How to Make Joining PTA Easy

Now more than ever, people want to connect with each other and know what is happening at their child’s school. Your PTA can fulfill the universal need to connect and belong, during this dark time. You should seek to not only renew current members, but to reach out to new audiences, grow your PTA and build an even stronger community. Actions, such as reaching out just to check in on someone’s well-being, build real engagement with current and future PTA members.

We need to think about membership differently. Traditionally, many PTAs have membership tables at several school or PTA events in the beginning of the year to start off their membership campaign. But it is unclear if all school buildings will open at the start of this next school year, so this strategy may not be viable.

Now is a good time to rethink how your PTA will promote membership next year, especially if schools are still remote when they start in the fall. Here are some ideas to start your discussion. (Psst…make sure you read to the end for a surprise reveal from National PTA.)

For Local PTAs Who Don’t Yet Offer Online Join

Setting up online join and renewal isn’t as complicated as it sounds! First check with your state PTA, as more than 30 state PTAs offer an online database that their local units can use, for free! If this is an option, get set up right away, get trained, sign up for online pay and you will be on your way. If your state doesn’t currently offer an online option, there are still lots of free and/or inexpensive options you can put into place easily:

  • Develop an easy to use online membership form that people can fill out (like a Smartsheet or Google Forms) and have a required field to select a payment option.
  • Set up an online payment option like PayPal or Square.

Have fun. Create a fun visual with the link imbedded to join virtually. Get the word out! Post the online form link and payment information everywhere–your PTA website, Facebook page, Twitter, in your PTA/PTSA newsletters, emails, etc. On social media, tag the school or use school hashtags so anyone who follows the school will see your PTA posts.

  • Reach out to everyone who joined last year and ask them to renew their membership by sending them the link. If they don’t renew within a few weeks, send another reminder–something like the new school year is right around the corner, stay connected by renewing your PTA membership.
  • Ask your school to post PTA membership information in their newsletters and or on their website
  • Can’t figure out online join but need a way for people to join your PTA/PTSA remotely? Set up a P.O. Box for people to send their membership forms and payments. Require checks only via this method as you don’t want people sending cash in the mail and you don’t ever want there to be a question of cash missing.

For Local PTAs Who Already Offer Online Join

First, congrats on already offering online join! If your online join is linked to a membership database, now is the time to use all the tools available to you so, no matter what happens in the fall, you can stay connected to your community. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Send an email to everyone who is a member in 2019-2020 and ask them to “Stay connected over the summer by joining PTA now” and provide the link to join. If they don’t renew within a few weeks, send another reminder–something like, “The new school year is right around the corner, stay connected by renewing your PTA membership today.”
  • If you have had your online system for more than a year, reach out to everyone who was a member two or more years ago and ask them to “Come back to PTA” and send the link to join.
  • If your database system offers a communication tool, use it to connect with your members. Use it to share information like upcoming meetings, programs in the works, volunteer opportunities or simply use it to ask for feedback on the issues they want the PTA to focus on in the coming school year.
  • Get the word out! Post the online form link and payment information everywhere–your PTA website, on Facebook, in PTA/PTSA newsletters, emails, etc.
  • Get the word out beyond your current membership–ask the school to include your online join link in their communications or in the Parent Resources section of their website.

For State PTAs

  • If you have an online database, develop a unit look-up option that can go on your state website that allows people to join your local PTAs. Share the link with your local PTAs so if they don’t have a website, they can promote your link in all their messaging. This increases your traffic on your state website and makes it easy for the person and the local PTA. A win-win for all!
    • Check it out in action by visiting https://nyspta.org/ and click on the Join button in the blue ribbon.
  • If you don’t have an online database yet, talk to other state PTAs to see what is working for them and put a plan in place to move to an online membership system. This will make things easier at the state level and is a great new benefit for your local PTAs.
  • List state-level contacts in a prominent area on your website so visitors can quickly find someone in their area if they membership need help. Remember to include all the District/Council/Region PTA contacts and website information too.
  • Make sure there is a membership and/or join button on your website in a very visible place.
  • If you have an online database and not all your units are using it, now is the time to promote the benefits of enrolling. Here are some example benefits your database/state may offer:
    • First – it’s free, and so is training!
    • People join and pay online – easy, safe and saves time for new members and leaders.
    • No need to type membership info into a local tracking tool as the leaders will have access to their full membership data.
    • Reduce the need to print forms, to collect cash and checks or to make multiple trips to the bank.
    • Communication tools to quickly create newsletters and send within the database system.
    • Some online platforms also offer the ability to send text messages or create calendars, volunteer sign-ups, a school directory, fundraisers, events, an e-store, etc.
  • Help your local PTAs by encouraging them to promote membership as the school year gets closer…
    • If you have an online database, suggest they send an email welcoming everyone to a new school year and ask them if they have not yet renewed their membership to join their PTA again this year with a link to join and a link to any online PTA resources like their website, Facebook page, etc.
    • If you do not have a database, but local units manually collect people’s information that includes emails, suggest they send everyone a welcome to the new school year, ask them to join their PTA again this year, include a couple of key links to resources on your state website and let them know they should be hearing more information from their local PTA soon.
  • Try promoting a “PTA unit of the month” on your webpage. Highlight a unit and its accomplishments on your website with a link to join that PTA online. If you do not have a database yet, look to set up on online form (like SmartSheet or GoogleForm) and an online pay option like PayPal or Square.
  • Plan Now for accounts receivable! If your local units have people enter their information online but pay by check, first encourage them to move to online pay. Then, for those that still opt to accept payments via check, develop a process to collect those dollars if they don’t come in within a few weeks. If your state has a database linked with your local PTA’s, you should be able to see them¾create a process to reach out and collect the missing dues payments.

