What’s Happening in PTA? January 2021 Edition

As the new calendar year begins, California State PTA continues to offer training and advocacy opportunities for our leaders and members.  We hope you will join us for some of our offerings:

Date Event Details
Wednesday, January 6: School Smarts Distance Session 5: Becoming an Effective Communicator

Join our School Smarts Team as they give you a preview of Session 5, “Becoming an Effective Communicator” at 4 p.m. If you would like to attend, please use this link to register:  


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to join the meeting.

Advocacy Webinar

Join California State PTA Director of Legislation Shereen Walter and members of the Legislation Team during our monthly webinar, where we discuss all the latest information.

The webinars take place from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.


Thursday, January 7: Social Media Kit Reveal 

Join our Communications Team at 7 p.m. as we reveal the January kit themed “Advocacy for #AllChildren.”  


Wednesday, January 13: School Smarts Distance Session #6: “Standing Up for a Quality Education”

Join our School Smarts Team as they give you a preview of Session 6, “Standing up for a Quality Education” at 4 p.m. If you would like to attend, please use this link to register:  https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEsdOqqqzIuEtdTXR_EMjA9D4WM7xdSh1qj 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to join the meeting.

Legislation Conference Facebook Live event

Join us at 7 p.m. for a Facebook Live where the Leg Team will answer all of your questions about the upcoming conference entitled “A Path to Equity.” 


Tuesday, January 19: Electronic Membership Webinar

Join California State PTA and representatives from TOTEM, our electronic membership system, from 6:00-7:00 p.m. to learn you can leverage all TOTEM’s great features to support and grow your PTA’s membership in 2021. Click here to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pT26rZkIRk2ue7K_56fhvw.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to join the meeting.

Wednesday, January 20: School Smarts Distance Session 7: “Take Action & Celebrate”

Join our School Smarts Team as they give you a preview of Session 7, “Taking Action & Celebrate” at 4 p.m.  If you would like to attend, please use this link to register:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to join the meeting.

January 25, 25, 28 “Listening Sessions” on Race & Racism

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee of California State PTA is excited to host three Zoom “listening sessions” this month around race, racism and PTA. We want to hear from our members of color, in order for our organization to begin to improve the PTA experience. We aim to listen to your authentic voices to help guide us in making all our members feel included, valued, and respected.

If you are interested in participating, please click here for more information on the types of attendees we are seeking, and who to contact to apply.

Tuesday, January 26: Leadership Monthly Meeting

Join Vice President of Leadership Maria Steck and the Leadership Commission as they discuss pertinent topics and answer your questions.  

Click here to register: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeP58gUBc_V0-wSPsOzPxICp9mosu-BvTNihTBWj0bR6FJe0Q/viewform


Friday, January 29: School Smarts Informational Webinar

Learn more about bringing the new virtual School Smarts program to your school by attending this informational webinar at 9:00 am.

Click here to register: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYrd-ihrDosE92ihWEb3jhIE3ewppRwUQOn.


Virtual Icebreakers for PTA Meetings

This article was originally published on MindTools.com.

Virtual ice breakers are a great way of overcoming one of the biggest challenges of managing a remote team – that is, the lack of opportunities for team bonding. It’s no longer as simple as walking over to someone’s desk for a quick catch up or having an informal chat round the “water cooler.” Building rapport, developing lines of communication and simply getting to know your team mates takes effort when you all work from home.

But this can have serious implications. People may become less engaged and motivated over time. You might struggle to encourage creativity and problem-solving. And feelings of loneliness and isolation may increase.

Virtual ice breakers can help you to bring your team together and break down the communication barriers caused by remote working. In this article, we’ll explain how virtual ice breakers can benefit your team and look at some examples that you could try out.

What Is a Virtual Ice Breaker?

Simply put, an ice breaker is a game or activity that you can do with the members of your team to get to know each other better and stimulate conversation. Essentially they are designed to “break the ice.” You might use one to get to know a new team member, or to
kick off a training session or team event.

Virtual ice breakers are exactly the same, but they are done online via a video call or web chat. They can benefit your team in a number of ways. For example, they can:

  • introduce new recruits to their teammates in a fun and engaging way.
  • encourage people to learn more about one another.
  • improve communication.
  • build team rapport.
  • bring an element of fun and interactivity to team meetings or brainstorming sessions.
  • reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • help people to feel more relaxed and positive.

When to Use Virtual Ice Breakers

You can use virtual ice breakers at the start of any video team meeting, but there are a number of scenarios where they are particularly valuable. For example, if your team members work in different locations and aren’t able to meet in person, they can help them to develop the sort of relationships and rapport that an office-based team would naturally.

Perhaps you’ve had to bring teams together from different organizations following a company or departmental merger. There may be initial suspicion about the “other” group at first, but a virtual ice breaker can help bring the two “sides” together, help them to develop trust and encourage cooperation.

An ice breaker can also be a great way of introducing new people to a team in a relaxed and fun way. This will help them to learn more about their new teammates (and vice versa) so that they can start developing new connections right from the “get go.”

