser favorite end-of-the-year activities (second only to field day) is the end-of-the-year classroom party. I have a few years experience in this area—O.K. more than a few. I have learned some things along the way and I am sure that Shelley will have something to say, too.

A special thank you to the Room Mom:
Thank you so much for taking the time to help your child’s teacher in such a special way. You are filling a truly valuable position and there are 25 other parents who are grateful that you said yes before their name came up on the phone tree.

Class only party vs. class and parent party:
This is a delicate subject and unfortunately I am very biased for one side. I respect everyone’s right to choose for themselves (does that sound politically correct enough?), but I am afraid I have made up my mind and I'm sticking to it. I guess since this is my blog, I'm allowed to speak. Maybe Shelley will disagree with me and we can have a fight to up our ratings. Do blogs have ratings?

I do not like parties where the parents attend:
• There is always a small minority of children who’s parents don’t come and it breaks their hearts. The purpose of the party is to let the children celebrate. These children will not feel celebratory.
• There are a crazy amount of end-of-the-year events to attend—recitals, award ceremonies, field day, etc. Working parents are challenged to fit every event into their schedule. And let’s face it, this little party is not nearly as important as the other events.
• Parents just end up watching their child eat or stand at the back of the room socializing with the other parents. It is not a good interactive event.

The teacher, room mom, and 1-2 helpers is enough. In an average class there are really only 3 parents who want to be there anyway. This way they get to feel extra special because they also helped.

Paying for the party:
We all know that these things cost money. The teacher should NEVER pay for the party. I have never thrown a party that cost more than $50 and it’s just easier to pay for it myself. It’s O.K. to ask for help, especially if you’re planning something a little extra. Sending out an email or flyer to the parents asking for a small donation is fine. I would avoid determining a fixed per-person amount. Some families are on a limited budget. They may have trouble coming up with $5. It’s not polite to force parents to pay for the party. Besides, I find that I make more money by not suggesting a dollar amount. People send what they can afford. There is often a working mom with unlimited resources who will gladly cough-up $100. If I end up with nothing, we find a way to party for FREE.

It’s also O.K. to ask the community for donations. I have a great relationship with our local grocery store. Every day their bakery throws-out or donates day-old baked goods. I pre-arrange to receive those items on the day of our party. There is often a cake and cookies. Local business will also contribute items for goodie bags. Realtors, insurance companies, dentist, banks, etc. have promotional pencils, key chains, stickers, mints, etc. Find out what the parents in your class do. If one of them owns a restaurant or party supply store, you have just hit a home-run.


• Contact the teacher and decide on a time and date for the party.
• Take extra precautions to make sure the teacher does not get caught in the middle. Don’t ask them to relay messages for you or collect money.
• Contact all the parents (not just your favorite helpers) and let them know the date well in advance of the party.
• Ask for volunteers to help. Make sure to be specific. You will get a better response if you ask for 1 person to just show up and be an extra pair of hands, 1 person to stuff goodie bags, 1 person to bring a cake, etc. If people don’t know what you are asking them to do, they are afraid to volunteer.
• It’s O.K. to do it all yourself. This is just a classroom party, not the annual charity ball. I find it’s easier to just do everything than coordinate volunteers.
• Don’t be a martyr. Don’t tell everyone that you did all the work and no one helped. If they offer you "thanks" or say "it must have taken a lot of work to put everything together" respond with, “It did and I enjoyed every minute."—even if it’s not true.
• Send out a reminder the week of the party.
• Come up with a plan and keep it simple.
• Get everything together and prepared ahead of time.

The plan:

• Start with a theme. It is always fun to do a luau, fiesta, etc. You can decorate and plan a fun menu and music. I like Class of 2018 (or whatever your class is). They feel so grown up once they know what class they are.
• If you are having the party in the classroom, plan to keep the kids seated at their desks. This is a very small space and once they get up it is more difficult to manage.
• Play music to set the mood. Make sure to pre-screen it.
• Let them help prepare the food. I like cookie decorating, ice cream sundae making, etc. It takes up some of the time and they have fun.
• Have an activity. It can be a craft project or a game. I like to have a mystery game. Someone stole the hall pass and we have to use the clues to figure out who did it. They really like it when it turns out to be the teacher—they never expect that outcome. My favorite craft is a class photo. I come to class the week before and take a group shot. I have them printed. I get acrylic frames at the dollar store. They decorate the frames and all sign the back of each other’s photos.
• Make sure to schedule time for cleanup.

Good Luck!

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