Saturday, March 21, 2009

Perpetual Tight Asses

- Minding your P's & Q's in the PTA


Today's flavor: burnt toast - starts out as something you wanted, maybe with a little butter or jam, but you didn't check the setting and now it's a hard, crusty mess.

WARNING: If you love your PTA, this might not be an enjoyable post for you. (Of course, this is only my opinion/experience - I'm sure your PTA is just faaaab.)

Five years ago, when my oldest started kindergarten, I was the epitome of enthusiastic, stars-in-the-eyes, get-involved moms. I didn't have that growing up, and envied the kids who did (my mom worked full time and overtime, and didn't speak much English, and I had no dad). My kids were going to see me as a regular presence at school, active where they were active, recognized by students, faculty and administration alike, hovering on the brink of being annoying. Fuzzy memories of Harper Valley and Carol Brady intact, naturally, I would join the PTA and jump right in! Slow your roll there, jumpy, you darn-near skipped the initiation. Ok, I guess all organizations (clubs, sororities, cliques, elitist networks of exclusionary bitches) have rules and protocol to observe. I just didn't realize that at this, um, mature stage in my life, I'd have to play these games.

Rule #1 - Know your place. PTA meetings are open to all, providing a forum for questions, new ideas and participation. Well, unless you're a newbie - then you're to just sit there quietly and don't be a bother until you've been granted speaking privileges.
Rule #2 - Just because a committee needs a chair, don't think you can volunteer for that position unless you've gone through the required rites of bunco games, home sales parties and cookie exchanges.
Rule #3 - If you have new ideas to present, be sure you've complied with rules 1 & 2 and then submit them in writing so that they may be formally rejected.
Rule #4 - Learn the language. If you hear them say "your enthusiasm is great!" it means, "shut the hell up"; they say, "congrats on the terrific work," they mean "enough already"; they say, "your feedback is so important to us," they mean ,"our way, or the highway"; they say, "you'll be most effective behind the scenes," they mean, "we're going to give the credit to the PTA leadership"; they say "your fundraising ideas are great, but it's not a good time..." they mean, "we will pressure parents into ponying up the amounts we've deemed appropriate for the programs we like"; they say "please keep us informed of your committee's progress" they mean, "don't even breathe without getting our permission." There's more, but this is the current best key to understanding the terminology.
Rule #5 -Be aware of who is in the "inner circle" of the PTA, seek their approval and don't question the obstacles put in your way.

Who are these women, and why don't they figure out a more constructive way to control their little worlds? They're like mall cops - wearing crappy JC Penney twin-sets, instead of ugly uniforms. They've got this teeny, tiny amount of power and it's convinced them they're on par with Supreme Court Justices.




[Alison Janey in Hairspray, very accurate representation of my school's PTA mom]

This year I stepped up to chair an event that my daughter felt was so important, that I had to do it so that it wouldn't be (her word) lame. My co-chair and I were blessedly like-minded in our goals - it was her first time too. We got all excited and sent a note to the committee members outlining some fundraiser ideas (ones where the kids didn't have to sell anything, the parents didn't get ripped off, and we would keep 100% of the profits) and venue suggestions. Bad move. The inner circle had a rep in our ranks, and when they caught wind of us sending out emails willy-nilly without their blessing, all hell broke loose. We got the language treatment: "your enthusiasm is great...!" etc. Ok. So, we'd check with them before presuming to share our ideas with our committee. Next we got the "you can't do fundraisers - the pittance we've given you will suffice. Oh, and those lofty ideas for a new and exciting venue should be stuffed in the nearest sack so as not to make the other classes feel out-done. Mmm'kay?"Right. Turns out they needed 2 chairs to check off little boxes on pre-approved lists of tasks - a job my 6 year old is over-qualified to do. Although to be fair, my 6 year old is probably more efficient than most of these people - she is certainly more imaginative.






So which piece of flair should I wear to the next meeting?




Would both be too much?

36 comments:

  1. i'm partial to the first piece of flair. although i would compliment it with a "top bitch" button right next to it.

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  2. I say wear them both and point to them at the appropriate times.

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  3. I've learned over the years that just because you can do things well doesn't mean you have to volunteer to do them. I only volunteer to do things that I enjoy doing now, and that is wonderful. Oh, there are still those irritating individuals that you just want to stand up in meetings and yell at, but I try to look at working with them as opportunities to practice patience, acceptance and kindness instead. LOL

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  4. What we don't do for our kids ;)

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  5. Your blog is very funny, and I really believe the facts you give...but it makes me sad for PTA.

    I direct a Parent Information Resource Center in Texas and I'm also on the national PTA board but I'm very new to the organization. One of the reasons I had stayed away from PTA activities in my work is because I had heard about experiences like yours, and those behaviors from the leadership are even more cruel with parents who are poor or working class and have limited formal education.
    I haven't lost hope in PTA but it will take much work to change the culture of the organization.