When Virtual Ice Breakers Aren’t Appropriate

Ice breakers might not be appropriate for every virtual meeting. For example, spending time on a “fun” activity will likely annoy people if they are working under pressure and have a lot on, or if you are meeting to discuss a crisis or emergency.

You might also hold off on using one if a senior manager joins the call. While it may be tempting to demonstrate your team’s great working dynamic, it’s more important to recognize that their time is likely limited. Getting to the point quickly might be a better idea!

Even if your team works remotely, an ice breaker might not be necessary. Participants might see the activity as patronizing or as a waste of time if they’re already in regular contact.

An ice breaker could help to break down unhealthy cliques when a new person joins an already-established team. Initially, you may get “push back” from existing team members who think it’s a waste of time. If this is the case, explain to them why you think it’s a good a idea, and encourage them to fully engage and participate in the exercise.

Designing Your Virtual Ice Breaker

Consider these factors before choosing your virtual ice breaker:

  • Establish a purpose. Ask yourself, “what “ice” do you want to break? Are you simply introducing people to one another for the first time? Are you bringing people together who work at different levels in your organization? Or people who have different cultures and backgrounds? You’ll need to handle these differences sensitively and make sure that everyone can easily understand and get involved in the ice breaker.
  • Define your goals and objectives. Do you want people to learn more about one another? Or is your objective more complex? For instance, do you want to encourage people to think creatively or to solve a particular problem?
  • Help people feel comfortable. Your ice breaker will only be successful if everyone feels able to participate. So think about whether there are any obstacles that could hinder this, such as differences in language or culture . Steer clear of activities that might inadvertently cause offence. Bear in mind that information can often get “lost in translation,” and that jokes and humor don’t always travel well!
  • Take time into account. Do you want your ice breaker to be a quick five-minute activity or something more substantial? Take into account your purpose and objectives, as well as your team members’ workloads and whether they are calling from different time zones.
  • Choose your frequency. Consider whether the ice breaker is a one-off or if you want to make it a regular thing. Will you change your ice breaker every time? Will the same person always take the lead or will you rotate who gets to pick and lead the activity, if you decide to have one at the start of every meeting?
  • Keep people’s location in mind. Think about where your participants will likely be during your meeting. Will they all be at home? Will some be in an office? Or will they be travelling? This might affect how long they can spend on the call, and their level of participation and engagement.
  • Consider technology. Make sure that everyone is using the same video chat software, and that they are familiar with how to use it beforehand. Also establish the format that your ice breaker will take. For instance, do you want all people to use their webcam? Or will a voice call be sufficient? Some people are “camera shy,” have poor internet connection or may not have the right technology. If this is the case, you might want to choose an ice breaker that doesn’t rely on people being able to see each other.
  • Prep in advance. Decide how much information you’ll need to provide your participants with beforehand. Do they, for example, need to bring a prop or prepare some information ahead of your meeting? Alternatively, you may want to keep the ice breaker a suprise, particularly if you want people to flex their creative muscles.

Virtual Ice-Breaker Examples

Here are a few simple virtual ice breaker ideas to try out in your team:

Take a Picture of Your Shoes

The idea for this virtual ice breaker comes from online meeting service Lucid Meetings. Ask each team member to take a picture of their shoes and upload it ahead of your meeting. This activity is best for video calls, but it can work on audio calls as well, as long as everyone can see each other’s pictures. At the start of the meeting, ask each participant to discuss their choice of shoe, and the “story” behind it. For example, one person might be wearing running shoes because they’re into sports, or someone else might wear flip flops because they love to travel. You can vary this exercise by asking each team member to take a picture of an object on their desk, and getting them to talk about it.

The Social Question

Ask each participant an ice breaker question. These can help to stimulate lively conversations and even debate. Most importantly, they’ll enable people to get to know each other better, and encourage communication and team bonding.

  • What was your first job? What’s your favorite season and why?
  • What’s your favorite food/drink? If there was a movie made about your life, who would play you?
  • What’s your biggest guilty pleasure? What do your surroundings look like?
  • What’s your favorite place to go on vacation?
  • What’s your favorite movie or book?
  • What’s your favorite smell? What music do you like?
  • If you were an ice cream, what flavor would you be?
  • When I dance I look like ___ [fill in the blank].
  • Do you have any pets? What have you achieved this week that you feel proud of?
  • What was the last movie you watched that made you cry?
  • What’s the story behind your name?
  • What’s your favorite sport to play/watch?
  • Take a picture from your window and have people guess where you are.
  • Did you have any imaginary friends when you were young?
  • What’s the weather like where you are?
  • What’s your favorite color?
  • Show something that’s on your desk and tell a story about it
  • What’s your biggest “pet peeve”? What new thing have you learned this week?
  • Ask the following question, to one participant at a time: “If you were able to travel through time, either forward or backward… Where would you go? If backward, to which time period? Why?
  • If there was a person you could go back in time and meet, who would it be, and why?
  • Would you just want to visit and come back, or would you stay?”

Two Lies and a Truth

The idea for this ice breaker was developed by new media consultant Joitske Hulsebosch.

