Summer vacation is just about over. The signs are all here: I’ve finally achieved a tan line, for instance. And not only have sunscreen and bathing suits disappeared from the discount department stores; snowsuits are already on clearance, as well.
With the season oozing off into oblivion faster than a Creamsicle on a hot sidewalk, it’s time to get serious about the coming school year. You may be tempted to savor each remaining moment until the last, brilliant beach day. But the PTO burden can be a heavy one, and unless you condition yourself beforehand, you might pull something trying to lift it. As a service to our readers, we offer the following training regimen to help you get in shape for the new school year.
Switch from summer escapism reading to more practical material. Gather up all of those light, frothy novels you swore you’d read by the pool this summer and put them back in the box where you’ve kept them since 1993. Download Form 990-EZ and Schedule A from the IRS website. Place these on your night table for bedtime reading. Print out your PTO volunteer list and tuck it inside the 2004-05 telephone book. Spend free moments cross-checking the list for accuracy and updates.
Hold meetings. It doesn’t matter with whom or for what purpose, as long as you meet regularly. The goal here is to get back in shape for long discussions during which a range of interests are aired. Your regular PTO meetings may be sociable and pleasant, but just as Marines train for action they may never see, your summer practice meetings should always be conducted in discomfort.
Do not hold meetings on the deck or front stoop, especially if the evening is starlit with warm breezes. Instead, close all windows and sit on hard wooden or plastic chairs inside, where the air is stuffy and close. Invite Ned from down the street and ask him about his crabgrass. Allow your child to describe in detail the plot of the movie Rugrats Go Wild. Ask your father-in-law to stop by with his swizzle stick collection.
Convert summertime paraphernalia for PTO use. Locate and store all leftover paper plates and cups, plasticware, and red-checked tablecloths for future use at fundraisers and teacher appreciation luncheons. Shoo the children out of the kiddie pool. Deflate, dry, and stow it away for the Lucky Duck Pond game at the spring PTO carnival. Calm teary-eyed children by handing them the garden hose to play with.
Dump everything out of your beach bag. Shake loose the stray seashells (save for craft fair), extra paper napkins (put those aside for bake sale table), Grisham novel (there’s always next summer...), and restock bag with Robert’s Rules of Order, spreadsheets, and hard candies.
Use summer outings for talent searches. It’s never too early to start booking cultural arts programs for the school year. And if you take a proactive approach, you may help launch an unknown artist into a lucrative career on the PTO circuit. Subway platforms, for instance, are teeming with performers, some of whom could, with a bit of coaching and a wet rag to wash away the dust, be recast for the cafetorium stage.
While you’re underground, knock on the glass booth and get the name and number of the clerk at the microphone. She’d be perfect for a science-based enrichment program explaining how amplification distorts sound. The seaport museum is another source of talent. Remember that guy in knickers you saw climbing on the mast of the 19th century schooner? Go back and get his card. But first make sure he’s actually a museum employee.
Follow these suggestions to transform yourself from a sun-drenched and lazy vacationer to a crisp, eager PTO officer. And if you’re not ready to give up on that tan, don’t despair—June is just around the corner.
Sharron Kahn Luttrell volunteers for parent groups at two schools in Mendon, Mass.