The PTA: For All of Our Kids


It’s strange what having a relaxing weekend away will do to you. Suddenly you start seeing things in a different light. I love my job. Truly love it. But it’s a far and away distant second when it comes to my family. Everyday, my boy, my girl, and Laurel remind me of just how lucky I am. And getting to spend a weekend at the lake with them just reinforces it for me.

I’m honored to be a part of a group called the Rocket City Bloggers. These are a collection of some really amazing writers who give away their ideas, suggestions, hints and art to anyone who wants to take a look. (Which is, by the way, just another thing that I love about the Rocket City: its diversity and art.)

Every month someone in the group hosts a Rocket City Blogging Carnival that displays the work of the collective group all in one easy location for browsing. It’s a great way to meet new writers and to hear new ideas. This month’s carnival follows the theme of “Huntsville Favorites.”

So I’ve been in positive frame of mind. What of it?

Just kidding. I’m just thankful to have a weekend away from work to unpack some of the ideas that have been floating around like the first yellow and red leaves on the lake.

So this weekend, the PTA has been on my mind, and I realized that I had been negligent in writing about things that make a difference in education by not having mentioned the PTAs by name yet. This is a shame since Huntsville PTAs (in particular the ones at Farley, Challenger and Mt. Gap Elementary) are some of my Huntsville Favorites.

Sometimes PTAs get a bad rap. Occasionally PTAs seem like you’ve stepped back in time and are in grade school all over again. Many of the same battles that you faced in school get rehashed later in life. Jeannie C. Riley had a wonderful tongue-in-cheek hit with it in the late sixties about the Harper Valley PTA which made excellent hay pointing out hypocrisy for humor.

On a more serious note, PTAs are often accused of being an exclusive playground designed to garner special consideration for their own children keeping others locked out.

This is not true of the PTAs here in the Huntsville PTAs. As a member of two PTAs (Challenger Elementary and Mt. Gap Elementary), I can readily say that I’ve never know a group of parents who are more wiling to give up their time, energy, and money trying to make sure of just a few things:

  • That our schools are as well supplied, maintained, and safe as possible for all kids;
  • That our teachers are supported and appreciated so that they may actually focus on teaching rather than fundraising, maintenance and security;
  • That the administration of our schools are constantly aware that the parents in this town are involved, inquisitive, informed, and that we are watching.

This is the role that a PTA plays. When it works, as it does here in Huntsville, it works because people are putting aside their differences and working together toward a common goal.

Our PTAs aren’t Conservative verses Liberal. They aren’t Rich verses Poor. They aren’t the “in crowd” verses “the outcasts.” Despite occasionally ribbing over in state rivalries, (football season did begin on Saturday after all), our PTAs aren’t even divided by cries of War Eagle and Roll Tide.

Our PTAs are places where everyone, everyone can participate.

Everyone can work together for our common goals of putting students first. That’s the beauty of the PTA; it is a democracy at its finest. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, rich or poor, handicapped or able to run freely. It doesn’t matter if you were a cheerleader, the football captain, or the nerd sitting in the library (like me), if you care about putting students first, you’ll be welcomed.

The PTA gives everyone, even those who do not speak often like my son, a voice in the development and direction of our schools.

By holding the car line still just a little longer in the morning, by bringing gluten-free cupcakes to parties, by hosting awareness raising celebrations, by giving a child an extra hand with the hula-hoop until he gets the idea, our PTAs  go out of their way to be inclusive and supportive of those students who have special needs. For this, I say thank you, and the boy offers his high five.

All that having a voice requires is participation at whatever level you’re capable. My experience has been that even those who work full-time can find a way to help out after schools have closed. In short, there is something here for everyone. That is, if (and yes, it’s a big if) we’re willing to set aside our differences, our isolationism, our selfishness to work together for a common goal.

Our PTAs are wonderfully diverse, accepting, and welcoming. Yes, occasionally they have flaws and weaknesses, but they’re made up of humans. It comes with the territory.

But if you believe in making your child’s school a better place, if you believe in putting students first, join your PTA, and share your voice.

You know, for the kids. All of them.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


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