PTA is a generic term used herein to define any Parent-Teacher group in a school
So you’re thinking of joining the Parent-Teacher group in your school, and you’re wondering if you’re a fit. Here’s what you can expect:
- Communication —
- Expect to share your ideas and concerns
- Expect to receive communications from others in the group
- Expect to liaise with teachers and other staff in the school
- Time Investment —
- Expect to attend Parent-Teacher group meetings
- Expect to do some fundraising
- Expect to interact with community members
- Expect to attend functions the Parent-Teacher group has organized
- Expect to spend time interacting with school teachers and staff; this could include attending school functions aside from those the Parent-Teacher group has scheduled
What kind of parent is best suited for a Parent-Teacher group?
There’s a preferred ‘type’? Yes.
The preferred profile of the parent or the teacher in the Parent-Teacher group may remain forever unspoken, but for the organization to work smoothly and progressively, there are parents and teachers that have what it takes to make that happen.
Being a member of the PTA isn’t all fun, and as mentioned above, there’s a time investment one needs to expect in order to be an effective member. A PTA parent is committed to:
- Abiding by school policies and practices
- Encouraging students and one’s own children to develop positive attitudes to the school and respect for all members of the school community
- Being open and honest while also diplomatic in dealings with the school concerning one’s own child’s learning, this to include social, emotional, and behavioral needs
- Becoming involved in the school and local community by using one’s skills and connections to help the school promote activities which will enrich and enhance the curriculum, and provide opportunities for students to engage in action and service in the community
- Liaising between classroom teacher(s) and the PTA
- Advocating for all children and teachers
- Being supportive of PTA members
- Being an active participant in PTA events
Not all PTAs expect their members to fundraise, though fundraising has become one of the main functions of the Parent-Teacher group. Translation: be prepared to fundraise for school projects, needs, and events.
What kind of teacher is best suited for a Parent-Teacher group?
Not all teachers are a fit for the Parent-Teacher group. Teachers, like many parents, are busy people, often feeling overwhelmed by what is expected of them. Like many of us, teachers struggle with the balancing act of work and family. Some teachers are further engaged beyond the classroom, volunteering as a sports coach, extended learning facilitator, and so on.
Teachers with children of their own can bring an understanding and compassion to the Parent-Teacher group. Their counterparts can offer a diverse point of view.
Some teachers view parents as demanding and interruptive. There are teachers who would rather forget school altogether at day’s end than attend yet another school function, especially one that involves their students’ parents.
A PTA teacher is committed to:
- The overall betterment of students, school, and community at large
- Meeting the learning needs of students
- Working with parents to meet the learning needs of students
- Liaising between school staff/officials and parents
- Being open and honest while also diplomatic in their dealings with the school and parents concerning learning, this to include social, emotional, and behavioral needs
One can assume that heated discussions will occur in the PTA arena. Differing personalities, perspectives, and prospects occur in any grouping of humans. For example, I can fully expect someone reading this to take offense to my using what might be considered a “gender-specific” term—humans.
PTA members might be visionaries or big-picture thinkers. Others might be completely focussed on details and the execution thereof. Put these two varied types in a room without PATIENCE facilitating the conversation, and you’ll soon see steam rolling out of their ears as each expresses the importance of his/her point of view.
I remember one parent, a detailist, demanding every faculty member to personally report to her at the end of each day about her child’s progress. Her child maintained an advanced GPA with no indicators of social, emotional, or learning difficulties.
I was responsible for teaching and meeting the learning needs of 129 students daily, so I refused to meet this particular parent’s demand. Alternatively, I offered that she could visit my classroom at any time to monitor her child’s behaviour and progress. You guessed it… things got nasty before the parent realized I wasn’t going to bend.
This same parent had made this same demand about each of her other five children who had previously attended that school. For thirteen years, the staff had obliged the parent, not wishing to create waves. Sometimes waves are needed to wash out a few things.
At some point, big-picture thinkers and detailists need to meet in the middle, or at least find some common ground so that progress can ensue.
When personalities clash:
- Try and solve the issue(s) with the person directly concerned
- If unresolved, contact the supervising teacher
- If the problem remains, contact the Principal
- If the concern remains unresolved, contact the Superintendent and/or School Board
First and Foremost—COMMITMENT
Being a PTA volunteer is all about being committed to—
- UPHOLDING and perhaps elevating learning in your child’s school by cooperating with school staff, officials, and other PTA members.
- SHOWING UP for PTA meetings. There’s nothing worse than being a dead-weight member—one who keeps the entire group waiting in hopes that you’ll be there; and, taking up a spot on the committee that might otherwise be better filled.
- PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD. You may not like other parents on the committee. That’s normal, especially if the group is large. Show your commitment to graciously advancing the group’s agenda.
- LISTENING. One can glean much from hearing what others have to say.
Never hesitate to shut your mouth was one of my father-in-law’s favourite sayings, and sound advice it is indeed. Those who relish in hearing their own voice can be disruptive, even harmful to the overall good and progress of the PTA.
- SETTING YOUR PERSONAL AGENDA AND/OR NARCISSISM ASIDE and thinking about what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re attempting to achieve it. Pushing your weight around only alienates. Bullying is passé.
- TAKING TIME TO THINK over discussions with other parents and school staff. Giving a topic or suggestion a wee think often diverts misunderstandings.
And finally… VOLUNTEER!
Someone who works for an organization without being paid; who offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. (Oxford Dictionary)
Be committed to volunteering. Effective volunteers are hard to come by these days, as many want to receive some form of remuneration for their services and/or time spent. A few will expect to receive something in return for their efforts, whether that be a work-credit, gift basket/gift card, mileage, and so on. It’s difficult to recruit volunteers whose reward is seeing the success of the organization they’re involved in.
In closing, if you want the best learning environment for your children in which to succeed, join the PTA! Volunteer. Contribute. Make a difference. Impact your own children’s learning and that of future generations as well!
- MYERS-BRIGGS PERSONALITY TYPE INDICATOR: https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1
- NATIONAL CONGRESS OF PARENTS AND TEACHERS: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/36-2169155
- RESPONSIBILITIES OF A BOARD MEMBER – Government of Canada: http://www.governinggood.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Board-Member-Job-Description-Family-Members-on-the-Board.pdf
- BOARD ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES – Council of Non-profits: https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/board-roles-and-responsibilities