Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

PTA/PTO Groups Are Key in Bullying Prevention

October...and Bullying Prevention Awareness Month...are over but since 31 days wasn't enough to share what certain organizations/foundations and businesses are doing to untangle one string at a time, Tangled Ball is spilling over to November to highlight some important work.

One of the biggest challenges in untangling the whole bullying mess is engaging more parents. It seems like there's an endless number of factors that make bullying difficult to control but the one thing that most experts agree on is that more adults need to step up.

Parents are key for a few reasons. One is that parents should be responsible for teaching kids to treat others well BEFORE they go to school, including correcting them when they don't and praising them when they do.

Once kids are school age, involvement needs to kick into gear. This is a huge issue for schools these days. How do we get more parents interested in participating in their kids' education, including school climate? Especially, since there are more single parent homes or homes with both parents working.

Kids just do better when adults, particularly their parents, care. You may not have thought that PTAs and PTOs were that important but after studying this problem for a while, it's clear that these organizations are key to a school's success and to the quality of our children's experience.

PTO Today is a company that recognizes that today's schools need good tools, resources and creative problem solving to adapt to the challenge of involving parents. Brilliant! School parent groups have to keep up with the times. Intrigued by their Web site, blog and company mission, I asked Tim Sullivan, Founder and President, the following questions:

What is the goal of PTO or PTAs?

The specifics of this answer vary by school, but in general terms every PTO or PTA or HSA that I work with has the simple goal to bring parents together to make their school a great place for their kids. What that means at any given school really depends on the school. At some schools, resources are so low that the PTO spends a ton of time advocating for better budgets and/or trying to provide those resources themselves. In other schools the PTO or PTA focuses almost exclusively on building parent involvement and community through family events and enrichment activities. For most PTOs, meeting that goal of making the school a great place for the kids involves a combination that starts with building parent involvement and also includes enrichment efforts (activities that supplement the academic offerings) and – of course -- fundraising.

With so many two parent or single parent workers per household, is parent involvement a thing of the past ?

Definitely not. Is parent involvement different? Definitely. But gone or less essential? No way! The best parent groups adapt to the needs of their parents and change their own habits (email becoming much more essential than the standard old 7PM PTO meeting) and create opportunities for engagement that fit parent schedules and needs. I love events that serve parents (provide dinner!) or understand parent schedules (a donuts with dad event before school and before work). And I really love PTOs that find tons of different types of ways for parents to connect that do not require a month-long or year-long commitment. PTO Today’s “2 Hour Power” program is all about that. http://www.ptotoday.com/2hourpower/ Go to most schools today, and you’ll find powerful, successful examples of parents connecting with their schools. It’s popular to say that parent involvement is a thing of the past, but the facts just don’t bear that out.

So don't just consider getting involved. Make it a must...and even better yet, get your school excited about doing things a little differently. School climate will improve. Guarenteed.

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