I got into a conversation last night with my wife and some friends about the image of the PTG (the name of the parent teacher organization in our school). It struck me that the image of the PTG has a lot of similarities with the image of the minivan. How so? Let’s start with the minivan.
The minivan is perhaps the best designed vehicle ever (for its particular market — young families). These families need a car that’s big enough to hold a bunch of kid gear (stroller, diaper bag, tricycles…), accommodate multiple car seats, safe and easy boarding (sliding doors are easier on the fingers than hinged doors), and provide easy access to the kids from the front seat. The center aisle suits magnificently.
Have you ever owned a minivan? If so, I am willing to bet that you felt slightly embarrassed to tell your friends when you first got it. You felt like you were compromising. Almost like you were selling out (“Oh God, I’ve entered the minivan phase”). You simply couldn’t say no without appearing shallow and frivolous. You’re much too practical to let fashion drive such an important purchase decision, but the usefulness overwhelmed your sense of cool. That feeling is the impact of marketing gone bad. Who aspires to be a “soccer mom?” To be a “me too” suburban mother? The car makers have a great product but have missed the mark in their marketing.
It’s the same situation with the PTG. The PTG is core to our school community, planning, running, and paying for all sorts of great events and activities. It coordinates the room parent program which does a lot of great stuff in the classrooms throughout the year. An elementary school without a PTG would be a hollow place indeed. So why is it so hard to get volunteers? I’ve never noticed a surplus of candidates for any PTG office. PTG leaders start the successor search immediately after assuming office — reflecting just how long that process takes. And fathers… why are so few involved? We had a guy serve as PTG Treasurer a few years ago and it was not at all uncommon to hear other parents snickering. “What’s wrong with him?” What competent man would volunteer to get involved in the PTG? Totally uncalled for.
Have I made it clear why I think the PTG is like a minivan? I am not quite ready to buy a minivan, but it is probably time that I got formally involved with my PTG. How? The first step (agreed with the other dad at dinner last night) is to pull together a pool of dads to help out with PTG events. We want to give it a catchy name, something unexpected like “PTG Dads.” Think others will respond to the call? Stay tuned for updates.