Fathers in the classroom: Everybody benefits

The joy of fatherhood: Helpful tips for fathers and men who want to become fathers

by Morris Turner

This month, I’m challenging all fathers of school age children to visit their classrooms at least one time during the school year. There is nothing that makes a child feel more appreciated and proud than having a parent come to school for positive reasons. Moms usually fill this role; let’s change that up this year. You don’t need any special skills, and most teachers will welcome you with open arms.

Elbert “Big Man” Howard, founding member of Black Panther Party, speaks to granddaughter Ya’hiness’ fifth grade class. – Photo: Carole Hyams Howard
Elbert “Big Man” Howard, founding member of Black Panther Party, speaks to granddaughter Ya’hiness’ fifth grade class. – Photo: Carole Hyams Howard

As men, we need to be seen in more than just the traditional settings of home, neighborhood, the local market and corner barber shop. We need to step out of our comfort zones and expand our thinking and understanding. What better place to begin than in the lives of our children.

I also understand that the thought of going to school may bring up some memories of the failure or frustration some of us experienced as children. You might think to yourself, “I didn’t read that well and wasn’t very good in math. How can I help someone else?”

I completely understand. As a child, I didn’t read much except for the occasional Ebony or Jet magazine that somehow found its way to our house or caught my eye while sitting in the barber shop with my father.

Your presence in the classroom does several things:

  1. It gives you a “first hand” view of what your child is going through every day. There is nothing like observing our children in settings outside the home to give us a broader picture of who they are and who they aspire to be.
  2. Your willingness to take time out of your schedule is evidence to your child that they are “very” important in your life.
  3. When you make your child a priority, there is a better chance that the teacher will do the same.
  4. The role models that have the greatest impact in a child’s life are those they see every day. So all of the children in the classroom benefit by your presence.
  5. And lastly, you might enjoy it and decide to come back again to talk to the class about one of your hobbies or to tell them about what you do at your job.

If nothing else, make sure you attend Back to School Night or Open House and let your children know how proud you are of them. Some 30 years later, I still remember going on a field trip with my youngest son’s class. I lost a day’s pay but we gained memories for a lifetime. Start building your memories now, while you have the opportunity.

Morris Turner is the father of two sons, ages 39 and 35. Over the past 45 years he has worked with children and young people in a variety of settings, including as preschool teacher, career counselor, family mentor and sports coach. He is also an author and recognized researcher in the area of African American settlement in the United States, but his greatest pleasure today is learning to be a good grandpa. He can be reached at missnpages@comcast.net or by calling (707) 794-0729.