A little gift for dads who brought their children to school on the first day.
On the first day of school, it's common to see many parents holding their children's hands as they accompany them to school. This year, Ngee Ann Primary School had a little something special for those fathers who showed up: a badge that says "You Are My Hero", which their children could pin on them.
Call it a small way of thanking dads for spending a little quality time with their children before the day's activities whisk their attention away. It was part of the Back to School with Dad project, an initiative of the school's Centre for Fathering. While most people think that mothers take the more visible role in their children's school matters, the Parent Support Group (PSG) at Ngee Ann Primary School has seen fathers stepping up as well - and would like to see more of it.
The PSG at Ngee Ann Primary School hopes to attract more fathers to get involved.
Consider Mr Tan Moon Chong's philosophy of fathering, for instance. A father involved in the Back to School with Dad project, he says that his personal goal is not quite as lofty as to be a "hero" but to be a friend to his children, in addition to being their parent. "By actively staying current with news about what's happening at school, my children reciprocate the gesture by sharing and confiding in me regularly. I try to work at being 'accepted as a friend' by them."
Taking on a bigger role
PSG chairperson Mrs Jane Koe explains the rationale for kicking off the school year with fathers as the focus. "For the past few years, the PSG noticed that fathers are showing more interest in their children's day-to-day school affairs. So we thought it was timely to offer greater avenues for fathers to be more involved."
Parents were already involved in an array of meaningful activities in the school, such as dealing with traffic control, and organising excursions and career talks. The Back to School with Dad initiative emerged as a subset of a mentoring programme for students of some families with single mothers.
A gathering of father-mentors with their charges' families.
In this programme, some fathers from the Centre for Fathering perform double duty, serving as mentors to children of these families. One of the father-mentors is Mr Solo Teo, who relishes the opportunity to help another family. "I felt glad to be selected as a father-mentor. I hope to give the child guidance, fatherly support and love whenever she needs it."
Principal Mrs Cheng Huey Teng is an ardent believer in the importance of family bonding. She arranged for a get-together to build rapport between the father-mentors and the single-mother families, so that they could get to know each other better over games and food.
Parent Mr Solo Teo lends a reassuring hand to Pri 1 pupils on the first day of school.
Leading by example
Mr Tan feels that there is an untapped pool of fathers who want to give more. "I met a father on his way out of the school gate after sending his child back on the first day. He asked me 'Is that all?' His expression said that he wanted more." He reflects, "I think many fathers want to take a more visible role in their child's school activities but don't know how and when to do so."
Mr Teo believes that one motivating factor that would entice fathers to join in the school activities is the effect that they have on their children. "As their children observe the involvement and the bond that their fathers have developed with the school, it will build up the children's sense of pride."
Mr Tan knows the truth of that. On the first day of school, he watched from a distance as his daughter took a Pri 1 student under her wings, as part of a buddy system where Pri 2 pupils help and guide their Pri 1 counterparts. Clearly the impact of his PSG involvement has already rubbed off.