I belong to a group of 19 members who form the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens. The group is made up of teachers representing various areas in the students’ lives such as academic subjects, extracurricular activities, social life, and students’ welfare together with some members of school administration such as the principal, and parents to students in different levels. The distribution of the group includes 3 class teachers representing students’ academic life, 1 teacher in charge of extracurricular activities in the school, the deputy principal in charge of school discipline, the school bursar, 2 teachers in charge of the school counseling, the school principal, and 10 parents.
The primary role of the group is to account for the educational progress and welfare of the students. The main stakeholders in the group are the teachers and the parents who meet to assess how the learning takes place, the effectiveness of the roles of both teachers and parents in influencing the welfare and the performance of the learners in relation to cultural, ethical, social, and academic life. In his early works, Gross (1980) advised that schools should seek to enhance contact with their public through such organizations as PTA. Our group subscribes to this recommendation: The school administration uses PTA as a way of allowing the public to participate in running the school. The group also endeavors at developing the potential of every child in the school.
Both the teachers and parents incorporated in the group are at least high-school graduates. The essence of using such people was to ensure that all people understood what happens in such learning institutions due to their past or present experiences. The group is composed of 7 women and 12 men, which is in line with the ratios of students and teachers in the school.
Group Development Stages
The formulation, as well as the development of our group, drew much from the 1977 works of Tuckman and Jensen. The first stage involved the formation, whereby the leaders of the group (the principal and his deputy) oriented the rest of the members into their various roles and introduced them to the primary objective of the group. Initially, the group was made of several small subgroups of parents and teachers before they learned to work as a team and to belong to the main group, which is the parent-teacher association. During this first stage, members got to know one another and their respective roles. The discussions during the formation revolved around the scope of the group’s task, the ideal approach to the task, and possible concerns or challenges.
During the second stage, which Tuckman and Jensen (1977) referred to as storming, members began to compete and as a result, were involved in several conflicts. Some of the dimensions of the competition were personal as some members hopped to get the leadership positions in the group while others were task-oriented as both parents and teachers disagreed on the roles. The principal had to orient the members to a problem-solving mentality from their testing and providing mentality that seemed to affect their roles in the group.
After the conflicts and competitions, the members entered into a stage of interpersonal relations characterized by cohesion, which is also known as the norm. In this stage, both the parents and teachers became constructively involved in the group’s activities, contributing and solving emerging problems as a team. The group witnessed a heightened willingness to realize the goals and to help each other in advancing the group’s course. Cliques previously formed were dissolved as leadership extended to the members. The group seems to be gradually entering the performing stage even as the members are becoming more interdependent and working in togetherness for the greater good of the students.
Structure Analysis of the Group
The structure of our group qualifies it as a formal group established by the school for a particular objective. The group is established in line with the constitution of the school and New York educational policies. It is a task group that works in unity to improve the welfare of the students and develop their capacity. Unlike informal groups that tend to be important for their own sake, this group is designed by the school administration as a means to an end, whereby the end is improved performance of the students in all areas.
The group is led by the principal of the school who also belongs to the school’s board of governors group. The executives of the PTA include the principal, the deputy who serves as the vice-chair, 1 parent, and 1 teacher who serves as secretary and member respectively. The group is divided into three main subgroups: Academics representatives, welfare representatives, and development representatives. The academic representatives majorly deal with academic issues affecting the students. The welfare representatives are more concerned with issues of health, the environment, classroom, and availability of the necessary resources for students’ wellbeing. The development representatives majorly deal with issues that would affect the realization of full capacity among the students.
The group’s structure eases the members’ ability and potentiality to perform their respective tasks. The subdivisions allow each subgroup to concentrate on specific issues, thus have a thorough understanding of such issues and make more fitting recommendations. Having a char who also belongs to the board of governors makes it possible for the interests of the members to be well represented in the higher office. However, having the principal as the chair sometimes affects the interest of the members, especially the parents when there is a division between the administration and parents’ interests. The teachers often tend to be biased towards the principal and the administration. Just as Shepard (2009) observed about formal structures and bureaucracy, the views are sometimes rigid and limited to the set rules. In our group, this has proven to be true as the member’s views are rejected based on the school’s policies.
The Dynamics of Group Behavior
The dynamics of our PTA group behavior are the aggregate of the individual behaviors. Each person in the group have their unique way of doing things, looking at issues, confronting challenges, celebrating success, and addressing emerging issues.
Although teachers tend to share several behavioral traits, each teacher in the group is also unique in their own way and thus behaves uniquely in the absence of school protocols, rules, regulations, and policies. Although all parents share in the interest of improving the welfare of their children and developing their optimal capacity in all areas, every parent in the group has a unique way of behaving in an endeavor to realize these objectives. The dynamics of group behavior tend to incorporate all such perceptions, beliefs, approaches, and behaviors in an endeavor to realize the common goal in relation to student performance and welfare.
The relationships between the teachers and the parents are often affected by their respective personal traits and subgroup characteristics. Teachers believe they have a higher mandate in school settings to dictate the student’s welfare and lifestyles owing to the fact that parents gave them the students to make them better people. Parents feel that they are the main stakeholders because they provide for children and own them besides hiring teachers to educate them.
Effects of the Group on Individuals
The PTA group has had immense effects on me. As a member of the group in relation to how I perceive things, address various issues, and I think even outside the group. Before I joined the group, I was quite independent, making my own decisions without much consultation and only advancing what I believed to be right for me and my child. However, becoming a PTA member of Archbishop Molloy High School has greatly affected that, whereby I have developed a new perception and way of seeing things. Unlike in the past, I often prefer consulting various parties involved in an issue to widen my scope and perceptions on the issue.
My degree of conformity to rules and regulations seems to have increased unlike in the past where I did what seemed right to me irrespective of the laws. The school policies were quite limiting in terms of accommodating views, thus one had to learn to operate within the set jurisdictions, which has gradually influenced my perception of set jurisdictions. Although we do many things in relation to shared thoughts, I have not changed much from groupthink. I may comply with set policies or conform to the laws, but my way of thinking remains somewhat rigid and only adopts group thoughts if they rhyme with my own, or if they make more sense, otherwise, my compliance often remains superficial.
Gross, R. (1980). The Parent Teacher Association—A Personal Encounter. NASSP Bulletin, 64, pp. 52-55.
Shepard, J. (2009). Cengage Advantage Books: Sociology. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Tuckman, B. & Jensen, M. (1977). Stages of Small Group Development. Group and Organizational Studies, 2, pp. 419-427