By Nathan A. Hacker
Teachers are often called into court to testify regarding parental involvement in the children’s lives, particularly the educational aspects.
Having taught at various education levels prior to law school, I have found that having one good father in a classroom can make a teacher the envy of an entire grade level. This is a position you want to be in.
These divorce tips for men will help you stand out to the teacher and sway testimony in your favor in your divorce and child custody case.
The following divorce advice for men is geared toward young children; your teenager may feel differently about you bringing in snacks to share with her classmates.
1. First and foremost, you should know that teachers can normally tell with which parent the child had spent the previous night when they arrive at school.
There is no presumption in most teachers mind that a father or a mother will be the better educational parent. However, if there is a difference in the way the child arrives at school – and I don’t mean by bus or car – the teacher will pick up on this and it will be part of their testimony. If your child is being delivered to school by you, your child should be:
* Clean. Stinking or having dried food stuck to them will be a distraction to everyone in the classroom.
* Fed. A hungry child will not learn and the teacher will notice this.
* Appropriately clothed. If it’s cold send a coat and hat. Some schools will not let children out to play at recess without the proper attire. This means that your child misses out. The teacher will note this.
* On time. If your child is late they aren’t learning and they are a distraction to the entire class when they arrive. It is also a really poor indicator if your child is missing school during your parenting time. Expect to lose any support from a teacher in this instance.
2. Be involved in your child’s school and classroom.
When a divorce lawyer asks the teacher the question on the stand “Is the father involved in the child’s education?” you want the teacher to be able to answer, “Yes, let me tell you how.”
Most schools allow, if not encourage, teachers to accept parent volunteers. There will likely be a background check that would cost around $20 to complete to ensure that you are a “safe person” to be around other’s kids. If you are volunteering here are some things to remember:
* This is not a parent teacher conference; you are there to assist the teacher with whatever menial task she (let’s face it most elementary teachers are women) may want you to do. Do not grumble or think that it is beneath you, and do not think that you will be able to have a conference with the teacher.
* Be willing to help out other children in the classroom even though they may not be your own. It is rare that fathers volunteer, so you might get placed with a child who doesn’t have a positive male role model.
* If you are on a field trip, it would be helpful if the group of children that you are responsible are not lost, misplaced or otherwise injured. Furthermore, if they have a good time, the teacher will remember that you are good with kids.
3. Come and see your child during their lunch hour.
Most schools will allow children to have a visitor during lunch. Be sure to clear any visits with the school prior to making them. You will want to know if the school has dietary restrictions such as peanut allergies or gluten allergies that can be harmful to students.
Unless you have an order that precludes such contact, this is a chance for some extra parenting time. You can ask if bringing an appropriate snack for the entire class would be OK; some schools will allow this while others will not.
4. Ask the teacher if there is anything they need and then just get it.
It might sound like a bribery plan. Because it is.
One of the best stories relayed to me prior to writing this divorce article was of the teacher who told a father in passing, “The students could really use their own water bottles to avoid the need for constant drink breaks.”
The next day, the father arrived at the school with eight cases of water for her class. Keep in mind these types of things need to be for the classroom to avoid potential negative testimony later on.
5. Listen to what the teacher has to say.
Most teachers have master’s degrees in education meaning when it comes to educating young minds they know more than you.
* If a teacher takes disciplinary action towards your child, you should not question whether or not it was appropriate, but rather support the teacher’s decision. Common sense should be used here. Obviously if your child has been beaten by the teacher as punishment that is different than a child losing recess or having to call home. If you receive a call home from your child during the school day, follow up with consequences at home. Talk to the teacher about the activity, but DO NOT contradict their decision.
* If a teacher makes an educational recommendation do what you can to follow up with that recommendation whether it is tutoring, working on homework, or seeking more “professional” help. Teachers will be able to see changes in your child if you having professionals help with these things, even if you cannot.
Here’s the secret: most dads are out there are working every day and more often then not it is the mother who has the time to volunteer to help out. Mom most often gets the calls from school and picks up or drops the snacks.
Teachers see Moms do this every day. Fair or unfair, when a Dad does these things it sticks out because few dads do so. If once a semester you had lunch with your child or took a vacation day to go on a field trip that would stick out more in the teacher’s mind than dropping off snacks every week.
Fathers’ participation in the educational process is not as common as mothers’. You can make leaps and bounds with a few simple days off, and you will probably really like it, especially the field trips. I cannot recommend going on a field trip enough. I guarantee you will be happily exhausted at the end.