Tag Archives: Family

What Will You Do To Make The World More Beautiful?

While taking a break from the hot sun, I read Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney to my youngest two. A few pages in, the little girl tells her grandfather how she too will travel to faraway places and live by the sea, just as he did. Her grandfather replies, “There is a third thing you must do, you must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

This sparked a long conversation with my two chatterboxes…what would they do to make the world more beautiful? Some of their responses (text images created by them):

My 6 year old son…

 beautiful1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 9 year old daughter…

beautiful 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is why I love reading with my children…for one, quiet time sitting with them; a nice balance to the craziness of our usual running around. Two, I love listening to their different perspectives when talking about the story (be it their age, gender, personality or whatnot). For my son it was all visual. Beauty to him is what he can see/touch. For my daughter it was more about doing things that would make others happy. With most every story we read comes a conversation. I not only learn from and about them, but so many times it fuels ideas of things to do with them when we do have some down time.

Before summer vacation started I asked all three of my children to come up with a way to give back/do for others (it didn’t have to be big or grand). We try to volunteer throughout the year – but it’s usually me telling them how or what we will be doing. This time, I wanted to leave it up to them. Well…a month into the summer and it is this book/conversation that has sparked some ideas. They’ve chosen (when we return home) to combine their “making the world more beautiful” with giving back. We will be planting flowers for a few moms (grandmoms) that might not otherwise have pretty flowers to look at and find a hospital where we can bring (as my daughter puts it) books with pretty pictures to kids that are sick. As I asked, nothing grand…just ideas from their heart.

what will you do...

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Reflections of a PTA President

Rainbow

Image Credit – http://office.microsoft.com

As this year comes to an end, so does my PTA presidency. It is definitely bittersweet. It seems the perfect time to look back at the experience and carefully examine the ups and downs of the position.

As a new president, I came to the job optimistic and energized, ready to get to work. I walked in with certain beliefs of how things should be done, and the time commitment I had made. Little did I know that you can never fully be prepared for what is coming around the corner.

I have never been as proud of my school as I am today. Our efforts have been incredible in so many ways. We were recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school. We donated almost $10,000 to our adopted school, Hegarty Elementary, which was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, we were able to provide financial support to our staff family that suffered in the storm. We had amazing programs including Caldecott winning author visits for our students. We had wonderful events for our families like Fall Festival and Picnic around the World. We were present in school board budget meetings and fought for important expenditures in our school. We were also involved in an effort to have our Board of Education write a resolution against high stakes testing. We educated parents on new academic programs in the district. It’s truly been a remarkable time to be PTA leadership.

The relationships formed will definitely be one of the most positive parts of my experience. I was able to really get to know my principal (@cantiague_lead) and contribute to the magic that happens every day at Cantiague. His leadership and passion inspired me to give a little more, push myself to learn and share. The teachers I worked with reinforced everything I believed about the staff. They are so dedicated and true experts in what they do. Their dedication to our children made it impossible not to give 100% in making Cantiague the best place it can be.

The families of Cantiague are the real treasure. The generosity, spirit, and commitment to providing the best environment for learning and growing is what makes our school what it is. Cantiague is a very special corner of the world where children come first….always.

I will always be grateful to the PTA presidents who came before me and the ones who will follow. To borrow a cliché, it is a true labor of love. The amount of work is unimaginable, but the payout is the same. It is my greatest hope that our incoming presidents will experience the same joy and sense of accomplishment I have gained. If you put your whole self in it, you will learn so much. Not just about the school, district, or education, but about yourself. The job isn’t for everyone, but for those up for the challenge it is so worth it.

I look forward to my new position of Past President come June 11. I know the relationships I have made will only get stronger and better. I also know that our incoming presidents will do a wonderful job and make this PTA their own. I can’t wait to see the new direction we go.


Wishes For Our PTO Next Year

dandelion wish

As this school year comes to an end, and we welcome our new parent association board members I am beginning to think about thoughts on the upcoming year I’d like to share with our new team. A year ago, I was taking on this position with zero board experience; joined by parents much in the same position as I. I simply asked that everyone give 100% to everything they do, connect with as many families as possible…and that we will try new things and know that we aren’t going to get it all right. In the end I hoped that would translate into more participation in various ways.

