Web communities can have a positive impact on how we interact with other parents at school. Here’s how…
1. Know (or contact) thy neighbour
Our kids spend the majority of their days in the company of their peers at school. They hang out together in school, after school, and start requesting play dates, parties, trips out, even sleepovers. Perhaps it would help us feel a little more comfortable if we knew a little bit more about their friends’ parents? However there isn’t always the opportunity if you work or don’t drop off or pick up.
Have you ever had your child come home saying they are invited to a party or playdate but have no proof to back up this statement? Awkward. Being able to get in touch with the parents can come in handy, or am I the only one who has occasionally forgotten to take down a phone number and lost the scrap of paper with the address to collect from?! Quite possibly…
2. Break down social barriers
As well as having an easy way to contact particular parents, it can provide a space to “hang out” yourself. Online profiles allow you to introduce yourself, helps people put a face to a name. A class page with a bit of casual banter can actually go a long way to breaking down barriers any getting to know the other families in your school. It just makes it that bit easier to start a conversation next time there is a school social, and you never know when you might need their support.
3. Not having to know the right people
Some schools are lucky enough to have close-knit communities as the school is so close to home. This can be true in both built-up areas or small villages. However we’ve seen cases where the families even in small village schools hardly know anyone because both parents have a daily commute. Having a way to connect online with the other parents in school gives this parents a chance to be part of things. If you’ve always hung out at the school gates and forged strong relationships, you have probably already made friends on Facebook or got a tight little email group going. You’re one of the lucky ones! Having an online community specifically for your school or your class means everyone who wants to be involved has the opportunity. They don’t need to know the right people to get invited.
4. Handy to share information
Once you’re connected online, it’s an incredibly handy way to compare notes, share tips or ask questions. Of course you can recommend local services, hairdressers, babysitters, local events. But the difference here is just how much you have in common with this particular set of people. When was that English assignment due again? Did anyone find a cardigan left behind last night? Arrange a class night out, share a taxi, clarify a school policy, etc. It’s much more targeted and relevant to you and your children if you are connected with exactly the right group of people.
When you are in, that’s when the magic starts to happen. Amazing coincidences and lucky breaks all become possible if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. But you make your own luck! I realised this when I was trying to rent out my London home when I was moving out to Hertfordshire a few years ago. It turned out 8 out of 10
cats clients the estate agent brought round were parents from my school. Boy, did I feel like a mug… a missed opportunity to save a bob or two.
7. Awareness of broader opportunities
Some parents may be working full time or have other commitments that prevent them from volunteering much at school. An online community is an ideal way to introduce a broader view of how people could help. List opportunities that are available on an ongoing basis or even as a one-off. For example, have career-minded parents ever considered coming in to talk to the kids about their profession? Or running a Code Club, or organising a visit from Founders4Schools – an inspirational way to introduce young people to entrepreneurship. It’s not all cake sales (though we do love ’em too)! Get people to ask themselves not what you can do for them but what they can do for you!
Some people steer clear of social networks. Some find it too much of an invasion of their privacy, mixing close friends and family with minor acquaintances. There is some weariness and anxiety related to the constant bragging, pressure over competing for “likes” or fans, followers or friends. They’ve even coined the term “social media depression” to describe this! Would life be simpler if we could simply be connected without having to compete for the biggest friend count? (Click here to support this idea! …. only kidding)
What’s your verdict?
So we’re fans of online communities but admit there are some negatives. However, if implemented in the right way, we believe an online social network in your school can lead to meaningful, real-world relationships — stepping stones to building a trusted network both online and off-line and a supportive community to help your children flourish. What do you think?
Join in on the conversation
This September we want to hear your thoughts about community building. Today’s topic of conversation is about whether web communities have made a difference to your school. You can share your ideas and experiences by commenting on this blog, or by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter (#PTAdiscuss). And don’t forget to check out our Pinterest boards for PTA inspiration!
PTAsocial connects your school community safely online, and makes volunteering appealing and inclusive — PTA committees and School Leaders can try a free account for their school here.