How To Start A Parents’ Group At Your Child’s School
By Justice Fergie of Just Fergie
You’ve heard the parenting professionals say it time and time again: “the key to your child having a successful education is parental involvement.” And you know in your heart of hearts that it’s true – after all you are the one who channeled your old Home Economics teacher and taught your little one how to make a mean Easy-Bake Oven cake. When it comes to your little one’s school, you’ve attended each of the Parents’ Nights, been a chaperon for all the field trips (yes, including the one to the local landfill), and you’ve even written your own list of ways to improve the school library. In short, you’ve been an active school parent but you imagine the day when the school has an organized group of parents that can pool its resources and do even more. Fear not my altruistic parents – that day is here. You can take the lead in starting a parents’ group at your child’s school with these 5 simple steps.
1. Do your research
Before you start putting up fliers and calling meetings to order, you’ll need to do some due diligence. Find out if there is an existing group that you may not know about, or one that did exist but that is currently dormant. If so, get in touch with the person in charge and find out ways that you can help improve the group. Take your ideas and build on systems already in place. But, if you’re certain that no such group exists, the path is clear for you to do your thing. But first, take some time to educate yourself about the various types of parents’ organizations out there.
PTAs, PTOs, PCCs, PTGs, HSAs – confused yet? Don’t be. An hour or so on Google will reveal the attributes of each. Once you determine which organization type will best suit your school, it’s time to put your plan in action.
2. Meet With The Leaders
Ok, so you may not be Hillary, but you’ve got your own diplomatic agenda. You are, after all, going to be working with the school faculty to bring the group to fruition, so you will need its blessing and support early on. Approach your child’s teacher and/or the school principal with your idea and solicit feedback. Ask what it would like to see a parents’ group do for the school and take notes. Give the faculty a brief outline of your game plan and make sure that the powers that be are comfortable with your ideas. While there may be things about the school that you would like to change or improve, keep in mind that no one knows the inner-workings of the school better than its leadership. Having it in your corner is essential to building a successful parents’ group.
3. Rally The Troops
Now it’s flier time! Use as many channels as you can to get the word out about the new group. Posting fliers around campus, sending messages via the classrooms listserves, posting on the school website and sending notes home with students are all ways that you can let the other parents know that their talents, time and opinions are needed. Your notices should include details inviting interested parents to attend a planning meeting. Make your message friendly and inviting, asking parents to come to the meeting with their own ideas and suggestions. Note that childcare will be provided (if you can swing it). Finally, don’t forget to include on the fliers that refreshments will be served. There’s nothing like free cupcakes and coffee to draw folks on the fence out to an event.
4. Take Charge
On the day of the meeting, it’s important to be prepared. Put together an agenda. Arrive early and make sure the room is properly set up. Put out those refreshments and watch the parent volunteers file in. Don’t worry if the turnout isn’t what you expected. It only takes a handful of people to get the ball rolling. Remember: if you build it, they will come. Have each meeting attendee sign in with their contact information and any list special skill he/ she has. Call the meeting to order and introduce yourself and give a short overview of your intentions. Have the parents introduce themselves and then it’s time to dive right in. Ask what parents like and dislike about the school. Find out what ideas they might have to bring to the table. Express what the school’s needs are based on your conversations with the school faculty and staff. By the end of the first meeting; you should have come to an agreement on some general goals for the school year; who the group’s leaders will be (or at least how you plan to choose those officers); what committees will be formed; and – most importantly – a date, time and place for the next meeting. Keep the first meeting short, light and productive. It will set the tone for the next ones to come.
You’ve held two or three meetings and you have a working set of goals outlined for the next several months. Assign each willing and able volunteer a task of which to to take charge and work as a team to get them accomplished. Start with the smaller projects first (i.e. a Classroom Cleanup Day or a school directory) and work your way up to the more difficult ones (i.e. a fundraiser to rehab the playground). Be patient and take baby steps. As with any other group, you will face challenges from time to time. The most important thing to remember – stay positive, stay engaged and keep your eye on the prize: an enriching school experience for your kids.