Over the past ten years school systems across the country have found great value in having student’s dads (or granddad, or step-dad, or male guardian) in the school each day. The program came to be known as WatchDOGS, and the DOGS stands for Dads Of Great Students. The program came to Powhatan a few years ago, and I’ve been involved with it since its inception. It is easy to volunteer, there is a brief orientation, a background check, and the dad is ready to go.
When a dad volunteers in the school for the day, he simply spends time with the students. When dad arrives in the morning he is given a schedule of which classes and resources he will be participating in. The dad introduces himself during the morning announcements, tells about his children in the school, and what his favorite part of school was when he was a child (which according to the paperwork cannot be recess). He then goes to classrooms, the gym, the playground, music, art, and the lunchroom.
I served as the WatchDOG at Flat Rock Elementary the Tuesday before Christmas break, and my day was filled with conversations and jokes and smiles and high fives. I went to music with Mr. Thomas and spent time playing sharks and minnows on the playground. I learned that I’m not as quick and agile as I once was, but I must say I held my own. I spent time with our church’s children and children who attend our VBS. Laura loves me being there as the WatchDOG, and each day’s schedule is made so the dad can spend extra time with his child(ren).
I love going to art when I’m the WatchDOG. The art teacher at Flat Rock is simply wonderful, she is always prepared, she’s creative, the kids listen to her very well, and they are excited to be there. Being in art is also a good way for me to talk with many of the children (since talking is allowed in art) and give them a little extra help. I spent several hours in art this past time, and after the last fourth-grade finished the teacher had one more thing for me to do.
All the kindergartners had made ceramic lollipops which they painted and decorated. Before the lollipops were sent home for winter break Mrs. Kunka wanted them wrapped in candy paper and a metallic tie so they looked like real lollipops. That became my job. It was easy enough, the names were on the back, and I wrapped each one.
I noticed each child’s name as I was performing my task, initially looking for names that I recognized. But what happened after a few lollipops passed through my hands is that I began praying for each of those children. By name I asked God to protect them, watch over them, and that they would have what they needed. I did this silently, no one was aware this was happening. I knew several of the names, but most of the names I did not recognize, nor did I know anything they needed in their lives. I simply lifted their name before God.
This made me think of how many Christian teachers pray for their students. Not aloud or with an aggressive voice, but a simple silent prayer, a lifting up of a name before God, that the child will have what he or she needs. Or live into their full potential. Or be safe. To make good decisions.
I’m grateful for our teachers, those who have no faith and those who have much faith. I’m grateful for teachers who are in worship on Sunday mornings and I’m grateful for those who claim no religion, because all of them give of their lives and knowledge to educate our children. I’m grateful for all of them, but I’m particularly grateful to know that there are a few teachers who see my children’s names, or think of them, and lift them up before God.