A Special Message from President Laura Bay: I Challenge You!

Hello PTA Leaders,

Think BIG… Think PTA! 2016 National PTA Convention & Expo is just two months away, and I challenge you to register for our BIGGEST convention yet.

This year’s convention will take place June 30-July 3 at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort—a great excuse to plan a family vacation to Disney World! In addition to enjoying the magic of Disney, PTA leaders will connect with one another at convention and be inspired by big thinkers including New York Times best-selling author Julie Lythcott-Haims.

So what are you waiting for? Join the excitement and be a part of our biggest convention yet!

Help me spread the word about convention by making a video just like this one, and share it on Facebook or Twitter using the official hashtag #PTAcon16! You can also find promo tools like badges, sample messaging and more in our toolkit at PTA.org/Convention.

I look forward to seeing you at convention!

Laura Bay is National PTA’s president.


4 Ways to Get Involved in Your Children’s Education


This blog was originally posted on TODAY Parenting Team.

Every parent wants the best for their child and wants to be engaged in their education to support their learning and achievement.

The challenge for many parents, however, is figuring out what they can do and knowing the most effective ways to get involved.

As the president of National PTA, I have spoken to many parents who have asked, “How can I be involved in my child’s school and learning when I work a full-time job and keep a busy schedule to support my family?” As a working parent, I had the same question and concern when my children entered school.

After first getting involved, I quickly realized the importance to help my children—and all children—succeed and reach their full potential—no matter the level of involvement.

It is important to remember that involvement is different for every family and is not limited to attending meetings or participating at school.

Here are some ways to get involved:

Join PTA
Get involved with your local parent teacher association. Even if you are an on-the-go mom or dad, you will find support from other parents in PTA who have the same questions, concerns, hopes and dreams for their children. You will also be part of a dedicated network of families, educators, businesses and community leaders who are working to ensure all children receive a high-quality education. That means, even if you aren’t able to be at every meeting, you know there is a group of parents who are invested in the success of every child at your school — including yours.

Talk about school matters at home
Be interested and listen to your child. Encourage your child to talk about his/her day and express concerns. Learn about your child’sstrengths and weaknesses and what activities he/she likes and doesn’t like. Two-way communication is essential to developing an active and positive relationship and an open, ongoing dialogue is critical. Then if any issues come up at school, your child will feel more comfortable talking to you about it.

Be a partner in your child’s learning
Education is individual for each child and remains a shared responsibility. It is important to work with your child’s teacher to best support him or her. It is also essential to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with him/her often. Find out the best way to contact your child’s teacher and ask for times when it would be convenient for him or her to talk. It is also important to provide teachers with the best way to contact you. Consistent communication (via email, phone, etc.) will help build relationships.

Advocate for your child
You are your child’s best advocate. It is important to be a voice for your own and every child to ensure they are treated fairly and have access to opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. It is also critical to advocate with local school boards and state and federal government to ensure your child’s school has the resources to provide a world class education to every student. When possible, attend school board meetings. Send e-mails and letters and make phone calls to advocate with elected officials.

The most significant type of engagement is what families do at home. Parents can monitor and support their child with his/her schoolwork and let his/her teacher or school know if there are any problems. The work families do at home that’s connected to what kids are doing in school has the biggest academic impact.

By monitoring, supporting and advocating, parents can be engaged in ways that ensure that their child has every opportunity for success.

5 Ways Parents Can Set Digital Ground Rules

This blog post was originally published on SheKnows.com.

Kids are going online at an increasingly younger age and are more digitally active than ever. It is also more than likely that you have a child or teenager who received his or her first mobile phone or tablet for the holiday.
Did you know…how-to-set-digital-ground-rules
  • 73 percent of teens and 75 percent of children ages 8 and under have access to some sort of smart mobile device at home
  • 68 percent of teens text every day
  • 51 percent of teens visit social networking sites daily

As we ring in the new year, make a family resolution to have “The Smart Talk” with your kids about how to use their digital devices safely. You need to know what kind of information or content your kids are sharing and explain the potential security risks with your child.

The Smart Talk allows you to set ground rules and boundaries for their smartphone and tablet use. These five tips will help you get started.

 1. Limit the screen time usage

Be assertive about when your child can use their phone or tablet, where they use it and how. For instance, if your 8-year-old is using a tablet for playing app games and accessing learning tools for homework, set aside a certain number of hours after school and over the weekend to do this. If you are giving your 15-year-old permission to take a smartphone with him or her to school, collect his phone when he returns back home and for dinner and bedtime. Establish an “online” and “offline” schedule to create balance between the real world and the cyber world.

