Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Selling Loot or Securing Literacy?

The PTO should be renamed MMM. For Money-Making Machines.

Have parent-teacher organizations always been fixated on fundraisers and frivolous activities? I have attended a couple PTO meetings in the short time I've had school-aged children, and I'm in awe of how the officers are dumbfounded as to why there isn't greater parent participation.

Uh, maybe because all you talk about is where to beg for money next? Who wants to conclude their Tuesday night in a meeting like that when reruns of The Office are calling?

I think PTO volunteers are getting lost in their own fundraising fervor. If they stop and look at what they're actually raising money for, perhaps things could change.

For instance, money raised pays for Pastries for Parents.

Really? We need another lame excuse to get kids out of the classroom so they can fall even farther behind in their literacy? And our society is obese as it is - why are we inviting everyone to consume more fat and sugar? Great lessons we're teaching our kids, huh?

Frankly, I think inviting parents or grandparents into school for "special" events like that is simply a bad idea. And here's why.

I attended an elementary school that did the "Donuts for Dad" and "Muffins for Mom" and "God-knows-what for Grandma," and it left me feeling sad and foolish.

Because my Dad had to work, Mom didn't always consider it a good use of time to make a 17-mile trip into town to eat a muffin for 6 minutes (I don't blame her one bit! Besides, my most vivid memory of "Muffins for Mom" was getting poisoned by the pointless pastry and being home sick the next day!!), and well, to be blunt - Grandma was dead.

So I spent those "special" events sitting by the other orphaned kids wallowing in self-pity. Or worse yet - I remember not even being included in the festivities one year if a family member didn't come. Sheesh, let's just stamp "NO ONE LOVES ME" on our foreheads and call it a day.

Ugh. I just don't see the point in the torment. Save the money you'd spend on those doughnuts and ask those parents to come to the classroom to volunteer - you know, actually contribute to a child's education instead of their risk for diabetes.

Because that's what I don't get. Parents are given a mile-long list of activities with a plea to check the box of whichever ones they'd be willing to volunteer for (Cake-walking Carnival, Bingo Bliss, Store Day for Six Graders)...but it doesn't put any emphasis on say, coming in once or twice a month, taking a mere half hour of the day to review spelling words. Listen to kids read. Or - gasp! - hear them count to 100.

No, let's send catalogs home so that kids can beg family and friends to buy worthless junk so the PTO can claim only a percentage of the profits to buy flowers for the secretary on Secretary's Day.

Is this really the best way to go about these things? I'd rather have someone simply ask me for a donation than to turn my kids into wrapping paper salesmen.

And don't even get me started on how they use our kids as pawns.

"Mommy, you have to fill this out so I can get a duck!" my daughter pleads as she rips the fundraising packet from her backpack.

A duck?! Huh?

Upon further inspection, I see that if I fill out these forms, the school will mail them to all of our out-of-town family and friends to beg for their support of their precious little niece or grandson.

Now, come on. If my family hasn't heard from me in over a month and the first correspondence they get is solicitation from my child, that just seems wrong.

And all this so my kid can earn a little rubber duck.

Are you kidding me?!

But those desperate little faces beam at the thought of earning a duck, so they grab a pen, shove the forms in my face, and wait for my response.

I wasn't the most popular parent that afternoon, but they'll get over it. It wasn't days earlier when my son was insistent upon ordering IronMan's Friends and Foes from the book order form sent home that day. Newsflash: the library is full of books. And I can get them for free!

Honestly, if I got as many A+ papers sent home as I do "buy me and sell me" packets, I'd feel much better about the educational institution I'm sending my children to on a daily basis.

Instead, my kid is supposed to sell six ounces of gummy bears for $8 so they can host a book fair. Which will then cost me even more money as my child begs me to buy the entire Junie B. Jones series.

Hey, I understand funds go toward legitimate tools for the classrooms, too. The ActiveBoards are helpful. Computer labs are important. Teachers needs supplies. I get it. But I also know there are grants for many of those things, and when I find out all the box tops I've been feverishly clipping are only going into the treasury of the Boy Scouts, I get a bit miffed.

I don't consider it wise stewardship to give money to some kid so he can learn how to fly-fish. I'd much rather give to a teacher to utilize in a classroom so children learn the three R's instead of the three P's. (Parties, Pastries and Peddling.)

I completely understand why participation in these PTOs is poor. Until there's a good reason to show up (ie. the betterment of my child's education), I'll be helping my kid with his homework at 7pm instead of discussing the significant number of "insufficient funds" checks received with the latest fundraiser.

And I'll gladly hand my child's teacher money out of my own pocket so she can breathe a little easier when it's time to replace that broken headset or buy new supplies. And I won't even demand a bag of gummy bears in return!

Because I'd love for my kids to race home from school and shove their well-earned test grade in my face instead of an order form.

Who knows? I may be so proud I'll spring for a duck.


  1. Well Maxine, when you put it that way, I would have to agree with you. You had some wise input concerning this subject. Because my children are grown I've been removed from all of this for awhile. I especially appreciated the comment about relative being "hit up" when you haven't commincated in awhile. So true. I know it would be so wonderful for parents to give of their time in the classroom. The teachers and students could use this encouragement and help that we have in our power to do. It takes time and effort. Do we value not only our own children's welfare but the welfare of that other child that can benefit from our meager effort? Yes!!

  2. Thanks, Kathy. I love to volunteer in my kids' classrooms because not only do I get a better sense of how they are doing academically and socially, it is nice to learn who the other kids are - and to watch their teacher in action. It gives an insight you can't get any other way. And it is a great way to realize what needs are there and how to help.

  3. You took the words right out of my mouth... :)

  4. OMG, I am worn out just reading your post LOL. To be honest, as a kid I never liked selling all of that stuff. I never did it and I think my parents were relieved I didn't want to do it.

    Your post cracked me up!