An Inside Look at National PTA’s New Digital Safety Initiative

Last week, I visited Texas to help Chapel Hill Preparatory School in Dallas host the first Be Internet Awesome Family Workshop. I’m a new staff member at National PTA, so this was my first opportunity to see PTA members in action. My first impression? PTA parents are dedicated! These parents came ready to be vulnerable—no small feat with the amount of parent-shaming that goes on today—and talk openly about tough parenting issues, provide support for one another and create solutions together.

Families began to trickle in for dinner before the workshop started, allowing people to eat, relax and meet one another. With every activity, parents became more comfortable with each other, letting down their guard to voice their concerns about password security and how to keep their kids safe online. Soraya Gollop, the community liaison for Chapel Hill Prep was elated their PTA was able to put on this event, saying, “Our parents found it really helpful because this is an issue which concerns them. This is a program well worth running.”

What does it take to host an event like the Be Internet Awesome Workshop? Well, National PTA and Google will provide you with all the resources you need to host a successful event. You can visit PTA.org/Connected to find flyers, volunteer forms, an event planning checklist, email templates, sample agendas, evaluation forms and more materials you can use to plan, promote and host the workshop. Our community liaison in Texas noted she, “appreciated the amount of support materials and how clear it was what you needed to do in order to put the workshop on. The results were really fantastic.”

At the close of the event, Chapel Hill’s cafeteria was buzzing with parents continuing conversations on digital safety. Parents were excited and ready to incorporate what they learned with their families.

While we at National PTA have been thrilled with the feedback from the first Be Internet Awesome workshops, we want to make sure we are meeting the needs and learning styles of all families, so we are also working on another event model—our Digital Families Community Events.

During these events, families work together at station-based activity sessions that present real-world scenarios that happen in the connected world. They discuss the best ways to react, who to reach out to for help and how to plan for similar situations before they happen.  Like the workshops, National PTA and Facebook have created easy-to-use materials to assist any PTA with hosting their own event, from start to finish.

These guided conversations give families another way to connect with one another about their lives online, in a positive environment. During the first Digital Families Community Event, a parent attendee commented, “I’m happy to see the things my kids already know. I never would have guessed that they knew to ask permission before posting information online about other people.” It’s that kind of enlightenment and togetherness that makes a hosting digital safety events so vital.

If you are interested in bringing one of these events to your PTA community, make sure to apply for a grant today. Applications can be completed at PTA.org/Grants.

Be There When The Bell Rings for Take Your Family to School Week

National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW) is coming up fast! Throughout the week of Feb. 10-17, 2019, National PTA and local PTA units across the country will be hosting events to encourage family and community engagement, as well as celebrate National PTA Founders’ Day.

Although February is still months away, the way to ensure a successful TYFTSW event is to begin planning now. We’ve got a few event ideas for you!

  1.  Sharpen Literacy Skills: Host a family reading experience, where parents and children spend the evening reading and sharing their favorite books.
  2. Encourage Healthy Lifestyles: Try offering a healthy recipe contest or a school-wide Walk to School Day to help the whole family adopt healthier habits. 
  3. Get smart about STEM: Put on a math night, science festival or engineering game night to encourage all students’ interest in STEM education and careers. 
  4. Take Charge of Your Digital Life: Offer a PTA Connected digital learning event to help parents ensure their children act safely and responsibly online.

Thanks to the generosity of Office Depot OfficeMax, National PTA is thrilled to be able to provide 15 local PTAs with $1,000 to host a Take Your Family to School Week event. However, if you did not win one of these grants, we hope you still host a TYFTSW event!

We have plenty of guides, tips and templates online for you to plan and execute any of the events listed above successfully. A Take Your Family to School Week toolkit will be available to all PTAs at PTA.org/TYFTSW.

National PTA encourages all PTAs to make our mission come to life and to begin planning for Take Your Family to School Week this February!

Help Is Needed to Decide Art Program’s Theme

Did you know each year we hold a theme search contest for the National PTA Reflections program? For nearly fifty years, hundreds of students across the country have submitted theme ideas, and every year, one theme is chosen to serve as a catalyst for artistic creation for the following program year.

In addition to a $100 prize, winners receive national recognition by determining theme for the 2020-2021 Reflections program year. They also play a major role in inspiring hundreds of thousands of students to create original works of art and helping us celebrate the breadth of history of the last 50th years.

