Parent involvement in schools has traditionally been carried out by mothers. Yet boys and girls need positive male role models. When fathers take an active role in education, schools report an increase in student achievement.
However, there are many barriers to participation by fathers. Those barriers include
Maintain a father-friendly environment. Have welcoming signs near the front door in all languages represented in the school. Make a special effort to involve males in leadership positions on advisory councils or in parent-teacher organizations. Encourage fathers to personally invite other adult males to become active.
Request that both parents attend teacher-parent conferences. Provide child care and offer an interpreter when needed. Involve the father in a discussion concerning the child by asking non-threatening questions such as "What do you and your child enjoy doing together?" (See Guidelines for Educator-Parent Conferences Concerning Angry Children) If time permits, give both parents a survey form concerning their careers, hobbies, interests, and schedule. Include space where parents can write concerns and list their specific needs. (See Inviting Parent Involvement Through Survey Forms) If completion of the form appears to be difficult for the parents, interview them. Collect the forms and, if possible, address their comments before they leave.
Search for opportunities to include fathers in school activities. Encourage them to attend school events and to observe in their child's classroom. Have a "Father Night" where fathers or other males -- grandfathers, uncles, or family friends -- are invited to bring the child to school. Have adult-child teams play simple relay games or participate in other enjoyable activities that require little skill. Serve refreshments and provide parenting information in a non-threatening way.
Plan a "Dad Lunch" or "Father Breakfast." Invite students to bring a father, male relative, "Big Brother," or other "dad figure" to be honored. Ask some dads to include an additional child, so that no child is left out. After eating together, have a father-only discussion on ways to help their child learn.
Sponsor a Saturday work day. Invite fathers to bring their child to school to clean up the grounds and/or make needed repairs. Provide T-shirts for those who help.
Involve fathers in a day or weekend retreat. This is a good community activity where bonding can take place. Provide activities that promote fellowship and leadership. Based on expressed interests of the fathers, create useful committees and/or support groups. Formulate a Father-to-Father Program during which experienced dads mentor young fathers.
Provide classes in your school building. Hold classes on fatherhood, learning English as a second language, GED certification, computers, or other requested topics.
Recognize the special role fathers play during family events such as plays, programs or other activities. Have fathers stand to receive applause. Point out ways they can participate in their child's education. Pass out volunteer sign-up sheets for various activities such as art, science, or cultural enrichment projects.
Remind fathers that volunteering in school is not the only way to enhance their child's learning. Active involvement with their child at home is a form of participation. Stress that maintaining an open, sensitive father-child relationship will have a positive impact on their child's growth. Encourage fathers to connect with their children by
Eating family meals together and encouraging discussion is another way in which fathers can take an active role in a child's life. During the meal, have each family member tell about the best thing that happened to them that day or an important thing they learned.
Most important of all, fathers can connect with the child by expressing love and pleasure in those moments spent with the child.
Article by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Reprinted with permission from the
Kelly Bear Web site, www.kellybear.com