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  6. Oh how I loved this entry!!!
    I too went into my first Kdg PTA meeting with stars in my eye's and the intentions of Ghandi, but evidently in the PTA world, there is an 8th deadly sin and I commited it. When asked under hushed tones "What church do you attend" and I whispered back, "None" I was immdiately branded with a scarlet S on my forehead. From that point on even my cupcakes were accepted with extreme caution by the holier then thou PTA committee.
    I say, wear both of the buttons, wear them proud and smile the whole time~
    Rebecca

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  7. I'm laughing so hard. I feel your pain. I'm a former elementary teacher and WE used to fear the PTA. They ran that damn school. Now, I'm on the board of the pre-school PTA. I thought I'd start small. The elementary school scares the crap out of me. I just don't think I can be one of those JC Penny wearing ladies. Do I have to?
    This is what you need to wear to the next meeting - forget the flair: http://www.nannydeprived.com/item_324/PTA-Reject-Shirt.htm I sell them on my site!

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  8. My guess is that you won't be showing up to anymore PTA meetings but wear the 1st button anyway.

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  9. Apparently cliques don't fade after high school after all, huh?

    I love reading your blog! You always have the funniest spins on everything.

    And go with the bitch pin next time =)

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  10. I feel your pain. I grew up in a small country community and attended a Christian school- the same one where my mother taught. As a child, my mother always knew if I got a bad grade before I did and it was a nightmare. I decided then that when I had kids I wouldn't spend my every waking hour involved in every aspect of their school lives.

    My sentiments were all well and good until my daughter started school. I was asked to provide a gift basket for the annual PTA Basket Bingo fundraiser. I spent hours putting together a beautiful basket of homemade treats only to have my creation relegated to the small table in the back. The PTA moms looked at me with disdain as I stood there wearing a t-shirt and jeans as though I had committed an egregious faux pas in front of royalty.

    I finally decided I'd had enough when I heard one of the PTA drones talking about how she needed to find a pink iPod and matching cell phone for her 8 year old daughter's birthday as little Susie had demanded. Right. I didn't even get my first Walkman until I was 13!

    Great post and great blog!

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  11. It seems that we are all in the same boat and perhaps our boat is becoming quite a bit larger than the PTA cruise ship that has been sailing way too long.
    As outgoing president of our local PTA, with no incoming president in sight, I am torn between fixing a broken PTA and starting a fresh PTO. This is just what happens when you give power to those that perhaps find no power anywhere else in their sad lives.....
    Oh and Flavored Mom, YOU ROCK!!

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  12. Wear them both. Or might I suggest you get an official bitch card. It gives you permission to smack the idiots right upside their heads, lol!

    Even as adults, many women remain as cranky as they were in high school. Sorry you have the misfortune of dealing with them in your PTA.

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  13. Funny! I just proposed a project to the PTA (blogged about it today a little) we'll see what happens. I got "I have to check in with [the treasurer] and we'll get back to you". Translate pleeeease :)

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  14. Oh, and I vote for the Im not your bitch flare!

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  15. Like you, I started kindergarten with stars in my eyes and a get involved attitude. Unfortunately, I took it further and became president of our local PTA. It lasted for 2 years until I was asked not to come back (yes, I am one of the only people on the planet asked to not participate with the PTA).

    I am not a fan of cliques and refused to shut out those people my co-president and the rest of the board didn't approve of. I tried to make the PTA more inclusive and got shot down.

    I decided to spend my time volunteering with those activities that directly impacted my kids such as girl scout leader, team coach, etc. The PTA does a lot of great things, but contain a group of women with way too much time on their hands.

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  16. I love this post. I chaired the book fair at my son's school for 3 years, but I gave it up because I was required to go to the PTA meetings. I couldn't stand it! I would come home and tell my husband that I just wanted to stab myself in the eye with a pencil.
    I vote for the first button.

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    1. this is a really old article but I just had to say my daughter is into 3rd grade and I've been trying for 4 years to be an involved parent but to get any volunteer time at all I have to attend meetings. I can really relate to the stabbing myself in the eye comment

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  17. I LOVE this site! You are so funny! I am now getting kids ready for college, so I have been thru all the PTA crap. They ALL hated me because I was a single mom and somehow they thought I would have been a threat. LOL I learned to just sit with my head up (alone) and deal with it, but I hated it for many years. That part is a pain, but it is a piece of cake when it compares to when your daughter works her butt off and practices every day after school with the team at basketball(and she really did pretty good!) but they would not pick her for the team because we weren't part of their elite you know whos. Now THAT sucked. I was and still am so disgusted with that bunch for that, and I find my ways to badmouth and snark at every opportunity ever since. Thank goodness my kids will all be out of there in 2 more years for good.

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  18. You are so right! I joined two school PTA's this year by total accident - on the board of both. And they were surprised I decided NOT to do it next year!

    In a different school district, I finally told our PTO board (I was on a planning committee for a fundraiser) that they either let us plan it since that's what they asked us to do or they start coming to our planning meetings because I was tired of coming up with great ideas only to told a week later, AFTER the work started and they were just getting to e-mails, that they didn't like that. I told them if they didn't stop, they could plan the event themselves since that is basically what was happening anyway! They left us alone after that.

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  19. Great Post!!!!