Interested in having a Theme Search Contest with your local Reflections program? Click here to see if your State PTA is hosting a Theme Search Contest.

We can’t wait to see what ideas students generate this year! To provide some extra inspiration, we’d like to share some past themes from the 2000s and the incredible artwork that was created as a result.

2000-2001: It Would be Really Strange If…

Name: Dillon Chilcoat

Division: Middle School Division

Title of Work: “It Would Be Really Strange if I Were Elected President

PTA: Earlywine Elementary PTA

City/State: Oklahoma City, OK

2002-2003: Signs of Courage

Name: James Kraemer

Division/Age: Middle School Division, Age 13

PTA: Five Forks Middle School PTSA

City/State: Lawrenceville, GA

2015-2016: Let Your Imagination Fly

Name: Anellina Jones

Division/Age: Primary Division, age 7

PTA: Wyoming PTA

City/State: Evanston, WY

Title: “Carboard Pilots”

2017-2018: Within Reach

Name: Erewyn Limric

Division/Age: Middle School Division

Title: “Yearning to Breathe Free”

PTA: Kalles Junior High PTSA

City/State: Puyallup, Washington

The 2018-19 theme is Heroes Around Me, selected by Hannah Crawley, a fifth grader from Corpus Christi, Texas! Right now, students are submitting works of art with this theme. It’s not too late to get involved – register now at PTA.org/Reflections!  

Next year, Reflections participants will have the opportunity to create original works inspired by the theme Look Within. This theme was submitted by Enashele Campbell, a Kindergartner from H. Guy Child Elementary PTA in Ogden, UT!

We hope you will take part in this annual contest to determine the theme for the 2020-21 year.

How Families Can Drive Social and Emotional Learning

Think back to the many wonderful moments of summer break as a child. Having the freedom to play, lead, think, and simply exist in your own unique way, testing your limits and sharing your imagination and ideas without the filters and regulations of the academic environment.

Now, imagine losing all of that in an instant. All of the joy. All of the freedom. All the imagination. That can be what it’s like for youth to begin the school year and shift into an environment where their social and emotional well-being is not adequately encouraged or supported.

As an active parent in the educational system for nearly two decades, I have witnessed firsthand how competing pressures on schools and educators have drawn attention away from students’ individual abilities, needs, strengths, and circumstances. It seems that the learning environment has become less focused on each student’s success and personal growth.

The time has come to place social and emotional learning back at the forefront in our schools – and it is now more important than ever.  Families, schools, and communities working together are the key to making social and emotional learning and development in school the norm for every child. That’s the central message of the Family Call to Action from the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. Developed by parents, for parents, the Call to Action lays out what we need from our schools – and each other:

We Need Our Schools to Know and Teach the Whole Student

Schools need to move away from one-size-fits-all policies to better meet the needs of each and every student.  When a student’s comprehensive development is fully supported, they are free to build critical life skills such as responsibility, respect, teamwork, self-control, and strength in the face of adversity. They are better able to overcome intellectual and personal challenges they may face in life.

We Need to Be Partners in Our Children’s Learning

Students need to see that their families are involved and invested in their educational well-being in positive ways. This includes attending meetings, conferences, after-school activities, and supporting homework and outside enrichment opportunities. It also means engaging directly with your child about whether their social, emotional, and academic needs are being met.

Be relentless in challenging policies that stifle personal growth and well-being. Collaborate with teachers, administrative staff, and district leaders to ensure that programs and policies are tailored to  individual social and emotional needs. Demand that school leaders communicate clearly and often.

We Need a Whole Community Approach

Extend your efforts beyond the school walls and into the community. Families, local businesses, and community organizations all have a role to play in educating our children. Programs such as mentoring, career shadowing and internship opportunities, and after-school tutoring services are essential to a complete education.

We Need Schools to Integrate Social, Emotional, and Academic Growth into the School Culture and Climate

Social and emotional development takes place all day, not during a 30-minute lesson. Encourage leaders in your school to shift resources that are being used inefficiently to instead support a whole student approach to learning.

We Need to Support Adults Who Support Our Children

The teachers and staff who educate our children are essential, and they need our support. Educators need ongoing professional development and mental health support to be as effective as they can be. Parents and families should have access to learning opportunities as well.

Make Your Voice Heard! 

Sign the National Commission’s Family Call to Action to urge schools to support students’ comprehensive development, then share the sign-on message with families in your community.

