Tag Archives: partnerships

What Makes a Parent Leader?

Peony

The more I hear parents say that they didn’t think they could do or have a say in  x, y or z because they are just parents, the more I realize the importance for someone to be there to say, yes you can.

Serving as a parent leader isn’t just about planning meetings and recruiting. When I first took my position I didn’t want to ever be referred to as the president of our group. I preferred to simply inspire and contribute, in the same way I always had, alongside all the other parents. I believe it does not matter how wonderful of an idea you have, if those around you don’t support or practice it, it is nothing more than an idea (and ideas alone don’t make you a leader). I don’t know that I will ever come to feel comfortable with the titles…but I have come to see that that role for one, is not a role only one person fills. There can be many. Although a HUGE part, it is more than someone who is willing to just work beside others. It is also (in no particular order, other than how the thoughts passed through my head)…

Someone who is willing to step out from the crowd, at times, to push the group to be better or achieve more, based on community needs. Someone who chooses to expect more and not just the status quo.

Someone who understands the importance of building relationships with not only the families in their community – but also the school principal, staff and beyond. A positive relationship is what helps you work together as a team. I’m not saying a parent group can’t achieve a lot on their own – but in the last year of going through times of not having that strong, positive relationship with our building (not me alone – but our parent community), I saw firsthand the impact it has on what we can achieve. We cannot do it alone. The parent group and school achieve more by working together.

It requires you to not only set an example of how to build partnerships – but also share (and share often) why those partnerships are so important. These partnerships go beyond your building. They are with the others in your district and community. I don’t think they prevent building level achievement – but I do think they can amplify them.

It is someone who remembers to see things from an outsider’s perspective or view point. To be realistic at times, but also wear the rose colored glasses often.

For those using social media, it is setting the example of how to use it, and having no fear in asking and reminding others to follow suit. Personally, I take that beyond our building because social media has no boundaries or walls.

It is someone who can have those difficult conversations. Every single one of these things on this list will require a conversation that you would much rather ignore or run from (and that would be the easiest option). But the easiest option is almost never the best.

To love learning. This might be a deal breaker for me. You cannot lead if you do not love to learn. Leading requires constant learning both from your experiences and how to address and work with the  new challenges, and/or individuals, that come with each new day.

Passion. This (at least for me and those I know) is a volunteer position. There is no paycheck…no money to serve as a motivator.

Someone who has the ability to say no. This one I often fail miserably on – but have become far better in the last year. There’s no way to do everything, everyone asks…no matter how much you want to. I have begun to pick my battles and say yes to those things I have the most passion for.

And finally, someone who has a strong support system. People that you can depend on, to support you emotionally, serve as a resource and also not be afraid to tell you no or when you’re wrong. Last night (as I have said many times), I would not have taken on this role without having a support system…and there is no way I would have been able to continue without them. From those who are literally my physical neighbors, to those that are a tweet, DM, message or vox away…they are my strength and oxygen.

So now I realize this is a crazy long list of qualities, and I thought about editing them for the most important ones (in my opinion) – but I can’t choose (and this post has now been sitting on my screen for a week). These though, they all just seem to be uber important to me. I don’t believe one is strong in all of these, all of the time; but possesses these qualities more often than not. Your thoughts? Would you take any off? What would you add?

Advertisements

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.


Does Your PTO Portray Your School Community?

When you look around your parent association meeting, who is there? Do you have all parties involved represented? I mean ALL parties, circles, groups, neighborhoods, communities…ALL. As we elect our new board members, I think it is important to remember to include all lenses, not only on our board – but as voices in our meetings and partners in the planning and running of events/activities. As a parent association, it is our responsibility to represent our schools.

When I look at many boards (including the one I belong to), I see a small group represented. I love our team and appreciate their efforts and time, but we represent less than half of our families. We are growing in diversity recently – but until I see every neighborhood, grade, ethnicity, religion, language, learning support/gifted classes,  staff, district admin, school board and community members, I will not be content. How can we accurately make decisions affecting all of our children, if we don’t know what their concerns or wishes are?

We have a large school with diverse cultures and socio-economic conditions…so there are lots of families to represent. There is no way to represent all of those families unless they are present. By present, I don’t mean strictly at our monthly meetings. They could be a class captain (if your captains are used as a resource/liaison), just as long as they are part of the discussions. I know some people feel that it is up to those individuals to jump in. But sometimes we need to extend that hand, put out the welcome mat and offer them a cup of coffee in order to get them to initially participate.  We need to start with the personal, face to face interaction. Give them someone to connect with. Someone they can recognize at the next event or meeting. From there, we can use all the pieces of technology and social media to keep in regular contact….stay fresh in their mind, and build the relationship.  Many of us start off as a small piece of the puzzle (something in their comfort zone, related to their child) and gradually grow to become a larger section of the puzzle (being a voice, leading).

