History of the Alcott Dads

Written by Alcott Dad, John Boynton: Blog Post on School Pulse dated 9/16/2008

Daring Dads to Get Involved

The PTA is the domain of the mothers. Based on my own experience and observations, fathers have a much easier time getting involved with their kids’ extracurricular activities — coaching is the most common, and other activities like scouting coming in a distant second. This summer, I did some informal research, asking our friends how they get involved. Nearly all — at least 90% — of the moms I asked (most of whom do not work full time outside the home) are active members of their schools’ PTAs or volunteer regularly in the classroom as room parents, event organizers, and field trip chaperones. I could not find a single dad who claimed membership in his local PTA.

Last week, I gave a presentation on SchoolPulse to an auditorium full of room parents. Of the 50 parents present, only 1 was male. I know the fathers care about their kids just as much as the mothers, and I know the fathers care deeply about the schools their kids attends, and yet they aren’t involved in school-based activities. Why not?

  • Perception. There is a broad perception that moms and PTAs go together. Can you name a single PTA where fathers make up more than 5% of the active parents? I’d like to hear about it.
  • Company. The dads like to be involved in activities with other dads. I think that’s one reason that coaching is such an easy choice for dads. Even in girls sports, dads are heavily represented as coaches.
  • Time. I think that a lot of PTA-related work happens during the work day, giving a lot of us dads an easy out. “We have to earn a buck — how can we possibly get involved?”

I’d like to find a way to get more dads involved. Can you imagine how cool it would be if more of us played a part in our local PTAs? I think the moms would welcome the help, both because it would relieve some of the burden (we know that recruiting volunteers is always a challenge) and it would create more opportunities to do things together, as a couple and as families I also think the kids would welcome it, and it would provide a good opportunity to show our children that dads can be involved, too.

Let’s break down the barriers that inhibit the involvement of dads. It’s going to take a few daring dads in each school community to get the ball rolling — some real trailblazers — and I really think it can be done. Here are a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling; ideas that I am going to pursue in my kids’ elementary school.

  • Recruit 3-5 other dads who would like to be involved but don’t know where to start. I’m going to call mine a “support group” that will meet monthly, providing dads the chance to get to know other dads over a few beers. We might even play poker or go to baseball games together. Women have book groups — why shouldn’t men have support groups?
  • Schedule a kickoff meeting at a local watering hole. Make it social, invite a bunch of fathers, and spend a few minutes (and only a few minutes!) at the beginning explaining the concept without being too heavy handed about it.
  • Work with the PTA moms to find ways to put this new “support group” to work. I hope the dads will respond to the opportunity to provide the “man”ual labor before and after PTA-sponsored social events, carnivals, science nights, and holiday celebrations

My hope is that by offering an opportunity to socialize with other dads under the banner of providing a resource for their kids, other dads like me will respond. Who knows… we may be able to start a revolution!

Written by Alcott Dad, John Boynton: Blog Post on School Pulse dated 11/14/2008

Dads Rising

We made a little history last night with the inaugural meeting of the Alcott Dads PTG Support Group. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in the history of America that men have assembled with the explicit intention of being more active in their school’s parent-teacher organization!

In September, I posted about my observation that fathers, by definition, don’t get involved in parent groups. [Disclaimer: I generally don’t stereotype, but when it comes to parent groups the gender differences are so pronounced that it can’t be avoided. Okay, back to the post.] This is a real shame since 1) we know our wives would appreciate some help, and 2) there is an emerging body of evidence that active participation by fathers is good for kids (and boys in particular). Check out expert John Badalament who shared his research in our town last week.

My theory is that most dads would like to be more active in their kids’ schools, but they’re not sure where to start. That’s why I am promoting our Support Group. People inevitably chuckle when they hear about it, and that’s okay. We are putting a fun, social wrapper around a serious purpose. Here’s what we’re doing:

This idea was conceived in August while having dinner with our PTG co-president (a mom, needless to say), and she has been supportive since day one.

I floated the idea at soccer fields, birthday parties and social events with all the Alcott dads I know. Without exception, every dad was enthusiastic about participating.

I invited all those dads to come to a local bar for our “inaugural meeting” and the PTG publicized it, too. Last night 14 people showed up and had a great time together. We spent about 20 minutes doing some formal business: Approving a mission statement, a group symbol (the beer hammer – gotta make it fun, right?), and appointing a committee to carry out our first assignment from the PTG (construction of new sandwich boards).

I created a group on SchoolPulse to provide a hub for our activities.

All in all, people had a good time and we’re going to meet every month on the first Thursday night. I’m guessing we’ll have 20+ at our next meeting and some world class sandwich boards to show off! 

Interested in getting a support group going in your school? I’m happy to help however I can.