Fall is here, and my kids are in the full swing of youth football and readying themselves for a new school year. I take great interest in their football exploits and bust my butt to be at every practice and every game to see for myself how they are doing. I would never rely on an occasional chat with the football coach to measure my kids’ progress. But when it comes to the classroom, I have too often looked to the once-a-year parent-teacher conference to tell me most of what I know about my three children’s schooling. I do help with homework and sometimes chaperon field trips, but that is about where it stops. This disparity between my attentiveness to the athletic over the academic is out of whack, especially since my children’s education is far more important than anything else they do.
What I should do more often– especially since I am a so-called Recession Dad who lost his job several months ago and has more time than ever with his kids–is help out at school. Spending some time in your child’s classroom can be a real eye-opener. Most teachers welcome the parental involvement, and your kids will love showing off their Dad. There is something very worthwhile in it for Dad too. You can get an unfiltered picture of where your kid stands on the pecking order relative to their peers. You can see how attentive and focused they are during classtime, their maturity level, who their friends are, their leadership qualities, and the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum and their teacher. Like your child’s athletic prowess, these academic attributes are difficult to measure if you don’t take the time to see for yourself.
My wife and I, for example, used to fret about my oldest son’s reading ability when he was in first grade. Visiting a first grade class for a couple hours calmed those fears. The teacher asked me to take each of the kids one at a time into the hall to read a book. I remember that one bright student read a book with many difficult words. I was astonished as he read the word “innoculation” without hesitation or sounding it out. Other kids chose much simpler books and had trouble reading “dog” or “cat” without a big picture of a dog or cat to help them along. Following that hourlong trip to school, I knew my son’s reading level was comfortably middle-of-the-pack.
So do yourself a favor. Take a break from the endless resume polishing or your office and spend some time getting directly involved in something that really matters–your child’s education.