I can't believe the reactions from people when I tell them I volunteered to be the PTA President at my sons' elementary school. I mean, I didn't exactly have plans to become the president of our school's PTA. But I had a phone conversation with the former PTA President who told me that NO ONE else was stepping up to the plate. I thought that was very sad and felt compelled to volunteer as the new president.
Alright, alright. So I have a bit of trouble saying no when I know my help is needed. Especially when it's something which benefits my children -- and even more so when it benefits their education!
So far, when I share I'm in charge of the PTA I am met with horrifying facial expressions and less than stellar words of support.
"Ughhhh, I would never do that."
"Ughhhh, why in the world did you volunteer for the PTA?!"
"Ughhhh, that would be a nightmare."
(yes, it always starts with ughhhhh.)
Okay, I get it. I get over the years the PTA has developed a bad reputation. Maybe you've heard from family and/or friends it was a nightmare for them. Maybe you think it's just a bunch of stay-at-home moms with nothing else to do. But I'm inclined to believe most of these thoughts come from a lack of education on what the PTA actually does. As well as rumors or hearsay from parents who can't or just plain won't volunteer.
Well, I'm here to quell any of the bullcrap you've heard before, as well as tell you why I volunteered for the PTA.
1) Funds raised by the PTA directly support your child's educational experience.
I know it's different for each individual school -- but money raised by the PTA pays for many of the events and activities your children enjoy on a weekly basis. At our school we have something called the reader feeder. This is a small library where children can go to buy gently used, reasonably priced books. Have you ever been to a book store? Say, Barnes & Noble? Some of the children's books are $20. Most lower-income families cannot afford to buy one new book let alone provide an at-home library! This PTA-sponsored book store promotes literacy and is one of the most-loved things at school for the students.
2) PTA membership fees are one of the cheapest things you'll buy all year to support your child's school.
Have you ever become a member of an organization and you're like, WHOA, why are the dues so expensive?! PTA memberships are very reasonable and at our school, there are different levels such as individual, two adults/two kids, two adults/3 or more kids and business memberships. When I joined I was like, ummm, that's it? And our family was provided with cool perks, like free entry into school and PTA-sponsored events. You don't have to ask me twice! A portion of your membership fee helps your children have a better, well-rounded school experience.
3) You don't have to volunteer for every single event.
I understand you work 40 hours a week. I understand your job is a commute and you're not close to the school. I understand you have to find a babysitter for your younger children. Guess what? Buying a membership doesn't mean you have to volunteer AT ALL. You can choose to buy a membership and that's it! You're done! Or you can look at the PTA-sponsored event calendar and decide if you're interested in volunteering for something that sounds interesting. There are so many events throughout the school year. We have fundraisers (hella important!), bingo night, fall and spring parties, and a carnival. Surely something will float your boat. Contrary to popular belief you don't have to do it all. Pick one (or two!) things and I promise you, your time will be appreciated!
4) I'm teaching my children volunteering is a good thing.
I used to volunteer for everything before I had kids. Then I had three children and was like, LEAVE ME ALONE I HAVE TO KEEP TINY PEOPLE ALIVE! It's no surprise the things I was passionate about got pushed aside. The passion was still there but the time and energy were not. I completely understand, parents of young children, when you have to say no to volunteering. But now that my youngest is 18 months I am feeling the push to get involved. One of the main reasons for this is I want to be a good role model for my children. I remember my mom volunteered for Meals on Wheels when we were growing up. I will never forget going on those rides to drop off meals for those who couldn't leave their homes. It made a lasting impression on me. When I told my boys they were going to see me at their school events a lot more they were SO excited. I explained to them why I'm helping -- because I care about them and I care about public education. They thought I was pretty cool (I totally am, duh).
5) Change things instead of complaining about them.
Your PTA might have a bad reputation because things are actually bad. But instead of complaining or saying you "hate" the PTA -- why don't you try to change just one thing. Attend a PTA meeting, join a committee, become the chair of an event. One of the reasons I volunteered is because I had ideas on how we could make a particular event better. Now instead of complaining about it (which, ahem, is what I did last school year) I have the ability to suggest changes and make them happen. Be positive and influential. The high road has a great view.
All I'm asking is for you to put away those old feelings and realize the PTA exists to benefit your children and their education. When someone posed it that way to me? Well, you already know what happened. I stepped up. Like I said, I'm not asking you to become the president like me. I'm asking you to buy a membership, attend a PTA meeting to share your thoughts and/or volunteer for one event.
I promise you, in the eyes of your children, it will be worth it.