Dads Should Attend Curriculum Night

The distribution of parents attending curriculum night seems to mirror the proportion of teachers. Mothers and father attended last night’s middle-school curriculum night in nearly equal numbers, usually as couples—only a few mothers and just a couple fathers turned up alone. Tonight’s lower-school curriculum night, by contrast, was overwhelmingly mothers. Some of the same mothers who last night were accompanied by spouses flew solo tonight. Only one father turned up alone.

What strikes me as interesting is how this distribution reflects the distribution of teachers and, yet again, reinforces our society’s typical assumptions about education. The faculty at the lower school is dominated by women, very good, skilled, experienced, talented, and caring teachers every one of them. Only one head teacher and one “specials” teacher are men. The other men on the faculty are assistant teachers. At the middle school, by contrast, the numbers are roughly even. Happily, the middle school’s faculty bucks cultural assumptions at least in one area: the most respected (by the students) and gifted math teachers are women. They are excellent role models for the middle school girls and boys and correctives to cultural assumptions and gender determinism (word on the street is, the upper school chemistry teacher, a women, is similarly excellent).

Unfortunately, fathers seem to leave most aspects of early schooling to women/mothers, both educating the children and primary involvement with that education. Fatherly disregard for education is not limited to curriculum nights, but extends to dropping off and picking up, waiting at bus stops, extracurricular activities (with, perhaps, the exception of middle-school and high-school sports), weekend events, fund raisers, and volunteering in classrooms. But, as New York has realized with its Dad Take Your Child To School Day and as The Adventures of a Single Dad has pointed out in his post DTYCTSD, there are numerous reasons fathers should assume a larger role in their children’s education. When something as simple as walking your child into school makes a difference, think about how important it is when you attend other events and functions.

#2 has been telling me all week about a “special thing” she made for me. Each time she excitedly told me about it, told me to be sure to check both sides carefully, but wouldn’t tell me what, exactly, “it” was. This afternoon, she again asked: “Are you coming to my class tonight? Be sure to look for the thing I made you.” Not the thing she made the Mother. Not the thing I made for both of us. The thing she made me. When we came home tonight, the first thing #2 asked was: “Did you see the note I made you? Did you find all the things I told you to find? Did you like them?” Again, not the Mother. Not both of us. Did I see the note and did I find all the things and did I like them? When I assured #2 that I had seen the note, the journal, the various things around the classroom and in the hall, she wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a sleepy but heartfelt kiss. It mattered to her that I was there. We so easily forget how important such seemingly small gestures are to small people.

I have attended every one of #1’s and #2’s curriculum nights. I hope to attend all future curriculum nights. Sure, knowing what is happening in the school is important. Seeing the excellent and stereotype-challenging math, science, social science, and language teachers is great. But in the end, I will attend these events because it is important to #1 and #2 that I do so.

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