Fathers volunteer for Watch Dog program
Call them Watch Dogs. by Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News
Matt Morraye has been a Watch Dog at Bradford Heights Elementary School since the inception of the national program four years ago.
“It’s really cool to spend the day at school,” Morraye said. “It means the world to the kids.”
The fathers who volunteer their time enjoy spending the school day with the children, especially their own.
“I love spending the day with my kids,” Morraye said. “You see things at school that you never see at home.”
He sees his kids interacting with other students in class and during recess. He also views teachers in a different way, after seeing how they help students who are struggling with the material or with their homework. Overall, he noticed a difference in the levels of learning in each grade. The fathers receive a schedule and spend time in classrooms of each grade level.
WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) is an innovative father involvement, educational initiative of the National Center for Fathering, according to its website, to “provide positive male role models for the students, demonstrating by their presence that education is important.”
The dads, who obtain the required clearances, add another layer of protection and security while bonding with the students. Several other Downingtown Area School District elementary schools implemented the program recently, and this year will be the first for the remaining elementary schools.
“Just being in school is a big help because it puts an extra set of eyes in the classroom,” Morraye said.
One father will act as the Watch Dog per day, and their day begins and ends with bus duty.
“You’re like the rockstar of the day,” Bradford Heights Principal Andrew Hoffert said to the fathers during the informational session on Thursday night. “Many of the kids will see your Watch Dog shirt and they will be eager to get off the bus and high-five you.”
Shawn Beears, now in his third year with the program, recalls high-fiving many of the students and joking around with them.
“The kids are tired when they get off the bus, but they want to high-five you. It starts the day off right,” Beears said. “You forget what it’s like to be young, so it’s fun. The kids really want to joke around with the dads. They’re really comfortable with the dads.”
He also enjoys the insight of today’s classrooms.
“I like that you get to spend the day seeing what a typical day is like for my kids,” Beears said. “School has changed so much since I was in school.”
Most of all, it’s about making a difference. Beears and Hoffert noted that not all of the students would be able to have their dad participate in the program, and it can be special to be there for those students.
“You also feel like you’re making a difference in someone’s day,” Beears said.
It’s as impactful to the students as it is to the fathers.
“The entire day is a highlight, each for different reasons, but it's one of my favorite days of the year because I get to see what my child does and go 'behind the scenes,' in her daily environments,” one father said. “And all the teachers are so wonderful and dedicated.”