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The topic on this week's Behind the classroom door from northern Illinois University's College of Education is what good is a PTA. Here's the moderator Robert F. top the PTA A is truly an American institution. And it's much maligned much ridiculed and yet at the same time I think much respected for the contribution it is made to public schools and the welfare of children. Seems to me that it deserves much more credit than it's getting. And yet we know that many PTA meetings turn out to be a bar and parents dislike attending them. Our task today is to analyze the Parent Teachers Association to determine its contribution to public education. And to make some suggestions perhaps on how to operate a successful PTA. Well I can think of several reasons why a school needs a bigger speech.
For example a PTA would help. Build constructive relationships with the parents in the community. A good PTA I think would help the school gain an understanding of the aspirations and values and thinking of the parents and the community. In addition I think a PTA would help deepen the parent's insights into their own children and their behavior of their children. At school. And I can. I think that I've observed that have really raised the level of public understanding in the school districts and probably most important of all I witnessed several days in the several situations where PBS have helped win the support of the community for very badly needed school improvements. I think Danny will go ahead. I was just going to say Lloyd that I think PTA scam do a very good job. But yet I feel that if you ask the
average person what he thinks of the PTA he usually will have a poor opinion I think this is especially true and I'm wondering why it is of so many people parents seem to have a poor opinion of the PTA even though the PTA certainly can do many worthwhile things such as Oh as you mentioned. Well they probably. Lack a broad understanding of what the PTA is really doing I think that's not only true of men in the community. Probably parents of the children who come to a regular PTA meeting but I think it's often the case where where are teachers in the school and other maybe act maybe parents who are active in the PTA themself. Don't really fully understand what is going on and I think that Pete the only people who really probably understood only understand the work of the PTA in this particular school are the principal the school. And the teachers and parents who are
really active on the board and attend all the board meetings and all of the regular meetings. Well I wouldn't want to hurt anybody and he PTA presidents or executive board feelings by saying this but it seems to me that much of the failure of the PTA has been an unrealistic approach to the to the planning meetings and other activities that go on. There is just far too many Reports of Committees far too many routines that are used and frequently meeting start late and extend to long instead of having them happy and meaningful and kind and to be doing something. Value and of interest to those who might attend. Particularly true fathers I think who don't like to sit through a lot of lengthy reports. I think PTSD vary considerably and certainly some are very good some are quite poor I think.
Mentioning that starting on time. If any PTA tried to improve itself by some way starting on time would be a major improvement. Usually the parents are quite busy and teachers are busy at it seems quite commonplace for PTSD to start 15 minutes a half an hour late. Apparently waiting for the late comers to arrive when the PTA is essentially a feminine institution. Except in occasional schools you'll find men getting involved in the membership on the executive committee and then it moves along a little faster. I don't want to say that men are necessarily better organizers but I do believe that men and women working together and planning a PTA meeting can combine their efforts in such a way that it will be of interest to both sexes. It seems to me Bob what you're saying is that the success of any PTA at any school would depend upon the leadership which is exhibited not only
among the parents but among the school faculty itself. And I think in many cases it it's up to the building principal of that particular school to assume some of these leadership responsibilities. I'd like to even go beyond that and say that I think that the principal has more to do with the success of the PTA and than any other person including any parent or teacher. When some principals are reluctant to step in and involve themselves too much or appear to be bossy but I don't think they should worry about this after all. The parent who happens to be elected to the presidency of the PTA is strictly an amateur in these things and would be appreciative of advice from the principal who over a period of years has seen PTA succeed and fail because of poor planning. I think sometimes administrators may step down too far. I recall
teaching in a school in which attendance at PTA or teachers was compulsory and as a result when you attended the PTA meeting the teachers far outnumbered parents. Obviously many of the teachers resented the idea that their attendance at PTA meetings was compulsory and as a result I think the PTA never achieved its objectives especially the major objective which is to bring the school at me. Home closer together however I noticed that our own local PTA organization and decal have started some programs that seem to be very worthwhile and the reaction to these programs seem to be a reaction seems to be quite good and the parents and family life Committee of the local PTA have started a program called you
speak and the purpose of the program is to give the parents more information about child growth and development problems of the adolescent. The purposes and objectives of the school. What the school is doing and dress policy is what the school is doing and discipline many other areas of concern. And I do think that when PTA is. Place most of their emphasis on the achievement of the primary goals of the day rather than simply having coffee making rather lengthy reports can be quite successful over a I think the BDA you referred to is an example on it. Unfortunately it's not a rare example where the teachers outnumber the parents in attendance is essentially a failing PTA. Doesn't mean that it's not ready and willing to come to the
support and aid of the schools when needed. But on the other hand it's not accomplishing the major objective which I think is communication between the home and the school. And I'm not sure that I'd worry so much about teachers being obligated to attend the PTA. I think any responsible teacher would feel obligated to attend barring an emergency situation. When I think that women teachers outnumber the parents something is wrong. There should be more interested in gendered in the parents and I'm not blaming the parents for it. I think planning lively discussions involving children as you've indicated rightly and the nature of the meetings can do much to encourage parents to come. You're going to have too many PTA meetings during your school year too I think sometimes just reducing the number of the PTA meetings having them brisk having them start on time and having a good theme will get better attendance. I noticed that PTA is. Very often the parents
of young children. Those children who are in the primary grades seem to take quite. A great interest in the PTA. And far outnumber the parents of older children. And this is especially true as you move them to the high school so that many high school parents have. Either lost interest in the PTA or at least you cited the PTA had little to offer them. And I wonder if the PTA is as meaningful at the high school level. Or what the reason for such poor town those on the part of high school parents are. Well I think the PTA would be an absolute necessity. Or. The children and their parents who who are in the are children who are in the primary grades especially where the first child in the family is is beginning school.
