For hardworking teachers, time is a precious commodity. We must use it wisely and be intentional about our priorities. It’s understandable that optional roles and events (especially weekend events) are often dismissed. But I strongly believe that being an active member of PTA is a beneficial investment of time. When I became Head of Year, I had to drop a few other responsibilities but I was adamant about maintaining my role in our PTA. I’m currently co-treasurer but, more importantly, I’m known by parents as their “PTA Ambassador”. This is an unofficial title that I carry with great pride.
What is a PTA?
To make sure that we’re all on the same page, let’s take a step back. A PTA is a parent-teacher association, a formal organisation of teachers and parent volunteers who work together for the benefit of the school. A PTA promotes collaboration, open communication, parental involvement and positive school culture. It’s important to remember what it stands for because PTA is too often associated with parents only (mums, more specifically). To be fair, it’s parents who deserve most of the credit, but let’s not forget the ‘T’. Teachers also play an important role.
What does a PTA do?
Specific PTA goals vary, but they typically involve fundraising for the school and organising community events. Teachers who aren’t actively involved perhaps don’t realise the difference that they make. For example, our PTA has recently funded expensive STEAM resources, playground equipment and classroom furniture. The members also work tirelessly and voluntarily (often alongside other jobs) to organise regular events that are educational and meaningful. To give just a few examples, our PTA organises welcome events for new families, environmental projects, elderly visits, Christmas parties, overseas trips and our Family Fun Day (our biggest event of the year). This description barely scratches the surface; a good PTA supports the school in every way.
Why you should get involved
Your PTA deserves your time because of the tremendous impact that it has on your school (and often charities). Even if we put that aside, I would encourage you to get involved for selfish reasons. The benefits far outweigh the time investment that is required. So, what’s in it for you?
In a word: relationships.
“Relationships have always been, and will always be, of the utmost importance in our schools. They are the catalyst of our work.”
Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, Kids Deserve It!
True story: just a few days ago, I was walking around school and a student walked towards me. We greeted each other (with names) and had quite a lengthy chat in the corridor. We high-fived as we left the conversation. A colleague passing by expressed their surprise that this particular boy was already old enough to be in my class. In fact, he isn’t. He’s not in my class. I’ve just developed a relationship with him, and so many others, by regularly attending school events (mainly PTA ones). This might seem like a little thing, but these regular, positive interactions are what make a school culture. Especially in such a big school, I’m proud to say that I know loads of the kids on a personal level and they know me.
It’s not just the kids. I have developed strong relationships with the parents. In many cases, I’ve gone on to teach their children. When the parent-teacher partnership is already established, great things happen. Even if I don’t teach their kids, it’s still worthwhile. I love chatting with parents around school. Again, it’s about relationships that lead to small, ongoing, culture-building interactions. Also, having parents on your side is never a bad thing! When issues inevitably arise, it’s helpful to start from a place of mutual respect. But this has to be earned. Parents have to know you before they can trust you. Being part of PTA and working with parents on a regular basis allows for this.
I’m not saying that supporting PTA is the only way to build relationships and contribute to school culture, but it’s certainly an effective way to achieve these goals. I have repeatedly used the word ‘investment’ because the sacrificing of time pays for itself many times over. For me, giving up a couple of hours every now and then is a no-brainer because the benefits are so obvious. The same applies to our overseas trips. They’re a bigger commitment (a few days during the summer), but it goes a long way! Besides, let’s not discuss PTA like it’s a chore; I have loads of fun along the way!
“Try to be a big part of (PTA events), and you’ll not be sorry.”
Jay Billy, Lead with Culture
To conclude, I would argue that the PTA is at the heart of any good school. The members (especially parents) work extremely hard for the benefit of all students. The PTA deserves our respect, gratitude and time. I encourage all teachers (and parents) to get involved. Even if you can’t join the Executive Committee, share your appreciation and attend the events. It could be the best use of your time and, even if it isn’t, the parents and children will love you for it.
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