Who would have thought that getting dads involved at school would be as simple as uttering a single word? It’s genius, really. It’s a word with which fathers connect and a word that garners a response upon hearing. It’s simply the word that represents one of the greatest roles they have in life, dad.
The National Center for Fathering found that communication directed to Dad as opposed to Parent was far more likely to glean a paternal response (shared by PTO Today). Our attempts to build a communication link between home and school seem to predominately fall on the shoulders of moms. Moms are amazing, and we in no way want to diminish the role they play in their child’s education. We just want to increase the role of fathers and other male role models (e.g., uncles, grandpas, older brothers, etc.).
Breaking down the Barriers
Over time, society has continually played out gender stereotyping roles at schools with Room Mothers and PTO gatherings saturated with parents of the female persuasion. Align, Assess, Achieve discusses the importance of breaking down the male/female barriers when it comes to STEM success, so wouldn’t it be great to see more dads in the building? It’s important for students to see male role models taking an interest in education to support a positive learning environment. For communities with a low number of dads present, reach out to other male role models, and/or make the paternal interactions more whole-group oriented and ask dads in attendance to branch out and include other kids.
Getting the Word to Dads
Doughnuts with Dad
Oftentimes scheduling/time is a constraint for working dads (and moms too). Organize a before school event inviting dads to bring their kids in early and view an art show or share in a poetry reading over doughnuts and juice.
Building Buddy Projects
A man and his tools are a surefire way to interest dads. Send out a request for assistance building sets for a class play or rearranging a learning space in the classroom. Dads are also great go-to experts during science project season or during a study of simple machines.
Don’t expect dads to hit the sign-up sheet for the Cake Walk or Tissue Paper Crafts. Overseeing the Cornhole Tournament on Field Day or supervising open gym during an afterschool dance will be more likely to get Dad in on the festivities.
Male chaperones are always a great help on field trips. With all the prior notice needed to get a field trip planned, there’s ample time to invite dads to chaperone. With the advanced notice, it can be easier for dads to adjust work schedules to accommodate the trip. This is my husband’s go-to favorite for getting involved!
Ask dads to volunteer once a month or quarter to be a Reading Pal for a struggling reader or student that needs some time with a male role model – not necessarily their own kids. This could be a one–on-one experience, or Dad could read with a small group. Many dads would probably appreciate a copy of a book or two sent home for review prior to the reading visit. Again, school can be a little intimidating for some dads, so knowing exactly what’s to come is always a good way to ensure attendance.
Don’t throw in the towel on getting dads involved. It’s possible that part of a dad’s absence from his child’s school may be due to the fact he was never invited! Personalizing the invitation can do wonders for paternal attendance at school events. Even getting a handful of dads involved in the classroom can do wonders for the learning environment of all students.