Last night I went to a TEAM meeting at the school where I serve as Garden Club Advisor. TEAM is their version of the PTO association. I do not know and could not find what that acronym stands for. I went to the meeting to introduce myself to the parents and briefly explain what we do in garden club. The principal and I felt it would be a good way to “advertise” the club and increase awareness of our lessons.
Upon arriving there were eight to ten people already gathered around a table. The principal and TEAM president were involved in an animated discussion. Immediately, I was transported back to my days of being a PTO board member or meeting attendee myself. There was a small group of parents (4-5) and teachers (4) and the principal, who all seemed to know each other well. I was considered a guest; thankfully, introductions were made. But, then there continued to be a sense of deja vu. The talk turned to recruiting and electing officers for the next school year. Reluctance filled the air. It became evident that the people currently holding those positions were stepping down, looking for new parents or staff to step up. Ballots were passed around. Several minutes were spent discussing the difficulty of finding willing replacements to even run for an office.
Is this scenario common to your school? It seemed so common to my own experience with PTO, over 18 years ago, that I could have been sitting in a different school with different people and have the same meeting be conducted. It seems the same small group of parents and teachers attend these meetings, no matter what the school or where it is located. The principal reassured the group that what they were experiencing (reluctance to run for a TEAM office or even come to meetings) was what her colleagues reported experiencing at other schools in their district. Do PTO, PTA, PTG, TEAM or any other such parent-teacher groups similarly exist in other countries? Or is this self-imposed bureaucracy an American thing?
People burn out, that’s a fact. When a small group of dedicated parents and staff do all the work and do it for years, it makes one tired and, I am sorry to say – resentful. This group did not appear to be so. They were concerned. Concerned that they would not be able to offer their student body all the good things that come from PTO (or TEAM) funding or organizational skills. No solutions were reached other than one teacher suggesting the kids from each grade level thank attendees at spring concerts and assemblies for their time, money, and talents, asking for their continued (or new) involvement. I hope that idea goes forward, there seemed to be a lot of support for it.
Fortunately, my time on PTO was finished a long time ago done. Although it was something I truly did not want to do or a role I got any enjoyment from, I served as a board member for 2 years and chaired several committees after that. Honestly, there are probably very few people who remember me in that volunteer role, as it was nearly 18 years ago now. PTO turned out not to be a great place for me to spend my time. I found other ways to contribute to the school – ways that were also needed, satisfying, and more meaningful to me. But, sitting in that meeting last night, I couldn’t help but wonder – Are all PTO’s the same?
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