Parent groups, volunteers, and cliques – tips from PTO Today

PTO Today is a US publication for parent groups, which often has information that works very well for Canadian parents.

Every year at back-to-school time, there’s a (sometimes combustible) mixture of brand-new, enthusiastic parents and grizzled parent group veterans. How you welcome that new energy (or not) and take full advantage of it (or not) can make or break your parent group for the entire year.

Seven things that volunteers hate

We’ve all been there ourselves. So be the change you want to see and do what you can to keep your school’s moms and dads from feeling the same way!

Six ways to connect with new volunteers:

How to react to critics:

…The question is, What do you do about [these criticisms]? And the answer will define the way your group is perceived. The wrong but very tempting response is to snap back at the critic with a snarky “Why don’t you try next time?” or an emotional but honest “You know, we try our best; it really stinks having to hear these criticisms.” While both responses are perfectly understandable, both responses will get talked about widely, and the story will be about how the parent group is just a clique and doesn’t want to hear from anyone. Or how you are a crank and it’s no wonder no one helps out. Unfair as heck, but reality.

Stop the PTO Drama:

…But sometimes it seems like drama is the norm rather than the exception for many parent groups, and there’s almost no way for involvement to grow and community to flourish in that kind of atmosphere. As a leader, one of your most basic goals has to be reducing or avoiding drama.

The truth about cliques

…Parent involvement is the most searched term on our Our involvement seminars are the most well attended talks at our PTO Today conferences. Clearly, parent group leaders want more parents involved. You’d love help. You’d gladly allow someone else a turn counting gift wrap receipts.

Why is it, then, that so many parents feel closed out of and unwelcome in parent groups? Why is “the PTO is a clique” the most whispered criticism of parent groups across the country?

The answer: Your group is a clique. The critics have a point.

Is your PTO a clique?

…Even when outsiders see a clique, PTO insiders often believe they are welcoming to new members. Officers and other active members just think that they’re the only ones who want to volunteer and that others aren’t interested in doing the work. But more often than not, it’s precisely that attitude that keeps fresh recruits away.

Even if a PTO truly is not cliquey, it must actively fight the perception that the group is unwelcoming. Because many parents have preconceived ideas equating parent groups with cliques, PTOs have to reach out to counter the idea that theirs is an exclusive club.

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