A positive, male role model might not always be present in a child’s life, but educators at the Adel-DeSoto-Minburn Community School District want to make sure children in Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade have the chance to interact with male figures through the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program.
The Watch D.O.G.S. program was established in 1998 in Springdale, Ariz. that invited fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and other father-figures to volunteer at least once a day at their child’s school during the academic year. To date, more than 2,500 schools have implemented the program in 46 states.
Success of the program was one reason why Superintendent Greg Dufoe brought the idea to Adel Elementary Principal Carole Erickson and DeSoto Intermediate Principal Jodi Banse.
“At my former school, I had really liked the concept and it seemed like a great way for dads and father-figures to be involved,” Dufoe said. “We predominately have female staff at the elementary and intermediate levels so this gives a male presence there.”
Both Erickson and Banse started researching the program last spring and sent parents an introductory letter on what the program could do for their students.
“I think for many of our kids who do not have male role models in the home that this is a really neat way to connect them with that experience,” Erickson said. “These guys really want to be here.”
Adel Elementary started their program at the beginning of the school year and has had an overwhelming response so far.
“At Adel Elementary we’ve had Watch D.O.G.S. dads every day and are filled up through September,” Erickson added. “We’ve had many dads say they would be happy to do another day so we’re feeling pretty good about implementation. Our goal is to have a male in the building every day during the school year.”
Each father-figure completes a background check, a Watch D.O.G.S. T-shirt, and are introduced to the children. They are also given a schedule that is tailor-made that allows them to be in their child’s classroom.
“I think it’s really good for our little guys in the building to see a dad, a grandfather or any father-figure respect education,” Erickson said. “It just shows them that they can be rough and tough and still value reading, writing and math.”
Erickson stated the program provides two added benefits: a sense of security and understanding of what teachers do each day.
“I know the teachers feel good about having a male in the building because it makes us feel safer, so that’s a side benefit,” she said. “It also gives our volunteers a peek into what we (teachers) do every day.”
Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer Ben Madison of Adel said the experience has allowed him to see what his son, Carter, does on a daily basis.
“It’s been great to be able to spend time with my son and all the kids,” he said. “I really encourage all fathers out there to be a part of this program because the kids are so great.”
Madison took part in a variety of activities while volunteering including helping the kids with math, reading to them, opening up their milk cartons during lunch, and playing football during recess.
“I have one first grader and I used to think that was hard work,” Madison said. “Take that one first grader by 150 when you are volunteering and you’ve got a hard day ahead of you. It’s a lot of work, but definitely worth it.”
Although the program won’t start at DeSoto-Intermediate until Tuesday, Sept. 3, Banse says her school is prepared for their volunteers.
“We are hoping fathers and father-figures see themselves as an active part of our school,” she said. “There’s no better way of learning what happens in school than to be in school and see kids hard at work.”
She also hopes the volunteers will have hands-on learning with the students.
“I think this program will carry a life of its own and the kids will expect this program each year,” Banse said. At the end of each day, the Watch D.O.G.S. take an online survey saying what they liked and what could be improved on for the next volunteer.
“We want to make sure their day is as valuable as it is for the kids,” Banse said. Erickson added, “The most meaningful part of the program are the volunteers being involved with the children. It’s a neat vehicle and has a name to it so fathers feel like they can be a part of something really meaningful to the children.”