158. Parent-Teacher Organizations

The PTA, PTO, or PTC is sometimes unfairly seen as a bunch of people who spend all their time having bake sales, selling wrapping paper, and organizing social events. They’re not taken seriously enough – not recognized as dedicated advocates for children and teachers. Perhaps that’s because some of the fund-raising and social activities of these organizations are more conspicuous than the other work they do. To those who aren’t involved, these organizations can seem less important than they actually can be, and this perception can be self-fulfilling. First of all, consider the fundraising activities. The underlying principle of these activities is that schools do not get enough money. At least, that’s the way I see it. They can’t respond to children’s needs as easily as some corporations or governmental organizations respond to their executives’ whims. That statement may sound to you as if I’m cynical about some corporations and governmental organizations. Yup. You read me loud and clear. As a nation, and for the most part, as a planet, we haven’t done a great job ordering our priorities. Parent-teacher organizations tend to have many parents and only one or two teachers to represent their colleagues. Parents want teachers to be more involved, but are usually aware that teachers are busy planning lessons, taking courses for professional development, etc. Of course, there are some teachers who just aren’t interested enough to get involved, and some who fear being overwhelmed by meetings run by their employers (in a way, I do consider parents to be the employers of teachers and administrators). Whatever teachers’ reasons are for their relatively low attendance records at these meetings, I urge teachers to try harder to attend, and parents to consider that teachers who don’t attend may be busy getting ready to teach, not overseeing the refinishing of their yachts.
There’s another issue. In a world wherein some nations, towns, and people have significantly more or less wealth than others, government funding of schools, however meager, can be an equalizer. In Massachusetts, each town gets some money to fund education. If some towns have wealthier populations than others, and people are willing to use some of that wealth to support schools, that phenomenon can undo the equalizing effect of government funding. So can the money that comes from the pockets of teachers. Most teachers I’ve known have occasionally or often used their own money to buy materials for their classes.
As I write these articles, I realize that the length of each article, and the amount of time it takes me to write it, reflect the degree to which I consider the issue I’m tackling important. If the article flows out in less than an hour, and fills most of a page on my computer screen, it’s probably important to me. This article took thirty-seven minutes to write, and fills up the
whole page. On my living room wall is a poster which reads: “It will be a great day when schools get all the money they need and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a B1 bomber.” Until that day, let’s treat bake sales with a little more respect. And long live the PTA, PTO, and PTC!

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