Thursday, May 04, 2006

the problem of being involved ...

At the end of last year I sat in Thomas’ first end of year school performance and listened while the chair of the parent committee talked about how fabulous she had found it to be involved in the school.

I am an ex-primary schoolteacher so I do know of the importance of parent involvement for children and how it impacts on their learning and enjoyment of school. And I had been very diligent about coming to school events and regularly came to the classroom and assembly, but it was my first year back to full time work, Gaye had come back from living in Darwin, my mother was feral – I had enough on my plate I thought.

The school is lovely – its is an infants school so the kids are all in kinder, grade one or two; it is small and very friendly. And suddenly I thought that I was letting these things go by and we only have two more years left at this school so I better get involved.

So I did. I joined the parent committee, started writing grants and the like for them. I negotiated changed working hours with both my current and former employer so I can spend two hours on a Wednesday morning at the school in the classroom. And I took on manager of the soccer team (which is now basically kids from the school). I got involved.

Overwhelmingly this has been a good experience. My connections with the school, teachers and the parents have become stronger (this came in all sorts of handy over this latest school holidays when I had no leave to speak of) and generally more enjoyable. I feel much more part of the school community. When Thomas is having a bad time I feel more able to reach out and ask questions. I know much more about his good days.

I am really enjoying knowing the children in his class and soccer team better, that they all know my name and that I know more than theirs about them. I know more about Thomas now too – seeing him in a different context has been enlightening and interesting and he loves loves loves me coming. Often asking ‘how many sleeps until Wednesday?’

These are all the positives, but last night was not. Last night was the parent committee… and there is one person on our committee who is ALWAYS negative, who ALWAYS disagrees with everyone else but who NEVER volunteers to do ANYTHING.

And before you get the idea that she might be a stand-alone voice in the crowd – her key complaint is always about he minutes. We currently have 6 or 7 sets of minutes unapproved because she wants to make more and more amendments. About a parent committee meeting! About tea-towel fundraising drives and weekend BBQ rosters!

This drives me insane. Gaye has said I am going to have to not go if it drives me so crazy. The meetings are always long (like 3 hours) because of her complaints.

But I refuse to be driven away.

Last night the feminist collective type in me completely rolled over and called for a vote so we could MOVE on.

I did organise for Gaye to pick me up at 8:30 so I wouldn’t have to sit through the complaining once I had the information I needed for my grant application. I rang another parent afterwards to debrief and found they had all gone to the pub. A bloody good idea

Today I have come into work early so I can finish writing the grant and remind myself why I got involved!

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