This past year we raised more money than expected, increased our number of families participating, introduced (with the school) several ways for families to stay in touch with and follow the learning at school through technology, and hosted the first #ParentCamp. I couldn’t be happier, but I also believe we can always do more. So…

Next year, half of our board will remain, and I will challenge them…to do more (while keeping in mind that most work full time), make a greater impact and demonstrate that PTO’s are so much more than fundraisers. Some hopes I’ll share at our first gathering before heading into the summer…

  • Continue to build on diversity in our group. We have a more diverse group this coming year coming year than last – but we are still missing several voices. We need to reflect our school community to guarantee each neighborhood and classroom has a voice in decisions made. To do that we need to continue reaching out to all families and learning more about how they want to be involved, and inviting them to share their voice.
  • Visit, learn about, and/or get to know another school or PTO. One of my highlights from this year was connecting with and seeing how other schools and PTO’s do things.
  • Inspired by Joyce Epstein’s 6 Types of Involvement, how can we improve on or provide opportunities for each of these?
    •  Parenting: Be it basics such as food bank info or sharing resources on how to provide better emotional support.
    • Communicating: Are we communicating basic information to families of all languages? How can we make it easier for families to connect with the PTO and school?
    • Volunteering: Are we providing opportunities for dads, grandparents and community members to volunteer?
    • Learning at Home: What resources can we share with families to support learning at home?
    • Decision Making: What are ways our families can have a voice in decisions made involving how our children are educated or are involved in school outside of the class?
    • Collaborating with the Community: How can we use our community and their resources for more than donation requests? What can we do together that will make our community as a whole better?

We don’t always think of how something looks from another’s perspective. My first two requests are part of that reminder that we a small piece of a larger puzzle. How do the pieces fit together? The last is important to building future parent partners and leaders. Not only will this current team not always be here – but change, fresh faces and new ideas are a good thing.

As a parent, what do you want to see at your school or learn? As a PTO, how do you plan top this year?

image credit: http://www.sxc.hu


Off-Site Parent Association Meetings = Big Returns

partnership - sxc

 

This month we take our monthly home and school meetings “on the road”. Starting next week, we will hold our meeting at the local mosque, next month at the local boys and girls club, and in May, we will take it to the middle school that most all of our 6th grade students will attend next year.

Why do we do this? To extend a hand; open a door; earn another partner in our family and community engagement efforts. This is one of my highlights of the year. What motivates me to volunteer my time. I think its part of the “practice what you preach”. If we say we want to involve all parties in the partnership, then we need to prove it. We need to be willing to step outside of our 4 walls, listen to and learn about what others envision, and build the dream together. Going to a place of such importance to a portion of our families is amazing. I come away with a greater understanding as to why these families do or don’t participate in various activities that we host. (I say greater because I will learn more with each conversation, one time isn’t enough.) Later we are able to use that knowledge to build a calendar that better includes more of our families and earn us the support from a portion of our community that previously might not have been actively involved or felt they were part of the partnership.

How do we do it? Although it isn’t required, we use technology. By live streaming our meetings, all families can be a part of the meeting no matter where we are OR where they are. All both ends require is a computer with internet access. Are there other things you could include to make the experience better? Yes. You could add video and higher quality microphone. You could put together a PowerPoint presentation for those at home to follow along with you. But ultimately they aren’t required. You can effectively extend a hand and create new relationships by hosting meetings off-site without the technology. All you need is an open mind and genuine interest in getting to know more about others. Without the live stream, you do miss out on including those from home – but you are still creating those relationships…future partners in your home and school efforts.

If done with an open mind, meeting in a location other than the school helps include families that may not feel comfortable walking into the school or the group’s “territory” (or simply don’t have the means of transportation to go outside their neighborhood). Partnerships that might not otherwise be forged. As a PTA/PTO/HSA, shouldn’t creating and building partnerships be one of our primary goals? If you haven’t tried holding one of your meetings in a new location, I encourage you to try it.

Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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