Monday, February 16, 2009

The Unlikely PTA Mom

Just two short years ago, if you'd asked me about the PTA, you would've gotten an infamous (at least, in my own mind) rant from me. Next month, it's highly likely (particularly since I'm the only one running) that I will be serving on the board of one. And yet, I've managed to keep my self-respect.

For reasons not necessary in this post, my youngest has gone to a different school for every year of her academic career (she's in third grade). My oldest's longest record was the second half of first grade through third. Every prior school has given me reason to not be a fan of the PTA.

I'm not the kind of mom who bakes brownies for the bake sale, I don't host playdates or sleepovers, and I don't even drive an SUV or own a pair of crocs. I'm a single, working mom that has spent most of my daughters' educational careers getting my own degree. I also have very specific issues I would like addressed in education, and have been frequently frustrated that the schools seem mostly concerned with test scores.

My daughters usually get a litany of forms to be filled out on their first day of school. In fact, I usually have more homework on the first day of school than my children do! At least three of them are PTA-related, and have more to do with what can I do to help the PTA than what the PTA can do to help me. They ask when I can help at school, and I usually respond that most working parents (which make up about 70% of parents) aren't available during school hours which were created to accommodate an agricultural lifestyle. Most PTAs at the schools that my daughters have attended chose to have their meetings after I have to be at work in the morning, or after school (when I am, again, at work). I learned fairly early in my daughters' academic lives that I was not cut out for the PTA, and thereafter, usually ignored their paperwork.

Last year, however, my oldest attended a charter school that did not have a PTA. Instead, the principal organized monthly potluck Saturday breakfasts, open to everyone, completely lacking in Robert's Rules of Order, and a loose agenda that left plenty of time for any and all of the parents to speak their own concerns or ideas. I knew more parents that year than in any other year and was more involved at that school than any other.

Unfortunately, and again for reasons unnecessary here, we had to leave that school this year. And I decided I'd spent so much time at that school that this year, it was time for my younger daughter's school to get some attention from me. So I attended the first PTA meeting of the year. Which was held after working hours and provided child care. Already, I was impressed.

At the end of that meeting, I spoke up and talked about what was important to me. I almost cried when the Principal and the President of the PTA seemed to hold the same priorities. We all agreed that fundraisers that got private companies richer and didn't somehow challenge or embrace the student body were wasteful. Instead, today, my daughter is participating in a Jog a Thon that raises money for the buses for field trips. At the beginning of the year, many students performed in a "rock" concert that raised money for the arts programs. I'm offered ways to volunteer my time and energy according to my schedule, and not made to feel guilty for not being available.

And so, when the desperate cries for new Board members was called out in the previous PTA meeting, I thought maybe this time, I can answer. If they're willing to accept me as I am, crocless and all, this may be a perfect fit after all.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog.

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