Do you have other ideas on how to promote and sell PTA membership in virtual world? Email us at Membership@pta.org

Psst…National PTA is getting ready to roll out a new membership marketing campaign for you! It will have all sorts of amazing graphics, you can highlight your local work, local people and more. We will offer some free online “how to incorporate it into your work and messaging” training as well. Stay tuned at PTA.org.

 


 

Suzan Yungner is the Director of Membership and Field Service for National PTA.

The Importance of Daily Recess When Schools Return From COVID-19 Lockdowns

Over the past few months, parents have been faced with the seemingly impossible tasks of sheltering in place, working from home or at essential jobs, and homeschooling their children; all while managing the emotional, logistical, and financial challenges that have come with the recent global pandemic. As we look forward to the fall, schools are developing plans for how to resume public education while adhering to best practice recommendations from public health officials. Although recess is often elementary students’ favorite time of the school day, currently, there is limited discussion about recess in school re-opening. Recess is more than just fun and games; it is through play that children grow and the unstructured recess space is an important site for students to reconnect with their peers after months of isolation. Rather than cancelling recess or closing playgrounds,[1] at this critical time, recess should be prioritized in school re-opening plans.

Providing children with regular opportunities to play, socialize, rest, and re-energize through recess is imperative. High quality recess breaks improve mood, well-being, school engagement, behavior, learning, focus, attendance, and overall school climate. The time for social and emotional healing and growth is essential in this unprecedented time. Data show that children’s physical and psychological health are negatively impacted during quarantine[2], and that trauma symptoms increase for those in quarantine[3]. When children experience stress and trauma, it is difficult for them to access the portions of the brain that support thinking and reasoning,[4] thus recess and outdoor break times should be integral to any strategy aimed at providing a safe and supportive learning environment.

In considering a return to school, recess is the ideal space to promote health and healing. It is a time period that is intentionally unstructured, attends to students’ social, emotional, physical and intellectual development, and often takes place outdoors. Current data show[5] that transmission of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is much less likely to happen in outdoor environments; and that outdoor recreation can facilitate social distancing efforts relative to time spent in indoor environments.[6]

Parents can play a key role in addressing the importance of recess as children return to school buildings. As many school districts and state education boards are seeking input from parent stakeholders, we encourage parents and local PTA’s to advocate for children’s right to play[7] and to ensure recess is available to every child, every day that they are physically at school. To help equip parents, educators, and policymakers on the both the importance of recess, and strategies to keep recess safe during (and beyond) the pandemic, The Global Recess Alliance – a group of international researchers, educators, and health professionals – has created list of suggested adaptations for recess based on the best available research evidence[8]. Among the recommendations are to:

  • Offer recess daily for children when they are physically present at school, outdoors if possible;
  • Count recess as instructional time;
  • Advise recess staff so they are prepared to support students who may be more energetic, aggressive, or withdrawn; or have less capacity to self-regulate, resolve their own conflicts, and figure out how to play together;
  • Maintain disinfecting practices for equipment and do not allow students to bring equipment from home;
  • Add handwashing stations and model their use;
  • Limit the number of children at recess at one time and create different play areas for activities to further reduce their interactions;
  • Avoid structured or sedentary activities—like watching movies or activity break videos that do not provide students free choice and peer interactions—which are not substitutes for recess; and
  • Given the many physical, social and emotional benefits of recess, do not withhold recess as punishment for any reason (e.g. as a consequence for missed schoolwork or misbehavior).

Parents and PTAs can utilize this available evidence to help schools develop plans to create safe and healthy play opportunities for child in both the near, and long-term future.


William Massey, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. His line of research focused on the intersection of play, physical activity, and child development.

Rebecca London is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research focuses on understanding the challenges faced by disadvantaged children and youth and the ways that communities and community organizations support young people to be healthy and successful.

[1] U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Considerations for schools.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html

[2] Sprang G, Silman M. Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents and youth after health-related disasters. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013;7:105–110

[3] Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet. 2020;395(10227):912‐920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8

[4] Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2015). School readiness and self-regulation: A developmental psychobiological approach. Annual Review of Psychology, 66(1), 711–731.

