In writing a recent blog post, I found that I have some pretty cut and dry rules about how PTOs should be run. And how people should act within those organizations. And because I’m not one to shay away from saying what I think, buckle up! The air might get bumpy here…
In no particular order, I present the Ten Commandments for all PTOs and school parent groups!
1. Fun should be the mission
Seriously. If you’re not having fun overall, then why are you doing it?
Now, I’m not talking about having fun while you’re doing everything that it sometimes takes to pull off events. But on the whole- are you having fun? Is all the work you’re putting in worth it? If not, time to move along there, little doggie.
2. In every thing a PTO does, benefiting the students should be at the core
Maybe I should have put this as number one. But I did say that I didn’t rank these commandments, so…
I just think that this is something that every PTO volunteer and every PTO leader and every parent and every staff member at a school with a PTO needs to keep in mind. It’s all for the kids. Kids are the reason the school exists and PTOs exist to serve students, staff and school families. So take a look at your programs and events, and make sure they are truly serving the kids.
3. Happy teachers (and staff) make for happy children and thus, happy parents
When people feel they are appreciated, they will be much more willing to go above and beyond when asked, and perhaps maybe even when they’re not asked! And I’ve also found that happiness tends to have a trickle down effect in schools.
Generally, happier teachers for sure yield happier children and also happier parents! So while the students are the first concern of the PTO, don’t forget about addressing the needs and concerns of teachers and staff!
4. Thou shall not steal
Do I need to elaborate on this one? Didn’t think so.
5. Thou shall not let stealing from the PTO occur
Now this one- this one I’m totally going to get into!
Each and every PTO has the responsibility and duty to ensure that it is not being stolen from. I don’t think anyone actually thinks to themselves that they’ll be lax about things and then theft occurs. But I do think that folks let some things slide and then that’s when trouble happens.
For example, make sure an audit of the books is done by someone independent of the President and Treasurer each and every year. Make sure this requirement is part of your governing documents (aka Bylaws and/or Standing Rules).
If you don’t have these governing rules, you now have a priority action to take with getting some drafted and approved by your group- now!
6. Thou shall aim to be selfless, but not a doormat
Stop being a glutton for punishment and set some limits already. You have to take care of yourself and your family because nobody else is going to do it for you.
Get your spouse on board with what you’re doing for the PTO so they can be supportive of you too!
It totally is possible to give pretty selflessly, and not feel as if you’re getting walked all over.If you feel like you’re the only one that can do something, perhaps it doesn’t have to be done! If it is something you don’t want to give up, look for partners to help you.
7. Thou shall be respectful
At all times be respectful! This is another thing that should go without saying, but when tempers flare and people get stressed out, it can be easy to lose sight of this golden rule. Being respectful at all times will get you really far in the game. For more about how to deal with difficult people in PTO land, check out this post.
8. Thou shall not gossip
Gossip contributes to a negative environment and feeds into the clique stereotype that abounds about parent groups like PTOs and PTAs. Try your very best to avoid gossiping for a healthy PTO.
9. There’s no us vs. them
I see this come up in a variety of ways, and especially when it comes to miscommunications between the school and the PTO or the school district and the PTO. The plain fact is that there are a lot of moving pieces and parts in a PTO and also in a school and it’s super easy for miscommunication or even the wrong information to be communicated. No malice is involved. It just happens because people are busy.
If you feel like the PTO’s goals and interests are in competition with the schools, then you had better have a sit down conversation with your principal ASAP and get on the same page. It won’t benefit anyone if the PTO and the school don’t have an understanding of what the goals and expectations are.
10. Don’t compare your group to others
Instead of looking at other parent groups and doing the whole compare and despair thing, treat what other groups are as inspiration and not as something that you’re doing wrong. Work with what you have and don’t beat yourself up that you can’t do more.
If you’re a new group just getting started, take care to have patience and keep plugging away. You’ll find success soon enough. If you’re an older group, find ways to re-group, claim what’s working and chart out a plan to success!
Over to you!
What would be your 11th commandment to add to this list? Let me hear it in the comments below!
If you haven’t already, come join me in my Facebook Group just for PTA/PTO Leaders and Volunteers! It’s a great place to get the advice and support you need! Fill out the form below and I’ll send you the link to join!