I know the administrators, school board and community members might not have children at our school, and their participation may be a stretch – but they’re making decisions that can affect our children, so it only makes sense that they see firsthand what families are concerned with. A few months ago, our group was lucky to have our assistant superintendent join us. This is the first time I have been at one of our home & school meetings where someone from the district joined in. I must say, it was such a positive addition. Not only does it help to build the relationship between people who see each other so seldom, it gave a voice to the district. There were a few questions/comments that came up that we (school level) didn’t have the answer for, and she was able to provide that – right then and there. I can only imagine a school board member and members of the community could also add that nice balance.

All of these people are key pieces in our puzzle to build a strong, cohesive community. It is important to look to include them all as we go forward.

image credit: sxc.hu


Building Home-School Partnerships

Executives Shaking Hands

Image credit:  http://office.microsoft.com

One of the most effective ways to advocate for your child throughout their education is to learn the culture of your school/district and build partnerships with the people who will be a part of your child’s educational journey. Team members constitute your Parent Teacher Association (PTA), teachers, administrators, and other professionals that work with your child throughout the day.

PTA

WHY? The PTA is a wonderful opportunity for parents to learn the ins and outs of your school. PTA organizes amazing events for students, fundraises for important programming, and stands as a group to advocate for all students. By involving yourself in PTA, you have an opportunity to connect with faculty, staff, and other parents in your community. Oftentimes district information is shared via PTA. Face to face meetings provide valuable moments to interact with your principal, superintendent, and/or other school representatives.

HOW? The first step is joining. Membership forms are generally sent to families the first week of school. Dates and frequency of meetings vary from school to school. Volunteering in PTA events give you access to school and also present opportunities to get to know the principal and faculty on a different level. Taking on leadership positions like the chairperson of committees or executive board positions offer occasions for personal growth and development. They also give you a chance to participate in decisions that will impact your child and the school at large.

Your Child’s Teacher

WHY? Your child spends a very large percentage of their waking time with their teacher. He/She gets to know your child in many ways; academically, socially, and developmentally. On the most obvious level, your child’s teacher is responsible for educating your child. In a more complex view, your teacher understands your child’s learning style, sees your child’s social strengths and weaknesses, and is in a position to assess your child’s development in relation to peers and expectations. Teacher/Student relationships can be very influential in a child’s life, impacting decisions such as career choices and other future plans.

HOW? In the beginning of the year most teachers reach out to parents and ask for information about your child. Do it! Being responsive to teacher requests and taking part in early dialogue sets the stage for future conversations. Being honest about your child’s strengths and weaknesses strengthens your relationship with your child’s teacher. By being open and respectful, you will create the groundwork for effective advocacy throughout the year and possibly years to come. Being proactive as concerns arise by emailing, calling, or sending a note to school addresses issues and opens dialogue for resolution.

 Administrators

WHY? Depending on the size of your school, you may or may not have a vice principal, but you definitely have a principal. These individuals are responsible for many tasks throughout the building; working with teachers, overseeing curriculum, managing staff, fulfilling district goals to name a few. These people are also there for parents if problems come to light.

HOW? Oftentimes parents enter an elementary school for the first time, and flashback to when they were a child. The principal’s office was a scary place students were sent when they misbehaved. As a parent, it’s important to break that mindset and recognize that the principal and vice principal are resources for you. When issues come up that occur outside the classroom, or if you have a broader concern regarding your child’s education, the principal is often the best person to address the questions. The principal also is involved in student placement from year to year. That is a really important reason for them to fully understand the personality and learning style of your child.

Other Professionals

WHY? There are other professionals in the school that play a role in your child’s education. If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP), your team might also constitute a case manager, occupational therapist, speech therapist, school psychologist or physical therapist. These professionals also serve as resources for parents if you have concerns about your child.

HOW? If your child has an IEP, you will attend regular Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings. For other parents with questions, contacting these professionals should be as easy as contacting your teacher. Generally your teacher will let you know if they believe a problem exists. But you should not hesitate to contact someone if you are worried about your child.

These ideas are just a starting off point for creating positive partnerships with the key players in your child’s education. The most important thing to remember is that you are the number one advocate for your child. You know your child best, and represent him/her from the home perspective. That perspective is just as important as what happens in school. You also need to know how to follow through and support school efforts in the home. Partnerships work best when all team members are respected and heard. Good luck with your team building efforts. Post experiences or comments here!


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

%d bloggers like this: