Question: Middle school involvement: What's it like?

I’m a new member to the PTO this coming year and I’ve never experienced the “middle school mindset” of volunteering and fundraising and getting parents involved. My only experience is with elementary kids and parents, and I’ve heard it’s very different in the middle school arena. What should I expect?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Certainly some things are different in middle school, but the benefits of parent involvement are the same no matter the student’s grade or building. Research shows that students whose parents are active in their education earn higher test scores, get better grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school and college.

Unfortunately for many parents of tweens and adolescents, the mom or dad who volunteered so enthusiastically in years past now senses—often correctly—that their son or daughter would rather they stay away. And since middle schools tend to be bigger than elementary schools, be farther from home, and have more teachers to get to know, it’s not surprising that parent involvement drops off when children enter middle school.

But there are a few ways your group can address these issues. A mix of direct outreach and activities for students and parents will help build parent involvement in your middle school. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask the principal whether your group can send home a survey along with her welcome letter to ask parents about their priorities for the school year. List examples of what your group might do, but leave space for parents to propose their own ideas.

  • Extend a special invitation to incoming parents and students at your first PTO meeting of the school year. Parents of children new to the school are likely to stick around and stay involved with your group for the next few years.

  • Create opportunities during the year for students to help your group; chances are their parents will want to help, too. Collecting items for food and clothing drives, organizing books for a book swap, or serving spaghetti at a veterans’ dinner are just a few ideas. These activities help build community spirit while bolstering parent participation.

  • Consider adding a student member or liaison position to your PTO to get feedback from kids on the types of programs they’d like to have. For some great ideas on middle school events, check out the article “Middle School Magic” about PTO Today’s 2004 Parent Group of the Year, the Rosemont Ridge PTO. (You can find more articles on PTO Today's Middle School resources page.)

Most parents want to stay involved at their children’s school, they just don’t know how. Be sure to provide parents with regular updates of all volunteer opportunities, including chaperoning dances, providing soda or snacks at an event, or collecting recyclables for use in classrooms. Post these on your website, as well. Good luck!

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