I have just completed my first year as Chair of our PTA, and it seems a perfect time to reflect on what I’ve learnt. Which is a lot… so here are my top six:
1. Communication is hard - I mean REALLY hard (even though it's my day job)
I have learnt that I need to be communicating ALL THE TIME to keep people up to date with what’s going on. I’ve had a bit of an insight in to the challenges that schools face. Non-stop posters, sign-up sheets, flyers in bags or handed out (if I'm feeling brave), parent mails, emails, Facebook posts, face to face... and repeat... However, whatever you do you’ll probably still get someone saying 'I didn't know about it!'
2. Don't be afraid to ask. If you don't ask you don't get!
Prizes, donations, resources, match funding or someone’s time - the only way to get any of these things is to ASK (and face to face helps – it’s harder for them to say no!) Be specific with what you want and people are often very willing to help. An important part of being chair is about being approachable and inclusive. I’ve found that a wide smile and being upbeat does help to rally the troops and gain people’s support and confidence.
3. Mix up the old and new
It's tempting to do the same things year after year as you know they work, but everyone enjoys something a bit different. Be brave and consider adding something new to your plans. It may be a bit more hard work, but could also capture the imagination of a new group of people.
We had our first family bingo event this year which was really successful. I loved how inclusive it was having all ages involved. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater - there’s lots to be said for tried and tested activities that you know people enjoy.
4. Play to people's strengths
Helping at events isn’t for everyone and some people are happy to admit they aren't up for it. Instead they have supported the PTA in other (really helpful) ways – like approaching local businesses for raffle prizes, designing our amazing posters and flyers and even stuffing envelopes. Although this work is perhaps a bit more ‘behind the scenes’, these volunteers are a crucial part of the team.
5. Don't overlook the power of 'thank you'.
A small thank you goes a long way. Even if perhaps you’ve not had the support you were hoping for, people are more likely to offer next time if they realise how important and valued their help was. Thank everyone – parents, staff, local community and even pupils, for helping, joining in and even their feedback (even if it wasn’t all that positive!). And don’t forget to share your successes with everyone. Shout about how their support has really helped the school and the children.
6. It's really satisfying.
Despite being REALLY hard work, I've thoroughly enjoyed my year as chair. I've really got to know and understand the school and the value of the contribution we are making. I've met lots of new people and been involved in bringing the school community together at some fun events. Plus my son thinks I'm cool (I wonder how long that will last!) He loves to see me at school and enjoys helping out when he can.
I’m definitely looking forward to a bit of ‘time off’ from PTA duties over the summer (although not sure we ever really switch off?) But I’ll be back ready and raring to go in September.
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