grateful for small things

About two weeks ago, I was officially installed as the vice-president of the PTA at the Bee’s elementary school. It’s a sort of bizarre post–similar to the VP of the country, I guess, a lot of it is spent waiting around to see if you’re going to have to step up and do the ultimate job. Unlike the executive branch of our government, though, being the VP of the PTA guarantees you the top slot in two years. There wasn’t really an election or anything–they asked me to do it, and I said yes, all the while looking around me to see if there wasn’t someone else who really wanted to do it.

I got involved with the PTA at a time last year when I was between jobs, and I’m kind of afraid that these women think I have that kind of free time always, which I just don’t. But I also have a hidden agenda, which is to help transform the PTA into an organization that isn’t just about raising money, but is also about raising expectations at the school. Some of our test scores are bad, and when I raised concern about this last year, I was told (by both other parents and teachers) that this was attributable to the large number of students who speak English as a second language, as well as the high ‘transient’ population. (To decode, this refers to the Latino & black students who live in a moderate-sized apartment complex in our catchment area.) Now, I’m not actually sure that these students are any more transient than the white kids–of the Bee’s class last year, four left between K-1st grade, and two of those were white kids. But that isn’t really the point. The point is that it’s apparently okay with some parents in the school community that the school is failing to educate all of the kids here, as long as their particular kid is doing well. It’s not okay with me.

So last week, I was in the city, and went out to lunch with two former co-workers, some of my working mom pals–we all have kids within a couple of years of each other. We caught up on each others’ lives, and after hearing my friend J’s update of her divorce & custody fight, I started to tell them about my exciting new PTA position. First, they laughed for a good solid minute (and I did too). After they had fun at my expense, I starting telling them about the reasons that I got involved in the PTA–the test scores, the “soft bigotry of low expectations*,” the cookie baking opportunities (kidding!). And J said, “shit, in the district that I moved into (since the divorce), I’m worried that my kids aren’t going to make it to school at all! I need a landismom for my school PTA.” She went on to describe her worries that her son, who’s now in middle school, was going to suffer social promotion, because he’d be the kind of kid who is quiet, and teachers would like him because of that, but he’d fail every math class.

Suddenly, the Bee’s school didn’t seem so bad. But I did want to fight even harder to make it better.

*Damn you, Karl Rove, you master of phrase-turning!

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September 28, 2005. thoughtful parenting.

10 Comments

  1. Jessica replied:

    One of the things I like about you is you put your time and effort where you “mouth” is – meaning that you don’t just talk about your values, you live them. I think it’s great that you’re willing to be a part of the PTA and work to help not only your own kids and kids like them, but also the “forgotten” kids that really need a strong supporter like you.

    Good luck!

  2. MetroDad replied:

    Kudos to you for being proactive and getting so involved. I’ve always believed that public schools operate under much higher expectations when more and more parents are directly or indirectly involved. Having a mother who was a former teacher, I would always hear how big a difference it made when the PTA was serious about instituting organizational change. So congrats on the VP job. I can only imagine how much ime it will entail. But I think you’ll find it’s worth it!

  3. elise replied:

    Our PTA is pretty good, but it is one of those organizations that is so….not the way I am. I am not a good leader and definitely not a happy one. I have always done my volunteering in my kids classrooms. I feel good and valuable doing it since many teachers have asked me to come back even after my kids have moved on, this may be the first year that I have time to do that and probably will (if not this year, definitely next year). I was taken off guard when my youngests daughter’s 3rd grade teacher asked me to come in every week to help – there are a wide range of capabilities with the kids and she can use an extra person. Its very unusual for a parent to still be asked in by 3rd grade. I guess it helps that I did substitute teaching a couple of years. Makes me feel like I’m actually helping (other kids as well as my own). I do think volunteering is important, but you do have to be careful that you can say no when necessary. Just thought I’d put in my 2 cents so people maybe will be moved to help in some way.

  4. chip replied:

    go landismom! you’ll be a great PTA VP and then President too! Your kids’ school is lucky to have a parent like you taking this on. It can be frustrating but well worth the frustration.

  5. Indigo replied:

    My sister-in-law is the VP of our PTA, and she’s a teacher there too. She’s really pressuring me to get involved with the PTA, but honestly, it scares me to commit myself timewise, KWIM?

    Congrats on being VP of your PTA. Any words of advice for me?

  6. Leggy replied:

    Good for you- I think its important for progressive parents not to ignore stuff like PTA because they think it will be too aggrevating/frustrating, etc.

  7. Suzanne replied:

    I tip my hat to you — I’m a little afraid of PTAs (largely because of my own fear of group participation), and it’s good to hear that someone so progressive will be joining their ranks. Good luck!

  8. Comfort Addict replied:

    I know that you’re going to do a great job. I only wish that we could give you a promotion to that other VP slot that Cheney holds.

  9. christie replied:

    My sister is a teacher and I’m constantly hearing the politics of a school.

    It’s crazy.

    Glad you’re helping to make your kids’ school a better learning enviroment 🙂

  10. One year of BBSP « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] 10. grateful for small things […]

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