2. Activate privacy settings as needed

It’s better to be safe than sorry, but enabling security and privacy settings really depends on how your child uses the phone. Often times, parents provide smartphones for their children to keep in touch or in case of an emergency. You can also install a variety of smartphone and digital device features, such as location tracking, parental controls for Internet content and mobile usage monitoring apps.

3. Budget what will be in their data plan

Surfing social media and the Internet can get expensive. Select a monthly plan that best fits your needs and expected usage, so you don’t end up with unwanted fees. Then, set a contract restriction for a certain amount of texts, data and minutes per month. You can also purchase a refurbished or pre-paid smartphone to cut down on your overall costs.

4. Address health precautions and other risks

Teach your child about the potential risks of overusing smartphones and other digital devices. For teens, you need to stress no texting and driving. Also, research shows extended digital device use is linked to vision and muscle strain, as well as increased radiation from sleeping with devices. You can also talk to your kids about not getting caught up in negative conversations that could lead to cyberbullying.

5. Make a contract with your child or teen

Sit down and have a talk with your child about how he or she uses their smartphone and digital devices. The Smart Talk guides parents through a series of interactive questions with their children to inspire open dialogues about their online behaviors. Through this dialogue, parents and their children can build and customize an agreement.

I hope this gives you some insight to have smart conversations with your kids about their new gifts. Wishing everyone a safe, smart and happy new year!


Welcome All to a Brand New Year!

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncIn PTA, it seems like we often celebrate two “new years” to re-energize and create a buzz around our spring activities and programs.

The first “new year” is the back-to-school season when we’re excited and ready with goals and work plans to engage the families in our school communities in PTA. We welcome everyone and come together to make the school and community a better place for all kids. We host engaging events, build membership and launch programs to make our PTA the best ever! This is one of the best parts of being in PTA—the start of the school year when every plan is new and ready to be rolled out.

I have always found that the traditional “New Year” is another great opportunity for PTAs to maintain momentum and create a “second buzz” of energy and engagement! Now is the perfect time to jump-start the next wave of membership incentives and excitement—and kick-off our winter and spring programs and events. Hopefully, many of you are getting ready for the “second new year” with as much energy and enthusiasm as when you started back to school.

What I love about PTA—during the two “new year’s” and all year round—is the sense of family, welcoming and commitment to make every school community the best that it can be for all children—this ensures that every child’s potential can and will become a reality.

I hope you will join me in starting the new year of 2016 with energy, excitement and commitment to the mission and values that we all hold so close to our hearts. It is my deepest wish that 2016 brings each of us prosperity, hope and joy as we move forward together—Every Child. One Voice!

7 Family Time and Learning Tips for the Holidays

Father and son holding snowballs

This blog post was originally published on PBS Parent. Read the full blog post.

The holiday season is here! Like most families, my household is already in a flurry of activity—decorating, purchasing gifts, preparing for guests and baking cookies and pies.

This is also a special time for family fun and togetherness. But with the holiday rush, the to-do list seems to grow exponentially by the minute.

In the busyness of the season, it’s important to keep learning and quality time with family at the top of the list while your kids are home on break from school.

Research shows that families who spend quality time together and connect activities at home to what children are learning in school have a stronger emotional bond and better communication—and the kids do better academically.

The holiday season also provides great opportunities to expose children to new ideas and information, reinforce skills and knowledge, and encourage creativity, which supports their success in school.

As you are shopping, baking and celebrating special traditions, here are some ideas to mix quality time with learning:

Create a Budget — Encourage your kids to write a list of the people they want to buy gifts for. Then have them allocate a certain amount for each person on their list. While shopping for gifts, help your kids keep track of spending and their remaining budget.

Cook Together — Include your children in meal prep and baking for holiday gatherings. It’s a great way to have fun and teach kids about cooking and nutrition. While you’re cooking, you can practice math and reading skills—and demonstrate cool science concepts through various cooking techniques.

Make Holiday Greeting Cards and Gifts — Have your kids write holiday cards or letters to family and friends. It’s a great opportunity for children to practice their handwriting, as well as their grammar, spelling and creative writing skills. Also, making gifts at home is a way to encourage creativity.

Explore Your City — When you feel a bit of cabin fever, plan a family outing. Many local parks and zoos feature light displays and other festivities to celebrate the season. You can also visit a local museum and historic sites, or see a play at a local theater.

