This year I will serve as the president of our school’s parent teacher association. This follows three years of volunteering and one as vice president. Consider this my state of the union speech.
It seems to me that in every group, be it a community, a school, a church, or whatever, twenty percent of the people are doing eighty percent of the work. While that may not always be true and it isn’t fair, it is often the reality. I always seem to land in the twenty percent club. I’m a “yes” person. I feel compelled to help with things that other people don’t give a second thought to. I feel a sense of responsibility to make an effort to improve my community, to do my part. So it is no surprise I’ve served at church, been on a city board, and volunteered at school. I’m one of those people who goes to a first meeting to check things out and likely leaves with some responsibility. This, of course, is both good and bad. I’ve learned skills, built relationships, and I like to think I’ve made a difference. I’ve also questioned my priorities and been stressed out. So as I embark on this new school year there are five things I’d like the eighty percent to know:
- You’re busy. I know that. Those of us in the twenty percent club are too. There seems to be an assumption we are all stay-at-home parents with nothing better to do. I promise you, our calendars are full with commitments. Things we feel compelled to do or are guilted into. Please don’t assume we magically have a secret stash of time that you don’t. It simply isn’t the case. The parents I serve with all have busy lives.
- With that said, It’s completely okay if you say no to helping out. If volunteering for an event stresses you out, don’t do it. We should all set limits. Sometimes I envy those who are able to establish boundaries. Just please don’t say you’ll do something and then not do it. That’s the worst. Sometimes life happens at inconvenient times and a change of plans can’t be avoided which is completely understandable, but don’t commit to doing something if you know you may not get to it. Also, keep in mind that if you can’t say yes to the whole thing, offer to do what you can. An hour can be a huge help.
- If you should choose to attend a meeting, please don’t feel slighted or unwelcome if some of us share camaraderie. We are not intentionally shutting you out—truly we are so excited when a new face is at the table. But here’s the deal, we have developed friendships because we have spent hours together. We’ve been on the phone at midnight proofing the yearbook trying desperately to make sure your kid’s picture was in there three times and their name spelled correctly, despite the fact that we’ve never met your kid. We’ve served food to teachers and been covered in glue on school craft night. I’d love to say we get together for drinks after meetings or hang out drinking coffee while the kids are in school, but we don’t. Because we are yes people who don’t have time to say yes to such leisurely pursuits. Keep showing up and give us a chance to know each other.
- If you choose to not participate in the planning or execution of a school event please be gentle in your criticisms of it. I guarantee you we did our best. If we’d had more volunteers or a bigger budget, perhaps we could’ve done more. We did the best we could at stretching dollars and time. Consider saying thank you. If you wish it was better in some way, by all means, volunteer to make it so in the future.
- This role is taken seriously. Please know that we agonize over how we spend each dollar raised in fundraisers. The school places many requests on us and we want each dollar spent to enrich the experience each student has at our school. That responsibility is one not taken lightly.
Serving as president places me well outside my comfort zone. My stomach will feel uneasy as I prepare for our meetings, hoping not to disappoint you or our school. I dread speaking in public even if that means just a small group. I will likely worry that you’re judging what I’m wearing and what I’m doing. My face will turn red as I speak and my insecurities will run wild in my mind. This is not easy for me.
Keep this in mind when you see the announcements for your parent teacher meetings at your school. It likely is a group of parents who simply want the best for your school who are doing the best they can. Lend a hand if you can to lighten the load.