When I look at my last post, it pretty much corresponds with the beginning of last school year and my term as President of the PTO at my son’s school. Boy oh boy has it been a year. I accepted the nomination to be PTO president because -well let’s just admit it , I thought it would be perfect for someone whose soapbox is parental involvement. I mean how perfect would it be to take part in the parent engagement organization at my child’s school!
If I’m honest with myself, I really had my work cut out for me. After last year, I am all for paying PTO/PTA board members a small stipend-as it is a full time job. PTO board members are not only thinking about how they can better help their child succeed in school. Instead we are charged with building a community within the school to promote support for teachers, staff and students. This mission required me to wear many different hats, including but not limited to, event planner, speaker, fundraiser, community liaison, fashion designer, server, decorator and the list goes on and on.
I enjoyed my time and I believe that our board did a magnificent job of creating a welcoming environment and supporting the school. Along the way, I’ve also learned lessons and developed ideas about education and parental involvement.
- Schools often have to meet a need in order to encourage and increase parental involvement. The need that is being met varies based upon the demographics of the population. Needs can range from providing dinner to creating an opportunity for a parent to snap pictures of their child singing in the chorus. I had mixed feelings about this requirement because I thought that being involved out of the sheer desire to be involved should be enough.
- Teachers are extremely appreciative of the work done by the parent organization. Teachers can be your number one allies as they get to see first-hand the benefits of the $100 check, or the muffins delivered to them after lunch as a pick-me up or the purchase of the Smart board accessory. I am forever grateful for the handwritten notes left under the PTO office door and the words of encouragement and appreciation that were spoken as I walked down the hallway delivering fundraiser prizes to students.
- Getting the inside scoop on your child’s school is priceless. I would not trade my hour long talks with the principal or meetings with district representatives about various issues. There is something about being an active member of the PTO that let others know that you are serious about education. Others value your opinion and seek you out to disseminate information. It was nice to be “in the know”. I felt better prepared and more knowledgeable about speaking out on education issues.
- My child had a sense of pride and excitement whenever he saw me walking the halls. I could see it in his eyes. He relished in the fact that his mom was an active participant at his school. I cannot help but think that he will forever remember the year that his mom was the PTO president.
- Parental involvement is more than just checking homework and sending in signed field trip forms. Parental involvement is an active engagement in the happenings at my child’s school. There is nothing passive about parental involvement. It is all about taking initiative, being inconvenienced for the sake of making a PTO meeting, sharing my expertise with my school, and doing my part to foster community.
- When the PTO says they need your money or RSVP by a certain date, please oblige. It is nothing fun about going to pick up extra donuts for the 50 people who did no RSVP. Guess who will turn in all forms and money on time next year.
- Never think, “they have enough help”. In most cases we don’t. We have never had to turn away volunteers for an event. Trust me, there is always something to be done. If you have the time, they could use the help. If you don’t have the time, try to squeeze some from somewhere. You will be appreciated for it.
I really could write a book about my observations, but for the sake of brevity I will stop there. I am pretty sure that my year as president has given me a perspective that I am not sure I would have had otherwise. I will end by saying that no parent should leave parent involvement up to everyone else in the school. Regardless of work schedules, there is something that a parent can do during the course of 10 months to help further the cause and accomplish the goals of the Parent Organization. Regardless of the nominal fee that is paid (or in our case not paid), every parent is a part of a very special community at their child’s school and should do their part to improve education and the school community. Take it from me, PTO/PTA, teachers, staff and your child will appreciate it.