Tag Archives: Parent-Teacher Association

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.

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Participation Wanted…Reward Offered

wanted reward

 

I read a story today on PTO Today’s website about providing incentives for fundraisers and how effective they can be, and I have to say that not only do I disagree with the idea, but also with the true effectiveness.

Why is it that we need to be rewarded for doing something? I think constant rewarding creates a self-centered culture where we only do things if it can benefit us…not because it will make it better for everyone. By rewarding our children (and adults) for participating in each and every thing – they lose sight of the why. For parent associations, it’s the why are we fundraising? Why are we hosting a pasta dinner? Even if it isn’t clear – there is always a reason. Are you trying to raise money to give the kids a safer playground or are you hosting a pasta dinner to bring the families together and boost community spirit? Those reasons need to be highlighted. They are what is important…not the prizes. If you spend as much time and energy on building the excitement around the why one should participate as you do in promoting the prizes – you don’t need to cloud the purpose with rewards.

My thinking is, I love to go to things where I think I’m going to have fun (someone has convinced me that it will be worth my time). I also like the feeling of knowing that I have positively impacted someone or something. I don’t think I am alone with those. Attending or participating because I will enjoy myself or make a difference means I will do it with a genuine smile (you won’t need to drag me kicking and screaming). If someone has to offer me a reward, that to me means that whatever it is, it won’t be enjoyable. That one would not want to do this unless there is personal gain. I have formed a negative impression before it even starts. The likelihood of having a genuine smile is now slim to none. That impression, I believe, can single-handedly ruin an event. Rewards are short-term, they get people to join in this time – but if it wasn’t enjoyable, the chances of getting them to come back willingly (and thinking larger, getting them to join in leading future efforts) are slim to none.

This year, we only had 1 event/fundraiser with an incentive to participate (in prior years some incentives were offered). I asked at the beginning of the year for each chair to bring energy and excitement to their events. I can happily say that the events/fundraisers run by someone who was passionate about it, were a booming success. We had raised more money and had larger crowds. The ones that the chairs didn’t share the energy were the ones that drastically suffered. Ones that would make you think we need to offer a reward for joining in.

I say, instead of spending money to bribe people to support your causes…share with them your energy, passion and why. When people step up and contribute their time and money, recognize them with a thank you card, in person, on your school/associations website, blog or social media, or even a recognition board at the school. Let them know how much you and the kids appreciate their efforts and how they have contributed to the greater good. Making the school experience better for not only their own child, but all of the children.

A great video of a TED talk by Daniel Pink (thank you Public Speaking for Kids for sharing). The Puzzle of Motivation supporting this discussion of incentives provided for tasks completed.

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


It’s Time to go for a Leadership Position in Your Parent Association

raise-hands-volunteer-copy

Image Credit: www.technorati.com

In many PTA’s throughout the land, it’s that time of year again….time to nominate the next year’s executive board. It’s also time to sign up for committees and leadership roles throughout the organization.

If you have already held a position on your PTA, then you know the value of participating as a leader in your parent association. If you haven’t, here are a few things to think about.

Taking a leadership position provides growth and development opportunities. Organizing events, working with other parents in your community, and collaborating with school staff is a very fulfilling experience. The on-the-job learning is one you can really only get by doing it.

It allows you to see how things work. By stepping up your involvement in PTA, you get a behind the scenes look at how things run. You get to see how everything comes together, all the programs, fundraisers, and events.

It gives you a voice in how things are done. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Why don’t they do it this way?”-  this is your chance. Share your expertise and ideas. You also have an opportunity to decide what events and programs will take place in the coming year.

It provides opportunities to get to a new level. In my experience, joining the executive board introduced me to the next level of parent leadership, which is the district level. My eyes were opened to how all the schools in the district function, both independently and collectively. I also became involved in discussions about state mandates, budget, health & safety concerns, and more. These were topics not usually discussed in depth at our general PTA meetings.

Your school needs you! I’m assuming your school is like mine. Generally the PTA is comprised of a specific number of active parents who take on many responsibilities, wearing many hats throughout the year and their experience in the school. New members are always welcome and genuinely wanted! With new faces come fresh ideas.

I hope these reasons have inspired you to take the next step and reach beyond your current level of participation in your PTA. There are so many reasons to do so, and it will benefit your child, your school, and YOU!


Our PTA is a Private Club

Private Club

Private Club (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Parent Association’s (PTA, PTO, HSA whatever you want to call them) have earned the bad reputation for being uninviting, clique-like, a private club.  How do you break that? So many groups say they want to get rid of that image, have more families join them at their monthly meetings, and join them in volunteering…but do their actions speak louder than their words?  I don’t believe you can correct it with one person or tool. It takes a group effort of all those involved using all of the tools.

1. Relationship Building: More than anything else, I think you need to build relationships before the parents are going to jump at joining you; be it for a meeting or volunteering. This takes time. It requires your team to genuinely care about the other families.  Yes, you can go through the motions and pretend – but let’s be honest, most of us can see through that. Does it require you to be best friends? No, but find some way to connect.  Given that we’re all parents, I can always find something. And one of the easiest ways I find is to ask questions about them. I am always amazed at how much I learn about our community from asking questions of those I am just meeting.

2. The Board Is There To Inspire: Think of your duties not to just “represent,” but to ”inspire.”  Inspire others to want to fill the same positions you all are filling currently. Remember that not only do you need help with everything you are doing for the kids now, but you will not be there forever and will need people to take your place.  The average parent will need to build up to serving on the board or as a chairperson. Not many will jump in with little to no volunteer time.  You need to provide opportunities for them to start small and gradually work their way up to the commitment that serving on the board requires.

3. Stream Meetings Online: This might be one of my favorite ways to allow others to see you are welcoming, fun and open to others ideas and suggestions (of course this mean you actually need to practice these things…otherwise you are just confirming the negative image). Families can sign in from the comfort of their own home and get a view of what your meetings are like and open their mind to attending in person or joining the team.

4. Take Your Meetings To Them: Hosting your monthly meetings at the school doesn’t always work. If you are missing a portion of your population, try other ways. Not only is it more comfortable for others on their own or neutral turf, but it shows that you are open to others being a part of the team. Try community centers, places of worship or anywhere else your families spend time outside of school.

5. Communication: Everyone one of your families has their own preference on how to receive their “news”. If you want to include all families you need to make sure they all get the information you are sharing. That means sharing the same information in many locations and forms. Some options are paper hard copy, email/electronic, social media and text. Your goal is to make sure all of your families are well informed in advance. The beauty of the social media piece is the possibility of two-way communication.  Real feedback and idea sharing when face to face isn’t possible.

Ultimately it’s the golden rule of treating others the way you would want to be treated. Welcoming others to be part of your school family the same way you welcome your personal family members into your own home. Is it not?


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

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