[5] Qian H, Miao T, LIU L, Zheng X, Luo D, Li Y. Indoor transmission of SARS-CoV-2. medRxiv. 2020;(17202719):2020.04.04.20053058. doi:10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058

[6] Venter ZS, Barton DN, Gundersen V, Figari H. Urban nature in a time of crisis : recreational use of green space increases during the COVID-19 outbreak in Oslo , Norway

[7] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.” IPAworld, May 1, 2012, http://ipaworld.org/childs-right-to-play/uncrc-article-31/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child-1/.

[8] Global Recess Alliance. School Reopening? Make Sure Children Have Daily Time for Recess. 7 May 2020. https://globalrecessalliance.org/.

The 2020 Census: What Does it Mean for Children and Families?

Think counting every person in the United States is impossible? Think again.

In fact, the very first U.S. census was all the way back in 1790! Every 10 years, every person in the United States (including adults, children, babies, citizens and immigrants) is counted through the census. This isn’t just so we know the population makeup. Census data is used to determine representation in Congress, state legislatures and school boards, and—critically—it’s also used to determine how much federal funding should flow to children’s programs in states and communities.

Programs such as Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Title I and IDEA special education funding rely on accurate census counts to help allocate over $800 billion a year in federal funds. The 2020 Census will have lasting effects on crucial programs that serve our children and families.

So, what can you do to help ensure an accurate count in the 2020 Census?

First and foremost, make sure to respond to the census.

You can complete the census questionnaire online, by phone or by mail, and every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census by April 1.

Worried about sharing your data? Rest assured that when responding to the census, your privacy is protected. By law, the Census Bureau cannot publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or your household nor can your responses be used against you or shared with any other government agency.

Remember, the census doesn’t just count adults!

Even though accurate census data is crucially important for our children and families, our littlest ones are often missed in the census. Don’t overlook the youngest members of your household.

By not accurately counting newborn babies and other young children, you can negatively impact support for programs such as health insurance, hospitals, childcare, food assistance, schools and early childhood development. This 2020 Census, make sure to count everyone living or sleeping in your home, including your little ones!

National PTA is deeply committed to making sure Congress supports continued and equitable investments in our nation’s children and families. That’s why we advocate every day to make every child’s potential a reality. The 2020 Census is part of that effort. Let’s help ensure all children are counted so they have the tools and resources they need to thrive.


Cyrus Huncharek is the government affairs coordinator for National PTA.

Enhancing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Your PTA

How do you improve your PTA’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in a meaningful way? Roger Minott Sherman Elementary PTA, in Fairfield, Conn., has a few valuable tips—they received a 2019 Jan Harp Domene Award for implementing several strategies to help their community embrace and value diverse perspectives. Discover a few of their keys to success below to get started in your community!

Make It Easier for Families to Be Involved

PTAs can diversify their membership by removing some of the barriers that prevent families from engaging. All families care about their child’s education, but some have more time and more resources to attend events and meetings. Instead of asking families to shift their schedules or miss work to attend, find ways to bring the information to them.

Sherman Elementary PTA found success by…

  • Shifting PTA meetings from midday to nighttime
  • Livestreaming PTA meetings for parents and caregivers who weren’t able attend in person
  • Providing more updates for families on the school website and via email blasts
  • Offering scholarships for PTA memberships and for admission to events and programs


Go Beyond One-Time Events About Diversity

Issues of diversity, equity and inclusion should be topics for ongoing discussion. While PTAs can begin to improve their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with a specific event or series of events, like a multicultural night or a social justice book club, the ultimate goal should be to naturally embed these conversations and initiatives into everyday life.

Sherman Elementary PTA did just that. They began their diversity, equity and inclusion work by implementing a “Diversity Day.” The following year they expanded to hosting a “Diversity Week” and moving forward, they plan to have diversity programming throughout the year. Through this programming they will…

  • Ensure all children and their families are represented in the curriculum. Sherman Elementary PTA’s Diversity Week embedded activities related to different cultures, traditions and ethnicities throughout the curriculum, including in-class conversations, story time, art projects and more. As Sherman Elementary PTA works to expand their efforts beyond Diversity Week, they are collaborating with the librarian to ensure that children have access to diverse books all year round. They are also working to build a library display to include materials relevant to the variety of themes covered during diversity week including ability, gender, culture and more.
  • Create opportunities for cross-cultural exchange. Since their school’s student population is 86% white, it was essential to look beyond their school walls to help facilitate relationships between different races and cultures. Sherman Elementary PTA plans to establish a pen pal program with a neighboring school district to promote understanding between cultures.
  • Elevate diverse voices and stories to help the community understand new perspectives. At Sherman Elementary PTA meetings, volunteers presented on topics that were relevant to them—speaking to their own experiences around family diversity, differences in ability, and more. Moving forward, the PTA is eager to invite guests to speak at school-wide or grade-level assemblies to speak further on these and other issues.

