by Eric Snow

Education is a serious business, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun. In fact, studies have proven that kids learn better when they’re having fun. They’re more engaged, they stay at it longer, and they retain more. We also know that kids perform better on tests, behave a little better, and in general do better in school when their dads are involved.

So kids + school + dads + fun = a productive learning environment. Now that’s truly “simple math.”

WD Photo BombIt’s really no surprise that we regularly hear from educators who tell us that everything works a little better when a dad comes to school. It’s an important step toward forming a partnership that is vital to the educational process of a child. A teacher once summed it up by saying, “In many cases the academic success of a student is dependent on the work that their parents do at home to support and reinforce the learning strategies and disciplines we teach at school.”

We’ve worked with thousands of dads from all over the country who volunteer at school, and I am always impressed by these guys. I regularly meet men who eagerly rearrange their busy lives in order to make time to volunteer at school, assist with after-school activities, and even spend some of their hard-earned income if they can see that it is a benefit to their kids or to the school in general.

You’re probably aware of the perception among some people that volunteers are obviously “people who have a lot of spare time on their hands.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The overwhelming majority of volunteers are balancing the demands of their careers, their families and their personal lives in order to be at school. Almost all volunteers have someplace else they could be. They simply made the decision that volunteering at school was a priority, and then they made the time for it.

Something you will never hear from a dad volunteer is, “I don’t have time for this.” It’s a given that we’re busy and our kids are well aware of it at a very early age. That’s one of the main reasons why taking time off of work to volunteer at school sends such a powerfully positive message to your child. It clearly demonstrates to your child that their education is important and that you are a partner with their teachers.

If we convince ourselves that we will volunteer when we don’t have anything better to do, we are cheating ourselves out of a wonderful experience and we may soon find that the opportunity has passed us by.

We are sometimes asked why WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) focuses on men when the involvement of both parents is necessary for the educational success of the child. It’s because we have learned from schools that when they invite the “parents” to volunteer at school, it is most often the moms that accept their invitation. The WATCH D.O.G.S. program addresses this by reaching out specifically to men so that they know the school is talking to them too and this is one time that Mom can’t “stand in” for them.

And guess what? The men demonstrate in a big way that they are eager to come to school to help. Last school year alone almost 400,000 men in more than 4,700 schools across 46 states accepted the invitation to volunteer a full day at their child’s school through the WATCH D.O.G.S. program.

It’s inspiring to see how the actively engaged dads and educators support and encourage one another. Both are doing the best job they can, and they are grateful to have the other to both compliment and complement their efforts. When the dads and the educators have the opportunity to work together, they most often will express esteem, respect and admiration for each other. They recognize that each is providing one of two parts that are needed to complete their common goals—and in the end the child is the winner.We know that the influence of dads is not better than the influence of moms. But it is different. It is unique and powerfully positive. And in many cases it is missing from the educational process. Guys, please know that you are not only wanted at your child’s school, you are needed at your child’s school.

As the new school year begins, we hope you will consider your role in your child’s education. If you are a regular volunteer at your child’s school, do it again and do it more. If you’ve never volunteered at your child’s school, it’s not too late. Do it now. You will always be thankful that you made time for it.

If your school does not have a WATCH D.O.G.S. program, now is the perfect time to launch one. Just call us at 888-540-3647 and we will show you how to get started.

Just Spend a Day at Your Child’s School. Just Be DAD.

Eric Snow is the Executive Director of WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), a father-engagement and educational initiative of the National Center for Fathering. He is also a member of the strategic planning committee for National PTA. Eric and his wife Valerie have two children.

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