Ask each team member to prepare a list of three interesting “facts” about themselves, two of which must be made up. These could be anything, from a pet they own or a hobby they love to a famous person they’ve met. Then, get other team members to pick which of the statements is true. The team member who receives the most incorrect votes “wins.”

Key Points

Virtual ice breakers are a great way of encouraging remote teams to bond and build rapport. They can also help to improve communication, stimulate creative thinking, build internal networks, and introduce new recruits to their co-workers in a fun, engaging and positive way.

Before choosing which virtual ice breaker you should use. Think about who your participants are, consider your purpose and your key goals and objectives. You’ll also need to take into account the functionality of your participants’ technology, as well as any differences in time zones and culture.

There are a wide variety of virtual ice breaker activities that you can choose from, including:

  • Take a picture of your shoes/desk/surroundings.
  • Social questions.
  • The time machine.
  • Two lies and a truth.

What’s Happening in PTA? December 2020 Edition

We never want you to miss a training opportunity, advocacy call or webinar hosted by California State PTA, so we’ve rounded up all the PTA events happening in December here, including dates, times and ways to join.

Wednesday, December 2: Monthly Advocacy Webinar

Join us from 7-8 p.m. as our Legislative Team shares with you all the latest from Sacramento and Washington D.C.  Share what your unit is doing locally to advocate and learn from others as well.

Click here to register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/31940121174953740

Thursday, December 3:  Social Media Kit Reveal

December is a busy month, but don’t let that get in the way of posting to your social media. Use our kit that focuses on The Gift of PTA — we have created images and done the hard work for you. We will reveal the kit at 7:00 p.m. and help you find creative ways to use it this hectic month.

Click here to join the Zoom meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84963519701?pwd=L2hwOWNSK1ZmSHg0c0xpSnNmTjQ2dz09 

  • Meeting ID: 849 6351 9701
  • Passcode: QU8fWS

Tuesday, December 8: SkyOne Unit Perks Webinar

Join PTA and SkyOne Federal Credit Union for a Zoom webinar on Dec. 8, 2020 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. where we’ll discuss SkyOne’s newest perk for units, and how it can help you raise money and recruit new members!

Click here for more information: https://capta.org/resource/skyone-webinar/ 

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What’s Happening in PTA? November 2020 Edition

We never want you to miss a training opportunity, advocacy call or webinar hosted by California State PTA, so each month we are going to post information right here on our blog about dates, times and ways to join our PTA events.

November 4: Advocacy Call 

Join California State PTA Director of Legislation Shereen Walter and members of the Legislation Team during our monthly webinar, where we discuss all the latest information.

The webinars take place the first Wednesday of the month from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Webinar registration link for all dates: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/31940121174953740

November 5: Social Media Kit Reveal

California State PTA knows that communication is one of the most important tools in a Unit’s, Council’s, or District’s toolbox, and when done well, improves every aspect of the PTA experience. To support our members, the California State PTA Communication Commission is hosting monthly calls with Q&A, mini-trainings, and a walk-through of that month’s Social Media Kit

For November 2020 our focus is Thankful for our Volunteers!  The November Social Media Kit celebrates how much you and other PTA volunteers do for children and families in your community. The kit includes PTA themed customizable images and blurbs for use on your unit/council/district social media accounts. Join us on November 5th as we show you the new kit and our mini-training on the new Facebook Business Suite.

Can’t join us in November? Sign up here: https://forms.gle/T37zRpUibS1umvDA8 to be notified by email of future Communication Commission calls.

Zoom Meeting information:  

POSTPONED UNTIL JANUARY — November 11: Virtually Connected to your Community Through PTA

Our Membership, Education and Family Engagement Commissions have come together for a night filled with great information for our PTA leaders. This was originally scheduled for Nov. 11, but has been postponed until January 2021. Stay tuned for more details.  

November 15: Tax deadline, if your fiscal year ended on June 30th

All nonprofits have to file state and federal taxes in order to stay in compliance with the law — PTA is no different. If your unit’s fiscal year ended on June 30th you must have your taxes filed or postmarked by November 15th. This year the 15th is on a Sunday, so your final deadline is actually November 16th.  For help filing your taxes, visit our Tax Filing Support Center

November 20: School Smarts Virtual Program Launch

Join us on Zoom from 3-4:00 p.m. to learn more about the award-winning School Smarts Parent Engagement Program’s transformation to a virtual environment. Click here to register

November 24: Leadership Monthly Webinar

The final Tuesday of every month at 7:00 p.m. is our Leadership Team’s monthly webinar. Every month has topics for a mini-training as well as chances to ask your burning PTA questions!  

Please sign up to receive the link for this Zoom call.

November 30: Annual Insurance Webinar

Unit, Council and District leaders – Join California State PTA and our insurance broker, Association Insurance Management (AIM), for an informative webinar regarding insurance policies and services designed to protect your PTA and your members, and support your activities. We’ll review insurance coverage, the renewal process, worker’s compensation, deadlines, and more.

Date: Monday, November 30, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Join here: https://zoom.us/j/96811349953?pwd=b3RSQ09qRXFGbCtkSFVkd0ZZOVlyZz09

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