I have just finished my first stint as tuckshop helper – and it was a revelation. My boys are in Year 2 and Year 1, so it’s a job I’ve been gearing up for, along with joining the P&C. (What can I say? I’m a joiner-inner). So, how did it go?And did I manage to stop myself scoffing all the party pies?
If you travel back in time to my childhood you will meet my father who never joined a club he didn’t become president of. When my sister and I took up competitive swimming, within about 12 months he was the president. Perhaps my netball club is the only thing I can really think of where he didn’t get involved at the management level. But my mum took over coaching duties and refereeing duties for a while. Even today, in his 60s, my dad – a grey nomad – has joined the HF Radio Club and after about 6 months, was voted in as the president. I think Dad can’t really see the point of being involved unless he’s running the show. Stops a lot of arguments that way.
So I have a history of seeing that involvement means full and complete involvement in every way. When my eldest son, Fin, started at C&K kindy, following in my father’s footsteps, I came home from the first meeting as the kindy’s new president.
But I have been holding off with the school. We’ve been members of the school for about three years, and next year we’ll have three children in attendance. I believe in getting involved and have been helping out in the classroom each week, as a parent helper for the literacy rotations. It’s very rewarding and helps connect me with my children’s classmates and their teacher. I love it.
But for a while now the notes have been coming home from school: “Please, we need more parent helpers in the tuckshop. Even just an hour a week would be helpful!”. I’ve studiously made a mental note to explore the option further and diligently done nothing about it.
The rubber met the road a few weeks ago when an item on the forthcoming P&C agenda caught my eye – religion in schools. Regular readers will know my deep and strongly held feelings on the matter.
While at the meeting, the newly appointed tuckshop convener stood up and delivered her report. She ended with the mantra – “We need more help in the tuckshop”. I know I imagined it, but at the time I felt she was delivering her line just for my benefit. And before I knew it, my mouth opened and out popped the line: “I can help out”. Quick as a flash she seized on the tidbit and secured a one-day-a-fortnight commitment from me.
So today was my first shift at the tuckshop. And now that I’ve done it, I’m not really sure why I was putting it off, or what exactly I was nervous about. The ladies are all lovely, the work is not that arduous, the pace not too frenetic. The system runs as smooth as silk, I think probably down to an organised and efficient convener.
And the real benefit for me was learning what all the items on the tuckshop menu actually look like. It’s one thing to see that pasta bolognese is on offer, but completely another to know that it’s made fresh from the exact same ingredients I would use when I make it at home. The carrot sticks are chopped fresh (although of somewhat irregular size when chopped by the new tuckshop lady!), the ham and cheese sandwiches use good quality ham and cheese and bread, the fruit packs are freshly chopped fruit and the salads are simply sensational and packed fresh and of generous serve sizes. From now on, when ordering tuckshop for the kids I’ll have a much broader repertoir, rather than sticking to the the two or three items that I know.
We have a reasonably small school – 450 students or thereabouts – from P-7. All the children are well mannered and polite. Lines at the tuckshop for ice blocks and drinks were orderly, not raucous or rowdy and the children were very understanding of the new tuckshop lady, enduring my bumbling, slow service of looking up prices and cutting the tops off the wrong end of their ice blocks.
And by 11.30 it was pretty much all over. (At our school first break is the longest, 11am to 11.45).
We chatted casually as we cleaned up and five minutes later it was all done. I enjoyed connecting with the other mums who are involved with the school. And serving in tuckshop is a great way to get to know the student body.
Is it something I would recommend to other mums? I think probably the tuckshop experience relies very heavily on the existing experienced staff – are they a lovely, welcoming bunch? Or is it a bit cliquey? I felt very welcomed and – importantly – I felt very useful. I felt like I made a small contribution, and am confident that next time I’ll make an even more significant contribution.
But you won’t know until you go. My advice would be to check it out and if you don’t love it, there are other ways to contribute to the school. I firmly believe in finding a place where you fit in, feel comfortable and can make a meaningful contribution. So for now, the P&C presidency is safe from me while I focus on small, manageable contributions to the school such as tuckshop duty and literacy rotations in the classroom.