Together, we can give future generations of students a solid foundation and the opportunity to practice vital skills every day to develop the self-confidence, compassion, and critical thinking needed to become the model citizens and leaders that they desire to be.


Makeba Giles is the mother of four children who attend public schools and a founding writer of FaithHealthHome.com, an online magazine featuring health, family, and current events for the positive lifestyle. She is a member of the Parent Advisory Panel for the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.

Cobb Middle School – Rise to Excellence Celebration

 

Cobb Middle School PTA in Frisco, Texas had a great deal to celebrate at their Rise to Excellence event as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence and the 2017 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner. Cobb Middle School is the first school in Frisco ISD to receive the School of Excellence designation and the first school in Texas to receive the Hearst Award, National PTA’s highest honor for effective family engagement. Filling the auditorium in attendance at the celebration event were Cobb Middle School students, staff, administration, the PTA Board of Trustees and past PTA presidents, Texas and National PTA, Deputy Superintendents, the Mayor and his wife. Student performances from band, choir, theater and cheer groups adorned speeches from students in Teen Leadership, administration and PTA leaders.

In his speech, a Cobb Middle School 8th grader, James Kair, extended gratitude to the PTA saying, “They are the people who make Cobb stronger compared to other middle schools. What we have here at Cobb is special. We reflect back what the parents and teachers show us. This is not the case at all middle schools. We take it for granted because we’ve all been so fortunate our whole time here to have such amazing, amazing people running our school…it’s those selfless parents who volunteered their time to make our experience better.” James went on to explain that receiving the award was an enormous honor and show of support stating, “This is a big deal. This is what it’s liked to be loved. This is what it’s like to be cared for. Not many people can say that they have that. Life is a mountain. Taking a tumble down a mountain is not nearly as bad when you have someone behind you picking you up.” Cobb Middle School Principal, Kecia Theodore, started and ended her speech with cheer and applause. The excitement was palpable. She recognized everyone in the room for their efforts in enabling students to thrive. In her words, “PTA is awesome. PTA here at Cobb is woven into the fabric of who we are. I cannot imagine having a day here at school we do not have PTA here to support us. Students, please know this is a special day for us so today, we stand a little taller, we smile a little wider. This is a time to show your pride.”

Heather Ashwell-Hair, Vice President of Leadership at Texas PTA, broke down the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the process of becoming a nationally-recognized School of Excellence and how Cobb Middle was the top-ranked, #1 School of Excellence to earn the Phoebe Apperson Hearst award saying, “I know how much of a team effort this was.” She went on to  explain that only 143 PTAs were recognized as 2017-2019 National PTA Schools of Excellence and that Texas recognized 18 of these PTAs. Leslie Boggs, National PTA President-Elect, shared the legacy of National PTA’s co-founders, Alice Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst over 121 years ago. She described the Cobb students as fantastic and special, and asked them to bring their voices to make positive change.

Melinda Samberson, PTA President of Frisco ISD PTAs, Immediate Past President and 2016-17 School of Excellence Program Leader at Cobb, spoke about her personal involvement in the school, having three children that span 8 years at Cobb. Regarding the School of Excellence, Melinda said, “The great thing about this award and honor is that it wasn’t just me, or the PTA, or the teachers, or the principal or the families or the students, but It was a unified effort to make Cobb Middle School better; A true family-school partnership. And because of the collaboration, it wasn’t just the PTA or the school that benefitted, but the students and families and the entirety of this campus. This award sparked interest …as we all strive for excellence, our community wins.” In her role as Council President and with 10 years of PTA experience, Melinda is now working to make Frisco ISD Council’s vision come to fruition, to make all schools better, saying, “We can do this together as a team and the students will benefit. That is the power and value of PTA.”

It is clear that Cobb Middle School PTA is incredibly honorable and remarkable, working collaboratively with the administration, teachers and staff to make their school a true School of Excellence. To learn more about Cobb Middle School PTA’s journey to become the 2017 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner visit PTA.org/Hearst. To learn more about how your PTA can become key partners in continuous school improvement and to enroll in the School of Excellence program visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org.

 


Amy Weinberg is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

Snack Duty Made Simple

(Sponsored Post) Many school snacks of today would have been hard to imagine even just 10 years ago.

