WATCH D.O.G.S.: Building relationships in schools

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Watch DOGS

WATCH D.O.G.S.For fathers of elementary schoolers, there is an outstanding program to make it easy to serve as a volunteer for a day in the school and in their child’s classroom. WATCH D.O.G.S., a national volunteer program, is designed to engage fathers in their children’s elementary schools to increase the father figure presence on campus.

The national WATCH D.O.G.S. program is more of a framework than a formal curriculum. The WATCH D.O.G.S. organization provides the branding and name recognition, a web store for buying branded merchandise, and a brief optional training program. Each elementary school that implements WATCH D.O.G.S. defines the details of how volunteers work in the program.

Volunteers are usually referred to as WatchDOGs, and are easily identified by the branded WATCH D.O.G.S. t-shirts they wear. WatchDOGs normally volunteer for a full day as a single shift, arriving before students arrive and assisting with everything from traffic flow during arrival and drop-off to reading to students in the classroom. While most WatchDOG volunteers are the parents of a student, the program defines a volunteer as a father figure, including grandfathers, uncles, and other positive male figures in a student’s life.

For elementary schools, it’s fairly easy to get started. According to the WATCH D.O.G.S. website, a school must first schedule an hour-long onboarding call and then purchase the getting started kit (listed as less than $500, as of this writing).

In the schools I have volunteered in, the WATCH D.O.G.S. volunteers would sign up for a full day shift, effectively attending an entire school day with their kids. Our schools would have the WATCH D.O.G.S. volunteer spending a good part of the day with his student, and spending time in other classrooms as well. One of the treats in my experience was joining the students for P.E. class, where I got to play several sports with 2-3 different classes of students.

The WATCH D.O.G.S. program works best when there is a school staff member assigned as the program point person. That person helps to build the daily schedule for the volunteers and helps them get signed in and started for the day. At my schools, we would have a volunteer WATCH D.O.G.S. coordinator who would manage recruitment of and communication with potential volunteers. This volunteer coordinator would typically arrange a welcome event to kick off the school year, as well as a small community event each year.

For schools and PTOs looking to increase their father figure volunteerism, the WATCH D.O.G.S. program is a great way to get fathers, grandfathers, and other father figures active in their child’s schools.