Has your school, district or state PTA taken steps towards creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable community? National PTA is now accepting applications for the 2020 Jan Harp Domene Diversity & Inclusion Award. Learn more and apply now!


Authored by Rebecca Bauer, National PTA Staff

New Year’s Resolutions to Help Keep Your Family Feeling Happy and Healthy

Practice healthy habits in the New Year to make 2020 the best year yet!

The time has come again for New Year’s resolutions. We often promise to lead healthier lives in the New Year, whether by eating clean or hitting the gym – but healthy habits include so much more! This year resolve to keep your family healthy by teaching and practicing healthy habits so you and your loved ones can spend less time recovering from illness, and more time enjoying what 2020 has to offer.

The National Parent Teacher Association and Lysol® want to ensure children and families stay healthy in 2020 with a few easy New Year’s resolutions:

  • Set an exercise routine: Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. They also recommend that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes every day.[i]
  • Meal prep on Sundays: Eating healthy helps your body to stay healthy. Try meal prepping for the week on Sundays to ensure you and your family have a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats! [ii]
  • Start a cleaning and disinfecting routine: Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces at home, school and work a few times each week. Lysol Disinfecting Wipes® kill up to 99.9% of germs, including those that cause cold and flu, and are safe to use on most hard, non-porous surfaces, including electronics.
  • Give yourself time to rest: If you adopt all of these habits and you or your children still get sick, make sure to stay home from work or school to avoid passing illness to others.[iii]

Enter the Teach2Win Sweepstakes for the Chance to Win Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes for Your School!

Tell your school administrators and teachers! Lysol® is helping to make sure classrooms are stocked with product in 2020! Lysol® is selecting 250 winning teachers to receive 50 canisters of Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes for their school! To enter Teach2Win and for a chance to win, all teachers have to do is pledge to teach their students a Healthy Habits lesson in the classroom.

Visit http://www.Lysol.com/healthy-classroom to enter and for official rules. Entries must be submitted by February 27, 2020, and winners will be selected on March 1, 2020. No purchase is necessary to enter.


Author: Ferran Rousaud, Marketing Director for Lysol®

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/index.htm

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html

[iii] CDC.gov. “Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

 

Save the Date! Get Ready for LegCon 2020

I can hardly believe that the 2020 National PTA Legislative Conference (LegCon) is just a few months away. It has always been my favorite event because it is PTAs’ opportunity to use our voices to improve the lives of children and families.

Advocacy is at the core of our association’s mission and vision. Our legacy in advocacy started over 120 years ago when our founders organized over 2000 parents to speak on behalf of children and continued to lead the way in improving their lives. Through our members’ persistent commitment to advocacy, National PTA has played an integral role in landmark federal education legislation and policies. At this year’s #PTALegCon, we will continue to empower the nation towards making every child’s potential a reality.

This year our theme is PTA Takes Action for Kids! and we will do just that when PTA members from across the national descend on Capitol Hill to advocate for policies that support, advance and protect our nation’s youth.

This year’s LegCon is being held at the Westin Alexandria in Old Town—just a hop, skip and a jump from Washington D.C. We will have the opportunity to network with fellow PTA advocates, meet with policymakers and learn how to shape public policy on Capitol Hill and in your own state. Don’t miss this chance to expand your knowledge and have your voices heard!

As a constituent, your grassroots perspective is extremely valuable to elected officials and their staff. During our #PTALegCon Capitol Hill Day, Wednesday, March 11, you will be able to inform lawmakers about which federal programs are serving our children well and which ones are failing them. Federal policymakers work to improve the lives of children and families and they want to hear directly from the people they represent.

Never underestimate the power of your voice! We all want to improve education, and LegCon 2020 will be the perfect time to call upon the 116th Congress to take action. Let’s let them know how they can make a difference in the lives of all children.

Attending #PTALegCon is also about improving and sharpening your advocacy skills! Regardless of your level of advocacy knowledge, we will have something for everyone! Not only will you have the opportunity to hear from policy experts during our workshops, you will hear from your peers that are experts in diverse areas of advocacy. These experts will guide you through the policy landscape and equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively advocate on these issues.

You will leave better prepared to engage in policy discussions with lawmakers, advocates and members of your community. We are confident you will return to your home states feeling fully self-reliant and ready to speak for every child with one voice!

Lastly, we are beyond thrilled to announce our Keynote Speaker for the Advocacy Awards dinner is Rodney Robinsonthe 2019 National Teacher of the Year. He is a powerful, thoughtful and inspiring speaker and is sure to bring all of us to our feet!

Join us! Register here to attend the 2020 National PTA Legislative Conference


About the Author:

Yvonne Johnson is the Vice President of Advocacy, Chair of the Legislation Committee, and member of the board of directors for National PTA.

