When my older son was in elementary school, I avoided joining the PTO. It’s not that I was a loaf; I participated in Cub Scouts, lent a hand in Little League and youth soccer as team mom, volunteered in classrooms, and took on small projects for some teachers. Sometimes I regretted the choice to stay out of PTO, since the PTO moms seemed to have an “in” with some of the teachers and school admin. Perhaps my son would have been even more successful in school if I’d volunteered a little more of my time.
That was my thinking when I finally joined PTO when son #2 was in kindergarten. In our town, all public kindergarteners attend the same school, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet moms from all over town, before the kids split off into three different elementary schools. Apparently, dads won’t join unless there’s a ball or fire or camping or something involved in the organization.
At the first board meeting, it was apparent that most of these moms knew each other already! I was older than they were (“Wow, you have a son in senior year and one in kindergarten! You look so young!”) They must have sensed that I was willing to do whatever I could to fit in. “We have an opening in the communications job. Would you like to do the school newsletter?” I said yes without knowing just how much work that would involve. I mean, I had been on the high school newspaper, rounding out that brief career as editor of the opinion page, so I’m not work-a-phobic. As newsletter chairperson, I was required to attend all board and general meetings, take notes, gather announcements, write the newsletter, meet with the principal for approval, then publish the thing and get it copied. After that, all I had to do was count them out by classes and distribute them to all teachers and staff. It was a full-time, thankless job. Worst part was that no matter how hard I tried, I was the newsletter lady and although I met several teachers, I wasn’t an officer in the organization and really didn’t establish any long-term connections with the rest of the PTO moms.
It was a blessing in disguise.
The PTO officers ran that organization like they were CEO’s of a bank. They were pushy and unopen to new ideas. We do it this way. Blah blah blah. I was sick of them before we hit the
Christmas winter break, and I dreaded going to the board meetings. The only saving grace was my chumminess with the principal, who knew my son by name and became aware of his challenges. When I brought the newsletter to her each month, we’d have little chats, and I was not just another face in the school.
So, I shut up and wrote my little newsletter, got it out on time, for the most part, and finished out the year. Needless to say, I have not been interested in any further PTO activity. Still, I buy overpriced cookie dough, frozen pies, and endless magazines, just so I have to spend only 7 bucks to send my kid on a field trip.
When I got the email from the Middle School PTO, concerning their upcoming fundraiser, I was a little surprised, even though I was familiar with their M.O..
One of their annual fundraisers is called the Coffee House. It’s a Friday evening when the kids can come to school, hang out, have snacks, listen to tunes, dance, etc. We used to call them dances, but I guess this is looser than that. Parents are welcome, and there are raffles and silent auctions.
Each team/class creates a basket for the raffle, and they are themed. Son’s class has been assigned the theme of “Pop Culture.” Fine and dandy.
The thing that annoys me to no end is that this email states the theme and suggests donations for the basket. There’s a long list of suggestions, too, and an invite to buy gift cards for the basket from a site that benefits the PTO, meaning, wow, a double bonus for the PTO coffers.
Nowhere in this email is the word “please.” No “Please consider donating an item for the raffle basket.” No “We would appreciate a donation.” Not one polite word asking for my thoughtful gift to their raffle.
It’s just: We’re having a raffle. We would like these things, and they are due on February 1st.
And then there’s the “thanks in advance.” Sorry, that’s too little, too late.
But I guess I should be happy enough to see a thanks in advance. After all, they are the PTO.