How the PTA Is Like a Game of Jenga
My term as PTA president will end on June 30th. My duties will not end entirely though because there will be that transition time and then, come the new school year, I will be the Historian. I like the idea of historian because it sounds sort of fusty, like I might get to hang out in some old, ill-lit room cataloguing mimeograph machines and film strips and science books written before the moon-landing.
I am envious of our new president. She will have three vice-presidents and a secretary who won’t bail three weeks in (like mine did) and a treasurer who is an actual, bone fide accountant. My treasurer had never even kept her own books before or used Quicken or even perhaps a calculator. She professed this quite openly, “You don’t want me,” she stated. And so she was voted in. Our PTA books are good, yet idiosyncratic.
I must admit also, that I sort of checked out back in November. I have had a trying year. We took in my ailing father-in-law at the beginning of the school year and he died right after Christmas. And my husband and I both had to scramble for work as the downturn economy kicked us mightily in the pants. An opportunity came up for me and I needed to jump on it, so at the beginning of November I wrote this email to the PTA:
A new work project has suddenly come up for me and I need to dedicate myself to it entirely. I still plan to be there for the November meeting, but otherwise my priorities are: this project, then my family and then PTA. That’s right, I will give short shrift even to my family. I do not mean to be indifferent to the PTA, but my husband and I are also setting up my father-in-law here and finding that to be a full time job in itself and I simply must prioritize.
Until December 1st (I think),
In response, the other PTA parents said “of course.” Like I’ve said before, they’re a pretty great group and they understand. But this is the response I received from our kindergarten teacher and elementary coordinator. The first paragraph dealt with how she was irritated with how the fall fundraiser was being run and then she signed off with this paragraph:
I am so tired of hearing that “We’ll I’m working”. Well what do you think our teachers do. We have families, and husbands and parent problems just like everyone else. In addition to taking our correcting home with us for your children. I’m too busy is an excuse not an answer. (sic)
I was totally floored by this. The thoughtlesness! The callousness! The grammar! I made no reply because it was so irrational and because I was really rather angry. What part of my many hours of unremunerated volunteering did she not understand? And I’m not talking fun volunteering like taking cookies to virile firemen at the fire station open-house (hurray!), but form-filling, agenda-writing, district-meeting-attending drudgery (boo!).
Several months have passed since this incident. I have never received an apology, which I would have accepted with great relief and happiness. Still I am able to view the email in a different light. Now I wonder just how much stress our teachers are under that one would respond in such a way. Is parental involvement just that important? Is it like a game of Jenga where the removal of just one parent volunteer results in ruination and chaos? In some schools I understand there is an opposite phenomenon called Helicopter Parenting where students can’t turn around without finding their progenitor breathing down their neck. I felt I had done a good job of allowing my children to feel autonomous, but not abandoned. I suppose where I failed is I didn’t let my children’s teachers feel that too.
Photo by CarbonNYC
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