In the last few months I’ve read several blog posts railing against the PTA moms at various schools. The complaints are usually the same – they’re overbearing and pushy, busy bodies trying to vie for the principal or teacher’s attention, do-gooders who get off on making the rest of the parents feel bad. Yeah, yeah. I get it. At my very first Parents’ Association (PA) meeting at my daughter’s private preschool I actually raised my hand and told the PA President that I thought she was condescending and wrong when she made a derisive comment about how no one gave enough to the school and not to count on scholarship parents for anything. That led to quite the nasty back and forth, and needless to say confirmed all my worst fears about those kinds of groups – and let’s be honest, those kinds of moms.
But, a year later, I was co-chairing the school auction. It was an ungodly amount of work, but in the end it was hugely rewarding when we raised more money for the scholarship fund than ever before. When my daughters started public school in Kindergarten there was no doubt in my mind that I would be involved. I didn’t exactly know how, but I felt so lucky to have gotten in this school that wasn’t our zoned school that giving back and ensuring the school’s success was a given. This school is quite honestly famous for it’s parental support. It’s been through 4 principals in about 10 years but the parents have never let the programs wither. We have over 1000 kids and yet we’ve lost an insane amount of money in budget cuts, so it’s up to the parents to make up the slack. We raise an enormous amount of money that pays for everything from stocking the art room and bringing technology into our classrooms to basics like childcare at PA meetings so all parents can attend.
My first year as a parent I was the Kindergarten Representative, my second year I was the Class Parent Liaison and this past year I was the Co-Treasurer and next year I hope to be Co-President. I spend an inordinate amount of time at the school. Do I get to see the Principal more than most parents? I suppose so. Do I catch glimpses of my kids walking down the halls? Sometimes. But that is just the byproduct of being at the school for so many hours during the week. Having this insider’s view of the workings of my children’s school doesn’t make me slick or duplicitous or self-righteous. Actually it has the opposite effect – seeing our horribly shrinking school budget numbers, our soaring admissions numbers and the needs of our teachers makes me want to throw up. I know how important our parental giving – whether in time or money – really is to the success of our school. And so if I get overzealous in my cheerleading for the school auction or pledge drive, or if I really try and hammer in the fact that giving just an hour to a book sale can make the sale happen, well I’m not going to apologize for that.
In the end what I hate most about the PA mom bashing is that is serves the same purpose as the stay-at-home mom versus work-outside-the-home mom debate. That is, it serves NO purpose. We all want our kids to go the best school possible. And we all want to give our teachers the tools they need to do make the schools the best. So instead of waging a war against each other (and trust me there are plenty of PA moms who resent the fact that “no one” volunteers) we need to keep the goal in mind: our kids’ education. I know I am fortunate to be at a school where I think most people feel like they can give an hour once in a while to help at an event, or solicit an auction donation, or show up to a PA meeting, or go on a field trip one morning. Even when it’s hard as hell, people find a way. So, please no more lumping all of us PTA moms into the sit-com stereotype mom with no life. Does it make for good comedy? Of course. Does it make for good schools? What do you think?