As I’ve mentioned before, I am constantly trying to find ways to engage in my children’s lives. Often, it can seem very difficult. All of our lives are so full with “stuff”, finding the right balance can be elusive. In fact, I’d argue that we never really find the right balance, and even if we do, we probably talk ourselves into believing that something is getting neglected. One question issue I struggle with as a father is how I can increase my parent involvement in schools.
Just about every study out there says that the more a dad is involved in the life of their young child’s life, the better. This is the good news. The role that a father has in his child’s life has changed dramatically in the past several decades. A book published by the American Sociological Society in 2006 states that fathers are spending twice as much time with their kids compared to 40 years ago. No longer is the role of the dad just to play catch out in the backyard on Sunday afternoons or to coach the little league team. As a result, all the dads I know have really stepped up to the plate (pun intended) to be more active the lives of their kids.
Getting Involved In Schools
In many areas, dads are diving right in to the everyday lives of their children. But, we are still a bit behind regarding our involvement in schools. Again, I mean involvement beyond coaching a team. This is an area I have really struggled with. My wife was an elementary school teacher for several years and our son went to her school. So this area of our family was kind of “her responsibility”. Our child was literally across the hall from where she worked everyday. The teacher was a friend of hers. There was no reason for me to get involved. She seemed to have a good handle on everything and that was that. Our son got good grades. He wasn’t a behavior problem. Everything seemed to be running fine on its own.
When my wife retired from teaching several years ago to focus on her own business, our son also switched schools. My wife was busy on the night of the first open house at his new school so I went alone. I was completely lost and unprepared for this. It was overwhelming and I felt completely ignorant. I thought he just went to school, learned and came home. This was an extremely important area of my son’s childhood that I had on autopilot. I decided that I would get more involved.
Outside his classroom, there was a signup sheet for something called the “Dad’s Club”. I put my name and email address on there. A couple weeks later, I was in the library with about 20 other dads planning our first event of the year. It occurred to me then that getting involved with your child’s school isn’t that hard. There a plenty of opportunities. Some obvious and some you may have to look for a little bit. Below, I have listed some great ideas to get you more in tune with your child’s school life.
8 Ways To Increase Parental Involvement In Schools
- Join the PTA– Maybe your school doesn’t have a Dad’s Club. That doesn’t mean that you can’t join the good old PTA. This organization has always been predominately attended by the moms but dads are starting to up their representation. In fact, many schools are trying to actively recruit dads to get involved in the PTA these days. This is usually the most effective way to increase parent involvement in schools.
- Correspond with your teacher more often– Meet your child’s teacher early and make sure you stay in touch with him/her. With technology nowadays, this has never been easier. Sure, sending an email will always work but there are A TON really cool new apps that make it even easier. We use ClassDojo at our school and we love it. The teacher can post pictures of activities in the class in real time. There is also the ability to communicate with the teacher in a quick and secure way. All of these apps are very safe and secure, requiring a password and approval before getting into the class network.
- Start a Dads Club– Don’t have a Dads Club? Then start one. I guarantee you that there are a ton of fathers out there that would love to get more involved. Just make sure that you do it right. Our Dads Club is great because the time commitment isn’t huge. We are all busy and only meet once a month during the school year. The meetings are short and to the point. We get right down to business and after the meeting, there is an opportunity to stay and play basketball in the gym or go the bar down the street (or both!). But we generally don’t mix business and socializing. We also always have a very specific goal we are working towards. We never just meet for the sake of meeting. Studies show that men respond better to this sort of organization.
- Meet Your Child For Lunch– Many schools allow for the parents to come and eat lunch with their kids. Just make sure you speak with the teacher beforehand so they know you are coming and you can make sure to follow all of the protocols. I love doing this with my kids. My son is getting a little too old for this now but my daughter is in Kindergarten and is the perfect age. This is a great way to get firsthand insight into the dynamics of your child’s school day. I sometimes fret about whether my kids are making friends or are socializing in a healthy way. Sure, I can speak to the teacher about these things but there is nothing like being able to sit at the lunch table and watch how everyone interacts with each other.
- Volunteer for a Field Trip– Most schools have opportunities for parents to volunteer to chaperone the kids during a field trip. Just like during lunch, this is a great way to see the inner-workings of your child’s life at school. My employer actually gives me one paid day off a year explicitly to volunteer at my child’s school.
- Make Sure You Go to the Open House– Make sure you attend the beginning of the year festivities. Like I mentioned above, this was a huge wake-up call for me. Not only do you get to meet the teacher, you get a TON of valuable information regarding how the school year will go. I recommend that BOTH parents always go to this whenever possible.
- Be a Classroom Helper-This is yet another way to volunteer at school. You don’t have to stay all day, just a couple hours. It is incredibly rewarding and informative to watch your child in class. I used to go help my wife out in class sometimes. The kids thought it was SO FUNNY that her husband would come.
- Start a Club– Talk to the administration of your child’s school about starting a club. This can be any type of club. Are you into building models? Well, there may be a whole bunch of kids at your child’s school that would think a model building club would be so cool! My son is a HUGE Chess player. I am so thankful that one of the dads at school started Chess club. Every Wednesday after school, about 15 kids get together and play Chess with each other. He instructs them as needed and hold tournaments.
Whatever you do, dive right into your kid’s life and try to increase your parent involvement in schools. There is so much there and school is such a large part of their lives and their future. There will always be plenty of time for coaching and attending your kid’s sporting events in High School, but I am trying to take advantage of the fact that they still think it is really cool when I show up around school. I know that won’t last forever!