Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dads Should Go Back to School

I am an educator. To be more specific, I am a principal, but I was a teacher for 5 years and I still teach a few classes each year.

I work with students every day, both inside and outside of my office. Unfortunately, many of the students who come to my office come back multiple times. There is a common thread among many of the repeat offenders; they don’t have a dad in their lives or, if they do have a dad, he isn’t involved with school.

Research shows that children who live in two-parent families are more likely to get mostly A’s, regardless of the level of the mothers’ involvement. Children who live in single-parent families headed by fathers are twice as likely to get mostly A’s if their fathers are highly involved at school, compared with those whose fathers have little involvement. Even with non-custodial fathers, when they are involved, they make a difference, particularly for children in grades six and above. Their children are much more likely to get A’s, enjoy school, participate in extracurricular activities and are less likely to repeat a grade.

Sadly, despite the benefit of having dad involved at school, most dads leave the “school stuff” to mom. Even in two-parent households, moms are about twice as likely to participate in school meetings, events, and activities. Dads can have a lasting effect on education by helping to set expectations and by challenging their kids.

I admit that schools are usually more welcoming to mothers than fathers. There are definitely some things that can be done to encourage more participation from dads, but it ultimately comes down to dads making the time to be involved.

Here are some tips and simple things that you can do to get more involved in your child’s education.
  1. Save a sick day or vacation day to attend a school meeting or teacher conference.
  2. Email or call your child’s teachers to check on their progress and see if you can help with anything.
  3. Attend a “donuts for dads” or similar event when they occur.
  4. Join the PTA and attend meetings/events.
  5. Organize a group of dads to complete a school improvement project.
Probably the easiest and most impactful thing that you can do is to ask your kids what they learned at school and make time to help them with their homework or read to/with them. You don’t have to be an algebra genius or scientist to help your kids. Just reading to or with your children each night can have a dramatic effect on them. Twenty-six percent of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This is compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently. Fourth graders who reported reading for fun “Almost Every Day” score 3 percent higher on reading tests than peers who reported reading “Never or Hardly Ever”.

It's the little things that make a difference in your kids' lives. Do the little things and you can make a huge difference.