OK, so it’s the fifteenth of January, a good two weeks into the new year. At this point, you would most likely agree that we can no longer support Christmas lights, “Happy New Year!” greetings and lists of resolutions. Get on with it, man. It’s solidly 2014.
My blog went into the slow slide last year, and I utterly and completely blame it on the PTA. Well, I got a part-time job, too, but since it is one I like a lot and I actually get paid for posting to Twitter and Facebook, I can’t say a bad word about it. So I blame the PTA, since I cain’t say no and, as a result, take on much more work than a sane person should.
As part of my actual paid work, I get to find and read many articles about school, education, the PTA. You see, I work for a company that was created by a former PTA mom who made (wait for the shameless plug) online software for PTAs/PTOs, booster groups and organizations. It’s a fabulous creation, really, since I have worked with and without it (and much prefer the “with”). But back to my point. I get to find interesting things to post to social media, so I see many articles, posts and tweets about PTA.
If you can believe it, I see many negative comments and stereotypes about (gasp) the PTA. And (another gasp) that creature known as the PTA MOM.
The things is, there is no difference between the personalities you come across in the workplace and those in your PTA. The real problem is how we deal with each other because WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID. That is a mantra, almost. I hear it ALL the time, and quite frankly, I am tired of it. Let’s face it, volunteers: you would absolutely put up with all of these people if you were receiving a salary. So, if it helps, act like you are. Mentally put on your suit and power tie, and handle it like a BOSS. Or a lowly intern.
These are a few of the conclusions I have come to regarding working in the PTA (obviously, there can be many more, so be sure to share yours in the comments below):
- You will always be annoyed with/not like/not mesh with someone.
- There will always be someone who knows how to do everything the best way and tells the group this fact continuously.
- There will always be someone who says “we tried that already and it didn’t work.”
- You will have a bad communicator, ball-dropper, convenient forgetter, no-show, takes-on-too-much-so-does-nothing-er; but in all (OK, most) of those people you will also find a side that works hard, always follows through, gets their work done and has great ideas. Look for those people/qualities and cultivate them.
- Some days you just need to sit on your hands and bite your tongue.
- You will always have parents who want to get involved but need to be encouraged. Some of these parents have been burned or ignored before.
- Don’t join the PTA to fill the void where your high-powered job used to be. You are not the boss, so your trying to run the meeting instead of the president is not only annoying, it is out of order, time-wasting and destructive.
- Perhaps yelling during meetings does not always get the best result (oops – personal knowledge here).
- Robert’s Rules of Order may seem antiquated and over-the-top, but you will appreciate them when your meeting descends into chaos.
- Be careful to not bad-mouth those helping. If you have a problem with someone’s behavior, discuss it with them. If that doesn’t work, speak to your president. Our PTA has a council over all of the PTAs in our district; they are always willing to help out, too.
- Don’t overstep your bounds. This can cause people to not trust you or, worse, a rift in the PTA.
- Don’t get your knickers in a twist every time something doesn’t go your way, someone is ugly, etc. Maybe first examine your behavior to make sure you didn’t overreact or cause something yourself. EVEN IF YOU ARE SCOT FREE, determine if the offense was really something to complain about.
- Do not have side conversations during meetings. It is distracting and rude. If you have a comment, save it for that time. If it is not for others to hear, then shut your pie hole until after the meeting. I feel very strongly about this one.
- Have a few lunches or family get-togethers outside of the board meetings. I firmly believe that a board that has a connection will be more respectful of each other and work much better together.
- Try to have at least half of your board meetings in the evening. This will encourage working parents to take positions.
- Remember that not everyone is intimately familiar with how meetings are to be run or the aforementioned Robert’s Rules of Order. Be sure to go through all of this, including the purpose of the parliamentarian, at your first meeting. Set up the expectations or what you can expect is a free-for-all at best, anarchy at worst, in your meetings.
- Don’t ever present a problem without an idea for a possible solution. This will keep you from complaining constantly (hopefully).
The PTA is often portrayed at moneyed manicured moms whose meetings consist of spa days and gossip. While I’d be a fool to think that never happens, don’t let that negative stereotype push you away from volunteering. Are there bitchy, cold moms in the PTA? Are there people who only want to work with their friends? Are there boards that want all the glory and give the grunt work to others? Absolutely; but if those are the only questions that you ask yourself about the group you are about to join, then perhaps it is better if you don’t sign up to help. While you need to be able to get along with the group as a whole, you need to ask yourself why you want to join, not why you don’t. No one wants to work with someone whose feelings get hurt at the drop of a hat or they pout because they get asked to keep their comments to a more appropriate time.
If you don’t like your elementary school PTA, then wait until middle school to be a part. Here’s a little-known fact (that everyone probably knows): many of the moms who ran everything in elementary school don’t continue in middle school. They are Burned Out with a capital B, or they go back to work, or they don’t get the same recognition, or middle schoolers frighten them. Whatever the reason, this is your time to try again.
And, seriously, isn’t middle school the time when you really want to know the administration and staff at your student’s school? Can I get an amen to that?