 

PTA Leader Helps School Step Outside Comfort Zone and Into Progress

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Daphne Callender, Fitness Instructor by day and PTA champion of Springfield Estates Elementary School (SEES) PTA in Springfield, VA, and her extraordinary school community in celebration of their 2019-2021 National PTA School of Excellence designation. The warm celebration with parents, staff and administrators included a delicious dinner, a decorated cake and the unveiling of their School of Excellence banner. As one of 19 PTAs in Virginia to earn the School of Excellence designation this year, Springfield Estates Elementary PTA had a great deal to be proud of. Through their year-long School of Excellence program, SEES PTA chose to focus on the inclusion and access to their ethnically, racially and socio-economically diverse community. As both a Title 1 neighborhood school and Advanced Academic Placement Center that pulls from eight different elementary schools, SEES PTA felt it was imperative to bring all members together to build community and celebrate their rich diversity.

Through their School of Excellence plan, SEES PTA took deliberative steps to make certain that all parents knew that they were invited to attend and participate in all PTA events, translating invitations into their five major languages: Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Urdu, and Arabic.  These invitations were personally distributed to all cars in the Kiss-N-Ride line and sent home in students’ folders. They also asked their Spanish-speaking parent liaison and English as a Second Language teachers to encourage and welcome parent participation at all PTA events. The PTA hosted an international food potluck dinner where families shared dishes from their culture and, to further welcome families with differing socio-economic statuses, they secured scholarships and gift certificates with one of their after-school STEM programs. It is clear that Springfield Estates Elementary celebrates their diverse and culturally rich environment and fervently believes it enhances the educational experience of their students and their families alike. Here is what Daphne shared about her work in the School of Excellence program:

“The National PTA School of Excellence Award program enabled our PTA committee to recognize that although we had a strong PTA, there was room for more family engagement and to make sure that feeling of welcome extended to each and every family at our school. Upon receiving the first email, I gave it a little bit of thought but didn’t know if I wanted to add something else to my already full schedule.  When I received the email that it was the absolute last day to sign up, I decided to go for it.  I then created a team of people who could help me implement and execute a plan for more family engagement. I would highly recommend the National PTA School of Excellence program to other schools because it helps to provide a goal to work towards.  I believe it easy to get stuck in doing what’s always been done. The program gave our PTA a focus and we worked on it together as a team.”

Congratulations SEES PTA and thank you for being a leader in building family-school partnerships!


Amy Weinberg, Manager Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

Visit PTA.org/Excellence to learn more about the School of Excellence program and how your PTA can earn the designation.

Did You Know It Takes Two?

With teenagers, there are certain things that come in non-negotiable pairs: a new driver’s license and extra insurance, a cell phone and social media, or headphones and music. And, while those things are important, parents may not be aware of one particularly crucial “pair”—two separate vaccines to help protect adolescents and teens against meningococcal disease more commonly referred to as meningitis.

Teens and adolescents are one of the more at-risk populations given their phase of life. Because they can carry these bacteria in the back of the throat, innocent and typical behavior for teens such as sharing a drink or meal, or even a kiss with their significant other, could lead to the transmission of bacteria that cause this uncommon but serious disease.3

It’s important for parents of adolescents and teens to be aware that there are two separate vaccines to help protect against different groups of meningococcal disease: one vaccine that helps protect against groups A, C, W and Y and a separate vaccine that helps protect against group B. These two vaccines are needed to help protect against the most common groups of meningococcal disease.8

Key facts about meningococcal disease:

  • Meningococcal disease is an uncommon, but serious disease that can attack without warning.4,5
  • Meningococcal disease can lead to meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) and serious blood infections.5
  • Meningococcal group B (MenB) accounted for nearly 69% of all U.S. meningococcal cases in 16- to 23-year-old adolescents and young adults in 2017.7
  • Meningococcal group B disease (MenB), although uncommon, can lead to death within 24 hours8,9 and in survivors may result in life-altering, significant long-term disabilities.10,11

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adolescents receive their first dose of a MenACWY vaccine between ages 11 and 12 and a booster dose at age 16.12 The CDC also recommends that parents and their teens talk to their doctor or pharmacist about receiving a meningococcal group B disease (MenB) vaccination series starting at age 16.10

If you’re a parent and have questions about how to help protect your adolescent or teen against meningococcal disease, including MenB, the first and best step you can take is to talk to your child’s health care provider. To learn more, please visit www.MeetMeningitis.com. This is sponsored in partnership with Pfizer.


 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningococcal disease. Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[2] Tully J, Viner RM, Coen FG, et al. Risk and protective factors for meningococcal disease in adolescents: matched cohort study. BMJ. 2006;232(7539):445-450.

[3] Poland GA. Prevention of meningococcal disease: current use of polysaccharide and conjugate vaccines. Clin Infect Dis. 2010;50:S45-S53.

[4] Serogroup B Meningococcal (MenB) VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/mening-serogroup.html. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed June 2019.

[5] Soeters H, McNamara L, Blain A, et al. University-Based Outbreaks of Meningococcal Disease Caused by Serogroup B, United States, 2013–2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/3/18-1574_article. Accessed June 2019.

