This year my school has been participating in a program called "Watch DOGS" (Dads of Great Students) which is run through the National Center for Fathering. It focuses on getting fathers (or grandfathers, uncles, older brothers, etc) involved in the classroom. Most times dads come and spend a morning just volunteering, doing things like greeting the kids as the come into the building, helping in their child's classroom, being a recess supervisor, and anything else that the teacher could use help with.
I had a Watch DOG in my room last Friday and it was a new experience for me and for him. I have known this dad for a few years and have had several of his children in my class. This is a family that I greatly admire and look up to. His wife is very involved with the school, volunteering to teach art lessons a few times a month in several different classrooms, has been the PTA president, goes on field trips (even if it is not her child's class), and much, much more.
Several times during the day he came up to me and stated how amazed he was with the difference in academic levels between all the children in my class. He hadn't realized what a gap there was between children and how hard it is for the teacher to bridge that gap. He loved working with the different children and seeing how many personalities there were.
I noticed such a difference in several of my boys that day. These boys come from homes where the mom has a different boyfriend in and out of the house every week. They generally are left to fend for themselves quite often. They have very little, if any other family around. These boys have no GOOD male role models, no one to look up to. I watched them Friday soak up every ounce of attention they got from this Watch DOG. He played with them at recess. He sat next to them in class and talked with them about their writing and art projects. He gave the spelling test with silly sentences about Justin Bieber, and spinach. He ate lunch with them, joked with them, loved them. He showed them that there are men out there that care, that listen, that want to pay attention to them.
I talked with this wonderful man's wife later and asked her to thank him again for coming in. I told her what I had seen and she started to cry. She was so happy to hear that he had made a positive impact on those boys because it had made such a positive impact on him. Before coming in he had always wondered and questioned why she put so much effort in the PTA and volunteering at the school. He didn't understand why she would come in so often, without getting any kind of payment. She said his words were, "I get it now. I get why you care. It's not just about our children. It's about all the children."
I often wonder if fathers fully understand their children's elementary education experience. Most children are lucky enough to be born into families with parents that care about what is happening at school, about how their day went, about who they played with. But others, others are not so lucky. And for them, having another parent come in and interact with them may be the only positive experience they have with a parental figure all week.
So fathers and future fathers, I plead with you to get involved. Find at least one day during the school year to volunteer in your child's classroom. See what it is like, play with them, read with them, and listen to the children as they share their world with you. Make a difference. (And when your wife spends hours volunteering at your child's school, thank her for the difference she has made in the life of a child.)