When I was growing up, most products available on campus were synonymous with indulgence. I vividly remember my mom helping with school fundraisers … I couldn’t wait for the bake sale!

A lot has changed since I was a kid.

Today, the items available to our children at school still taste delightful—but the products’ nutritional content has drastically improved for the better.

The Vegas Family enjoying post-snack time activities

This is all because we’ve raised the bar for foods and beverages sold to students on campus. Since 2014, the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School Standards have put in place nutrition guidelines for snacks and drinks sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, á la carte lines and in-school fundraising, as well as for products served at celebrations and events.

As a parent, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Knowing that my school is prioritizing the health and well-being of my kids is incredibly important to me, so when I need to bring in snacks for parties or fundraisers, I want to be sure that I’m supporting the efforts of my school. As a busy mom though, I don’t have the time (or the math know-how) to calculate percentages of sugar and sodium while zipping through the supermarket aisles or while frantically placing an online order in between baseball innings.

That’s why I worked with Amazon Business to create the Healthier Generation Store, which features hundreds of products that meet the Smart Snacks standards. So if you need to order 30 (or even 300!) snacks for that end-of-year school party, check it out. In the wise words of my six-year-old daughter, it’s “easy-peasy lemon squeezy”.

Set up your PTA’s free Amazon Business Account to access business-level pricing and easily shop for all your PTA needs. Tie your school’s Amazon Smile account to your business account to maximize your donations.

The product assortment is growing by the day, so leave me a note in the comment field about what products you’d like to see added to the store!

Register your PTA and shop for Smart Snacks today!


 

Elizabeth Vegas serves as the director of business sector strategies at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She’s a tired mom of two awesome kids who consistently waits until the last minute to get most things done.

5 Secrets to Finding the Perfect Balance as PTA Leader AND a Parent

(Sponsored Post) Let’s be honest. Parents are some of the busiest people on Earth. And when you add in a PTA leadership role, it can be tough to juggle responsibilities at home and at school. So how do you strike the right balance?

After working with thousands of PTA leaders, and helping them run over 10,000 successful fundraisers during the past 16 years, at Boosterthon we’ve learned a thing or two about serving in a parent organization. Here are five simple secrets to creating a healthy balance between being a parent and a PTA leader.

 1. Schedule and save

Leading the PTA requires a ton of planning and time-consuming work. One way to overcome this is by scheduling time for PTA-related work (just like you would for any other job). For example, try setting aside several hours one weekday for PTA meetings, projects or just getting organized. Knowing this time is blocked out on your calendar will allow you to be fully present in other areas of your life. And because you’re not worried about finding the time to get the work done, you’ll be far less likely to feel overwhelmed.

 2. Next, flex

Whether it’s a last-minute PTA project or a DIY project at home, we all know things don’t always go as planned. Having flex time built into your schedule can help you catch up. Find some open time in the week and protect it like you would an important meeting. That way you can use your scheduled flex time to catch up before heading into a busy weekend.

 3. Be realistic and communicate expectations

When working with others on a PTA project or event, you should first consider your schedule and how much “PTA time” you have available. Here’s a tip: Be realistic. Don’t try to do it all. Then communicate openly and clearly to ensure everyone understands the expectations on timing. Most people are working to establish the same type of balance in their lives, so others will understand if you have to say no.

 4. Don’t be afraid to ask for H-E-L-P

As a PTA leader, one of the most important parts of your job is building relationships with other parents. Many parents genuinely want to help out. Get to know the volunteers who sign up to help at events, and let them know how much you value them. Make note of parents who sign up regularly to volunteer, and ask if you can contact them directly with other volunteer needs.

Building relationships you can lean on is crucial in maintaining more balance in your life.

 5. Focus on your family

As PTA leaders, you spend a lot of time at various PTA events throughout the year, and many of them occur outside of school hours. Getting your kids involved gives them a sense of pride and allows you to spend time working together as a family to help your school. Who knows? Your kids might just love making posters for book fairs, greeting new students at the open house and helping with carnival set-up.

A Final Thought

Remember, no one gets the whole “being a parent” thing perfectly right. Give yourself grace as you seek to strike the right balance between parenting your kids and volunteering at your school. But remember, it’s because of committed parents like you that schools thrive. And to that we say this: Thank you.