[6] Walker, TY, et al. (2019). National, Regional, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Adolescents Aged 13–17 Years — United States, 2018. Accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/pdfs/mm6833a2-H.pdf. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 68(33): 718-723.

[7] Enhanced meningococcal disease surveillance report, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/downloads/NCIRD-EMS-Report-2017.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

[8] Meningococcal Vaccines for Preteens, Teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/meningococcal/. Accessed June 2019.

[9] Thompson MJ, Ninis N, Perera R, et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367(9508):397-403.

[10] Borg J, Christie D, Coen PG, Pooy R, Viner RM. Outcomes of meningococcal disease in adolescence: prospective, matched-cohort study. Pediatrics. 2009;123:e502-e509.

[11] Sabatini C, Bosis S, Semino M, Senatore L, Principi N, Esposito S. Clinical presentation of meningococcal disease in childhood. J Prev Med Hyg. 2012;53:116-119.

[12] Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 years or younger. US Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf. Accessed June 2019.

Element of a Confident Parent – Looking for the Good

Originally posted on Confident Parents Confident Kids

Though the sunshine sparkles through the yellow leaves during these beautiful Fall days, there is less light in the morning and evening. And we’ve been doing this school thing for a few months now. We’ve poured it on and now we are slowing down a bit – tired. My husband and I noticed that some of the routines that used to run smoothly are in need of an update. In particular, we’ve noticed that our son leaves his dishes behind for someone else to take care of, whether it’s breakfast or dinner. He’s picked them up, cleaned them off and placed them in the dishwasher in the past. We know he can do it. But he’s forgetting regularly. And we began to remind him but realized we had down-shifted into nagging. When reminders happen day-after-day, then a parent knows that she’s entered the hamster wheel, a vicious cycle going nowhere. So the question becomes, “How does learning take place? How is change facilitated?”

We informally – Mom, Dad and E, our nine-year-old, sat around one night after dinner and brainstormed solutions. “The taking-in-of-the-dishes seems to be challenging. It’s hard to remember when you’ve got play you are eager to get to. What could help you remember?” I said and we started thinking off all kinds of ways to help him remember with E chiming in his ideas. “I could wear one of those rubber bracelets.” Or “I could not get dessert until my dishes are returned.” We talked about the possibilities of each and how they might work. And finally, he resolved that if we say simply “Dishes.” quietly when he’s asking to leave the table, that’s all the help he needs to remember. And it’s worked exceedingly well.

In addition, my husband and I resolved to be certain and notice when he did his routines without our reminders. So often, we play the “Gotcha!” game as parents. “You forgot this.” “You left that behind.” “You made a mess here.” And because we are so busy focused on the mistakes of life, we forget ourselves to point to the good even though we all tend to forget daily tasks. “Ooops, you are going to have to wear a day-old shirt because I forgot to get the laundry done last night.” is a common refrain of my own.

It doesn’t take long to recognize the good but it does take some presence of mind. We do have to pay attention to our kids not to catch them doing wrong but to catch them doing right. If kids are reinforced by recognizing their faults, they too will focus on their faults. And along with the fear of making mistakes (which often leads to more of the same), they will accumulate shame for their long list of missteps.

We can all use some reinforcing of the good. But as parents, we need help to remember. Habit changes can be tough for anyone. And looking for the good does not seem to come naturally to most of us problem-solvers who are ready to “fix” things. So how do we cultivate our own habit of looking for the good that our children do?

We need not shower them with praise. In fact, research shows that too much praise – or praise that is not specific – “Good job!” – or praise that is over-the-top, does not help reinforce positive behaviors. It doesn’t seem genuine and can actually de-motivate children.1 So in striving for authentic feedback that will provide a balanced view of children’s actions, here are some thoughts.

Step back and reflect.

Find a quiet moment to think about your feedback to family members. You might ask yourself the following questions. Consider these as they relate to each family member. Write your responses since the physical act of writing (by hand) will help solidify the thoughts in your brain. Conduct your own self-assessment so that you know how you can and want to improve.

  • What are typical daily comments I make in relation to _______________ (insert family members) behavior?
  • How many of those comments are about problems I see with others’ behaviors?
  • How many of those comments recognize positive contributions?
  • How frequently do I comment on that particular problem behavior? (twice a day, weekly?)
  • Does the behavior truly create a problem for the family? And if so, how can I facilitate a behavior change?

a.) Have I adequately modeled the behavior for my child so that I am certain he knows how to perform the task? Could he use a refresher in doing the task together with encouragement? Check out this article on interactive modeling for more.

b.) Or if he knows exactly how to do the task, can we hold a family meeting or talk just the two of us and brainstorm solutions on ways to solve the problem?

c. Can we create a plan for our newly revised routine? Formalize it by writing it down and posting it where your kids can see and be reminded by their plan they devised with you.

Set a goal.

Once you’ve identified not only what you don’t want to do but what habits you want to adopt, set a positive goal for yourself. What will you do to help yourself recognize the good?

Consider developmental milestones.