The school situation being new to the child and the parents and there must be some means of communication between the mother and father and the school and I think some site of some type of parent organization is about the only way that this gap can be bridged. Well you know I know you know I think maybe you are reflecting the attitude of the typical American family. The fact that well I have attended PTA now for six years working with young children my younger children and now my children in high school I don't have to worry so much about them. I think this is one of the serious mistakes being made by parents they think because their children are almost adult size and they can forget about them. And I have a feeling that children grow away from their parents and they get in trouble because the parents don't follow them along and take an interest in their work at school and communicate with the teachers. So that
they know when their youngsters are going in the wrong direction. And I think what do you said here is typical. Or true of most organizations phrase I was thinking if you're talking about. Cub Scouts versus Boy Scouts versus Explorer Scouts if the Cub Scouts have an affair at school or wherever they're meeting it isn't difficult it isn't very difficult to get the parents to attend. But if the Boy Scouts are having something going on you'll find fewer parents and it's probably impossible for the Explorer Scouts to get parents to come out for anything. But I think that what I've observed through the years. I could point to their parent education programs as probably their outstanding teacher because. I work with several different ways as a school principal. And the one PTA that I work with over the longest period of time had very excellent parent education programs. You see these programs are. Outlined
for them in the National Parent Teacher magazine that comes out every month. They have several topics and they have discussion guidelines so the inexperienced person can carry on a good parent education class. And I recall that we had three PTA meetings every month at the regular PTA meeting and then we had two parent education classes one for the elementary school aged children and another one for the older children junior high and senior high and groups. And I can recall that most of the time each parent education class was larger than the regular meeting we had agree with you Lloyd I think that if you would put most of their effort into. An educational program for the parents some terms of understanding of youngsters on the school. Would be far more effective however. If that is true when Petey is are doing that. Then because
adolescents tend to cause so many problems for their parents because it is natural for an adolescent to rebel against the law to strive for a certain degree of independence it seems a PDA could actually offer more to the parents of my school students than to the parents of younger children. But apparently most bt it is are not doing that. I think sometimes BT is our district wide or school wide. In other words instead of doing what Lloyd mentioned of breaking into separate PTA meetings for children and we all mentor grid and those in the high school the program is designed for parents of all children. And maybe because the people who are the most active in the PTA is have parents who are or have children who are younger. The planning of the
programs tends to be for parents of young children and as a result parents of high school youngsters may feel that he had very little that is meaningful for them. I think many a high school principal has just given up. He has tried having parent meetings perhaps even changing the name. And he has found it so difficult to get parents of that of that age children to come. And yet recently we've seen. Instances. That are particularly pathetic. Parents discovering that their post-high school child has run away or is attending college somewhere they think and the child getting into serious trouble with narcotics and the police and the beatniks and so on. In Chicago recently of course we saw a lot of this where parents wandering around in this big city trying to
find their 19 or 18 or 20 year old because they had become separated from this child not only Busiek Lee but psychologically and it probably began very early. And some are on it I think the point you're making here that if we could plan. A parent teacher meetings at the high school and junior high school level that got at the serious problems of communication between parent and child. And of course there's a change in the attitude of the child toward having his parents come to school. This takes place about 4th grade I think doesn't that Lloyd in my experience children are allowed to have their parents come to school and visit the rooms individually or collectively up till about through the third grade in about the fourth grade. There's a there's a period of independence starts to develop and children like to have their parents come to school affairs where other parents are coming to see performances or to parent teachers meetings they're not worried about this but on the high school level then there's even more of this feeling
I don't want mother and father nosing around and appearing to be too protective suit has to be handled in a uni in any diplomatic way. Psychological way acceptable to the students themselves. I think it's true that parents are confronted with some great problems from their children when they reach the age of adolescence which usually occurs at junior high school level or early senior high school level. But I think that would be too late to begin a program of understanding for the parents. I think this this program would have to begin in the primary grades and continue on through the elementary school that parents would have less understanding and. Build contacts with their with their children which would enable them to understand and work well with them when they did get into the into the junior high school and high school. So I'd see it
as a continuous affair and not something that would get great emphasis in the primary grades and another great emphasis at the junior high school or senior high school. I think that's very true. And as I mentioned earlier the National PTA magazine has articles each month written by the best authorities in the country. Who have contributed to that to this magazine. And of course these articles are the same in all the magazines some of another word each month. They'll have one it's appropriate for let's say primary school age children or their parents of primary school age children and then they also have Article one or more articles in there that are appropriate for senior high school children on narcotics or on some other pertinent subject or topic of the day. And of course many of these parents at the elementary school level have children in high school at the same time. And that's why I think the elementary school has an advantage here in that they have these parents.
