Tuesday, November 13, 2007


When I agreed to be the PTA President last year, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea how much unpaid work goes into running a school.

I'd heard all the stereotypes. I've read all the derogatory blog posts on school volunteers - like this one called Volunteer Vampires.

(All I can think of when I read stuff like that is what a luxury they have to have so many helpers to be able to complain about one of them!)

Our school has a 66% free/reduced lunch population. That means that over 2/3rds of the school is on some kind of assistance. There is a heck of a lot of volunteer work to do.

Most of the work is decidedly unglamorous. It takes a lot of time. There's not much glory. There is absolutely no pay.

Last week, I was sitting in the teacher's lounge with Daughter D. She was helping me count out bunches of xeroxed flyers to put in each classroom mailbox. I was grumbling a bit. It takes freaking forever to count those darn things out and there are paper cuts galore and I got a Masters Degree for THIS? Collating?

But she looked up at me with her big beautiful brown eyes and said, "Mama, it's so much fun to help you with your work at my school" and went back to dutifully counting her papers.

Her words were like a time machine stick. I was instantly transported back to 1976 and I was sitting with *my* mother at one of those awful mimeograph machines and we were making worksheets for the Spanish lessons she was running for my school's PTA. For a minute, I swear I could smell the black dust of the mimeograph.

School volunteering may create "vampires"; It may give a new definition to the word "tedious"; It may be the worst paying job with the longest hours (other than parenthood, itself, of course.)

But evidently, it is genetic. Sorry Daughter D. In 30 years when you are stuck making copies for the PTA with your eldest daughter in a poorly ventilated teacher's lounge, you'll know who to blame.

(Your grandmother...of course!)


mom said...

What a great memory... i had forgotten about that ancient mimeo machine we had... what an incredible
smell the ink had... something between turpentine and Evening in Paris! Thanks for bringing be back to the good ole' days. I remember especially the realization that I was volunteering about 40 hours per week and getting paid only in the satisfaction that it was worthwhile... it wasn't a huge jump to feeling that I was entitled to a living wage for my efforts... voila, I've been working an equally fun job for the past 25 years and getting paid for doing something I would, and have, done for free!

Michele said...

Very cool story. I have nothing but the utomost respect for volunteers - especially ones work in schools. Bravo.

LisaS said...

we slacker moms thank you.