I spent 11 years as a classroom teacher, and the not-so-secret way I survived every year was with the support of the parents who helped in (and out of) my classroom. So when I had our first child, I knew that I would be one of “those Parent Teacher Organization moms,” and I have zero regrets about that choice.
Believe it or not, research shows that students whose parents are engaged within their schools show overall better performance. Now, that does not mean if you are not a PTO mom your children will struggle by any means! But it is worth noting that children whose parents volunteer in their schools often score higher on tests, have stronger self-confidence and levels of motivation, have better social skills and behavior, and graduate from high school and college. If my husband and I volunteering at our schools has any chance of helping our kids succeed, sign us up!
Home Away from Home
For me, school is so much more than just the place that our kids go to learn (and that provides us childcare during the day); it becomes our community. By volunteering in our kids’ schools, they see that we value it as an important place for our family — and I do mean WE as my husband jumps in whenever he can (Career Day, Mystery Reader, and any Dad opportunity there may be). Our kids see that it is an important place for us as well as them, and that we are truly invested in their education. Can they express their gratitude to us by saying those exact words? Definitely not. But their smiles, hugs, and pride when they see us and wave or hug us says it all.
Being in the Know
Part of being a kid and going to school is to breed independence, but that does not mean I don’t want to know what goes on during the day. After years of no school visitors due to Covid, it is so nice to be IN the school building and get to see the magic. At the end of the day, when my children are talking about various things, I have a frame of reference for what they are talking about.
Getting to Know the Staff
A big perk of being a Parent Teacher Organization volunteer is getting to know the staff outside of your classroom/s. Knowing the media specialist, the teachers they have started to form relationships with in grades ahead of theirs, their favorite lunch helper, as well as all administration… those are the connections volunteers form that truly help support your kiddos through their school days.
Making Friends as Adults
Finally, there is no better way to meet other parents within your school community than to volunteer with the PTO. Casual conversations setting up the book fair may lead to coffee or lunch meetups…and then to chairing a committee together, and eventually some of these people become your forever friends. Attending school functions isn’t just about being there for your kids anymore, it is about the entire family — yourself included!
Being a Parent Teacher Organization parent is definitely not for everyone, and that is 100% ok, too! Schools thrive on everyone doing their part, and for some of us, that means being the parent that sends in the napkins for the holiday party. If that is you, trust me — we see you, we thank you, and we appreciate you more than you probably know!
If playing this integral role is something that may interest you, I encourage you to reach out to your school’s Parent Teacher Organization or parent association president/chair and let them know. Share your interests, talents, or hobbies — I promise you, they will find a way to utilize you. Or, if you want to get involved but have a hard no on a committee or project, let them know that as well. The last thing anyone wants is a volunteer doing something they do NOT want to do!
As the school year begins to wind down, PTOs will be working on their slates of volunteers and committee chairs and members for the next year. I encourage you all to find your niche within your school community. You will be rewarded with constant affirmations from within the school as to how much your time is appreciated, and your kids will think you hung the moon!