Parent involvement in the school parents’ association (APÉ) has real, positive impact. However, several myths are getting in the way of some parents’ participation. Let’s look at the reality behind 10 of these myths!
By Christine McLeod
Published in The Squamish Chief on September 3, 2022
Adapted with the author’s permission
Myths getting in the way of parent involvement in PACs versus reality
Myth #1 “I don’t have time...” — Parents feel that the moment they raise their hand to volunteer or attend a meeting, they will be inundated and be dragged into many more hours.
Reality #1 You, as the parent set the boundary: “I have X amount of hours to volunteer a ____ (month/year) and I am available on (_____evenings, weekends, daytime).”
Myth #2 “I am not a leader.”— Often, parents (especially mothers) don’t “see themselves” as leading a team and don’t raise their hands for elected positions.
Reality #2 Every one of us raises a family, manages a household, manages dynamics with multiple generations and often competing opinions. We use the skills required every single day. Collaboration, persuasion, organization, time management, goal setting, budgeting, reaching consensus, negotiating, listening, encouraging, among others.
Myth #3 “APÉs are cliquey and filled with drama!” — Some people perceive APÉs to be full of drama and perhaps think of the stereotype PTA moms from movies. Most people want to stay as far from that as possible.
Reality #3 Drama forms when people are unclear of roles, where boundaries don’t set dialogue and when there is a lack of protocol and process to resolve typical group dynamic issues. Part of leading a PAC is creating a shared vision and processes for operating.
Myth #4 “Meetings are inefficient” — We all spend too much time in meetings as adults to have the patience for meetings that are not run well: not starting or ending on time, monopolized by a few people, no accountability for actions, not having an agenda, not following agenda and more.
Reality #4 Having a well-organized and accepted series of procedures keeps things moving efficiently. Agendas are distributed ahead of time, and someone is in charge of keeping to it. Minutes are distributed in a timely manner. Actions have dates, champions and details.
Myth #5 “I am sinking, or barely swimming. Evenings are chaotic at home — it’s homework and bedtime at the same time as APÉ meetings — I can’t add one more thing in the evening.”
Reality #5 One-two hours a month, dates set in September for the whole school year. We can plan ahead or volunteer in other capacities, or one parent goes this month, the other swaps next month, or volunteer in another way. Let’s get creative.
Myth #6 “APÉs are a mom thing, not a dad thing.”
Reality #6 It’s 2022 and let’s ditch the 1950s PTA stereotype of the moms organizing cupcake sales. PACs are involved in strategy, fundraising, business organization, and so much more. We need moms and dads to contribute their voices and skills. If we only have moms on PACs, who is speaking for the dad parents?
Myth #7 “What’s a PAC?”
Reality #7 Look up on your school website, or in the APÉ’s cloud storage, the minutes from the last PAC meetings, agendas and decisions made. You might be more than impressed by how integral a PAC is.
Myth #8 Commitment phobia: “I barely have the basics under control. I can’t handle one more bit of complexity in my life, let alone if it snowballs in time required.”
Reality #8 If we wait for something better to come along or until we do have it all together, it will never happen. Back to reality #1 (I have time – I just need to set boundaries) and reality #4 (meetings are efficient, and everyone is accountable), then there is no reason not to jump in.
Myth #9 “Someone will do it, they always do.”
Reality #9 Squamish is pulling from the same small pool of volunteers for all causes/groups/events. The very people who volunteer for so many things are burning out, and if we get more enthusiastic volunteers in all areas of our town, starting with our schools, we can spread the ideas, the work, the opportunities to grow.
Myth #10 “I can’t really make a difference in something as big as the school community.”
Reality #10 Oh yes, dear parent, you absolutely can. Please don’t let this perception or the nine others fool you into not participating.
Christine McLeod is an involved parent and community volunteer in Squamish who has been active over the last 10 years in the APÉ of École Les Aiglons and the PACs of Don Ross Middle School and Howe Sound Secondary.