12 Bullying Myths

Bullying at school is nothing new, but a lot of what we think we know about isn’t necessarily true. Great Schools has put together a list of 12 myths about bullying along with the facts that bust those myths. Those myths are:

  1. You’ll know when your child is being bullied.
  2. Bullying is always physical.
  3. The bully is always bigger.
  4. Fighting back works./Fighting back doesn’t work.
  5. Bullies are the most popular kids.
  6. Parents have nothing to do with their kids bullying.
  7. If your child is a victim, call the bully’s parents.
  8. Boys are more likely to be bullied.
  9. Cyberbullying is the gateway to other bullying.
  10. Parents are always their kids’ best defender.
  11. Homophobic taunts refer to the victim’s sexual orientation.
  12. Schools aren’t responsible for bullying.

Children need safe and supportive schools to be successful, and stopping bullying is part of providing that for them. Read the full article to learn why each of these 12 myths are not true, then check out StopBullying.gov for more information and consider having your PTA implement the National PTA Connect for Respect program.

Graphic courtesy of US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter.

Solving Your Lack of Volunteers Problem

Getting people to volunteer at your events is a continual struggle for many PTAs. In fact, fear of being asked to volunteer is one of the reasons people don’t join the PTA. While PTA membership doesn’t require someone to volunteer, we still do need some folks to step up to run things. So how do you get people to volunteer?

Why Aren’t They Volunteering?

If you want to solve a problem, it is important to know why it is happening. So if you don’t know why people are not volunteering with your PTA, you can’t address their concerns and overcome them. There are many reasons why someone may not volunteer.

  • They don’t get why they should volunteer.If you’re a PTA leader, chances are you had a parent who volunteered when you were a child, whether it was in the PTA, at church, or with some other organization. That example of service to others can be very powerful when we become adults, and not everyone experienced it as a child. Additionally, some people might view the PTA as something for the parents who don’t have anything better to do with their time. They aren’t aware that running a PTA is actually running a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and that PTA leaders are in reality small business leaders.
  • Volunteering is out of their comfort zone.In elementary school, kids are often happy to see their parent at school helping out. By the time they hit middle or high school, many kids are embarrassed or horrified to see a parent at school. That pushback from their kids can be a real inhibitor for parents volunteering in those later years. In addition, a lot of the volunteer opportunities at an elementary school, whether helping with a class party or a school carnival, feel somewhat familiar and safe. When it comes to PTA events and activities at the older grades, the role of the PTA has shifted and the opportunities may feel less familiar, especially if their teen is pushing back on their parent being seen by their friends.
  • Your PTA is seen as a clique.If your PTA has a bunch of leaders who’ve known each other for years, it can be intimidating for a new parent to step into a volunteer role as an outsider. Remember that it is the outsiders who determine if your PTA is a clique, so consider how approachable you and your fellow PTA leaders really are.

Solving Your Volunteer Problem

Successfully recruiting volunteers requires identifying potential candidates for the job and overcoming objections.

  • Find hidden talents.The families at your school have a wealth of backgrounds, skills, and talents, so make sure you reach out to discover what they are—most people aren’t going to share them in public. The Cub Scout program has long relied on a Family Talent Survey to discover those hidden skills of their families. Consider developing a similar form for your PTA and sharing it at registration, Open House night, your PTA meetings, and other opportunities, especially at the start of the year.
  • Recruit one-on-one.Some parents may step up with a sign up form through MemberHub or a sheet passed around at a PTA meeting, but most won’t, especially for bigger jobs. Target your recruitment efforts and find the opportunity to sit down in a relaxed atmosphere to discuss the job and why you think they would be great at it.
  • Have a procedure book.A procedure book is one of your best volunteer recruiting tools. When you’re trying to fill a position that someone has had for several years, a procedure book that spells out everything they’ve done, who their contacts were, and what they spent their budget on is priceless. Be sure to let your potential volunteer know they are not starting from scratch.
  • Find micro-volunteering opportunities.Not everyone has a schedule that lets them help out at the PTA event or in the classroom, but there may be possibilities that they can do on their own time as it fits in their schedule. These micro-volunteering opportunities can be an easy first step for someone to become a long-time PTA volunteer.
  • Share the ball.If you’ve ever watched a soccer game with very young players, you’ve probably seen how the game ends up—a few talented kids run around kicking the ball and scoring goals while the rest chase the ball in a big clump and the coach yells for everyone to spread out and pass the ball. While the coach might be able to win the game with their few talented players, they also know that success in the future requires the kids in the clump to know how to handle the ball and that their current “stars” won’t be able to be successful in the future if they’re still trying to take on the opposing team on their own. While every PTA has their superstar volunteers, it is important that you don’t rely on them too much. Make sure that all your volunteers get a chance to handle the ball and remember that your role as a PTA leader is like that of the coach—supporting your players but not kicking the ball yourself.

Photo © 2011 by USAG-Humphreys under Creative Commons license.

