Friday, April 20, 2012

Women Make the Schools Go Round

It struck me, the other day while at a PAC (Parent Advisory Council) meeting, how important women are to the life of a school.  Here we were, a group of six women sitting in a cozy living room flipping through papers and requests and budgets, deciding big issues and acquisitions for the school.   The acquisitions which were discussed,  couldn’t have even been considered without the fundraising that the same women sitting in the living room poured countless hours undertaking.

Most of us are stay-at-home moms.  Some work part-time or run small business ventures on the side.  All of us are the same ones who stand outside the classrooms at the end of the day waiting to take our kids home from school.

Our PAC is unique, in that we have one male member of the executive who pours just as much out as his female counterparts, but other than him, it’s driven and directed by women.

All of this got me thinking about the role of women in the life of the school.  Ask any public school administrator where they’d be without an active and engaged PAC raising funds for their school and they’d say “lost”.  Interestingly, most of the women who are most involved in PACS are not full-time working moms.  They are regular women who have chosen to or whose circumstances have allowed them the gift of staying at home with their kids.  But they are also passionate about the educational experience their kids receive and want to give them the best opportunities possible.

It’s not a glamorous role.   Just today I was unloading containers of food and juice boxes into bins and distributing them to the various classrooms around the school.   Before today,  someone had to orchestrate all of this – research restaurants, administrate orders, count money, go shopping and show up early to make it all happen.  This happens week after week, year after year.  It’s greasy slices of pizza and hot-dog days and little cartons of chocolate milk.  And it’s women who make it work.

A few weeks ago I got to do what I love the most and volunteer with the students in Sasha’s class.  I was elbow-deep in paper mache’ mix and was helping Sasha’s classmates run their hands through the goopy solution onto newspaper.  I got to chat with amazing little people and watch their creativity unfold.  Afterward, when I had finished cleaning up the mess, I thought about the countless hours that women spend in the school just like I had that morning.  Helping teachers execute big projects and messy activities that would be impossible to do on their own.  If we were to add up all of the volunteer hours that women donate to schools to help them run to their full potential, we’d be amazed. 

I love that it’s women who make this happen.  Women like me, who don’t carry a big title or hold an “important” job.  And before you say it, yes, I know being a mom is an important job.  I get it.  But it’s often pretty thankless and hidden behind the scenes.  And that’s why I love that it’s these same “invisible” women who are securing large grants, raising big dollars, and spending their time getting dirty serving pizza and blowing up balloons to make schools work.

I find it interesting that although there are more women than men in the teaching profession, there is a disproportionate number of men in senior administration roles.  This trend continues to change and morph to reflect the thinning of the glass ceiling, and hopefully within a few generations, there will be just as many men teaching early years as women, and just as many women in senior administrative positions as men.

In the same way, I hope there are just as many dads spending the evening in living rooms and school libraries making plans for the next big PAC fundraiser or counting pizza money as there are moms.  

Until that happens, it's women who make the schools go round.  
And we're pretty good at it.


  1. I agree, Karla. It's so wonderful having dedicated Moms in the school. Sometimes when I get my class list for the next year I'm excited about having certain students because I know they come with an amazing Mom volunteer.