FT. THOMAS, Ky. -- Students at Fort Thomas Independent Schools’ Woodfill Elementary have been enjoying the extra support and high-fives from fathers volunteering to spend a full day at their children’s school through the Watch D.O.G.S. -- Dads of Great Students -- program.
Launched in January at Woodfill Elementary, the national program was created by the National Center for Fathering to get more fathers or father figures involved in schools as volunteers to support education and safety. The program is underway at 5,148 schools in 47 states.
Woodfill school counselor Rachel Caswell successfully implemented the program when she was a classroom teacher at another school a few years ago.
“It’s an opportunity for dads to be a positive male role model for all of our kids,” Caswell said.
When she came to Woodfill, she wanted to introduce the program. Principal Keith Faust was on board with the idea and an evening pizza party was held in January to spread the word.
“The response was huge. We had almost 300 kids and dads at our January pizza night,” Caswell said. “The dads started coming in February, and by the end of this (school) year, we will have had 70 dads volunteer for a full school day.”
Volunteer dads start their day with a brief orientation from Caswell. They stand at the front of the school, opening doors and greet students as they arrive for the school day. They spend time in their own child’s classroom as well as other classrooms, helping out as needed, and they also interact with kids in the lunchroom and on the playground. The fathers patrol the school hallways and the perimeter of the school as an added set of eyes and ears on campus.
At the end of the school day, the volunteers give out high-fives as the kids head home.
“We’re always searching for ways to have strong community engagement,” Faust said. “The program helps us build a positive culture that we are trying to establish here. The excitement that the kids have when their dad is in the building is contagious.”
Frequent volunteer Aaron Broomall is the father of a third-grader and the parent contact for the Watch D.O.G.S. program at Woodfill. He works as the pastor at Next Chapter Church in Wilder. Broomall said his own father was very active in his school when he was a child, but he can’t recall ever seeing any other dads in the classroom. Mothers are more often the ones volunteering at school, and there are more female elementary school teachers than male.
“It makes our kids feel so loved when dads take an entire day to hang out with them at school,” Broomall said. “They are the cool kid on the block that they get to have their dad there that day. It creates a deeper connection with our kids. It opens up conversations, you get to know their friends, and I think that plays out as huge as our kids continue to grow.”
Many dads share their volunteer experience with Broomall after their day at school. He said they often comment on how much they loved it — and how exhausted they are afterward.
In addition to creating a connection with their own children and the other students, the fathers also now have a relationship with their children’s teachers.
“It opens up the door for better communication,” Broomall said. “They’ve seen their kids in class, so they can see what they are doing well so they can praise them and what they are struggling with and they can help them, and I think that is huge. I am seeing it helps with the self-esteem of our kids that they are really proud when their dad is there.”