School is a huge part of our kids’ lives. We probably don’t think about that, outside of the usual fretting at the beginning of the school year during the setup process and the like; but for more than half their waking hours during the week, our kids are in school. What goes on there is important. Most of the nightly news is about bullying and Tide Pod eating and whatever, but like our day jobs, school for kids is mostly a daily grind of educational “wah wahh wah wahh wah wahhhhhh” from Charlie Brown adults.
That “wah wahhh” is important, though. It’s what helps shape our kids’ future. There are two ways parents can make sure that it’s being shaped in the way we think is best. The first way is to take full charge of their education and teach them ourselves. Since homeschooling isn’t for most of us, though, there’s organized group schools.
Whether public or private, these school are set up to educate kids on our behalf. As parents, our greatest input to those schools comes not from voting for the right person, posting crap on Facebook about how the system is failing, or going in occasionally to get angry with an administrator or teacher.
Nope, the way we can most influence a school is by being a part of its parent teacher organization. Whether it’s a PTA (association) or PTO (organization), it’s the same thing. And every school has one. Or should. If yours doesn’t, there’s something seriously wrong and you need to fix that. Pronto.
The PTO gives parents the chance to not only have a voice, but to actively take part, as much as possible, in the way their child’s education is happening. It creates an opportunity for parents to band together and make change, whether it be raising money to get something done or figuring out how to make sure Mrs. Jones’ class has enough help on craft day to keep the place from becoming a disaster. Because.. well, kids and glue. Right?
I joined the PTO at our kids’ school this year. I’m just a random member at large, but I show up to meetings every month and I have volunteered whenever possible to help out with things as needed. I marked shirts at a “kids run around in a huge circle” (kind of like track, but nobody was timing anything) and counted off the number of laps so kids could raise money. I showed up to serve popcorn at movie night, which the PTO organizes, got licensing for, and all that. There are countless things going on that a PTO is a part of that help schools in a lot of ways. Ways that mean the administrators can push budget towards other things that otherwise might be lacking.
Our school, like most, faces financial difficulties. Often. Budgets have to be decided. Things get pushed off or even nixed. Our PTO changes that sometimes. Stuff for teachers, stuff for classrooms, help with supplies for the music room or the art class? We’re on it. Custodial Appreciation Day? It’s a thing and we had banners and decorated janitorial closets. Plus gift certificates for the people who quietly push mops and clean up our kids’ barf when lunch didn’t go so good with jumping jacks in PE.
Most of all, though, the teachers, the school’s principal, the people who are there daily in my kids’ lives as examples of functional adults who care? They also know that I’m a functional adult who cares and that I care enough that I, and other parents like me, will do things for them and the school on behalf of our kids. Any time.
These don’t seem like big things to parents who might be standing outside looking in, but anyone who’s been an adult long enough knows that it’s not the big splashy things–the headline-getters–that make things happen in life. It’s the small, daily grind items that really git ‘er done. The showing up. The constant effort. That’s what wins. And if we don’t put ourselves into our children’s lives with the constant showing up and effort, how can we expect them to have good odds of winning?
We can’t. That’s why things like the PTO are so important. When a bunch of parents show up, like have at our school here, things get done. A lot of things. Good things. And it’s great. So show up. Do the work. It’s worth it.