PTO Experiences Become Lifelong Skills

by Rose Hamilton



Spending nearly 10 years on a PTO provided me with many wonderful experiences and taught many me valuable life lessons. So if you’re in the PTO trenches right now, consider this: You’re honing some great skills that will come in handy long after you’ve retired as a school volunteer. 

Here are just a few that come to mind: 

1. Putting difficult people in their place. If you’ve ever had an unreasonable parent on your hands—you know the one who blasts you for serving bagels instead of doughnuts at a breakfast event—you are actually lucky. Seriously. Learning to control your response and understand that this person probably isn’t deliberately difficult (but more likely has an unrelated problem) is a helpful lesson. You’ll make use of this in a variety of situations, from negotiating with a tricky coworker to ignoring the guy who cuts in line at the deli. 

2. Letting go of perfection. Most of us learn quickly that nothing is ever perfect when we become parents, but a stint on a PTO will confirm it. No matter how much time and sheer grit you put into an event or program, something will go wrong. When we accept this, such as when we see the ice cream social was a huge hit even though someone forgot the sprinkles, everything gets a little easier. 

3. Being prepared. If you’ve managed PTO events, then you know there’s no such thing as “too soon.’’ So, yes, it’s aggravating to run around taking care of all the small stuff ahead of time, like buying and storing all the nonperishables weeks before an event. But isn’t it awesome on the day of the event when you don’t have to worry about the little details? When you’re juggling multiple projects at the office and at home, you’ll appreciate this skill. (Hey, it’s how I learned to set the Thanksgiving table the weekend before the actual holiday.)

4. Knowing how to schedule—and reschedule. Ever had the job of scheduling volunteers for an event that requires many helpers, like a book fair or field day? Then you know what it’s like to accommodate everyone’s needs to create a complex calendar, only to redo it when a few parents have “something come up.’’ The patience and perseverance you acquire from this experience will pay off when you’re scheduling work meetings and keeping track of your kids. 

5. Understanding the need to focus. PTO work can be demanding, and you can get pulled in many directions. I worked with some great PTO presidents who taught me to stay focused on the kids and doing work that helped create a school community. That kind of focus, especially in today’s world where we are constantly bombarded with information and competing demands, will serve you well and keep you zeroed in on the things in life that truly matter.

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