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Why I might drown for the 2011-12 school year

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Friday was our back-to-school night. For the first time, my kids will be at the same school: my daughter is entering second grade and my son is in kindergarten.

Before you start congratulating me that I have “arrived,” kindergarten is for a measly 2.5 hours, a mere drop in the bucket in the downpour of motherhood.

What I hoped to get out of the evening: Meet my children’s teachers, deliver their school supplies, connect them with future classmates, and point out the bathrooms (it’s best to keep expectations low).

What I got: All of the above and so much more. (Side note: the bathroom were locked.)

I have admittedly held off on being involved in the school. I volunteered in my daughter’s classroom a couple of times a month and helped with class parties but avoided joining the PTA because of my already overbooked schedule.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the PTA–I’m truly grateful for the volunteers who work so hard. It’s just that I’m an all-or-nothing person. It’s easier for me to boycott things upfront rather than get sucked in when others aren’t stepping up. The outcome is usually that I become the one leading the charge.

You could say I have control issues. Or lack-of-control as it pertains to just saying “no.”

At the kindergarten orientation the night prior, there were two presenters. The first was the PTA President who coincidentally gave a private swim lesson to my water-shy son last summer and taught him to conquer his fears. I hedged on the idea of finally joining the PTA.

Until the next woman stood up. She heads up a completely separate committee called “Accountability” that deals with the nuts and bolts of the school. Budgets. Development. Bonds. Mill levies. This group works closely with the district and makes things happen.

While the subject matters sound tedious to a right-brainer like me, I’ve long wanted to become familiar with the school’s inner workings and find out why things happen the way they do. I was sold when I heard the only commitment was once a month for a 1.5-hour meeting and I signed up at back-to-school night.

As I walked away from the table, the PTA President interjected, “OK, now sign up for PTA!”

The PTA? Had she not just seen me sign up for Accountability, my token contribution? As I started to decline, my PTA-cheerleader friend Lisa swooped in and before I knew it, my all-or-nothing approach had turned into “all” as I also signed up for the PTA.

Rah rah rah.

I later tried to justify what had happened. I mean, the woman taught my son to swim. How could I NOT sign up?

I’m just hoping the 2011-12 school year will not be my year to drown.

Do you volunteer at your children’s school?

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  • comment avatar Laura August 22, 2011

    Don’t want to freak you out but I started by avoiding the PTA and am now president. But honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a robust committee that helps A TON and am aligned with the goals of the school. My involvement is making my children’s education that much better.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 22, 2011

    Awk, don’t tell me that. I definitely could not handle the time commitment of being PTA President but good for you. I’m thinking I could do the social committee. You know. Greet people at the meetings. :)

  • comment avatar JoAnn August 22, 2011

    Oh no, Amber! Good luck with that!

    After what we lovingly refer to as the Moms Club Debacle: The Years of Tyranny, I am going into Claire’s Kindergarten Year very hesitantly on the volunteering front. This said, her Charter requires 20 hours a year of volunteering from the parents, or parent, or in our case: me. (It’s not really volunteering if it’s required, right? But, I digress.) I’d wanted to be involved at her school, and this requirement is the perfect excuse to do what I can and not be in charge of anything…or everything…as is my tendency.

    Why is it that our choices are often doing do nothing or do everything? My goal is to break that stereotype and find a happy balance.

    Okay, please stop laughing… ;)

    My goal for today, Claire’s First Day? Get through it without bursting into tears. Then again, they probably won’t approach a blubbering mess of a mom and ask her to do anything, will they? ;) They’ll give me a week or two, I’m sure.

  • comment avatar Kara August 22, 2011

    I’ve been a part of my kids’ elementary school Accountability Committee for 6 years. Love the 1.5 hour meetings once a month, and indeed it is infinitely valuable for really understanding the inner goings-on at the school. Highly recommend.

    I helped to start our PTA (we call it PIE – Partners in Education) four years ago, and I was on the board for 3 years — intimately involved, serving as secretary! I bowed out for this year, as my youngest is in his last year at the elementary school, and I think it’s important for moms/parents of younger kids to get more involved. Of course, I’ll still make baked goods, donate my time/money, volunteer for field trips, etc., but I look forward to not being as involved this year. :-) I’ve been on the down-lo at the middle school, where, honestly, parent help isn’t *quite* as needed. But I do go to those Accountability meetings.

    However, I have found a role that really suits me – last spring I started a grant writing committee, and have already written on grant that earned us $2000 for our elementary school library. :-)

    Can’t wait to see how you, um, find time to do it all, Amber!

  • comment avatar Connie Weiss August 22, 2011

    Our schools sound very similar Amber! I wonder if our son’s are attending the same on?

    I’m planning to join the PTA and my husband will be joining the Accountability Team. Then all bases will be covered!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 22, 2011

    JoAnn–”Moms Club Debacle: The Years of Tyranny”? There must be some quality blog post about it, right?

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 22, 2011

    Connie–I like the idea of both parents joining different committees. Gotta say, though there’s NO WAY my hubby would do that. ;)

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 22, 2011

    Kara–I had no idea you were such a do-gooder…errr…volunteerer (is that a word? :) Great tips on finding your place. I already know Accountability isn’t going to be my thing but I’m eager to learn more about the school. I like the balance you’ve struck with finding something that taps into your talents.

  • comment avatar Isabelle D August 22, 2011

    Not wanting to add to your fear of “drawning” but after years of doing so at my children’ school it is just how I felt, the secret ? leave while you are still having fun doing it, don’t wait to be completely bored… and don’t feel guilty about it !!!

  • comment avatar Carol S August 22, 2011

    yes you are insane, but it is a great opportunity to stand up for good standards and values. You can be heard (and I am sure you will!)

  • comment avatar Ana loukopoulos August 23, 2011

    I have three children and I volunteer every so often but would never get involve with the PTA too much politics and too many opinions from mothers some always want to take over and it’s what they say or no way it happens in my school a lot . I like fairness and I know I would have a problem if I get involve, so I pick my battles when it comes to volunteering :)

  • comment avatar serf 'rett August 23, 2011

    It could be worse.

    We were the head of the PAT at our school for 16 (long) years.

    When you homeschool, you are Parent And Teacher; i.e., PAT. Before grousing about your 2.5 hour break, think about teaching the little critters at home for the next 14 years.

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