And as I said earlier again the parents can break up into discussion groups. One group of five or 10 or 20 parents can select. A topic appropriate that's a or interesting to them. Another group of parents who do not have any children at Deal older age in the older age group they can select a different topic. I think continuous contact with your child and his educational process is critical in Leo. I think that we have to get greater emphasis at those junior high and senior high levels because here is this tapering off of interest and I think when you analyze it the children are the ones who get their parents to come to PTA. And that's when they come at the primary and the middle grade levels because the children go home and talk about school they talk about the meeting coming up and sometimes the teachers even pin the notes on the children so they won't lose them. But kids clam up. Have you noticed in the rearing of your own children as they grow up and as
they reach about the sixth or seventh grade instead of coming home and and and enthusiastically talking about things going on in school they clam up and you see how school going and they all say nice Wow. Or they are non-committal. This is the time when I think you have to somehow or other exert greater effort to get into contact. It's been said the PTA is a lot like churches that the people that profit the most from attending and seldom do. And I think that statement is relevant in terms of the fact that PTA is are not representative of total community as most PTA is touted to draw largely from. Middle class parents or parents of children who are already doing well in school. A few years ago another fellow here at Northern Illinois University and I did a study
relating their study of the relationship of Greed's of children and the attendance on a part of the parent's PTA is. And we found that the highest grade point averages were obtained by those parents who held office by the children of parents who held office and PTA is and the next highest by the children that had both parents who attended PTA and the next highest by those who had just one parent attended PTA as low as grade point averages by youngsters who did not have parents attending PTA is obviously their grades didn't go up because it tended to PTA. But it does indicate that. In many cases PDAF have failed to get the parents of
children who are having difficulties in school and who are not doing well in terms of grades assignments and schoolwork to attend the PTA. I think throughout our discussion we've we've said that a successful PTA should get as wide range of parents of parents as many parents as possible to attend. This leads me to make the remark that a PTA can be destructive to the best interests of a school and its children. And I always worry about a PTA that degenerate to a small nucleus of parents. Who come regularly the same small group of parents and then I begin to worry because I don't think this small interested group is going to reflect the feelings of the entire group of parents. The PTA can get involved in matters that can be harmful
and that's another good reason why the principal of a school should be very close to the PTA. And he should be very frank and forthright. With these parents concerning I would say the strength of this school her weaknesses and the needs and the problems and he needs to to know the direction the PTA is going so there is a very good reason for the principal. I would say to attend every meeting every board meeting and many of the parent education classes and other meeting scummy meetings that they're having. I agree with you Lloyd. However in many cases I think a PTA may move along when it gets. When it's made up largely of a small group and while I actually need term in policy for the school which would be within the realm of the school board neither the school board should be determining the policies. And yet often times I think the PTA will become interested in some aspect of the school program
and will actually determine a policy concerning part of the curriculum or part of what the school does more to get involved in to administrative matters and I may even know in a small PTA through only a minority of the parents were in attendance to get involved in personnel matters and to be very destructive to the success of a teacher. Simply because a few parents got it in for that particular teacher and the teacher didn't have any friends that happen to be attending these meetings. I've known some PTA organizations for want of better goals that have degenerated and I mean that. Into becoming a money raising organization through various means take on the responsibilities of buying equipment and materials for the school rather than getting involved in these nobler goals which we have mentioned in regard to parent education. And I think that any
PTA that would recognize a need within a school rather than taking upon itself to raise money to buy that equipment would see that the Board of Education would. Have to. Have the financial means or get the financial means of buying this needed equipment for the school. I'll come right back to the principal again. Somebody needs to keep them on the right track and if they get on the wrong track some friendly approachable person is respected by these parents need to tell them they are on the wrong or on the wrong track and steer them right. And the principal I say is the one that has to shoulder that responsibility. I think I agree with you Lloyd. And I think that a strong principal can do that. I would not want to leave the impression that we are against. PDA is becoming involved in educational policy matters. However they would not
form the policy I think in many cases. PTA is a excellent source of community opinion concerning school programs or school dress for example. If a school code is being developed concerning behavior on school dress I think the PTA may be an excellent place to get a reaction concerning that school code. Well I think what we are actually saying is a PTA fundamentally is a vital link between the school and he and the parents and it must be encouraged so that we get as many involved as possible and that the school must take advantage of the parent teacher association to become sensitive to parental role in the home and community needs and that the parents in turn. Need to be in close contact with the education of their children
by attending parent teacher association meetings and of course my individual visits to the schools. We would want to give the impression that the responsibility is over because you attend a BTA meeting. In other words everybody concerned should get behind the Parent Teachers Association and try to make it. An active supportive productive organization behind the classroom door produced by WFIU Af-Am in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guest were Dr. Raymond B Fox associate dean of the College of Education and Dr. Leo Laughlin head of the Department of Administration and services. And Dr. Lloyd Leonard head of the
Behind the Classroom Door
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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