Play Games — Playing board and trivia games during holiday get-togethers is a good way to enjoy quality time together. Look for ideas online. There are a variety of games—for all ages—that are fun and educational as well.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors — Play with your kids in the backyard or at a local park. If it snows, build a snowman or hit the slopes! You can find fun outdoor games that promote physical activity.

And Read Every Day — Take your kids to the local library and borrow books to read over the winter break. And spend time reading together—it helps children develop their literacy skills and excel academically.

Family schedules can be grueling during the holidays, but remember the most important part of the season is spending time with the people you love. And when you add learning to your quality time, it will enhance the special moments with your children and support their success.

Laura Bay is the president of National PTA, an educator from Poulsbo, Wash. and mother of three adult children.

Help PTA Grow This #GivingTuesday

2015 NPTA Giving Tuesday Tree.fwThe holiday season is here! It’s an exciting and busy time for families around the country. But as you’re shopping, cooking and celebrating, I ask that you mark #GivingTuesday (December 1) on your calendars.

#GivingTuesday, the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, has been designated to remind us of the spirit of the season and encourage us to give back by supporting causes and organizations we care about through a monetary donation.

This #GivingTuesday, I’m asking for your support of National PTA.

National PTA develops programs and resources that PTAs across the country rely on to make change happen in schools and communities. From supplementing classroom lessons with activities that make learning fun to helping families make healthy and safe decisions every day—we’re there to make a real impact on students and families nationwide.

National PTA also empowers families to speak up and advocate for their and all children—before their school boards, local and state government, and in Washington DC—to ensure they are provided a high-quality education, have a safe environment in which to thrive and learn, and have access to opportunities and services that enable them to reach their full potential.

For more than 100 years, National PTA has taken action to make a difference for the education, health and well-being of every child. Because of the work of National PTA, our nation has child labor laws to protect against unsafe working practices and conditions, kindergarten is a part of our public school system, hot lunches are served every day to millions of children in schools, and a separate juvenile justice system exists so that children are not tried and incarcerated as adults.

On December 1, please visit our #GivingTuesday page to make a donation. Then help spread the word among families in your community about why you give to PTA. I’m guessing your reasons are similar to mine—we know PTA is a powerful voice for all children and the best way to bring together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and effect change.

With your support, National PTA and PTAs nationwide will continue and build upon programs and efforts that are improving the lives and futures of our nation’s children.

The oak tree is the official emblem of National PTA. The tree symbolizes strength, growth and community. Please join me in making a gift on #GivingTuesday to keep PTA strong and growing so we can make every child’s potential a reality.

Thank you for your support of PTA on #GivingTuesday and all year round!

Laura Bay is the president of National PTA.

Our Children Magazine is Now Live!

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I’m excited to announce that National PTA’s Our Children Magazine is now online and mobile-friendly at PTAOurChildren.org!

Our Children and has been a household publication and primary resource (in various names) for families and PTA leaders for over 50 years and we put a fresh spin on our content.

The website is for on-the-go parents who are always looking for the best info and tips to support their child’s academic success and well-being.

PTA state leaders can share this new resource with parents throughout the school year. Read engaging and relevant stories like:

Read more at PTAOurChildren.org today and encourage your PTA leaders to help spread the word about our great news!

Check out the Our Children Magazine promotional toolkit for sample graphics and messaging.

National PTA Applauds Announcement of Conference Committee on ESEA Reauthorization

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives announced that a conference committee will meet on Nov. 18 to reconcile the bills passed by the House and Senate in July to reauthorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB).

National PTA is encouraged by the announcement of the conference committee meeting.

While this brings us one step closer, it is essential that Congress pass a final bill before the new year and provide critical resources to states and schools to strengthen family engagement and improve education so that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

Families have waited for more than eight years for the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB.

National PTA remains committed to ensuring a comprehensive, bipartisan bill is signed into law this year that includes robust family engagement provisions and supports the achievement of every child.

Laura Bay is the president of National PTA.

7 Tips for your Most Effective Parent-Teacher Conference Yet

How to make the most of your parent-teacher conference

In many school districts across the country, it’s time for the first parent-teacher conferences of the year. For parents, this meeting can cause anxiety because it is an evaluation of their child’s academic and social development.

I’ve been on both sides of these conferences, and the best approach for parents is to put aside all reservations and use the opportunity to establish a relationship with your child’s teacher.

