Monday, October 22, 2018

PTA and Relay Races

I created two spreadsheets. Not for work. For PTA.

This year, I decided to jump in with both feet and become a member of the PTA executive board. I took the easy route -- class shirts. This was my path into co-chairing the fifth-grade party next year. I had to get in to grab that assignment. I have big plans for the fifth-grade party. DJ, yeah. Donations for give-aways and swag bags, I'm on it. It will be the fifth grade parties of all fifth grade parties.

But, first, class shirts.

Only a few steps to fill out in my POW (that's plan of work for you non-PTA people). I took care of most during the summer -- get a vendor, email lead teachers, update the order form and voila, class shirts. Forgot about the forms being turned in and having to input the student's names by class with their shirt size. There are a lot of kids in this school my girls attend. Also, didn't really think through the various designs and t-shirt colors by teacher by grade. Another spreadsheet.

We are close to the finish line. I've picked up over 700 forms (another detail -- visiting the PTA rolling vertical file to check my folder) and met with the vendor a few times to go over the details. Kinder teachers, names on back, same one color design on front, different colors by teacher. There are five grades, plus kinder, plus pre-k. Oh, and teachers get a free shirt so I need those orders, too.

Friday is the deadline. We'll have stragglers but next week, I'm turning in the order.

Then, delivery. And, scene.

Well, that hopeful spirit came too soon. You know what you have to do before submitting the final count. You have to audit the count. When your PTA president helps with the audit and finds we have 610 paid orders and your spreadsheet only reflects 606 . . . you get to spend the time that was to be a fourth part as a 'looking through each and every order questioning the printing ability of each and every parent who submitted each and every form' part.

Yes, I found the discrepancies and corrected the spreadsheet. Yes, I sent the workbook full of many tabs to the vendor. Yes, I did a review of the vendor's orders to find a couple of misses. Yes, I wrote an email with the words 'approved' on the numbers.

Still not finished.

There's going to be more emails coming from the vendor with the t-shirt design proofs. One includes a number that each and every fifth grader needs to write their name in before we print. (That will be super simple. Will each and every fifth grader be at school the day I need to have the number signed? I'll be forging some fifth-grade signatures that is for sure.)

Will I then be finished? I think, yes.

That finish line is near but there are so many steps to get there. Like when you take off on a race, the finish line is what you see ahead of you. Unless you run hurdles, there are no obstacles. The obstacles are plenty, though. There are your competitors. They want to finish, too. They know they need to go in a straight line toward that ribbon strung across the finish. There are the weather conditions. There are shoelaces that could come untied. There are muscles that can pull. Obstacles you know exist, but in the moment all you see is that finish line.

There's this idea of keeping your eye on the prize. People use visualization techniques to 'watch' themselves finish in the way they've trained. The techniques involve moving through the event as if there were no obstacles.

I did not visualize a successful spreadsheet. All I saw were stacks and stacks of green class shirt order forms on my counters. I saw my feeble attempts at formulas in my spreadsheets knowing there was a way to sum up the grand totals on each page, but dang, I don't know how to do a fancy formula. I'm sure the pivot table thing I've heard of would have helped but I was too busy deciphering unusual names written in undecipherable handwriting to figure out a pivot.

Yeah, I wanted to pivot.

I had to keep my eye on the prize, the finish line -- the fifth grade party.

My girls are working this week on their new finish line. They were picked to be in the fourth grade track meet as members of the 4x100 relay team. Caroline is the second leg and Camille is the anchor. For a couple of weeks, their dad, the coach, has asked if they have practiced baton hand offs. The answer up until tonight has been nope. Cringing from my husband. He even out-loud offered to take the girls up to his high school and teach them proper hand off. The girls answer to that was nope.

Today was the day the girls practiced the passing of the baton. Caroline re-enacted it for us. G had some questions as to steps and timing and style and Caroline responded with 'go' and 'stick.' G now says it is 'your job to stick the baton out' and they get it. 'You need to hit them in stride.'

Caroline just said 'ok, ok.'

(Acceleration and exchange zones were also just discussed. Step counts, too. We might be taking this fourth grade relay race a little too seriously.)

Camille won't stand for being behind someone so having her at anchor will fuel her to catch up with someone if that is the position they are in during the race. She does not like to lose. She will be counting and watching and listening and waiting in proper form while the other girls run.

The proper running form is something children learn if they do indeed become runners. There's a way to swing your arms, lean your body and bend your elbows. The number of steps you take are measured and there's a lot of counting involved.

The science of running is not just about the breathing and the heart rate, it's also about the angles and the number of foot strikes. (Seriously, we are taking this too seriously.)

I learned over the last few months that there is a science to being the person responsible for the class shirts. There are the formulas and calculations. There are the taxes and the income and the budgeted amount. Lots of math.

It's so simple though. It's filling out a form and turning it in. It's writing legibly and providing payment.

Running is so simple, too. One foot in front of the other.

Apparently, there is nothing simple about PTA and there is nothing simple about running. Our perception of what appears to be simple means that the practice, the effort and the execution are all lined up and in perfect sync with the outcome. Eyes are kept on the prize. Work is put into the process so that everything comes out just so and right on time.

I'll be providing next year's class shirt person with a recap of my learnings. I'll share when and how to get started. I'll point out some practices to put into place. I'll even offer up ideas on how to make the process easier.

I'll be passing on that baton. I won't drop it. I'll be right in the exchange zone but will accelerate so fast past the receiver, they won't even know I was there . . . until it is time for the fifth grade party.