I’m going to be honest. I’m a teacher at a school where I can’t attend the PTA meetings. The meetings are conducted in Chinese! My Mandarin is at the proficiency level of a toddler. My contributions would be… pathetic.
BUT, I’ve gotten to view many PTA/PTO meetings on YouTube.
They’re a drag. I was assigned the pleasure of watching them by my super awesome teacher certification course, (Teach-NOW is on the cutting edge of teacher certification, by the way). All of my cohort peers are in agreement. We represent teachers from every grade level, from pre-K to college, and we are on every continent except Africa. Peers who had PTAs in their schools typically did not counter what we saw on these videos. Our conclusion was that most PTAs are boring and ineffective. At worst, PTA meetings were scheduled at very inconvenient times for parents, like the middle of the working day! I sincerely hope yours is not boring or inconvenient!
PTAs at their core are meaningful. The premise of PTA is not the problem; the problem is the execution of these meetings.
The National Parent Teacher Association was founded originally as the National Congress of Mothers in 1897. Collectively this group has accomplished so much! I am personally thankful since, as a former public school student, I have been a beneficiary of their hard work!
But, it’s now 2015, and times have changed, along with the schools. Life has changed drastically in the USA since 1897, where most people knew their neighbors for their entire life. Compulsory education wasn’t even nationwide until Mississippi passed its compulsory education law in 1918. Parents now are just as time-strapped as their tech-savvy kids, if not more so. PTA needs to be made relevant and accessible to all parents.
After researching many PTA videos, here are the best ways to increase parent involvement. Have you seen a flipped classroom? At least, you’ve heard of it. The time has come to flip the PTA meeting.
FLIPPING VIDEOS Video mundane information, issues parents need to make a decision about, and announcements.
Ok, this is Salman Khan with Khan Academy. You might think this is totally unrelated, but Salman makes some great points. For one, and these are my paraphrased words, learners prefer to be able to hear main points in the comfort of their home and then pressing repeat if they don’t gather the information the first time rather than dealing with an impatient, in-person tutor. The classroom becomes humanized. PTA meetings shove a lot of info down parents’ throats in one sitting, and that can be hard to consume and then make an informed decision. Parents as a group have all different types of learners, too. And, as a parent, I’m more impatient about informational lectures now than I was when I was a student.
VIDEO AS A PARENT TEACHING TOOL
Use the video to set PTA rules of conduct AND to educate parents on best teaching/classroom/parent involvement practices that are based on research. For example, grandparents involved at my school believed looking at an interactive whiteboards from more than 10 minutes could hurt children’s eyes. Well, that’s just not based on science that says eye issues are mostly genetics. This would have been a good issue to inform through video first, then discussion.
MAKE MOMMA PROUD Showcase student achievement to connect parents with the students who are benefiting from the PTA work
Just watch the first few minutes. This was for a fundraiser, but students could do this to say thank you. This could also be recorded and sent through the video if necessary, but in person involvement from students is probably better.
IDEAS Let parents, teachers or a main facilitator present their solutions to issues they heard about in the videos before breaking into discussion groups.
WORK IT OUT Assign parents to heterogeneous groups for timed discussions after parents/teachers have gotten the chance to present their ideas about what was shared over the information and handouts shared previously to the meeting. Allow for a short time of presenting conclusions after discussions.
Why assign a heterogeneous group? Teachers use this tactic in school to increase diversity acceptance and to combat bullying in classrooms. If PTA/PTO organizations were to use this tactic to increase diversity acceptance among parents, this would further help diversity acceptance in the classroom. Parents have powerful influence into their children’s lives, especially the younger the child is.
VOTE ON IT Vote on any issues! Then elebrate your PTA awesomeness and let me know how it goes!
If you’re worried your PTA leader might take this post too personally, share it with your parent friends first. A group voice should be more accepted and less likely to be offensive if parents are coming together and saying this would be best for everyone.