3 Strategies for Encouraging Dads’ Involvement in Schools

“We have to take steps to ensure that dads are being seen and heard,” said Chavis. A simple solution is to send all school correspondence to both parents. Chavis noted that accurately communicating with a child’s caregivers can be harder with divorced parents or blended families because it’s challenging to avoid making assumptions about the family structure.

Schools can go further by tailoring some outreach directly to dads. For example, a class newsletter could include a section specifically for dads, or the school can have father-focused events and programs. During Chavis’s talk, a teacher from Baltimore shared one such activity from her school: one day early in the year, dads and male caregivers are invited to line the halls and welcome kids to school. Encouraging students to invite other male role models such as uncles, big brothers, mentors and pastors makes this activity more inclusive for varied family structures.

Leverage pop culture

According to Chavis, pop culture is rich with low stakes ways for dads to interact with their kids’ learning. Many educators have found that incorporating pop culture into academics increases student  engagement.

During Chavis’ session, an educator from Buffalo, New York, shared an idea called a “reverse gift card.” Parents are asked to write their interests, hobbies and skills — such as favorite TV shows, movies, sports or music — on a small card with their availability. Parents are called on to volunteer for specific activities according to their interests as their “gift” to the school. For example, if a dad says he’s a fan of superhero movies, he might be asked to chaperone a school visit to a museum exhibit on the history and impact of comic books. “It shows that we pay attention and we’re asking things instead of just blanket messages all the time,” said the educator. 

Pop culture can also offer a way for dads to connect with each other. Chavis mentioned an event for dads and their kids at a school in Bakersfield, California, where they broadcasted Monday Night Football and provided food. While sports events can be a great way to bring dads together, connections can be formed around a range of interests. 

Chavis likened engaging fathers to a dance, with the school taking the lead. Schools will likely need to initiate changes to jumpstart dads’ engagement. “Let them know how important they are, how needed they are, how valued they are, and create that space where you begin to lift up the importance of dads being engaged,” Chavis said.

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