I had planned on writing some thoughts about being the PTA President at the end of the school year, but decided waiting till the end would miss out on one big opportunity…the opportunity for you to get involved at your child’s school. Why do you need to get involved? Let me share a few thoughts…
If you don’t, who will?
There are some schools that are overflowing with parent volunteers, but in my experience these are the minority. Many schools have a handful of volunteers who take on the bulk of the work – the old 80/20 rule of thumb. My hands-on experience is with two schools – the school where our children attend and the school where our church is helping with reading and mentoring.
A constant struggle at both campuses is parental involvement. I’m not just talking about showing up to the PTA meeting, etc. I’m talking about parents being involved in the education of their children. For example, at the Kindergarten reading night there were 2 of 24 students who were represented in our daughter’s class. Hectic schedules, lack of interest, and other factors led to a missed opportunity for many students and their families.
When it comes to the quality of your child’s education – if you don’t invest in it, who will? The schools that I have the pleasure of spending time at are filled with educators, administrators, and staff who graciously give of themselves for the betterment of all children. They freely give of their time and energy. Sacrifices are made in their own families and friendships. Their hard earned cash is often spent on classroom supplies, teaching tools, and even a pair of socks for a student who has none. Such sacrifice is unsustainable if parents don’t volunteer, lend a hand in the work, and encourage.
That’s how I became the PTA President this year. Our PTA was two positions short of the four that are required – President and Secretary. I was willing to help as President and another parent stepped in as our Secretary so the PTA could move forward. The learning curve for all the PTA regulations has been steep but the trade off has been getting to know so much more about what happens at the school and getting to spend time with the fantastic kids and educators.
Do you have the time?
Sometimes I don’t get things done on time or I let people down. I have tried to stop using phrases like, “I just don’t have the time.” Truthfully it is more about priorities than time. Like almost everyone reading this, I live a very full and fast-paced life. Yet, the things that are important always get done….well…almost always. As much as it pains me, I have been working on the fine art of gracefully saying “no” to opportunities and tasks.
At school we started the year with the “Three For Me” campaign that the National PTA put together. As we began the school year, I would ask parents, “Do you have three hours to volunteer at the school during the course of the nine month academic year?” The overwhelming majority would say, “Sure, I can do that.” The idea of the volunteer campaign was to break the ice. Get parents on campus for just a few hours so they can see that volunteering is fun and easy.
I’m sure there are tales of volunteer efforts run amuck at schools. After all, the typical perception of PTA isn’t that positive – mama drama, over-tasked volunteers, and general chaos. It doesn’t have to be that way and in my experience it is not that way. I’m not perfect as a PTA President, but our group is trying to help the kids, support the teachers, and get parents involved. If a quality education is a priority for your child, then you need to make time for that effort at home and on campus.
It Starts at Home
At the beginning of 2017 our church realized that we were desperately disconnected from our community. One of our efforts to recconnect is volunteering at a local elementary school. Our experience at that campus has been eye opening and shown us the need for the love of God reflected through our loving efforts.
As an example, can you imagine telling your kids this – “You think you’re better than me? You’ll never be smarter than me!” Let the impact of that statement from a parent to a child sink in for a minute. I’m sure that you, just like me, want the best for your kids. I want my kids to be smarter and do better than I ever have. There is a problem at home when parents are fearful of their kids bettering themselves.
The challenges from home are real. I am seven sessions into the reading program our church is helping the school with. I have two students I am working with. One of my students has been in attendance 2 of the 7 weeks I have been on campus. My other student transferred out of the school after 3 weeks. My replacement student transferred out of the school after 2 weeks. (At some point in the future I’ll write a bit about the impact of mobility rates, poverty, and family issues on school performance.) For a variety of reasons, the home is not helping some of these students to succeed.
Kids need parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. who are actively supporting their school work. In our home, we try to sit down and work together. The kids don’t often need help with their homework but we are there if they need a hand and we try to set a good example by working on our own tasks. Kids also need the structure of healthy meals, limits on screen time, and a reasonable bedtime. Very quickly it is easy to see how poverty, over-extended budgets, and/or cluttered schedules can have negative impacts on academic performance. Is a love for learning a priority in your family?
Perhaps some expected this post from a PTA Dad to take a different direction. Sorry. The summer of 2017 and the first part of this school year have really opened my eyes to the great successes and challenges of education. I want to personally encourage you to get involved on campus in the remainder of the school year. Your experience might not be perfect but few things in life are. You will gain knowledge and understanding about the school where your kids attend. You will have the great benefit of getting to know more about the great educators who are zealous about their work. You will also be an encourager! Simply by being present and engaged you will send a clear message that you value what is being done at the school and you are here to help.