We all know that building an engaged, vibrant school community doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes work from parents and the school. This week on School Stream, we talked to a parent in Melbourne who decided to step up and coordinate a Christmas event the community is still talking about. We learn about the importance of being the change you want to see, how people really want to be involved if you just ask, and how to make it fun.
Once again, a big thank you to Samantha who took time out of her day to talk to us.
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How did you get involved in putting on a whole school event?
I felt like there weren’t enough fun activities at school that encouraged the whole school to come together outside of the classroom. It’s going to sound really negative, but the bottom line is, I could hear myself complaining about all these things that we didn’t have, rather than putting my hand up to do it. I thought, ‘If I want to actually get something happening, the only way is for me to start doing it.”
That doesn’t sound negative at all. It’s quite inspiring, actually.
And now I’m the Events and Fundraising Coordinator on the P&C!
How did you get other parents involved?
We had beautiful Anna (another parent from the P&C) assist as well and we did quite a bit together. I think when people see other people excited, and see other people helping, they tend to want to be involved too. That Christmas event was great for getting parents to help on stuff like this because now we’ve got a pretty strong crew on the P&C. I can just ask for volunteers now, say these are the jobs we need to get done and people do put their hand up. People think “Oh sure, of course I can give you four hours of my time” and it’s not as overwhelming as looking at the whole event.
The Christmas event you organised was almost a festival. Did you have an idea of what you wanted the event to look like or did it evolve as the planning process went on?
There was a teacher who was involved, and she was the one who wanted to do a carols-type thing. What she envisioned was a carols vibe with picnic blankets and everyone watching. She pitched that idea to us, and we thought it sounded great, but we didn’t think it would be the fun, festive vibe we wanted for the kids. But then another beautiful mum volunteered to do decorating, and we decided to do the fundraising sweet table – which did really well for the school – as well as lots of other festive things too.
You ran a raffle with some pretty fantastic prizes, too? Did that all come from the school community?
They came from anyone who walked past me in the street! I literally hit up every person I’ve ever met! I asked everyone. I mean, we’re not just a school community, we’re part of the wider community as well. So yes, a lot of the businesses were run by school parents who participated by donating prizes, but I can think of at least ten businesses that aren’t involved with the school who were happy to pop on board to donate things.
What has been the feedback from the school and other parents about the event?
The feedback was all beautiful and that’s what spurred me on to say, “OK I will do the fundraising and events and I will take that on as my baby”, because everyone was just so happy with the event and the kids were so happy. And how can you not offer them more of those throughout the year? We had some teachers say that they saw parents for the first time at an outside-of-school-thing. So that’s a win too.
Have you done more events since then?
We’ve done a Welcome Back to School barbeque with a DJ. You need something to entice students and parents to come after school. It’s got to be fun. The DJ was one of the dads at school and he was more than happy to come and do it. He was a real legend and organised all the equipment and speakers and everything. He totally brought the whole thing together. There was a huge dancefloor of kids going crazy and singing along to the Moana soundtrack. He really did bring the fun! The response was really good for the barbeque as well. We’re planning to do something for winter too because the kids just love it and it helps them feel good about their school.
Do you have any advice or feedback that you have for other parents who might want to input on an event like this at their school?
You’ve got to want to do it. The only thing I can think of, honestly, is to try and get a good team behind you. If you have five solid people who you know will really help with organising and executing things, it just makes it all so much easier. You can’t do it all on your own. It’s too much.
Thank you again to Samantha for taking the time to talk to us about your experiences putting together a whole school event. Your school community is very lucky to have you.
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