One week. That’s what’s left of our highly anticipated summer vacation. As it turned out, we ended up not actually doing much of anything and, if the truth be known, I traded a crazy school day schedule for a crazy summer schedule. Endless hours of carting kids to ballet, gymnastics, track practice & meets, Vacation Bible School, and various other fill in camps left very little time for a real vacation. We did manage to escape for a couple of days for a Texas road trip, but it was quick and easy.
On the other hand, it was good to have our mornings free from backpack checks and the what to make for lunch?dilemma. I’m just going to be honest here – I hate school mornings and, now that I think about it, I’m not that fond of after school either. Doing the homework hustle just to rush out of the door to whatever activity is scheduled for that particular evening is absolutely draining.
Complaining done. The back to school shopping is complete and I’m getting myself (and my girls) organized and ready for the school year. I am determined that by the time the first day of school rolls around we will be beyond ready. And if I keep telling myself this, I am bound to believe it.
Also, I’m getting back to my writing after a brief summer break and I must admit that it feels really good to finally put some of my random thoughts down on paper. I think that a lot of writers would agree that writing is tantamount to breathing. Not being able to express ourselves is equal to a water hose that can not release water. It just keeps building until it explodes. So many words floating around in my head.
Then there is this thing that I’ve added to my life this school year that I want to tell you about. I think I might be in over my head and I’m sure that my cool quotient might take a hit here, but I hope you’ll understand.
I have been a card-carrying member of a the PTA for the past 19 years. While I was a single mom it often meant just paying the membership fee to support PTA programs. However, often even when I was working outside of the home I made the time to also volunteer in the classroom or at a couple of events throughout the year. I believe strongly in volunteerism, particularly in schools and youth programs, so much so that I consider it a natural part of parenting.
Having said this, I intentionally separated myself from those PTA moms. You know the ones I’m talking about – snooty, bossy, controlling stay – at – home moms on a power trip to rule the ultimate click. You see, I know the stereotypes because I have said these things myself on more than one occasion. Therefore, I took great care to separate myself from those women, keeping to the fringes and doing my own thing.
Then we moved to Texas where everything is supersized, including the PTA.
I intended to stick to the same m.o. – pay my money and stay on the fringes, but what I hadn’t counted on was that the local school’s PTA treasurer lived on my street and even worse, she showed up at my door the day that we moved in with her kids and cookies (and they were good cookies). It’s hard to dislike people who bring you cookies. That year I paid my money, volunteered not only in the classroom (here’s a secret: I love reading to kids), but also, because the treasurer/neighbor asked me to, I took on an additional role on the perimeter of the PTA. The following year I joined the PTA board, but still I tried to keep my distance from those women.
Small confession – those women weren’t that bad at all. In fact, some of them were down right nice. Imagine that?
This school year I’m taking it a step further by accepting an officer/board position which makes me giggle every time I think about it. I know, some of y’all may be surprised and trust me, I am just as surprised as you are. Why am I doing this? I could tell you about the programs, supplies and equipment that the PTA purchases for the school and we can discuss the ever-present need for additional hands, because the work of many is often done by just a few. Also, I think that there is a need for my children to see me contribute in a meaningful way to their school and show that I am interested in such a big part of their lives. However, if I’m honest, the truth is that when asked, I felt convicted.
I write and talk a lot about racial equality, equal opportunity, and inclusion. I live in the single most diverse county in the United States (truth!) and my kids are enrolled in a school district where there are over 91 different languages spoken. Really, if there were ever a place that could do a dubsmash to “We Are the World” and really mean it, it would be right here in my little slice of Texas. However, I don’t kid myself when it comes to racial representation in leadership. The majority of the teachers, administrators and yes, the PTA are white. Thinking beyond the stereotype of the click, wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if all of the students – brown, black, white and other – could see themselves reflected in the adults that they learn from and are influenced by every day? I think so.
So, where did that leave me? Feeling like I need to step it up. I would have never done this on my own, but when the opportunity was presented something said “let them see you show up.” Show up to let the children (and not just my own) see that people of color are as equally involved in their children’s education and can contribute ideas, solutions and other resources to the community.
Show up so that the teachers and administrators know that you are available and supportive of their efforts as well as supportive of your children.
Show up because if you truly believe, as I do, that the American education system is not designed to encourage and develop black and brown children in the same way that it does white children, then you must make your presence known. Take the time to develop relationships and a support system that will allow your student to be successful and when necessary, allow you to intervene on your student’s behalf. Be proactive and not reactive.
I understand that not everyone has the time to spend part of their day several days a week at their child’s school, however, everyone has the time to contribute something that has a real impact. If you must, read to your child’s class over your lunch hour or have your child bring things home for you to cut out for the teacher. Volunteer to work the school carnival or spend an afternoon in the library. Whatever your schedule allows, just show up.
Over these past few years I’ve met a lot of new people, made some lasting friendships and had a lot of fun. I’m not quite sure about this new role and what to expect, but I am sure that it will be anything but dull. Wish me luck!