Last week was the annual book fair at our school. I’ve helped run the book fair for three years in a row, and now, this will be my last, since my fifth grader will be moving to the middle school next year. When parents have asked what we’ll do next year, I say both gleefully and with nostalgia “I’m not sure, I’ve run out of kids and won’t be here next year.”
Saying goodbye to the Book Fair is only one of the things I’ll miss next year. Being part of the PTO and the school community has been wonderful. I stepped up as Secretary for the PTO board this year, when no one else wanted the job. It meant being more involved than I planned to be, but it turned out to be so much fun and I really felt like I knew what was happening at the school. It made me feel overextended at times, but all in all, it was well worth it.
Last week also consisted of my last chaperone duty on an elementary school field trip, a 5:45 am to 9 pm day consisting of a trip for the fifth graders to Washington, DC. A fantastic day all around for everyone.
This meant (as one of my last weeks as a parent of an elementary school student) between the Book Fair, Family night, PTO evening meeting, and chaperoning, a week of almost 56 volunteer hours. It was a long week, but can I say I’ve gotten it out of my system? Probably not. While I complained about being exhausted and how crazy the week was, I was wearing my Victoria’s Secret nightshirt with the big VS on the front. I said that maybe I was taking this volunteer stuff too far, when my husband pointed out that he now knew Victoria’s true secret- the VS stands for “Volunteer” and “sucker” combined.
After composing myself from laughing too hard, I have to say, while I seem to have a “just say no” deficit when it comes to volunteering for school functions, I really love being a part of the school community. I love seeing the kids enjoy themselves. How proud kids are when they are spending their own money on books they can’t wait to read. When I bring a book home for my 14 year old and he finishes it in a day and a half-so fast from not being able to put it down for a moment. Kids taking in national monuments, not always seeing the more profound aspects, but knowing that those will sink in for them eventually. First graders rushing in with all the hope and joy in the world in the morning.
School can be such a great and magical place for kids and for adults. When school and even PTO discussions get centered around money, and programs and administrative hassles, sometimes you can lose sight of the common mission everyone shares-to make school, learning and our children’s childhoods as joyous and wonderful as possible. I know it’s hard when there are very real issues about what programs may need to be trimmed or cut completely. I know it’s hard to balance strict academics with exploration, play and discovery. I’m not sure any of this is ever easy for anybody.
But after being involved on our school, I know I pay those school taxes with a little less resentment. I buy those fund raising items with a thought that there really is good being done here. And I understand how tough it’s got to be to manage 22-30 children, not your own, every day, and make them all care about what you are trying to do with them and for them as a teacher.
I think being involved as a volunteer has made my life richer and has made me a better parent, understanding a bit more of everyone’s point of view. So if you get the chance and can spare the time, get involved. Join the PTO and do just a little bit for the greater good. Your kids will love seeing that you think education and their school is important. The teachers will know you care. And you’ll meet people you never would have know otherwise, sharing the common bond of kids and education, and I know you’ll never regret it, even when you are exhausted.
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by Whitney Hoffman
Photo graciously provided by Jacob Moyer, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved