I have always been involved in my children’s education. Frankly, I don’t know any other way. Growing up, my parents always stressed the value of an education and were always active in my schools. Because of work responsibilities, they may not have been the class parent, but they made sure that they kept in contact with my teachers to make sure that I was always doing my “job.” To them, a good education was the key to a better life. At the time, I thought my parents were overbearing and like most children, sometimes I would rebel. Later, after finishing college and beginning a career of my own, I saw the wisdom of their words. As a black man, I would have few career options without an education. My education allowed me to have career choices that have had a huge impact on my economic well-being.
Now that I am a parent, I am doing the same for my children. Not only do I insist on my children doing their best in school, I also hold their teachers and administrators to the same standard. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I have a high school and two middle school aged children and make it a point to schedule time to have one-on-one meetings with all of their teachers to lay out what we expect of our children and of the school as well. Often times, at back to school nights, I am one of the few fathers in attendance (for our high school child, we are usually the only family in attendance). While some may think that it’s time to start letting go, I believe that my presence is needed now more than ever.
My oldest daughter is deaf, has mild cerebral palsy and attends a school for the deaf here in Texas. She is very bright and when given the chance (an even playing field), she often outperforms her peers in the classroom. We adopted our middle school aged children only a few years ago and they are still adjusting to the nuances of American life; however, we have noticed a marked improvement in their academic achievements if for no other reason than higher expectations and accountability. In the case of all three children, my wife and I are known commodities around their respective schools:
- We review progress reports and talk to teachers and administrators on a regular basis.
- We attend school activities.
- We serve as parent representatives on school committees.
- We are asked to speak before the State Legislature regarding school funding issues.
As a Dad, my presence is noticed. When I show up at meetings and activities, it seems that all eyes are on me. I won’t say that school interactions with fathers are non-existent; however, I will say that our presence at everyday activities is more of an exception than the rule. As a result of my involvement, my children have benefited in four ways:
1. Extra Attention –
Like everywhere else, schools are forced to do more with less. Class sizes are getting larger and teachers have less time for individual instruction. There is an old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If a child puts forth real effort, teachers will take notice. The same is true for active parents. If both are present (effort by the child and involved parents), extra attention is virtually guaranteed.
2. Additional Resources –
With declining budgets, there is less money available for anything other than the basics. Extra resources are luxuries that are jealously guarded and are used sparingly. Again, children who put forth extra effort coupled with active parents are considered first for these precious resources.
3. Additional Opportunities –
Our children are constantly nominated for extra educational activities that occur outside of school. These activities expose our children to opportunities such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) camps and workshops that open their minds to careers that they never thought possible. It also makes them eligible for scholarships should they decide to pursue that course of study or career.
4. Higher Results –
My kids are consistently on the honor roll at their schools. While many may think, “big deal”, it is a very big deal. Because of my oldest daughter’s challenges, we were initially told not to expect much out of her. However, since we do have high expectations for her and push her to do her best, she is preparing to go to college and should be accepted at a number of universities based on her grades alone. Additionally, we expect that she will qualify for scholarships which would mean that she will not have any financial worries while in college. If she maintains the same level of dedication in college as she displayed in high school, she should graduate debt free. With many kids graduating from college with massive student loan debt, this is no small feat.
The takeaway should be clear. Children of active parents receive more attention at school than those whose parents are less involved. When fathers are involved, schools really take notice. When I email teachers about a particular issue or assignment, I usually will get a response within the same day. Teachers will go out of their way to provide extra attention when they see a need and Administrators are more likely to provide the additional resources that children really need in order to excel. The benefits are clear. With my involvement, everyone is on notice regarding the value that I place on education and the benefits are clear. Our children have the tools and confidence in themselves to accomplish whatever God has in store for them. For me, that is the very definition of fatherhood.
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