So often the behaviors that annoy us about children relate directly to the developmental milestones on which they are working. By the very nature of learning and achieving new levels of awareness and ability, they will be making mistakes. It’s a necessary part of how we all learn. So at this time when you are looking to make your own habit changes, read about your child’s age and stage and find out what they are working on. Then when they make mistakes, you’ll be able to recognize and connect it to their development. It will allow you greater empathy resulting in added patience and understanding. You’ll be ready to support their learning versus falling into the tendency to scold them for their mistakes. Check out the Parent Toolkit for development ages/stages. Download the free application that will send you updates on your specific child’s development.

Co-create a routine.

Since mornings were getting rough and I noticed the reminding was about to turn into a cycle of nagging, E and I worked on updating full-morning-routine-poster-2016his morning routine poster one day after school. We talked through specific times that were challenging to get through in the morning. “How are you going to remember to brush your teeth?” He enjoyed developing his routine poster. And yet again, it worked. Our mornings have gone smoothly ever since and I have been intentional about reinforcing his positive behaviors with comments like, “Woah, I didn’t say a word of a reminder this morning and we were out of the door on time. You completed all of your tasks and your backpack is ready.” Check out this video short on the morning routine if you need to revisit yours to help that time of day run smoothly.

Establish accountability.

How are you going to keep yourself accountable to the goal you’ve set? How are you going to remember to recognize positive behaviors? Sometimes, the most powerful accountability comes from those around us. So if you let family members know about the goal you are working toward, they can check in with you. Those small reminders can help support your habit change.

Though many believe that we are only hard-wired for self-centeredness and the good must be socialized into us, in fact, research confirms that we are born with both the capacity for self-centeredness but also, altruism and empathy.2 Our very survival is based on our ability to connect with others. Studies with babies have shown that even those new to the world will try and assist others – babies or adults – who are suffering and need help.3

If we view ourselves as here to “fix” our kids, our kids will feel as if they need fixing. But if we view our kids as learners – as inherently ready to help and do good – they will help and do good. And if we are able to regularly find and shine a light on their strengths and the many ways they contribute to our family lives, they will grow with an identity that is strong and resilient.

I was recently reminded of contributions my son makes to our lives that I tend to take for granted. My Mom came to celebrate her birthday. And her grandson made her smile and laugh nearly the entire time she was visiting. As she hugged me goodbye, she expressed how much she appreciated her grandson making her laugh and how rare it was for her to experience laughter daily in her own quiet household of two adults. I had been consumed with the chaos and busyness of all of my responsibilities that day. What an important reminder it was for me and a helpful wake-up call to recognize the significant contribution of my child. When he’s grown and moved out, it’s the laughter I will recall not the dirty dishes.


About the Author: Jennifer Miller is the author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids and a recent guest on the National PTA podcast, Notes from the Backpack.

References

1. Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards; The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise and other bribes. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.

2. Szalavitz, M. & Perry, B. (2010). Born for Love, Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

3. Keltner, D. (2009). Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life. NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

How Boosterthon Turned This Skeptical Dad into a Fan

I hate school fundraisers with a passion. You see, I have three kids in school, from seventh grade all the way down to third grade. We’ve reluctantly participated in our share of school fundraisers over the years and will likely face many more in the next decade or so to come. Each time we’ve done so, I’ve cringed. While I understand that fundraisers are a necessary evil for many public schools, I’d much rather cut a check at the beginning of the school year and never have someone tell my kids that if they’ll only sell X amount of stuff that no one wants, then they can have this cheap trinket and the school will make a percentage of those sales dollars… much less have to try to sell 3X as a family so each kid can have a cheap trinket that will get lost, broken, or trashed before the week is out.

This is coming from a guy who serves in key positions with a number of local fundraising organizations. Included in that mix is my role on my youngest daughter’s elementary school PTA board as the school Watch D.O.G.S. chairman. It has been my experience that I am not alone in my disdain for student fundraising, as reflected last fall when it came time to talk about fundraising options for the current school year. Oh, joy! Do we decide to sell this or to sell that?

This school year, a newer member of the PTA board suggested taking a different approach. Prior to moving to the district, her children had participated in a Boosterthon Fun Run at their previous school district. She mentioned that it had both gone over really well with everyone involved–students, families, and school staff–and saw better participation and results than a lot of more traditional (read: “sales”) fundraisers they had done in the past.

Boosterthon Malachi Story

I was skeptical. “They do all the work and we get paid” has never played out that way for me in my fundraising experience. But, I kept my mouth shut. Anything that didn’t involve asking grandparents, neighbors, and co-workers to buy something (especially with Girl Scout cookie sales going on at that same time of year) was the lesser evil, in my opinion. Additionally, I wasn’t confident that the school’s administration and teachers would be cool with someone not connected to the school district coming in and telling them how this fundraiser was going to go and taking a portion of their instructional time. Principals and teachers tend to be Type-A personalities. Even if we moved forward as a PTA board, there was still a chance this would be murdered somewhere down the line.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with how well our first Boosterthon program went.

