Wednesday, February 17, 2010

School Participation

Before my child started public school I had all sorts of grand ideas of what I would do with the PTA. I would organize fundraisers, facilitate conversation between parents and staff, help out in the classroom… But when it came time to put my son Joe in kindergarten I found myself struggling financially, working 60 hours a week, and caring for a second baby. I didn’t have time for the PTA.

Here it is 4 years later. Joe is in third grade and Maia will start kindergarten in the fall. I’ve yet to go to one PTA meeting. I am a member ($10) - which is helpful to them because of National PTA funding – but I can’t commit to being part of its core group of volunteers (president, vp, secretary, communications liaison, etc) because I lack the time and energy.

Does this mean that I’m entirely absent from the school? Not at all; but rather than going to meetings and making fundraising phone calls, I’ve chosen to spend my time on three carefully chosen activities.

  1. One shift (about an hour) at the school book fair which happens twice a year. The kids love the book fair and the PTA offers them one free book each session. It’s a great opportunity to meet other parents and see a bunch of happy kiddies getting their “PTA presents.”
  2. Design the poster for the yearly fundraising Carnival. I’m a graphic designer so pulling together this poster is piece of cake. Additionally I get to express some creativity and see it taped up in all the shops around town. I’ve actually gotten one or two paying gigs from this project.
  3. Stuffing the blue folders. Let me explain. On Wednesdays the kids come home with a blue folder filled with flyers, permission slips and completed homework. Someone needs to sort out all the papers and fill the folders and for Joe’s class, every year, that someone has been me. Being in the classroom EVERY week at the same time (first thing in the morning before taking Maia to preschool) affords me a chance to see Joe’s teacher in action, learn about the classroom dynamics, and get to know the other students. It is the most valued of my volunteering activities. The teacher is pleased to have this task taken off her hands, Joe enjoys seeing me in class, Maia adores drawing pictures and pretending to be a “big girl”, and I like listening to the lessons. It’s a win win win win.

Bottom line: I value (highly) the folks who make up the core volunteers of our school’s PTA, but I don’t feel guilty for not being part of it. I’m satisfied with my contributions to the school and love the activities in which I’ve chosen to partake - isn’t that the most important thing? To make the best effort within your means while taking advantage of the opportunity to be part of your child’s classroom experience.

How do you participate?

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