Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To PTA or Not PTA

The summer is coming to an end and days are filled with back to school shopping, labeling our children’s school things, and thinking about what this school year will be like for our children. Will she have a good teacher? Will her best friend be in her class? Will she do well in school? How much homework will she have? What can I do to make the school days easier for her?

Then the first day of school arrives and you have your children dressed to the nines. You snap pictures and send them off for their big day. They come home with their brand new back packs filled with homework for YOU to do. They have tons of paperwork for you to fill out updating all of their information for the year and numerous fliers including one from PTA. You quickly fill everything out and send it back. You study the PTA paper and think should I join PTA? Why should I join PTA?

Let me tell you why I joined the PTA. It started five years ago when my oldest was in Kindergarten. I was excited about my daughter beginning school. I wanted to be there though and be involved. I went to the first meeting and even volunteered to help get shopping carts for their first event. I went to a few meetings, but that was about it. I paid my dues and even joined again the following year, but there were new officers and I found myself not knowing when PTA meetings were. I felt like it was some elite club that I wasn’t really welcome at.

Unfortunately a lot of parents were beginning to feel that way in the school about our PTA and things needed to change. I was approached by our schools Family Resource Center about this. I went to every meeting that next year. I became the chairperson for the schools Fall Festival. I was good at it, but I did struggle big time with officers who did not communicate or want to give up power. Somehow it all worked out though. And I continued to push. I got the Box Tops program up and running in the school again. I found a new fundraiser or our spring fundraiser. I was nominated as PTA president. I ran unopposed. That was how I became the PTA President at my school.

This is not to say it will be the case in all schools. I decided though that I wanted a change. I wanted our PTA to be welcoming and better for my children. I knew this was an important group and an important part of the school and I wanted to be a part of it and I wanted it to succeed.

You’re still wondering, why PTA? Is it for me? Isn’t it just a bunch of cookie making fundraising moms? Well, it’s not supposed to be. Yes, I do bake cookies and yes PTA does do fundraisers. This is not why I do it though. Here are a few things you might be interested to know about PTA and why it will be beneficial to join:

1. You are part of a group of parents with a large voice to help advocate for the health, education and welfare of our children. So if you have an issue with anything pertaining to the school (ie lunches, the math program, or the safety of the building) you have a connection to lots of other parents who might feel the same way you do and you can ban together to voice your opinions. And even beyond that nationally you are a part of 5 million other parents who could feel the same way you do about an issue and you can tap into that group of people and make a change nation wide.
2. An understanding of the school system. You’ll be in the school and working with the principal and the teachers and knowing what goes on day in and day out in your child’s school.
3. Child development training classes.
4. As a PTA member you get special discounts like coupons and money off your T-Mobile bill.
5. More parents’ involvement equals more successful children. It is proven that an involved parent raises a child’s progress in school. And really isn’t that what it’s all about? Making sure our children are successful in life.

PTA is not all about fundraising and cookies. We provide enrichment for the children. We have events which bring the parents and children into the school for fun and learning.

For me my involvement in the school has given me so much for my children. I have such a great support system in the school. I know my children’s teachers. I see them on a day to day basis. Both of my girls were honored at the end of last year for being super students. They were two out of just about fifty other children in the school to win this distinguished honor. My oldest had straight A’s all of last year. She also read the most minutes of any other student in the entire school and won 1st runner up in the poetry contest. My involvement in the school has helped my younger daughter in a much different way. She struggles with reading. I have sat down with the principal to discuss her troubles numerous times. Because he has worked closely with me for three years now he knew that I wasn’t just trying to cause trouble. He took my concerns seriously and when I requested more be done he provided it. He knows my children very well. And it’s not because they are trouble makers and in his office all of the time either. He knows them by name. He knows their personalities. He’s been watching my youngest since he was a new born and will be ready to have him in his school in two years. My children are comfortable talking to the principal and going to his office. I couldn’t ask for a better relationship between myself and the principal and my children and the principal.

So when that PTA paper comes home in your child’s backpack on the first day of school what will you do with it? Will you throw it out? Or will you begin on a wonderful journey with your children this school year? I hope you make the choice to join PTA this year. I really think it’s a choice you will NOT regret.


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

From the school side, I would point out that schools do need parent support -- the best schools have the best support.