Joy and the PTA

I wrote my “why” post about the PTA, in response to the comment that it seemed like a really joyless venture. Then I realized that in almost 2,000 words I hadn’t actually said anything about whether or not being on the PTA was totally void of joy.

So here goes.

Is the PTA a joyless venture?

My knee-jerk reaction is no, it’s not joyless. But I tried to press pause on the insistence of that thought and to probe deeper. The answer is more complicated, because anytime you do hard work that promises no, or uncertain rewards, it’s hard to determine the pleasure that work will give. And also because joy can manifest in so many distinct ways.

So what feels good about working on the PTA? It feels good to be such a big part of the school community, to know so many people on campus and to feel comfortable in a variety of settings there. It feels good to be recognized and respected for what I contribute, even if I sometimes wish there were more validation and appreciation shown for what we do.

It feels REALLY good to be an integral part of a group that is made of mostly of good friends. And I will admit, I am proud to be its leader. I think I’m doing a pretty decent job, and sometimes I’m even impressed with what I manage to accomplish. Having said that, I’m acutely aware of the many ways I can improve, and mostly I find the opportunity to hone my leaderships skills to be gratifying and even exciting. Sure I’ve led over 85 classes of students through 14 years worth of Spanish curriculum, but I’ve never led a group of adults before, at least not in any substantial or sustained way. It’s definitely a distinct and uniquely gratifying experience that I do, at many times, enjoy.

I am reading more and more about how parent leadership groups can affect real and lasting change on academic outcomes, especially in low socio-economic student populations, and I relish the chance to be on the ground floor of those efforts at my daughter’s school. I think I could be uniquely qualified, as a parent, to navigate the labyrinth that is the California public education system, since I come with so many years of experience teaching at a public school. I also know I could learn a lot and gain valuable skills, which I always appreciate.

Mostly, I’m excited for the opportunity to give back in a substantial way. I’ve lived such a privileged life, and the idea of working to help others who are less privileged, brings me immense joy.

So I guess where I’m at right now is, what I’m currently doing through the PTA is not terribly joyful. There are truly gratifying moments–and I really love seeing so much of my friends, and having reasons to communicate with them frequently–but it can also be very stressful. I think if we start working on some bigger, academically focused goals, I will find the work much more gratifying. There is also money being spent to bring more community resources into the school, and I hope we can help guide the direction those efforts take. If the school changed in positive ways over the next few years, I would feel incredible, immense joy.

So I still have to say no, the PTA is not a joyless venture. I will endeavor to make that more apparent in my writing.


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