Boosterthon is an elementary school fundraiser on a mission to change the world by helping schools raise more and stress less. With over 2,400 schools and 1.6 million students across America participating in our programs, we’re reinventing the way schools do fundraising. To learn more, visit Boosterthon.com

Explore digital learning over Spring Break

(Sponsored Post) As a busy working mom of 3 young children, I look forward to spring break. It’s a moment when time slows down and I’m able to disconnect from the daily scramble of balancing work and home life so I can focus on my family.

Spending the spring break with my children usually involves tons of crafts, a marathon game of Monopoly, and lots of time outside. Yet I also make time for learning, not only for myself — catching up on the latest research on education technology — but also to better understand how my children are using technology in their school.

Working in education technology means I pester my children with specific questions about what devices and apps they are using in their classroom, what they like and dislike, and what types of digital content they are creating. We have a Chromebook in my house, so I can also get a first-hand perspective of what they’re doing in school and learn alongside them.

All comes in one

Because Chromebooks are designed to be sharable and secure, my sons can log in with their individual school accounts and their work is not at risk of being touched by a sneaky sibling. Plus, it means I save money by purchasing one durable and affordable device that everyone can share — even me. Chromebooks also come with built-in virus production and automatic updates that keep our family information protected and secure, so I don’t have to worry about downloading security updates or purchasing additional antivirus software.

Let creativity bloom

Many of the activities we enjoy on the Chromebook together revolve around creativity, which is supported by our touch screen and stylus enabled Chromebook. We draw pictures using mobile apps like Squid (many Chromebooks can now run mobile apps from Google Play Store), create music using websites like Soundtrap, and make videos using tools like WeVideo. My oldest is a musician, so we explore tons of videos that demonstrate how to play guitar and piano chords. We also have heart-to-hearts about what it means to be a digital citizen.

We also play with Scratch, which is a friendly and visual programming language developed by MIT that exposes children to computer science in an engaging way. What’s fun about Scratch is that you don’t need to be a computer scientist in order to guide your child — you can learn right alongside them.

This spring break, ask your child how they are using technology in their school. If they say they’re using a Chromebook and you want to learn more, here’s some information to explore.

Here’s to a great rejuvenating spring break. May it be filled with family learning and fun!

Karen Greenleaf leads Chromebook learning initiatives at Google. She is a mother of 3 elementary school children and is involved in her school’s parent teacher steering committee.

Google has teamed up with the National PTA to create the Chromebooks for PTAs program. When your local PTA enrolls in the program, a percentage of your community Chromebook purchases will go to your local PTA.

 

Spring into the New Season with Healthy Habits

(Sponsored Post)

Cabin fever is not the only bug around this time of year! This winter has been one of the most severe flu seasons in recent years with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1] reporting that flu season can run as late in the year as May. Across the country, families and school communities are dealing with the severity of this season and while it is unpredictable as to when it will end, there are prevention methods to help stay healthy.

With spring time approaching, it’s important to leave cold and flu behind in the winter months to fully enjoy the sunshine and warmer weather ahead. The National Parent Teacher Association teamed up with Lysol, as part of the Healthy Habits Program, to share easy and effective tips to help prevent germs from spreading as we go into the spring months:

  • Continue Using Healthy Habits: It’s important to remind your children to use healthy habits all year-round, not just during the winter! Reinforce the use of proper cough and sneeze etiquette to help prevent the spread of germs. Also be mindful to avoid being around sick people, and stay home if you are sick, to help stop the spread of germs. Another easy way to help stop the spread of germs is to disinfect frequently touched hard surfaces in the home with Lysol Disinfectant Spray. The flu virus can live on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.  Lysol Disinfecting Spray kills over 100 illness causing germs, including the flu virus
  • Spring Cleaning: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes is tough on messes and germs. Adding Disinfecting Wipes to your spring cleaning routine will not only clean, but kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria including the cold and flu virus. Remember to disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as keyboards, doorknobs and tables. Lysol is a participant in the Box Tops for Education program, which helps support education and benefits America’s schools. By purchasing Lysol products, you can earn valuable points which can be converted into cash and donated to your child’s school to help provide needed items such as computers, playground equipment and more.
  • Wash Up: With more outdoor activities scheduled during the spring, remember to wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently for at least 20 seconds. For more information on how to help keep your family healthy this spring, visit Lysol.com.

[1] CDC.gov “Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2017-2018 Influenza Season”(February 21, 2018)

Rory Trait is the Marketing Director at Lysol.