Monday, March 28, 2016

Dads get the invitation to volunteer at school

A great day with my son.
What dog keeps the best time?

When I snuck that riddle into my first-grade son's lunch box last week, he knew the answer was a watch dog. It was also the obvious answer because he was looking forward to me volunteering in the Watch D.O.G.S. program at his school.

Watch D.O.G.S. is a national initiative to encourage dads to volunteer at their child's school and the acronym stands for Dads Of Great Students. The National Center for Fathering started the program so when my son's principal invited all of the dads to come and spend a day volunteering, this was a no-brainer. I am happy to join the ranks of more than 400,000 men who volunteered through the program in schools across the United States last year. I volunteered on my birthday - a tradition I plan to continue for both of my children.

Kavaun was eager for me to spend the day with him and his classmates and I enjoyed helping and getting a feel for my son's school experience. The educational leader in me walked away impressed by the network of professionals who make delivering a great education the reality for my son and his peers. From the support staff to my son's teachers and all of the students I encountered in the hallways or at recess, everyone was first-class. I always felt my child was in a wonderful school, and experiencing it first hand confirmed for me that dedicated and talented people make all the difference in a school.

Evidence of engagement and learning could be found all over 
the school. There was no shortage of enthusiasm for learning.
I am certain no one was putting on a show for me as a volunteer. Several parents dedicate their time volunteering in the building on a regular basis and more than ninety Watch D.O.G. volunteers will participate this school year. I was witnessing the everyday work of professionals that contribute to an awesome learning environment.

Mr. Brett Young, the building principal, deserves credit for making the Watch D.O.G.S. program happen in our school district. As a father of four children himself he understands how challenging it can be to volunteer for a day. Even as an educator who understands the value of being directly involved in my children's education, I would not have volunteered if not for Mr. Young. I am pretty sure that many of the one hundred men coming in as Watch D.O.G.S. would say the same thing. He actively reached out to the dads and father-figures of more than 400 students and invited us to the school for a pizza dinner in September to tell us how to participate in the program. Schools generally welcome parent involvement, but an invitation to commit to a specific day is what it took to get me in the door.

Messages celebrating great ideas can be found
in the hallways throughout the school.
Another cool thing is that Watch D.O.G.S. are not just fathers - grandfathers, uncles and other adult male role models can participate as D.O.G.S. in the school building. All of the D.O.G.S. receive a thorough volunteer background check and the staff goes out of their way to make guests feel welcome. Volunteer tasks can range depending on the day and time of the visit. I did some organizational tasks to help my son's classroom teacher, I read to the children and answered questions, monitored recess and worked with students in a small group setting. My son's classroom teacher contributed to my meaningful experience and I was able to be a part of art, music and physical education classes as well.  

The Watch D.O.G.S. program is great and I encourage elementary school leaders to look into it. As a parent, I know there are plenty of opportunities to help at the school, but if you are not aware of specific needs, just call the school or drop in to the office. I applaud any school that makes a focused effort to increase parent involvement in the school. Everyone wins.

A highlight for me was reading to the class.
If you're like me and need a specific date to lock in so it will happen, volunteer on your birthday or at a time when you know you will need a planned break. Volunteering is a guilt-free way to miss other obligations and it's something you and your child(ren) can look forward to sharing.

Highlights of my day:
  • Scored a goal in soccer at recess despite several children doing everything they could to stop me
  • I met Kavaun's classmates and even helped a few of them with math
  • Story time was so fun I did it twice
  • A free T-shirt that will stir good conversation and memories at home when I wear it. 
  • My birthday was announced over the P.A. and I got a birthday ribbon. Several people made sure to wish me a happy birthday too - something we don't get a lot of in the high school. 
  • I walked away amazed at how my son's teachers could get seven year-old children on task so effectively. Seeing students make connections with their learning was pretty cool.  
This poster was next to the Watch D.O.G.S Wall of Fame where a photo of 
children and their D.O.G.S welcomes guests to the school.  


  1. Nick:

    Great article! Love the perspective. Love the engagement. I may have to speak to my kids elementary principal...

  2. Love this initiative and as always enjoy seeing you evolve in a great dad. Hmmmm....You learned from the best in IONIA!

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Kavaun is still talking about my visit a week later. Glad I got the invitation.