    Wear both of the buttons (one on the front, and the other "some where" on the back ;-> )

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  20. I don't have kids but thanks to this post, I will stay far away from the PTA if I do. Btw, love the 'i'm not your bitch, bitch' button. hee hee.

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  21. you are so funny. Love this: "If you hear them say "your enthusiasm is great!" it means, "shut the hell up"

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  22. Hi..new to your blog! It's great! I've learned to just volunteer for the events I ENJOY...try and ignore the women I don't enjoy and try and remember the teachers have all of this figured out. They know which parents are helping out to benefit the school and the kids and which ones are just little prima donna glory hogs on a power trip!

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    1. I don't find that the teachers have anything figured out..they seem to be in love with the power hungry pta and hate the normal parents

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  23. Hahaha! I am a new reader and your writing style is certainly up my alley! Love it!
    Scared to death though... my lil one starts Kindergarten this fall and I was already planning on PTA parties and fundraising... yikes!!

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  24. I have LOADS of I-hate-the-PTA stories.

    I call them Queen Bees. Women who need a little niche to control, to give them career satisfaction.

    I don't. So I don't play.

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  25. Ha ha. Love your posts cause they're interesting and amusing. I used to teach in a middle school where I spent parent conference nights sitting in my classroom grading papers and, if I was really lucky, talking to the one or two drop-ins. So, involved parents sound refreshing--to a point. Your PTA sounds like hell! I'd have gone with the I'm not your bitch, bitch."

    Of course, I do have a t-shirt that a Czech friend gave me while I was teaching in Prague that states: "You say I'm a bitch like it's a bad thing." LOL

    http://BrigaBauble.blogspot.com

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  26. I love your sense of humor. I think my kids went to the same school. If you stick around long enough, you will find your ideas being thought up by someone higher up the food chain and the group will say they are fabulous. Good luck at your next meeting.

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  27. Great observations. After almost 2 years at our new school, new town I still haven't penetrated the "inner circle". All those big heads colliding in our little library finally quashed me out of the PTA. Maybe (I hope) you have more stamina than me for this stuff. Good luck!

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  28. I can so relate to this story. I was also blinded at first and now I have been blind sided. I started off just helping - I did penetrate the inner circle but then the President's term was up and all said you would be great. SO I fell for it and accepted the nomination. The vote was tied and then rigged when the second vote was taken. I lost but I gracefully walked away. The next year after the new president alienated most of the school including teachers and the principal I was nominated again. After much praying and talking with other moms again I accepted. But then the current president put up a fuss and to fix the situation the principal read the bi-laws and we are to have co-presidents. Which in most situations would work great but when one of the presidents can't stand the other nothing happens. I finally resigned due to not being included in any of the decisions being made. I am now just helping in the classroom of my children.

    More power to those who try to become part of the inner circle. JUST WATCH YOUR BACK!!!!

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  29. This post had me about falling out of my chair! You'd think now that we are out of high school, "clicks" would disappear, but noooooo. Thanks for sharing and I will definitely be back!

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  30. I, too, had stars in my eyes when my girls started elementary school and I can't believe how the PTA makes me feel like I'm back in high school with the cliquey bitches. I first noticed that I didn't want to fit in when I was a room mom and made a comment to my neighbor about the other room calling me too far ahead about things. Well, my neighbor was the room mom committee chairperson and said, Well, I'll tell everybody that she can't be a room mom next year! I was immediately stunned and said that she was a good room mom and that she shouldn't be fired! The power these people get hung up on is unreal. Then I was told to send out letters for the basket fundraiser b/c I was room mom again. I was told to submit the theme for the basket and they would let me know if it was acceptable. Then I was to tell each parent what to bring in. I didn't sign up for that. I ended up putting the basket together myself and paid a pretty penny for it. I even heard the committee chair make a comment about one of the baskets, Who is going to want that one?! Then this year I was asked by the teacher to be a room mom. I didn't want to be one this year b/c of the basket fundraiser but was told by my neighbor that they weren't doing it this year. Well, guess what, the teacher called me when the time came and that was the first I had heard about it. I calmly called the committee basket fundraiser person and said that I didn't receive any information and she said, That's strange?? All innocent. Right. They just leave you out if they don't like you. I only had a few days to put another one together with my money b/c it was too late to send out letters and I didn't want to ask the parents anyway b/c I can't stand that. I'm sure they wanted my teacher's class to not have a basket so it would reflect poorly on me.
    I learned a long time ago to stay away from PTA and just volunteer in the classroom and chaperone the field trips. I don't want to play that game. I would only embarrass my kids if I did!!!!!!! Catty girls just turn into catty middle-aged women.

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  31. Loved reading these post. I did PTO (PTA) when my daughter was in Elementary and always felt left out just like many of you said. I will share that as a teacher in an Elementary School, we are clear on what PTO members that we want to avoid because they are catty, controlling, and want to tell us how to teach.

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  32. my link to this page is dedicated to the nasty pta B that yelled at me Saturday for making a suggestion. I do not need you in my life you ugly B. I'm getting a voodoo doll this week that looks like you

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