That Google Doc May Not Be Your Kid’s Homework

Today’s teenagers aren’t passing notes in class any more—at least not physically. And while it looks like your kid is diligently working away at their homework, they may actually be chatting with friends. That’s because kids are now getting around the inability to have their phone out in class, the use of blocking software at school and home, and parental rules about no social media when doing homework by using Google Docs as a chat room.

The collaboration tools in Google Docs make it possible for kids to gather and chat. By using different fonts or colors to identify themselves, they can chat in the document itself or copy a document that they are supposed to be collaborating on and chat in the comments. From a distance, it looks like they are working away, and a quick document deletion or resolve of the comments makes the chat disappear if someone comes to take a closer look.

Kids are going to continue to stay ahead of the adults online when it comes to communicating with each other. They’ve always been able to figure out ways around the ways that adults try to stop them, including using the comments section of old blog posts. That’s why it’s best for parents to approach the online world just like they do with the real world—teach them how to be safe and kind. PTAs and parents can take advantage of the PTA Connected programs, from the Smart Talk to set up family guidelines for how to behave online to events created by National PTA in collaboration with Google and Facebook.

Start Planning Your Teacher Appreciation Week Now

Next to their parents, teachers probably have the largest effect on the lives of children. Many of us can still remember a teacher who made a difference in our lives years ago. This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6-10, 2019, and National PTA has created a toolkit to help PTAs celebrate their school’s teacher with the theme Teachers Are Out of This World.

The toolkit comes with everything you need to let your teachers know that you think the world of them, including:

  • Flyers
  • A Fillable Thank You Card
  • Fillable Certificates
  • Social Media Graphics
  • Suggestions on Other Ways to Be Involved
  • Decorating Ideas

Plan your activities and celebrations now using the toolkit and remember to #ThankATeacher during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10, 2019.

Help Answering Your Kid’s Tough Questions

Every parent has dealt with tough questions from their child. And they often pop up unexpectedly—when you’re tucking them into bed or when that little voice pipes up from the back seat. National Public Radio (NPR) has partnered with Sesame Workshop’s child development experts to create a podcast called Parenting: Difficult Conversationsto help you answer those tough questions.

The podcast has three episodes so far:

The podcasts bring all the care and child appropriateness you expect from the folks who have been behind 50 years of Sesame Street. NPR has distilled some of what they’ve learned so far from the podcast to create five tips to help you handle whatever question pops out of your child when you least expect it.

  1. When you get a tough question, listen for what the child is really
  2. Give them facts, but at a pace they can manage.
  3. “That’s a good question. Let’s find out more together.”
  4. Reassure them that they are safe and loved.
  5. Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to share your emotions.

The NPR articledigs into each of these five tips with more information to help you answer your child’s tough questions.

5 Tips to Get Your Volunteers to Follow Through

Running a PTA is not an easy job, and managing your volunteers effectively is one of the hardest parts. As a PTA leader, you can do everything you can to make your volunteering for your PTA a pleasant experienceand thank your volunteerswhen they’re done, and still sometimes struggle with that volunteer who doesn’t get the job done when they said that they would. Here are five tips to help you get your volunteers to follow through.

  1. Create the plan together.We often come up with a plan for an event, break down the tasks, and then ask for folks to sign up for specific jobs. That approach can work for events that your PTA has been doing for a long time where you know what jobs need to be done. When trying something new, however, include many of your potential volunteers in developing the plan. Doing so helps everyone feel they have a stake in the event’s success. Even your long-time events could benefit from this treatment every few years to keep the event from getting stale.
  2. Break down the tasks to provide small wins.When you’re creating your plan, be sure that there are several milestones along the way that your team can celebrate. Those small wins help a group learn to work together, and the little victories along the way help to reenergize everyone and prevent burnout. Be sure to provide micro-volunteering opportunities for those who don’t have a lot of time available but want to help.
  3. Set clear deadlines and track your progress.Now that you’ve created your plan and broken down the tasks, have those handling each task set a specific deadline for themselves (within the time requirements for steps that depend on that task being completed first) so that they own it. Deadlines should be as specific as possible—not “the first week in May” but “May 3” or even “May 3 by 5pm.” If someone misses a deadline, follow up with them immediately to see if they are waiting on information from someone else, need some support or assistance, and have a new deadline for when the task will be done.
  4. Have everyone partner up.People tend to follow through more when they know that someone else is there to help them pick up the slack if life makes it difficult to get a job done and that they’ve got someone else’s back as well. Having folks pair up on tasks makes it less likely the ball will get dropped.
  1. It’s okay to fire a volunteer.We all feel grateful that people are giving their time to our PTA and understand that sometimes life gets busy in ways you didn’t expect. But a volunteer that is unreliable or isn’t following through does no one any good. Yes, they’re good people (maybe even one of your best friends) or they’re just really busy, but these days, we are all really busy. It’s okay to send an e-mail saying, “Hey, I saw you missed the last two deadlines for [task]. As you know from our plan, if we don’t have [task] done by [deadline], [these other people] can’t do their [other tasks]. If it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to get this done by [deadline], please let me know so we can take this off your plate. Thanks!” And if the deadline is missed, follow up with “Since you’ve missed the second deadline for [task], I’m going to assume you are no longer wish to be part of making [event] happen. Please let me know if this is not the case, and I’ll add you back into our group communications. Thank you so much for the time, talent, and ideas you’ve shared up to this point. Our PTA appreciates the work you’ve done.”

Remember that your role as a PTA leader is to help your volunteers be successful. It’s not about your title or you looking good. If you focus on their success, then you will look good.