As an advocate for schools, an advocate for volunteers at schools, and a volunteer myself, parents often ask me the best way to support PTOs. So let’s dive right in.
Volunteer parents make up the PTO. In turn, PTOs are essential to the smooth operation of a school. The first place to support PTOs is from a place of awareness that individuals who oversee the PTO are volunteer parents of other children at the school. With this knowledge, please honor that and hold each parent in a proper place of empathy and esteem as they contact you and ask for your support. I’ll speak for myself when I say that volunteer work is demanding, often thankless, and performed from a compulsion or feeling of obligation. Below are five ways to support PTOs based on my research and experience. Please put this to good use.
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What is a PTO, compared to a PTA, Parent Committee, etc.?
PTO stands for Parent Teacher Organization and is essentially a generic or “umbrella” term describing the parent volunteers associated with the school. PTA, the Parent Teacher Association, is a national organization that offers structure, services, and student advocacy to a PTO in return for paying dues to a state and national organization.
For an explainer of the history of the PTA and the differences between a PTO and a PTA, there is a detailed article at PTO Today here.
Understand the Role of PTOs in Schools
PTOs enrich the school community through their activities, engagement, and communications. For example, the scope of PTO communications between teachers, students, and the school administration is beyond the school’s daily operations and instruction. In addition, they are responsible for organizing activities such as teacher and staff appreciation, school events like plays, dances, and graduation, and campus improvements.
You might be surprised to learn this: the PTO leads most events at many schools.
Here is a Pro-Tip: When reading school announcements about activities and happenings, look to see who is doing the organizing. For example, for that music performance, did the music teacher organize it or the PTO? Or is that play, production, teacher appreciation, or campus garden managed by the PTO parents?
PTOs fundraise to purchase items or fund projects that benefit students or improve school facilities. For example, a PTO might raise money to buy new textbooks, standing desks, or upgrade classroom technology.
PTOs also coordinate parent volunteers who can offer their time and talents at special events like book fairs or field trips where additional adult supervision is needed. By providing extra staffing at these functions, PTOs ensure the focus of the activity is on learning and fun and not distracted by a lack of staffing.
Finally, some PTOs organize social gatherings throughout the year where families can come together outside school hours to get acquainted over food or games. The point is to foster community and encourage families and kids from diverse backgrounds and grades to form a connection. A +1 here is when local business sponsor the gatherings and further the vibrant community support.
PTOs are vital for connecting parents, teachers, and school staff. With this understanding of PTOs’ roles, let’s look at ways to support them.
Ways to Support PTOs
Giving your time and assets to back PTOs is a great approach to assist your school network. PTOs provide an essential link between teachers, parents, and students. By organizing activities that benefit the school and its members, PTOs connect teachers, parents, and students. Here are some ways you can support your local PTO:
1. Start with empathy and gratitude to Support PTOs
Start from a place of gratitude and empathy when thinking about the PTO. Since you know that the PTO comprises parent volunteers, try to imagine your own busy life, then imagine the busy lives of the other PTO parent volunteers. We regularly practice this at The Appreciation Company before each phone call, meeting, email sent, or blog post. We try to imagine the other person’s stresses, challenges, pains, and difficulties. We also envision what can bring the person we are speaking to joy and what is within our capacity and scope to help. By starting here, we are human, humble, and sympathetic to the work and the request.
2. Know the WHY behind the budget and help fundraise.
PTOs are seeking to help the school and the students. Unfortunately, it takes money to do this. To support PTOs, you can seek to know and understand the budget and help fundraise. What the PTO wants to accomplish maps back to the budget, and the budget drives the fundraising calendar. By understanding the ‘Why,’ you’ll know what the fundraiser is for and what the outcome aligns with. For example, it is easier to participate in a bake sale when you know it will purchase a standing desk for a teacher with lower back problems. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to a specific day, consider an activity like making phone calls in the evening to a few restaurants or local businesses. Likely, you have contacts, resources, or knowledge that can help with the budget and fundraising process.
3. Have a voice and speak up.
PTOs want your voice as well as your action. Share your opinion about what to do, what something should cost, and how to allocate money best. In addition, your participation allows you to engage with other parents who share your visions for their kids’ schooling. Being part of this team enables you to shape decisions that directly affect your child’s experience at school while also giving back to the larger school community.
4. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer.
Volunteering your time and resources to support PTOs can be a great way to impact your school community. You can contribute to various activities, such as organizing fundraisers, attending board meetings, managing after-school programs, taking field trips, and arranging movie nights. Join the board, lead a committee, or take on an activity.
5. Donate, Donate, Donate
Donating goods and materials is an excellent way of expressing your backing. Schools often run low on essential supplies like black dry-erase pens. Teaching is the only job in the world where staff steal supplies from home and bring them to work. You’ll be helping PTOs support the teachers by contributing supplies, decorations, and materials.
These are just some ways busy parents with school-aged children can support their local PTO. By donating your time and resources, you’ll make a difference to our children and bring about beneficial alterations in the whole community.
Investing in PTOs can guarantee that your children’s school has the resources to offer a quality education.
Benefits of Supporting PTOs
Supporting a PTO is a gratifying experience for busy parents with school-aged children. PTOs are volunteer organizations that provide invaluable support to schools, teachers, and students. By joining your school’s PTO, you’ll make it a great learning environment for your learner and every other child.
One of the primary benefits of supporting a PTO is improved morale among parents and staff members at the school. Uniting forces to pursue a shared objective can help generate an atmosphere of solidarity among the school community and encourage positive connections between all those involved in education – from directors, instructors, and pupils to parents. In addition, this collective effort leads to better communication among all parties, increasing student academic success.
Another benefit of supporting a PTO is increased community involvement in education initiatives such as fundraising events or student programs like after-school clubs or sports teams. By engaging in fundraising events or student programs, families can foster a sense of connection with their school district and strengthen the ties between the local community and the education system. As such, when parents get involved with their child’s schooling through volunteering at events or helping with projects around campus, they have an even greater appreciation for what goes on inside those walls daily.
Recap of How to Support PTOs
Expressing gratitude for their toil in our schools is an excellent way to support PTOs. By donating, volunteering, or raising awareness of their activities, we can ensure PTOs provide our students with the best educational experience. Supporting PTOs will ultimately benefit teachers, parents, and children.
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