Dads come to school

Fathers, stepfathers and grandfathers filled the multipurpose room and spilled into the halls Thursday morning at Mark Twain Elementary School Thursday for breakfast and a spot of class work.

"We thought we would have 50, maybe 100 dads," Principal Mary Garey said. "I thought ordering 500 doughnuts was a bit optimistic, but we ran out. We had to cut them in half. We ran out of coffee and fruit."

More than 300 showed up for Take Dad to School Day, an event sponsored by the school's Parent Teacher Student Association.

Volunteering in the classroom has traditionally been the domain of mothers and grandmothers, but research shows that a positive male role model, whether it's a father, grandfather or uncle, makes the students feel better about themselves and value education, Garey said.

When the 8:30 a.m. bell rang, large numbers of men, who towered over their children, filed down the halls for a 15-minutes homeroom class followed by one hour and 30 minutes of Success For All, a schoolwide reading program.

A dozen dads and grandfathers lined the back wall of Paula Baum's kindergarten class.

A few had awkward looks on their faces and others, squeezed into tiny chairs, stared intently at the numbers, letters and words that Baum worked through with her class of kindergartners, who sat cross-legged on the floor.

But 30 minutes into the reading class, Baum assigned each adult a task and the male guests loosened up.

"I insisted they sit down. I had to," Baum said. "It is so new to them. They're very out of their element, but we gave them some jobs, which automatically involved them."

By 9:30 a.m., several dads excused themselves. They had to go to work.

Steve Straw finished reading a book with his stepson, Paul Stephens, before heading for work.

He usually starts at 6:45 a.m. and said his employer, Bison Construction, needed him. But Straw said his boss understood the importance of coming to school.

The fathers and grandfathers received as much encouragement as the pupils in Baum's class.

She coached the four remaining visitors to each take a group-reading class.

Lynn Gourley, grandfather to Ryan, seemed hesitant initially, as he read the Doctor's Checkup to a group of six kindergartners.

The group breezed through the assignment.

"Read after me, 'the doctor checks my knees,'" Gourley said.

"It's a silent K," pupil Laya Anasu said.

The departure of one dad, just prior to the morning break, was followed by tears from his son.

Grant Brewer stepped in and offered to share his dad, Bill Brewer, with two of his friends. It did the trick.

Several dads skipped, jumped and bounced around the kindergarten playground for the 10-minute morning break.

The benefit of a few hours spent in the classroom far outweighs any parent teacher conference, Baum said.

"I've met some dads for the first time," she said. "And behavior has been excellent, they have never been that quiet and still during carpet time."


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