BY KATE PERKINS
After two successful years at Eagle View Elementary School, Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) will expand its program to Pequot Lakes Middle Level.
James Rock is coordinator of the middle level Watch D.O.G.S. program, which gives fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, uncles and other father figures a chance to volunteer in their student’s classroom for a day.
The program was started by the National Center for Fathering and is currently implemented in 41 states with 2,276 programs, according to the Watch D.O.G.S. website.
Watch D.O.G.S. receive a schedule when they arrive at the school that tells them what they’ll be helping with throughout the day.
Rock said the schedule includes activities like helping teachers, monitoring the playground and playing with kids, helping with homework or reading, or setting up for an art project. The schedule also includes lunch with the volunteer’s child.
Watch D.O.G.S. also act as a positive male influence around school.
“The school has been super proactive and positive in trying to get good role models and make sure we don’t have bullying problems,” Rock said.
Minimizing bullying is one of the goals of the Watch D.O.G.S.
“It’s not like you’re breaking up fights,” Rock said. “It’s just one more person walking around on the playground.”
Rock said the Watch D.O.G.S. program is an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
“The kids walk up to you and get to know you, pal around with you at recess. It’s just a lot of fun,” he said.
The elementary program had a Watch D.O.G. in the school for all but around 10 school days last year.
Because it’s the first year for the middle level program, Rock hopes to gain enough participation for one Watch D.O.G. in the school two to three days a week. While the program is open to father figures of students in grades 5-8, the initial focus will be on fifth and sixth grades. This is the first year students in both those grades are at the middle level building.
Rock has learned a lot from the program, and it’s increased his appreciation for teachers.
“One of the first things you learn is how much different it was when you were a kid,” Rock said. “How much quicker kids are learning, how much movement there is, how much specialized teaching there is.”
Rock said that participating in the program has also helped him understand his children’s life and activities at school.
“From a dad’s perspective it gives me insight into their friends — who they are and what they’re doing. It’s just that interaction with kids that’s really cool,” Rock said.
In the middle level, Rock and other Watch D.O.G.S. started the new school year by helping students find their way around the new building.
The program is sponsored by the PTA, which pays for all the materials. Participants in the program need to buy a Watch D.O.G.S. T-shirt and must complete a background check.
The kickoff party for Watch D.O.G.S. will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, in the Eagle View Elementary School cafeteria and will feature pizza for all and movies for kids while fathers and father figures learn about the program. Each dad is encouraged to sign up for one day of volunteer work in the school.