How to Fundraise
Subtitle: This is my open letter to the school principal at my children's school. Names have been changed for security, but THIS is how we need to teach our children.
Hey Mr. XXXXX,
I wasn't going to write this letter but after my kids, for the second day in as many years got off of the bus in tears, I had to write and I know that I'm not alone. I'm writing to complain about the school fundraiser. Now, first, I want it to be clear that I'm not complaining about fundraisers in general, in fact I really think that there should be a lot more done in our area to support the schools and a lot less done to support other things that do not help shape our future, but I'm sure that is something that we can agree on. What I don't agree with is the format of the fundraiser, because it's not only a form of bullying but a direct contradiction of everything you all are trying to teach in your Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
First the bullying. According to http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/, bullying is: "...unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose."
Let's look at these monkeys. The monkeys or whatever the prize du jour is for the year is handed out the first day of the sale which promises that if students bring in a book of personal information on friends and family to turn in the next day they will earn a second monkey. Firstly, I have a personal problem giving out that kind of information to anyone since many companies, regardless of the promises, sell information to third parties. In addition, I was always taught that we needed to ask permission of others before giving out that kind of information, so sending the children home to complete this task in one night lest they do not earn a second monkey is too much pressure. What if we were new to the community and didn't know twelve people?
Which brings me back to the monkey. Due to the way this fundraiser is handled, I'm choosing not to participate in it, as I know are many others. The consequence? Monkeys are handed out in the classroom so that the children can easily see who IS and IS NOT participating, with some nice time included to "exclude someone from a group on purpose." Now, I'm not blaming the teachers, I have taught my whole life and I know better than most parents when XXXXX County gives you punch that you'd better drink it, but this practice, by OUR GOVERNMENT'S definition is bullying. In fact, by participating in this XXXXXX Elementary is creating an imbalance of power and therefore an environment for bullying.
You get a monkey ----> you're cool.
No monkey ----- > you're not.
See my problem?
And the sad part is my family can afford to buy these things but has someone taken time to look at the socio-ecomonic make-up of Western Hanover? I can assure you, your PTA officers do not represent monetarily what most of our community is, people that cannot afford things like $11 peanuts.
Ok, fine, so don't think this is bullying, even thought I could go one about it, let's look at those 7 habits.
Habit 1 is: Be Proactive. The school itself is not even doing this! That habit reads: "Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life's principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow."
First, the consequences of this entire practice single children out and put them in a clear group of haves and have nots and there is NO ADULT taking responsibility for this or the resulting emotions from this public shunning. Secondly, if we are teaching children that actions have consequences, what you are teaching is selling = monkey and NOT selling = you will be different, an outcast, and other kids will shove that monkey in your face for the duration of the sale. What SHOULD be taught is that selling = playground improvements, iPads, or new books in the library. There is this misconception that children need to be bribed, but I have been a scout leader for YEARS and we NEVER discuss the prizes, ONLY what we can do with the money to better ourselves and our community. My girls sell MUCH more when we are giving away to charity or raising money for camping then they do trying to earn some plastic garbage. Why the need for this bribery and a pitch man? You're one of the most amazing educators that I have ever met, forget the pitch man. Why don't you stand up on that stage and tell those kids "Look, guys, no prizes. Our playground needs to be fixed and we need YOUR help. Let's work together to solve this problem!" THAT'S what an effective leader does and I know both the children and parents would appreciate it more.
Even the second habit of Beginning with the End in Mind ties into it as well, as by introducing the fundraiser as I have suggested gives the students a clear goal. TEACH the kids that together we can build our community, not that together a BMX bike can jump over Mr. XXXXX. They were amused enough by the dunking booth at Field Day, and I know from being a camp counselor those are pretty cheap to rent. Why not, I dunno, sell pies for Thanksgiving like the XXXXXX Marching Band, telling the children THIS is for our improved track and let the track be christened by you taking a tumble into the old dunking booth?
Without taking any more of your time my point is this, fundraising is a vital part of school functions, but there's a way to do it that can promote school spirit and unity and there's a way to do it that singles children out, makes them feel bad about themselves and causes fights and guilt at home.
In closing, this letter is more than a complaint, it is my volunteering. I will FIND an alternate fundraiser myself. I will DO the leg work so we can get rid of this current disaster and find new ways to unite the school to raise the monies that we need to make XXXXXXX the best elementary school in the county.