I often remark when I’m speaking to a group of young fathers, that during my tenure as a 2nd grade teacher in Atlanta Public Schools I only met a couple of fathers the entire time. During a formative stage of a child’s schooling, most of my students didn’t have an involved dad around to help steward their educational experience. What a lost opportunity for fathers to be involved. And there are more reasons than simply, fathers weren’t around, because the truth of the matter is that even for dads who are present, they don’t feel really welcome in public school environments. Why is that and how do we change it?
I’ve been wrestling with this question for years, how do we increase fatherhood involvement in education, particularly for our most vulnerable students? Finally, as I became a father myself and as my daughter TODAY starts official pre-k, I’ll have some real life examples to add to the mountain of research that’s already out there about what to do to support dads. But I didn’t want to do this alone, so, with the help of a friend (a principal at a local elementary school), we created a group of dads along the same journey.
This weekend, we started something BIG and important at Perkerson Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia. Gathered around a table were 8 fathers, some with ties to this specific community, ready to begin expanding our impact as fathers in our kids educational lives.
We began by introducing ourselves and what brought each of us to the table. We’re already a pretty diverse group in many ways, counting different ethnicity and generations among us. Our common bond is our own commitment to our children, and our desire to grow as fathers.
From there, we shared a few experiences that shaped our educational perspective, learning that a few of us grew up hating school, and others grew up loving school. We realized that the way we think about education today, is deeply rooted in our own experience with schooling. And this impacts our involvement in our kids educational experience. Knowing this is key.
We ended by discussing our goals for this group. We need each other for both accountability and support as we seek to make impact in our given communities. In particular, we want to demonstrate proof points of fatherhood involvement in our kids education. And we want what we started this weekend to build momentum. Dads took ownership of each bringing one additional person next time as we add to this nucleus.
Good things are happening. Let’s watch it grow.