Supporting teachers is an important part of what parent groups do. When teachers have the backing of their school’s parent group, it helps them do their best work and makes the school an all-around better place.
Whether your group is already in the habit of working with teachers or wants to start doing so, there are many ways to provide support beyond your regular appreciation efforts. Decide which ones work best for your group and school, then focus on making the most of those efforts.
Within classrooms, parent group volunteers can help with basic needs like reviewing math facts or vocabulary words with small groups. Outside of the classroom, PTOs and PTAs can hold a reading, science, or math event based on interest or areas of need in your school; another option is to organize a program to help parents support their children academically.
Support success tip: To have the greatest effect, talk with the principal about the school’s academic priorities and make sure your efforts support those priorities. It’s important to consult teachers, too. Let them know you’re happy to help—but if your original idea to provide classroom assistance doesn’t go over well, offer another way, such as setting up a Saturday morning homework group.
Organizing enrichment opportunities like assemblies and author visits is a priority for many parent groups, particularly because many schools don’t have the budget to pay for such opportunities. Involve teachers to make sure your choices complement the curriculum.
Support success tip: One way to boost your enrichment offerings without breaking the bank is to tap parents for their expertise. Thinking of starting an after-school art class or chess club? Ask around to see whether you have some parents who are artists or chess enthusiasts.
Teacher Grants and Classroom Funds
A PTO teacher grant program can allow teachers to get instructional tools they wouldn’t otherwise have. Typically, groups allot a certain amount of funds for a grant program and hold one or two grant cycles per year during which teachers apply; teacher “wishes” can vary greatly, from lab equipment to leveled readers for the classroom.
Many groups also give teachers a set amount of money at the start of the school year to spend how they’d like within their classrooms. If your group hasn’t had the means to support teachers this way, start small—even $25 per classroom can allow a teacher to purchase some new books.
Support success tip: Set clear guidelines for teacher grants and classroom funds. It’s good practice to have the principal weigh in on teacher grants to make sure the PTO doesn’t pay for things that could be covered by the school. For classroom funds, it’s good practice to ask teachers to provide receipts for reimbursement.
Some parent groups contribute to professional development for teachers, reasoning that such extra learning or instruction is beneficial to students. In addition, many states require continuing education credits to maintain teaching licenses, but travel costs can be a hindrance to school budgets.
Support success tip: If funding or supplementing professional development is something that interests your group, discuss it with your members and vote on adding an agreed-upon amount to the budget. If there’s a set amount, it will help your group manage requests.
Technology has become an integral part of many classrooms, but it changes so quickly (and budgets are already so strained) that many schools just can’t keep up. PTOs and PTAs have become a major source of technology funding at many schools, purchasing items like tablet computers, interactive whiteboards, and software licenses. Some groups set aside a specific portion for technology purchases, while others use whatever they earn from a specific fundraiser.
Support success tip: Before committing to buy specific technology, talk to the principal and the district technology coordinator—they’ll have a sense of what type of tech the district is moving toward as well as any policies the PTO must follow to donate money for those purchases. In many cases, the parent group donates money to the school district, with the funds designated to go toward certain expenses at a specific school. The district can then make the purchase, negotiating with vendors to receive a bulk or education discount.
Do All Teachers Deserve Support?
You might be wondering whether your PTO or PTA should limit perks like grants or classroom supply funds to teachers who are active in your group. This type of teacher support should come with no strings attached, however. It shouldn’t be limited to staff members who pay membership dues or volunteer with your parent group.
Your group might wish to encourage teacher participation by offering a small personal token of appreciation—like a coffee mug with the school logo—but gifts that support student learning should be made available to all teachers. It’s one way to build good relations with teachers and to show that your group’s ultimate goal is to promote education and make the school a better place—for everyone.