David Rupkalvis

About a month ago, my daughters came home from school all excited. That night the school was hosting a dad’s pizza night, asking every day to come to school with their child.

I will admit right now, I didn’t want to go. I was worn out and just wanted a night at home. But I said yes. After all, how many dads can say no when their girls are pleading.

So I went, ate pizza and listened to a presentation of Watch DOGS. Never heard of it? Me either before that meeting. Watch DOGS is a nationwide effort to get dads involved in their local schools. The idea is pretty simple — get as many dads as possible to volunteer one full day at school. 

What they do is less important than the fact they are there and doing something. What was no surprise to me was when they said moms are regularly seen at school. They volunteer with PTAs, go on field trips and help out in many ways. Dads? No so much. Us fathers are too busy working to spend a lot of time at school.

So Watch DOGS was started as a way to get dads more involved, not just for their own children, but for all the children.

My day to volunteer was earlier this month.  First, the program at Thornydale Elementary is very organized. They had my day planned out literally to the minute. Every teacher knew when I was coming and leaving and had things lined up for me to do.

The program is part about the dad’s children and part about others. I started out by visiting my daughters in their classrooms. Then I began visiting others. I got to go to both kindergarten classes, spend time at recess, eat lunch (twice since I have two children in school), read to students, greet pre-K students when they came to school and patrol.

I admit I was a little apprehensive going in. I thought it would be fun hanging out with my daughters, but I wasn’t sure about the rest of the day. But all in all, it was amazing.

Reading with the students was one of my favorite parts. I got to read with kindergarten, third and fourth graders, all who did an excellent job. The students were excited to see the Watch DOG and were happy to be chosen to read with me. 

Walking around campus on patrol, many students stopped to say hi. By them time I showed up, dads had been volunteering for a month, so they were accustomed to having Watch DOGS on campus.

The patrol part is the most interesting. You aren’t really looking for trouble, but the goal is to be seen. Having a man walking around campus, through the parking lot and down the halls is a good way to avoid trouble.

Fortunately there was none the day I was there, like almost every day at every school in America. But if there ever is, having a dad around could prove to be very useful.

By the end of the day, I was certain of a few things. No. 1, I don’t want to go back to school — ever. I did my time, and I am glad I don’t have to do it anymore. 

No. 2, my respect for teachers and administrators grew immensely. I’m amazed how much school has changed since I was a child and how quickly students are asked to learn now. 

When the closing bell rang, I was worn out. I certainly prefer sitting at a desk to walking the halls.

Finally, I can’t wait to do it again next year. Only then, I should have three children in school. Umm, three lunches.

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