In the more than two years I’ve had children in elementary school, I’ve volunteered at several school events including Book Fair, Holiday Shop, and Kindergarten Centers. This is in addition to chaperoning several field trips.
And while I recognize my situation is somewhat unique because I’m a stay-at-home parent and my wife works a non-traditional schedule, I still find it odd that in all my volunteer activities, I’ve run into less than a handful of other dads. And all but one of the dads I’ve encountered were on field trips, not at in-school events.
I won’t generalize based on 10 or so days of volunteering; I’m sure there are tons of dads out there volunteering their hearts out. Probably a lot more than I am. But at the risk of being didactic, I have a message for my fellow dads who haven’t tried on their school volunteer badge yet: sign up to volunteer at your children’s school!
If there is any way you can make it happen, do it.
Take a vacation day from work. Call in sick. Whatever you need to do, it’s worth it.
Don’t think of it as fulfilling an obligation or completing a chore or holding up the banner for all dads in the world like you are one of the soldiers at Iwo Jima.
There are so many benefits to volunteering. Some you can probably think of off the top of your head and some are less obvious. Here is a list of just a few of those less obvious benefits:
1. You’ll keep the teachers on their toes.
It never fails. When I volunteer at Holiday Shop or Book Fair, at least one of the teachers will say to her class as they are leaving, “Let’s say thank you to all the moms,” before catching a glimpse of me and hastily adding, “and dad!” It’s magical every time it happens. I just can’t get enough of it.
Just think, it could be you causing this level of confusion.
2. You can nod very coolly to the male teachers on the staff.
Elementary school faculties tend to be overwhelmingly female. Our school has only two or three male teachers. So, when a dad volunteers, he has the unique opportunity to exchange subtle head nods when greeting the male members of the faculty. There is no need to speak or make eye contact for more than one second. In fact, that would kind of ruin everything. Give the head nod to acknowledge each other’s existence and move on. That is the protocol and it must never be broken.
3. It’s a great opportunity to get up to speed on school gossip.
Now, you might think you would have to talk to the mom volunteers to catch all the juicy school gossip, but you’d be wrong! All you have to do is loiter around during lags in volunteering and pretend to be closely studying a children’s book about gemstones or meticulously rearranging fifty-cent Santa Claus keychains and let the gossip wash over you like a refreshing mountain stream.
Did you know Mrs. Jackson in fourth grade is a little frustrated with the new administration’s policy on early dismissal?
You do now!
4. Your heart will almost burst with ecstatic joy when you see your children’s faces light up when they walk into the room and see you there.
OK. This is probably the most important one.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.
Liked this post? Read more from Andrew in his book Fatherhood: Dispatches From the Early Years
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