How Boosterthon Worked

Our PTA board leaders and building principal sat down with a Boosterthon representative and selected a date for the Fun Run, which in our case was Thursday, January 18, 2018. A pair of Boosterthon team members arrived on Monday, January 8 to begin setup. Over the next eight school days (which was interrupted by a holiday and multiple-day school closing due to winter weather), the pair got students pumped up for the run by sharing Boosterthon’s “Castle Quest” character-focused curriculum. Their presentations were high-energy (as a parent of a child with sensory processing issues, I was, yes, skeptical of the approach) and effective. From day one of the lead up to the Fun Run, my daughter was excited.

Just as importantly–if not more important–the teachers were excited as well.

Boosterthon school

Instructions were sent home that walked parents through using Boosterthon’s online tools to create a donation page for each child and share instantly on a number of major social media networks. Donors could choose to make a flat donation or a per-lap donation. Boosterthon caps the number of laps a child can receive credit for at 35, so per-lap donors can do a little math and keep their donation within their budget.

One of the great things about the Boosterthon Fun Run is that every student gets to run, regardless of donations received. With other fundraisers, students who don’t sell whatever have to watch while much-coveted trash and trinkets are distributed to the top sellers among their classmates. Nothing like drilling the ol’, “Put that half-pint of milk down. Milk’s for closers.” mentality into them while they’re young, right? Everyone runs during the Boosterthon fun run, and all the laps are counted, even if they’re run for free.

On the day of the event, additional Boosterthon staff arrived and transformed our school gym into a track/rave/party room. String lights marked the inside and outside lanes of the track. Tents were erected and audio equipment set up in the infield. Parents were invited to come and cheer on their students, who arrived at the gym bearing their class-designed flag and entered through an inflatable tunnel. Once the rules were laid out, the students walked a half of a lap to get warmed up, the gym lights were turned off, and the kids were turned loose.

Boosterthon Glow Run 2

As volunteers, this is the only part of the process where we had to do any real work. Adult volunteers were lined up at the lap marker with Sharpies. Each runner had a sticker on his or her back, and as they completed a lap, they slowed down and their stickers were marked for the corresponding lap number. With so many kids running and with the number of volunteers we had, that meant that the runners got a chance to catch their collective breaths for a few seconds as they worked their way through the line. Periodically during the run, the Boosterthon DJ would slow it down and have the kids walk a couple of laps, which still counted toward their goal of 35 laps, in order to keep anyone from going all out and getting overheated.

Our school chose to have students run during their related arts hours, to minimize the impact on classroom instruction. Even with a two-hour late start on the day of the event (remember that winter weather I told you about?), all students who were present were able to participate over the course of that single-day event.

What Were the Financial Results?

That’s all great, you say. The PTA and volunteers didn’t have to do too much. You didn’t have to go out and sell a bunch of stuff that nobody wants or needs. Everyone got to participate and no one brought home a cheap squeeze toy or one of those sticky things you throw at the wall that “walks” down and ends up covered in pet hair. Good for you. How much money did the Fun Run raise for your school?

The goal for our school was to raise enough money to cover Boosterthon’s take (around $2,000 or so, for setting up, promoting, handling the donations, and hosting the event… your school’s cost may differ) and net the school $10,000 to cover the final costs for the greenhouse project. Was that a realistic goal? We didn’t know, but the Boosterthon folks suggested that for a school with our enrollment numbers, it wasn’t unrealistic. It all came down to donor participation.

4 Reasons Why We Choose Boosterthon Every Year

Because we had a holiday and two days of school closing due to weather, Boosterthon extended our donation deadline by a few additional days. As I type this article, we have raised nearly $15,000 from the event, exceeding our goal by around 30%. With enrollment around 640 students, that’s a per-student average between $20 and $25 (which doesn’t tell the whole story, when about 40% of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunches). To say that this event was successful beyond anything even the least skeptical among us could have hoped for is an understatement.

Conclusion

That evening, our PTA held our annual Winterfest, which was scheduled to serve as a wrap up for the fun run activities. Parents shared with me and others that they were thrilled with this fundraiser, even without knowing the final numbers. The overwhelming sentiment was that parents and students very much enjoyed the idea of the kids getting character instruction and running laps during the school day over the thought of having to sell a whole lot of something in order to reach some unattainable goal to get an upgraded piece-of-junk prize, then being upset when they didn’t sell that crazy amount in order to get what cost pennies if ordered in bulk from Oriental Trading or some such source.

Barring some unforeseen change, we expect to bring Boosterthon back again next school year.

If you are tired of your child being used to move product for a company not connected with your school or community in order for your school to get a relatively small piece of the pie, you might consider attending a PTA meeting–or, gasp!, joining the PTA and volunteering–and suggesting that your child’s school take a look at Boosterthon.


Note: This post was written by Joey Mills and originally appeared on GeekDad.com. National PTA or Boosterthon did not ask for nor influence his review in any way.