Even though summer vacation has only just begun, before you know it, it will be time to buy packages of No 2. Pencils, new backpacks, and lunch boxes and get the kids ready for back to school.
And if you are a parent of a child starting school for the first time, you might be wondering how to become involved in the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).
While each organization’s goals may vary, PTO members are primarily volunteer parents who work to raise funds, plan events for the enjoyment and betterment of the students, and support the teachers at the school. The PTO relies on parents to help make things all run smoothly.
Whether you are a newbie or an experienced PTO mom (or dad!), here are a few tips and tricks to make the upcoming school year easier on you.
1. New PTO moms should know that they will be dealing with many different personalities and that everyone may have their own style of how they do things. Most likely, there will be a meeting during the first week of school where everyone will be introduced and plans for the year will be shared. If you are a new parent at the school, it is likely that all of the PTO positions will already have been filled, but that does not mean you won’t be able to take an active role in your child’s school. The PTO board will be happy to have the support of a mom who is eager to help. The best way to get involved is to introduce yourself to the experienced members of the group and let them know you are available to lend a hand.
2. Know your limitations. If you are a full-time working parent, you may not be available to be at the school at 1 p.m. to help with the annual book sale. But maybe you can help set up the book fair the night before, or you can offer to send out emails to the parents to let them know about the book fair in advance. Don’t feel badly if you cannot be on site like some of the other parents. And remember that it is better to decline taking on a task vs. taking on too much and not being able to honor your commitments.
3. If you find you are put in charge of planning fun events such as field trips, assembly shows or fundraisers, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe you will be asked to help find a fun vendor to bring in to the school. You should know that in Florida, as per the Jessica Lunsford Act, every vendor brought into the public schools must have a level 2 background check and be properly insured, fingerprinted, and approved by the county. For some resources to make your life easier, check out the attached box.
4. Be aware of the “Power PTO Moms.” Every school has them — the moms who always want to be in charge of the PTO. There is a good chance there is going to be a mom or two who will want to take control of the plans and who will insist on being the parent who goes on every field trip. Just remember that these moms just want to be involved. If you can give them the benefit of the doubt and remember that their intentions are good, it will be much easier to deal with these personalities.
5. Most importantly, have fun! Being a member of the PTO is supposed to enhance your child’s experience at school as well as your own. It is a great place to meet new friends who want to be involved in their child’s school life. The experience will be what you make it, so above all else, make it fun.