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Parent Teacher Organization Tips: 4 Ways to Make the Most of Yours
Engage your PTO volunteers to help you coordinate activities and achieve other goals.
A parent teacher organization (PTO) gives parents and teachers the opportunity to work together to supplement and enrich the educational experience. And with today's tight budgets, a strong, well-functioning PTO can be a teacher's most important ally when it comes to achieving curricular and fundraising goals. If you're not sure how to get parents more involved and make sure everyone is working toward the same goals, here are four ways to collaborate with your school's PTO.
Crowdfunding is a great way to pool small amounts of money to get classroom tools and supplies that aren't covered by your budget. My school's PTO posts fundraising efforts on their Facebook page, and every parent who follows that page can then share the request with their own family members and friends. I know that my father—who lives all the way across the country—made a donation to my son's kindergarten teacher's request last year after seeing it shared on my page.
Finding Fun Educational Activities
When it comes to planning activities outside the classroom, scouting potential opportunities can be a difficult task to do alone. When you get your parent teacher organization members involved in the search, you multiply your reach in the community and also allow parents to help craft their kids' learning experience. And when parents themselves are excited about a suggested activity or trip, it certainly doesn't hurt fundraising efforts!
If parents have visited a newer attraction in the area, they can also give you advice on whether it's worth the expense. In the metropolitan area where I live, a for-profit aquarium opened a few years ago. It was greeted with a lot of excitement, as the only other public aquarium is a two-hour drive away. However, after some parents visited, they let teachers know the facility was small and poorly maintained, and the staff wasn't knowledgeable about the animals. After all, there's nothing worse than paying for a costly bus trip only to be let down by the lack of learning the experience provides.
Providing Help for Your Neediest Students
The PTO is also a wonderful resource for community outreach and support. It can organize parties to fill backpacks with school supplies before school starts, giving trees during the holidays, or weekend snack packs of non-perishable food items for students who receive free or reduced-priced meals during the week. A giving tree organized by the PTO, in particular, allows all parents to help give back to the school community. Each winter, I grab a few tags from our school's giving tree that request particular items for families each year, and then I go with my son to shop and fill the requests.
Increasing Parental Involvement
Not every parent has the time or energy to be part of the PTO, and that's fine—a group that's too big can get bogged down. But parental involvement is important to student success. Check in with your PTO members at the beginning of the school year to create a plan for giving other parents the tools they need to help their students with homework and classroom routines. Then check in to see how well it's working as the school year goes on so you can make adjustments to keep everyone informed and involved.
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A parent teacher organization works best when everyone has a clear idea of what goals they're working toward. Set your school's PTO up for success by providing specific projects to focus on and keeping lines of communication open during monthly meetings and through e-mail between meetings. These steps will make working together easy, enjoyable, and productive.