I was reading an article today about PTAs/PTOs and cliques. There was a section describing one woman’s first impression of her school’s PTO.
Here is a short excerpt from the article on the PTO Today web site (you can read the whole article here).
She spoke with passion about the very first PTO meeting she attended at her school three years earlier. She was new to the town, and her oldest child had just entered the school. She knew no one at the meeting and little about how parent groups work. But she knew she wanted to get involved. And she found the courage—she used the word courage; it’s how she felt—to attend the meeting as a stranger in a strange place.
When she arrived at the meeting, there were about 15 moms in attendance. One group of about eight—she later learned they were the officers and a couple of chairpeople—were at the front of the room talking together.
The meeting went off without a hitch: minutes, treasurer’s report, old business, new business. Officers sat at a head table, and several times inside jokes were passed about past PTO events and school activities. Building membership and increasing meeting attendance were mentioned several times, though this newcomer never did raise her hand to volunteer. She also wasn’t asked personally. She didn’t introduce herself to the officers, nor did the officers introduce themselves to her or to the group.
She went home and vowed never to go back to a PTO meeting. She felt like an outsider and hated that feeling. To her, the PTO was a clique and she wasn’t part of it. At our conference, she compared the feeling to her high school days and not being part of the cool crowd. She was near tears at the end of her story.
Amazingly enough, her story concludes with her now as president of that same PTO, and she makes it her everyday mission to be sure her group is as welcoming as it can be. It’s an amazing turnabout, and she’s truly a rare volunteer. Just a very few parents would jump back in after that initial experience. Most would chalk it up to a lesson learned and never go back.
I had a similar perception of PTOs/PTAs before I got active at Blaney. Not being from South Carolina, I was unsure how I would fit in. Everyone who was in the PTO seemed to be great friends, and I felt as somewhat of an outsider.
It took me several meetings to get comfortable, but once I did, I realized the board members were no different than me, they just knew one another and were already comfortable in their surroundings – surroundings to which I was still becoming accustomed.
Entering my 2nd year as a PTA board member, I have shed my fears of being accepted (hey, if they don’t like what I’m saying, well, they’re free to vote against me <wink>) and the PTA is now “stuck” with me for the long-haul (I will have at least one child at Blaney for the next 9 years).
I would like to take this opportunity to PERSONALLY extend my invitation to each and every one of you who are taking time to read this. Please, don’t be “scared off” by the perception that the PTA is a clique. We sometimes forget to take that moment to extend a hand of welcome to new parents (and veteran Blaney parents too).
- If you see me around the school, please feel free to say “Hello”. (But please forgive me if I don’t remember your name – I’m absolutely HORRIBLE with remembering names. Faces yes, names no.)
- Come to a board meeting – board meetings are “open” and childcare is provided in the adjacent room. Meetings are always the 1st Tuesday of the month when school is in session. You can also check the calendar.
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, concerns, questions, ideas, or just to say “hi”.
I truly hope no one thinks the Blaney PTA is a clique. If you do, again, please feel free to contact me with that concern. The PTA is here to support the students of Blaney, and the PTA would not be able to accomplish that without YOU – the parents and community members.
I hope this upcoming school year is the best yet at Blaney. With the help of the parents and community members, we can make that a reality!