In which I admit my involvement with the PTO...

>> Monday, 6 September 2010

Yesterday evening I spent a very pleasant hour or so catching up with some neighbours over a glass of wine. All of our children go to the same school so it wasn't surprising when that entered the discussion.

I can't quite remember how it came up, but one of my friends mentioned the PTO - a force to be reckoned with, and not an organisation you mess with at this school.

Many expat communities these days are full of ladies (and they are mostly ladies, though I hate to generalise) who formerly had quite high powered jobs and who now as 'trailing spouses' (god I hate that term, especially since it applies to me) find themselves with plenty of time on their hands and no project to use it for. So when these ladies are looking about for something to do, if they have school-age children they often fix on the PTO as a place to expend their excess energy and creativity. This can only be to the advantage of any organisation on the receiving end of their attentions, of course; the women concerned are often highly organised, no-nonsense go-getters who make things happen. And Moscow is no exception.


From the outside I have to admit that these ladies can seem a little... intimidating... at times. Which is why I had to laugh when my friend and I had the following conversation...

Friend: "And then of course, there are those dreadful things organised by the PTO. Like the children's Craft Fair, for example. It's awful! All pre-fabricated stuff, no proper creativity involved at all. Stick on a sequin and you're done. Where's the craft in that?"

I start to laugh, somewhat hysterically.

Friend: "What? What?"

Me: "Guess what I'm doing over the next couple of months?"

Friend: "...What?"

Me: "Organising something for the PTO. And guess what it is?"

Friend (the awful truth starting to dawn) "...What?"

Me: "The children's Craft Fair..." (more laughter)

Money can't buy these moments.

Note: I did then get some very helpful hints on how not to organise a craft fair, and also some tongue-in-cheek suggestions on how to manage my PTO 'career' (their words, not mine) to ensure world domination in the shortest possible time. Suffice it to say that I was quick to explain that was not my objective; the only reason I got involved with this particular event was because I was told that as the first fair in the school calendar it was over quickly and I could then rest on my laurels for the remainder of the year. I'm not kidding myself, of course. Like that's going to happen...


Heather 6 September 2010 at 08:18  

ha ha, you've got to love a good foot in mouth moment. lol.

Anonymous,  6 September 2010 at 10:05  

Hmmm. I can tell this is going to be the start of something...!

PantsWithNames 6 September 2010 at 10:56  

Scary stuff - but you must have laughed and laughed.

The Bosnian expat womens committee hated each other so much they arranged rival Christmas fairs. Somehow that sums up the Bosnian situation to me! Hope your fair goes a little better.

Iota 6 September 2010 at 15:16  

Potty for President!

Iota 6 September 2010 at 15:16  

PTO President, that is. Not Russian President - though you are a woman of great ability, so you could probably take that in your stride too.

Calif Lorna 6 September 2010 at 16:56  

Just make sure whatever craft you do, it's big and fragile and can't be thrown away. The other parents will love you forever!

Expat mum 6 September 2010 at 23:50  

As one who is currently trying to extricate herself from way too many committees, I warn you that once you start volunteering, they never let you go. As soon as there's a gap or someone drops out, it'll be "Oh Potty will do it. She's very good."

The Merry 7 September 2010 at 03:12  

It seems a lucky escape that I can mention the fact that in my world PTO refers to Personal Time Off.
I think the equivalent malevolent organization is called PTA (Parent Teachers Association). I'm not positive, however, since Teachers done seem to play much of a role in these Craft Fair thingies.

The Merry 7 September 2010 at 03:13  

"Don't" seem to, not "done" seem to.


Apple Island Wife 7 September 2010 at 04:30  

Every time I join one I kick myself because they wind me up something rotten. I'm on the school association board now, meeting with the principal and senior staff on policy matters. They're always talking about things like 'positive outcomes' and patting each other on the back and it always gives me an irresistable urge to use the word 'bollocks' in response. I really shouldn't be there.

dulwich divorcee 7 September 2010 at 11:46  

Ohhhh, I did that whole expat PTO thing in Brussels ....just about got over the shakes now and have never volunteered for anything since. But hey, that's me. I'm sure you have a fabulous way with sequins x

vegemitevix 10 September 2010 at 08:42  

Too funny for words! Are we related by chance? We seem to share the same foot in mouth issues...

Muddling Along Mummy 16 September 2010 at 20:17  

I love that you've got world domination planned

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