Illinois PTA Policy on Fundraising and Alcohol

In response to an increasing number of questions from PTAs regarding fundraising and alcohol, the Illinois PTA State Board of Directors has adopted the following policy for local PTAs, PTA Councils, districts, regions, and the State Board of Directors.

Like every PTA activity, fundraising should be conducted in alignment with our mission: to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families to advocate for all children. Likewise, National PTA policy states that PTAs should refrain from accepting funds from businesses engaged in activities inconsistent with the PTA mission and positions (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, and firearms). To help provide guidance regarding PTAs and alcohol, the Illinois PTA has adopted the following policy.

  • PTAs may not directly sell alcoholic beverages under any circumstances.
  • Sealed bottles of alcohol may be included in silent auction items provided that the auction is held off school property and the contents are not opened during the event or on the premises. PTAs are not to purchase alcohol for such auctions, but may auction donated bottles of alcohol.
  • PTAs are strongly encouraged to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages at PTA events. If alcohol is served, the PTA may not serve it. A licensed establishment or catering company must be used to serve alcohol. PTAs may not sell alcoholic beverages through ticket sales.
  • Alcohol may not be served at events where children are present.
  • Under no circumstances are PTA funds to be used to purchase alcohol or to reimburse purchases of alcohol. This includes reimbursement for alcohol purchased with a meal while a person is representing PTA (e.g., while attending convention).

PTAs should also be aware that Illinois law prohibits open containers of alcohol on “public school district property on school days or at events on public school district property when children are present.” In addition, your county or municipal government may have additional restrictions regarding alcohol sales.

Is Your PTA a Clique?

Today’s guest post comes from Washington State PTA with some advice on how to avoid having your PTA seen as a clique.

Sometimes, the reason more people don’t join your PTA is because they feel unwelcome. Whether warranted or not, your PTA may have a reputation as a clique. Overcoming this common issue can be challenging because it requires the focus and commitment of your group as a whole.

The first obstacle to overcome – and the spot where most groups get stuck – is agreeing there’s a problem. When a PTA is labeled a clique, most leaders instinctively go on defense, arguing all the reasons the label isn’t accurate. And, in many cases, a group may have a compelling argument as to why that perception is wrong. However, it doesn’t matter. The simple truth is this: if your PTA is perceived as a clique, it IS a clique. And the more you argue that point, the stickier the label becomes and the harder to remove.

Think about it: how often does a group of friends decide to call themselves a “clique?” Pretty much never, right? But you can probably think of several examples of cliques you’ve encountered in your life. Groups get labelled “cliques” by those who consider themselves outside of one. In other words, it’s a matter of how others perceive your group. Perception is reality; that is, others’ perception of your group is the reality of your group’s reputation.

Once you’ve come to terms with your PTA’s public perception, the only way to change that reputation is with consistent action over a sustained period of time. Your board (or other group of leaders) must dedicate the time and consistency required for the change to happen. Each person must be willing to change how things are done, which can be a hard pill to swallow for an established PTA. Even if a board member disagrees with a change, they must be able to rise above their personal feelings for the benefit of the group. Naysayers are always on the hunt for a sign that things haven’t really changed, and if anyone in your group isn’t walking the talk, that person will become the “sign” those naysayers seek.

Once your board owns up to its reputation as a clique and agrees to do what’s necessary to change, the real work begins. The quickest way to combat a negative public perception is to analyze those actions that are creating that perception and then change them (and don’t assume you already know – that’s what got your PTA in this dilemma in the first place). Sometimes it’s possible to gather this information through a constructive discussion among honest, well-intentioned stakeholders. However, that’s often not an option, in which case your board should take time to walk through all of your PTA’s touchpoints with “the public” and consider where there may be opportunities to improve your perception as a welcoming group. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. At every PTA function, proactively seek out any new faces and introduce yourself. You might not recognize them, but they probably recognize you. Undoubtedly, you are that person “from the PTA,” and the way you behave toward them is the biggest factor in determining their opinion of your group.
  2. Regardless of your good intent, do not huddle together with fellow board members in private conversation during PTA events. If you catch yourself doing this, agree to separate out and canvas the area.
  3. Get folks on a level playing field by asking everyone to wear name tags at meetings and events, from the president to the first-time attendee.
  4. Communicate to families in the languages they speak. Find a parent or community member who can help translate materials and even serve as an interpreter at meetings. Make sure to advertise the availability of interpreters and materials to encourage participation among diverse groups. Don’t forget to personally tell them how happy you are that they’re in attendance.
  5. Eliminate the practice of having the board sit together (or at a head table) at membership meetings. Minimize side conversations, inside jokes, and chit-chat, which can make newcomers feel like outsiders.
  6. Explain each piece of business, and steer clear of obscure terms and insider jargon. Don’t assume “everyone knows that.”
  7. Instead of having board members volunteer together at an event, assign a mix of new and old volunteers to each station or shift.

While there will always be critics, it’s up to you to decide which words may have some truth behind them. And, since the clique label is a matter of others’ perception, it’s usually a good idea to pay attention to others labeling your PTA a clique. You may uncover a multitude of opportunities to improve your reputation, increase your membership, and broaden your volunteer base.