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PTA Burnout: Is Parent Volunteering A Waste Of Time?

I was walking down the street the other day when I saw an attractive-looking poster advertising a Christmas fair. As I stopped to read the fine...

I was walking down the street the other day when I saw an attractive-looking poster advertising a Christmas fair. As I stopped to read the fine print, I did a double take. The fair was the one held annually at my daughter’s school. And for the first time in four years, I realized that I had no earthly idea how many raffle tickets we’d sold. Nor had I been the one to obtain the local business sponsor for the fair.

And then I remembered: Oh, yeah, right. I’m not on the PTA anymore.

As I wrote about several months ago on this blog, there’s a natural life cycle to being a member of the PTA. You come in — usually when your kids are new to the school. You do your thing — raise some money, run some bake sales, or in my case, achieve an alter-ego, rock star-like status in your community as “Raffle Lady,” which you’ll never quite manage to shake.

And then some combination of increased work demands, changing family priorities and one too many times jamming the PTA laminator sets in. And you hand off to the next gang, who come to that very first organizational meeting in September brimming with exactly the same irrepressible enthusiasm you once evinced, but now can barely manage to fake.

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I’ve been on the Julian Assange beat this week. Here’s a longer post previewing his arrest at Politics Daily, and here’s a short update now that he’s been arrested. Stay tuned, folks!

Image: Fondant Roses and Colorflow Butterflies by angegreen via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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  1. Daryl Boylan December 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Clearly, there’s an important distinction between necessary & superfluous volunteer tasking & between the really useful & the trivial.

  2. Patricia December 8, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    I am not missing all the fund-raising I have done for schools and grant writing for students and money for a college…and and and

    I have slipped into oblivion for sure

    But I should have gotten active for the midterm election cycle…the folks here thought a school bond issue was the same as raising taxes ( no it is supporting greening the schools by buying a bond) This ignorance of the difference truly cost our state dearly.

    But then with No Child Left Behind rules we have dropped from 17th in the Nation to 47th…Who cares? I don’t think many here do

  3. Cecilia December 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Like you I can see both sides of the argument and I’ve lived both sides as well. When my son started kindergarten I was practically a regular fixture at his school. But one day I actually went home fuming and crying, all because I was sitting in the classroom for over half an hour waiting for my volunteer math group to finish up with recess to meet me. When I finally asked about when the kids were going to be done the teacher told me that they had had a change in schedule. While I wondered if I had overreacted, I think the issue is that I had never felt fully appreciated as a school volunteer. In fact, at the kindergarten “graduation,” a gift and applause were bestowed upon the woman who came in to do reading groups every week (she had no children at the school) but no acknowledgement whatsoever was given to the dozen or so parents who had taken time off of work to help with parties, field trips, fundraisers, etc. I wonder if there is this sense on the schools’ part that, because our kids go to the school, it is somehow our “job” to also work at the school? I definitely don’t volunteer for the recognition but once in awhile it wouldn’t hurt if the schools acknowledged the value provided by their parent volunteers. This would’ve gone a long way in preventing my burn out this year.

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