The Week the Dads Came
By Nancy Howe, Head Teacher
Parents are always welcome at Bing Nursery School, and they can participate in their child’s first school experience in many ways, from fundraisers like the annual auction to family events like the Bing Fair to working in the classroom alongside teachers. This past year, during the last week of April, West PM hosted the first annual Dads’ Week. We invited fathers, grandfathers, and uncles to come into the classroom and lead an activity with their child and his or her classmates:
Come for the afternoon, or stay an hour … any amount of time will be welcomed and appreciated … share some of the “tools of your trade” or a favorite hobby. Teachers will gladly assist. A sign-up sheet is available to schedule your visit. Here are some ideas for activities that you might want to lead, or come up with one of your own.
• Coach a game of baseball (team up with another Dad if you like!)
• Shoot hoops
• Make a pizza, pancakes, bread, muffins … or a favorite recipe you like to do at home
• Have snack at your child’s snack table (2:30-3:00) and read a story … or read stories on a blanket under a tree
• Dig, plant, water in the garden
• Push children on the swing
• Make sand castles
• Play a musical instrument … we have a piano (duets welcome!)
• Build with blocks
• Make paper airplanes
• Blow bubbles from the bridge
Many dads came up with ideas of their own. One brought a book to read that was his childhood favorite. One made a cake with the children using a recipe passed down by his grandmother. One brought his flute and played an open-air concert, while another shared his passion for the piano and played duets. One father brought a favorite board game to share with his daughter and her friends, while a dad who is a visiting Sloan fellow showed the children a scrapbook he and his wife had assembled about their native Peru. Another father strapped his younger child to his front so that his hands were free to blow bubbles off the bridge to his son and friends below. Another brought all the ingredients to make homemade ice cream.
Many fathers enjoyed the opportunity to observe their children in a setting of their own, away from home, interacting with their peers.
It’s good for me to get a sense of what Jack does during the day and how he interacts. It’s fun to see him in this setting. He was very excited to show me everything and to meet all his friends.
—Chris Molumphy (Jack’s father)
I’m in the Sloan Program at Stanford and I like this better than studying! I think this is a fantastic opportunity to meet my son’s friends. It’s important for him too. Children feel proud to see their father doing something.
—Pablo Gomez (Nicolas’s father)
The thing I remember most about elementary school is making ice cream. I’ve been meaning to come into the classroom and do this all year, but something always comes up. Once I signed up for Dads’ Week, I felt…“I’m committed!”
—David Liang (Tommy’s father)
Some fathers later commented that they enjoyed meeting not only their child’s friends but also other fathers.
Having something formalized, like Dads’ Week, serves as a lightning rod for doing things you would like to do, but never get around to doing. Knowing that other dads will be here makes it more comfortable and creates a feeling of camaraderie.
—Justin Birnbaum (Madeline’s Dad)
Some dads felt the experience of working in the classroom gave them a better understanding of what nursery school teachers do. [Nursery school teaching] is a lot of work! I liked Dads’ Week and just spending time with my son and his buddies. He only gets to be four once!—Tim Dooley (Connor’s father)
Dads’ Week gave many fathers a deeper understanding of the Bing philosophy.
Over the last four years, I have loved coming into the classroom to watch my children. It’s so fascinating. You really get a good firsthand understanding about learning through play. I’m known as the Pizza Man at the Bing Fair and the Parachute Man in West Room! I made parachutes three years ago with my oldest son and it was very popular. Jaisel has been telling me all week that I’ll be coming in on Friday to make parachutes. I would encourage all parents, especially dads, to come into the classroom at least once a quarter.
—Jaspi Sandhu (Jaisel’s father)
It’s always fun to take part in David’s life. Bing has played a very important part in David’s education. I always feel welcome at Bing because Bing recognizes the importance of both parents being involved.
—Raul Santana (David’s father)
For a brief period of time in late April 2002, in the heart of Silicon Valley, cell phones were turned off and work was almost forgotten. Instead, the sounds of fathers, grandfathers, and uncles talking and laughing could be heard as children were swung so high their feet reached the wisteria branches, while paper airplanes and bubbles sailed across the cloudless sky and the smell of chocolate chip cookies wafted through the air. It was the Week the Dads Came.