Originally Posted by Linda on the move
It harder for people with less money to volunteer. The more money people have, the more flexibility they have. Language IS a barrier, and the parents who can volunteer DO get burned out. I think it's great that you are going to do some grant writing. I suspect that some of the posters really don't get what it's like in an area with 78% poverty.
Actually, I do understand the frustration in the regard (my kids may go to a choice program, but it's in a larger school with many of those issues, and I've been part of other far more impoverished title 1 schools). It's easy to just expect that none of "those families" want to help, but again, as I have made contacts in the community, I find that there are quite a few that do. It's not always the parents; sometimes it's the jr. high or high school sibs (or the upper elementary students). Our PTA runs on very little $$, with a small number of the same people that historically do everything (though we are trying to move beyond that. As the OP mentioned, it requires a lot of good modeling from leadership that you're not "stuck" doing it forever (and you have to be willing to not rescue everything, which can be really hard when you want YOUR kid to have access to that).
Again, for me, if I otherwise loved the school I would not shift to one just because the PTA/PTO is able to offer tons of bright and shiny baubles; esp. if my kids were happy where they were. Sometimes it's good too to focus on an even smaller project (like one limited to your children's classrooms) if you have a teacher willing to work with you. Their hands may be tied though, if the building principal is a hard sell (and you live in an area with strong principal autonomy). I guess I have always found having high expectations of everyone else tends to fry me to burnout really quick. If I focus more on things that I am personally willing to do and that I find fun (which for me personally DOES tend to include hanging out with the ELL families, so I can kind of practice my horrific, rusty Spanish and because I have met some really nice and fun people that I wouldn't have otherwise--but again, other people might find that incredibly frustrating or it just wouldn't work for other reasons) and just don't worry about what everyone else is doing, then for some weird reason I have more people become interested in what I'm doing and wanting to help. That works for me, though I don't know if it would work for other people. :)
I am thinking perhaps people have a far more specific idea about what constitutes "parent enrichment" than I do. The "projects" I am thinking of are free or $100 or under. I think my most favorite thing I have seen/participated in was a cultural festival night, where people could come and set up a table (provided by us) sharing about their country of origin. We worked with the ELL teachers to specifically reach out to families, and the response was enormous. Because the PTA sponsored it, renting the gym was free, so was the table rental. People brought in awesome stuff (and food!!!). We even had some arts performances by some of the kids--that the kids put on themselves and they were the ones that approached us, it hadn't even crossed our minds. The first year we bought a bunch of colorful plastic tableclothes to put over the tables/clusters of desks (they were pretty beat up). This was not my idea; I was kind of thinking that it wouldn't work actually. But it DID. Did it lead to a surge of new people volunteering every day at school? No. That's not realistic. But people had a great time, I had a great time, it was fun having a bunch of kids I'd known through library or other round the school volunteering drag me over to "their" table wanting to show me. Would that work again? Maybe, maybe not, it depends on the mix of families you have at the moment.
For me, though, that's fine. I don't care if something carries on forever, and I don't have a lot of expectations that what works once will always work again. I think where resources (whether it's $$ or time) you do what you can do when you can do it and just enjoy it when it works.
Edited by Tigerchild - 4/21/11 at 8:19am