Now that students are settled into the new school year, this is the perfect time to talk with your child’s teacher about his progress — and any potential challenges — and then work together to set goals for success for the year.

Research shows that partnering with teachers and engaging in your child’s learning improves her achievement and social skills.
Here’s how you can make the most of your parent-teacher conference so you can best support your child:

  1. Schedule your meeting — Typically, your child’s teacher will contact you when it’s time for parent-teacher conferences and give you dates when you can meet with her. This gives you time to prepare and schedule the meeting. If you need a translator, sign language interpreter or other help, you can plan for someone to attend the meeting with you.
  2. Talk with your child first — Before your meeting, talk to your child. Find out which subjects your child likes best, and which ones he doesn’t like — and why. Use National PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success as a tool to help understand a clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade level. Sometimes, there is a concern your child doesn’t know how to express themselves, and you can talk to the teacher directly about it.
  3. Create a list of questions — These meetings can go by quickly. The teacher will have a prepared report, so you need to be prepared too. To have a productive two-way conversation, prepare a list of questions so you can leave the meeting with a comprehensive understanding of how your child is doing academically and socially in the classroom and how to address any issues. These questions should provide guidance and outline important talking points.
  4. Listen to the teacher’s perspective, then tell your side — Be open-minded and don’t judge your child’s teacher until you hear his side. A parent-teacher conference shouldn’t be the first time a teacher or parent should learn about a problem, but sometimes it is. It’s hard not to be defensive, but assess the situation before reacting and share any contributing factors, such as a parent divorce, death, bullying or medical issues so the teacher has a full perspective on any issues.
  5. Take notes — Don’t forget your notebook and pen! Jot down possible areas of improvement or positive feedback you want to monitor or talk about when you go back home to your child. It’s also handy if you have several teachers to visit, such as during middle or high school.
  6. Ask to see work samples and other important documents — Parents should ask to see samples of their child’s work and ask about any activities they can do at home with their child to support her learning. Go over any other documents like the syllabus and upcoming projects or events.
  7. Give your contact information — Parents and teachers should schedule a follow-up conference and decide on the best way to stay in touch for progress reports. Consistent communication (via email, phone, etc.) will help build the relationship and address issues immediately.

These tips will help you best support and advocate for your child. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your child excel in school. Good luck!

Laura Bay is National PTA’s president. This blog was originally posted on SheKnows.com.

Resources for Spanish-Speaking Families to Support Student Success

We recently celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), an important time to recognize the contributions made and significant presence of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.

National PTA also used the month to raise awareness of the unique challenges Hispanic and Latino children and families face and elevate support for them in schools and communities.

Twenty-five percent of students today are Hispanic, and Hispanic children and youth are the fastest-growing population in America—the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the Hispanic school-age population will increase by 166% by 2050. Hispanic and Latino students are an important part of our nation’s future, and it is essential to support their learning and development and ensure they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

A key component to helping Hispanic and Latino children succeed is families who are engaged in their child’s education and armed with tools and resources to support them at home.

We know Hispanic and Latino parents want the best for their children and want to be engaged, but there are cultural and language barriers that make it challenging.

To bridge the gap, National PTA and organizations with which our association collaborates offer a variety of Spanish-language resources to empower Hispanic and Latino parents to support their children’s success.

  • Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which feature key items children should be learning in English language arts and math in each grade, activities that parents can do at home to support their child’s learning, and methods parents can use to build stronger relationships with their child’s teacher.
  • Clave al Éxito, a mobile tool that includes videos and tools for parents to engage in their child’s education and better communicate with their child’s teachers on their academic progress.
  • BeALearningHero.org, a website through which parents can find tips, fast facts, videos, guides and other resources specific to their children’s needs.
  • Fuel Up to Play 60 en Español, which includes information, resources and activities for parents to help their children lead more active and healthier lives.
  • The Smart Talk, a digital tool that helps families have conversations about online behavior and set ground rules together for technology use. As more and more kids get devices and go online, it is important that parents talk to their children about how to live safely in the digital world.

National PTA also has collaborated with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Univision on a webinar series to educate PTA, school and community leaders on ways to empower Hispanic and Latino families to engage in student learning. As part of the series, we will host a webinar on why Hispanic families should get involved to support the children they love on Nov. 17 (in English) and Nov. 18 (in Spanish).

To register for the webinar or to view other webinars in the series, and for more resources to help Hispanic and Latino families support their children’s success, visit PTA.org/HispanicChild.

Laura Bay is president of National PTA.