PTA chairs are a special kind of person who dare to dream they can make a difference; that they can get (some of) the parents behind them, pull off amazing events, and save the school roof all at the same time.
All too often, the reality of running multiple events with a handful of volunteers can start to overwhelm the most determined.
And, then you get the complaints from parents that things weren’t quite like last year. (Why is it always the ones that don’t help that complain?)
Get everyone on your side at the PTA meeting
Some of these issues can be headed off at the PTA meeting – by getting more people involved in the decision making and aware of what help is needed.
You may have discussed in you PTA meeting how much you’d love to put on this big crazy Summer Fair this year – but you just can’t with everyone on the PTA working / looking after toddlers / on call as the family taxi, but Clare (mum of Jake from Class 2) won’t know that when she sees the flyer for an alternative event and feels a bit disappointed.
7 Steps to starting up a PTA guide
Technology makes being PTA Chair easier
With technology today there’s no reason why you can’t involve more people in your PTA meetings, even if they can’t make the meeting. In fact, you could run your PTA meeting from the sofa if you really wanted. Here are some ideas how you can use Classlist to do things a bit differently:
- Publicise your PTA meeting. Create an event and invite the whole school. Fill in all the details (time, date and format). Make everyone aware they are welcome.
- Invite parents to contribute ideas to the agenda online.
- Start online discussions on key items by posting a question. Circulate the meeting papers in advance so people don’t need to read them at the meeting. Those that can’t make the meeting can contribute their thoughts. You can even start discussions on key items by posting a question.
- Post reminders nearer the time and on the day: ‘It’s still not too late to let us know you can make it. Come along tonight if you are free.’
- Let them know what to expect: ‘We usually discuss PTA business for an hour and then have a bit of time to chat. We love seeing new faces.’ It’s much easier to do this when you can post messages to your community directly without having to go through the school office.
- Set up event-specific chat groups – we call these community groups. As PTA chair you don’t need to be involved in all the decisions. Delegate key tasks to a sub group of willing volunteers. You can set them up a community group so they can communicate with each other without annoying everyone else with group chat. It will save you time at the meeting too – not everyone wants a 40-minute discussion about bunting.
- Hold your PTA meeting online. Does your PTA team struggle to meet up? Perhaps you are a school with a large catchment area, or a primary school where many mums find it hard to find a babysitter mid-week. You could have a PTA chat on Classlist with a glass of wine in hand – set the time and date.
- Ask the best time to hold your meetings. Meeting up in the real world? Use Classlist to find out when the best time for parents to meet and then test out a couple of different times to see which works best. Some PTAs have found a breakfast meeting with childcare to be successful and a less frequent evening meeting/social for working parents.
- After the meeting share the minutes with all the parents on Classlist. This way they know what’s planned as well as what help you need. ‘We need someone to oversee the bake off competition at the summer fair.’ They will also understand why this year you are changing the school fete for a different type of event. That’s one less conversation you need to have.
- Involve the community in making smaller decisions on the event. For example, what movie to show at the film night. Ask for suggestions on Classlist, and then put a shortlist to the vote. See you asked everyone, and then people voted – that’s one less complaint about why you showed Sing instead of Moana.
Classlist – or your other communication channels – can be used to give out information – but they are most valuable when the conversation is two-way. It can help you take the community with you, and to test the water on ideas too.
As Amell Amatino, PTA Chair at La Fontaine Academy says:
‘Classlist’s already made life easier. Instead of a newsletter where the communication is just one way, we now have two-way conversations with parents.’
Sometimes you may just decide to go ahead with something new anyway, in which case bear this advice in mind:
‘Behavior precedes belief – that is, most people must engage in a behavior before they accept that it is beneficial; then they see the results, and then they believe that it is the right thing to do….implementation precedes buy-in; it does not follow it.’ Douglas B. Reeves, Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitment, and Get Results
Some parents might not like the idea of your new summer event – but once they’ve experienced it and seen how successful it’s been – then they just might accept it was the right thing to do. This is what makes over-optimism, blind faith – call it what you will – a key attribute of the PTA chair.
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