5th Grade Memories
L, our oldest child, completed elementary school this year. I really wanted to be involved and volunteer at her school, but having children who are not in school full time makes that difficult. Rather than finding child care for our younger two we often found it easier and cheaper for my wife to take a later shift or arrange her overnight call so she could have time before or after. She has been our primary PTO volunteer. I provided goods for a bake sale one year, but I wanted to do something to be involved in my daughter’s 5th grade memories.
I did attend one PTO meeting earlier in the year and learned that the organization/planning of the 5th grade year end activities were changing this year. In years past parents led additional fundraising efforts for extravagant parties and class gifts, and many parents weren’t even given the opportunity to volunteer at all. I had heard stories about parental cliques in our town and at our school, but hadn’t really experienced it. When the online sign-up request came out I didn’t think much about it until my wife and I were discussing where she could help out. We saw that the “5th Grade Memory Book” had not been taken. I figured it would be laying out a simple year book and keep me away from any parental volunteer drama. I did year book in High School and took desktop publishing in college. I also worked with graphic design programs when I did marketing for the Student Union at UTSA in Texas. I figured this was an almost perfect service opportunity. I could do it in my own home when the kids were in bed. So I signed up.
A few days later I get an e-mail from a mom of another kid in the 5th grade. Here are the cliff notes of the exchange:
Mom: “You signed up to do this. Do you REALLY want to do this? It’s a lot of work. I was going to sign up to do it. I did it last year. But you signed up to do it. You would have to do it alone because group layout doesn’t work. But I was going to do it. Do you really want to do it?”
Me: “Yes, I want to do it. I’ve done things like this before, it will be fine.”
So it began, my foray into the world of volunteering with one of those parents. This mom coordinated getting all the photos, and I set up a Dropbox so we could share them. I paid to expand my storage space and even signed up to get Photoshop and InDesign so I could work a little more efficiently. I made a few missteps along the way. I thought I could eyeball the number of photos per kid, but I had one kid with 22 images in the first 5 pages. All pointed out by the Mom. So I enlisted my wife and daughter to help me count kids and put it in a spreadsheet. I had to do this because the kids needed to be represented evenly as both the Mom and the Principal told me there are parents who would count. Then I was told by the Mom that what I was doing didn’t really matter because kids would look at it for 2 days and then never look at it again. It made me feel really good about staying up until 1 or 2 a.m. many nights to get it done.
Finally I finished it and was pleased with the result. The principal was happy. I was glad I found a way to contribute to my daughter’s 5th grade year. I think she was pleased with it as were the other kids in her grade. I am hoping that as our kids get into school and preschool that I can find other ways to volunteer at school. I always loved it when my mom could come, although now I realize why I didn’t see her as much as I wanted her to be there–my two younger sisters had things as well.
I’ve passed along some suggestions to the powers that be so it goes a little more smoothly for people who do it next year. In the end working with the Mom wasn’t so bad–her heart was in the right place and she wasn’t out to get me. I’m just glad that my interactions with her will most likely be diluted by the overall volume of parents filtering into our middle school. Here’s to the memories!