Monday, August 19, 2013

Join your PTSA. A PSA from me to you.

I am sitting at home with Curly and I get an email from his school. It discussed Open House and it discussed that our awesome PTSA purchased a program so we can do online ordering and payments for events like Open House.

This little note got me excited!! That awesomeness was me :) well, sort of. They discussed the problems collecting payments (and I often experienced the ridiculousness firsthand while working) ever since I first joined. I finally got off my rear and researched and found us a solution and talked it up at meetings until I got enough support to make it happen. As a result, I cheered out loud when I read the email (I obviously need to get a life right?) and Curly asked why. I read him the email and we began to discuss what PTSA does for his school.

He's interested in signing up to be the student rep for PTSA this year. He's interested because I drag him to all these meetings as part of my job (although I like to think I'd go even if I was just a parent, I live in a dreamworld obviously)  and he'd rather participate than do homework or play on the computer during every meeting.

PTSA is a difficult thing. We all have a hundred other things on our plates and this feels like one more thing we don't have time for. It's an activity that often doesn't have immediate gratification and often requires ridiculous amounts of talking and not a lot of doing. It can be profoundly frustrating to say the least.

But working in a school I can see the very real need that PTSA fills. Often schools are burdened with government rules and regulations and no matter how much they want to help they must follow protocols etc... Parent Teacher Associations fill the gap. Need supplies? They don't have to requisition, they can just go to the store and get them. Want a new program? They have insurance to cover liability and can organize volunteers. Need money? They are a non-profit organization and all set up to be a powerful fundraising machine. Whatever holes you find in the education system you can work through your PTSA to find solutions. It's one of the best places to have your voice and concerns heard and a chance to make a powerful difference in a whole lot of little lives.

I get to listen to parent complaints as part of my job (lucky me!) and I find it sad how many parents love to complain and how few show up to things like PTSA to find solutions. Hate homework time? What if we could organize tutors? Frustrated with school communications? How about a training for teachers on how to share so parents will listen. Find recess time ridiculous? Propose new equipment, volunteer monitors or other options to make it fun again.

In the past few years our PTSA has funded numerous teacher workshops that I assume make our teachers better (they're pretty awesome to start with). We are an arts integrated school which means we need all sorts of extra funding to get the arts to our students and faculty and our PTSA has been able to provide the funding for a large chunk of that every single year. My sister started a choir at the school and it quickly exploded with awesomeness and was more than she could handle on a solely volunteer basis. PTSA stepped up and provided funding and all our students now have the chance to sing their little hearts out. A couple parents came this year and said we should have a cross country team. PTSA happily jumped on board and supported them. 

What I can't stand is that our PTSA is a group of approx. 10 parents that meet once a month and another 20 or so that come out to help with special events. We have over 500 families at our school and 30 people are all that can find the time to participate? That sucks. The same lady has run our main fundraiser since our school opened. She could really use a break but no one has stepped up. We may not participate in an awesome nationwide art contest this year because no one wants to coordinate. We get a lot of people who say they'll help but not a lot willing to lead. Why do we get so scared of leadership? A good leader delegates and doesn't have to do more work than anyone else, they just have to be willing to file the report or coordinate the meeting. To all of you who volunteer, THANK YOU!

As my son and I discuss what PTSA can do at his school this year he's pretty impressed with what we've accomplished already. I say we can do a lot more. If your child attends school find out about their PTSA or booster club or whatever and become a member, that's step one. Take one more step towards being awesome and attend a meeting or sign up to help. Become officially awesome and take the lead, start something new or find a solution to a common complaint. Most importantly, SPEAK UP regardless of if you have time to attend or volunteer, find the time to share your concerns and your gratification with those working to meet the needs in your community. They need feedback, positive or negative, in order to continue to know and meet those needs. Be the change you want to see in the world! I'm glad my son can see me doing this and hope he surpasses me in his efforts if he gets elected this year.

And now I'll get off my soapbox.

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