Where is Fatherhood?

When it comes to fatherhood, where are we exactly? Where are we on work/life balance? Where are we on the different types of dads, including part-time ones? Where are we when it comes to traditional gender roles? Where are we?

A lot of questions, and all requiring long, complicated answers from sociologists, answers that likely result in far more additional questions than they do in conclusions. Yet it is a topic that we tried to tackle today at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Diego.

I was fortunate to be joined in this discussion by Brian Heilman of Promundo, Eric Snow of WatchDOGS, and Jonathan Stern of fatherly. We were also incredibly lucky to have such a terrific crowd that offered thought-provoking questions and personal experiences to spur the conversation.

This was my first time out at Dad 2.0. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was eager to hear how my own view of fatherhood fit in with some of these national discussions. From the get go, I was amazed by the energy, the passion, and the positivity of the 500 or so folks (can’t say men as there were a number of women in attendance this weekend as well). 

It was incredibly valuable to hear about WatchDOGS and its work to get fathers more involved in their kids’ schools. I’m always shocked when I hear about schools celebrating and throwing parties just because a dad was volunteering that day. It’s like a dad in a public school is akin to finding that rainbow unicorn.

My role, aside from serving as some comic relief, quickly came into sight for me. I am a father, yes. But I am a white father of Latino kids, seeking to make sure their heritage remains an important part of their lives. I am a working dad doing everything possible to share the responsibilities on the home front. I am a feminist dad, committed to ensuring my daughter (and my son) can do and be just about anything that she wants to do. And I am an activist dad, determined that as great as it is to talk and discuss many of the issues found at Dad 2.0, it is far more important to take action and have clear goals that demonstrate the progress a modern fatherhood movement can make.

Not surprisingly, I also think I am the only dad in a crowd of hundreds who goes with his daughter to the salon every month for pedicures, complete with full polish.

A big thank you to the sponsors who make events like this possible. It’s terrific to realize that products you use every day are supportive of some of the social issues you care about. So thanks in particular to Dove Men Care (@DoveMenCare, #RealStrength), Facebook (@Facebook, #FBDad), and Russell Athletic (#Dadlete).

Kudos to Dad 2.0 for putting together such an incredible event. This newbie is excited for what is to come. 

Dad 2.0 is Coming!

I’m very excited to announce that Eduflack will be speaking at the Dad 2.0 Summit in February 2017. As the author of the award-winning book Dadprovement, I always love an opportunity to talk about my own family experiences and how fathers can get more invested in their families and in being a dad.

More details will be coming in February, but how can I not love being a part of an organization that describes itself as:

THE DAD 2.0 SUMMIT is an annual conference where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood.

More men are defying stereotypes by taking active roles in their children’s lives, making day-to-day household purchasing decisions regarding products and services, and chronicling these experiences online. The Dad 2.0 Summit is an open conversation about the commercial power of dads online, as well as an opportunity to learn the tools and tactics used by influential bloggers to create high-quality contentbuild personal brands, and develop viable business models.

I hope to see you out in San Diego in early February!

 

Fathers and the Role They Can, Should Play

When it comes to family-school relationships, too often we still see the old stereotypes. It’s the mother’s responsibility to deal with the school, the teachers, and the homework. But should it be?

Over on Medium, Eduflack has a new piece as part of the Ashoka Changemakers series. In it, I write:

Too often, we leave educational decisions to the mother in the relationship, thinking it isn’t part of a father’s job. In reality, we shouldn’t just show empathy to those fathers looking to get involved, we shouldn’t just be praising those who choose that path, but we should be demanding it from all fathers. Fathers must be more involved in their kids’ education, beyond helping with homework at night. That’s what involvement really looks like. At its very heart, it is a simple, common-sense idea.

I also offer up some tips on how a dad can be a little more involved in the process. I hope you’ll give it a read.

 

“I’d Like to Give the World a Phone …”

Loyal readers of Eduflack know two things. First, I am passionate about education technology and its ability to transform the learning process for students. Second, I am a proud adoptive father, and never miss the opportunity to talk about (or write, as one can read in my book, Dadprovement) our family’s experiences bringing our children home from Guatemala.

For most who have no idea, last month Guatemala elected a new president, as elections were coming up and the previously elected president is currently sitting in a jail cell. I won’t go into the politics of the nation, the military, non-military rule that is prevalent, or any other such things. Let’s just say a new president was elected. His previous career was as an actor. And his famous role was playing a moron who gets elected president (yes, you can’t make this up).

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales earned more than two-thirds of the vote in an October runoff. He now sits in the big chair in Guatemala City. And one of his first official actions was to make some new education policy.

As background, Guatemala is an incredibly poor country (so much so that citizens sneak into Mexico illegally to do the unwanted jobs there). Education is not compulsory. Far too many of the nation’s citizens receive no formal education, whether it be because of access or finances or cultural prioritization.

So how do we address this? One could start with strong early childhood education programs. There are countless other ways to begin, most of which cost money. So President Morales decided he would think outside the box?

His plan? Free cell phones for all students. He’d pay for it by letting all of the cellphone companies paint their logos on school walls, assuming they donate the phones to the kids in question.

To summarize. We have schools ill-equipped to integrate phones into classes that already have 60 or 70 students in them. We haven’t prepared teachers for how to make use of these phones. And we are sending little kids out into communities where their new piece of technology makes them prime targets for robbery. All under a belief that if you give a kid a phone, she will learn (or for the cynic, that a phone can replace actual teaching.)

Don’t worry, teachers, President Morales has a plan for you too. While attending public school isn’t required, the Morales administration is convinced that attendance and teacher absenteeism is a big issue. So future plans include tagging teachers with GPS trackers to ensure they are showing up for their jobs.

This is why so many people think policymaking should be left in the hands of real professionals.

On the phones, I don’t doubt Morales’ sincerity in thinking if he can get kids tech, it will improve their learning. But delivering the hardware is the last step in a solid edtech plan, not the first thing out of the shoot. And as you are asking teachers to change their instructional practice, insulting them by demanding they be tracked doesn’t seem to be the wisest of strategies.

And yes, I realize some will suggest this is just another example of how the anti-teacher, corporatization of public education model of reform in the United States is being exported around the globe. Before you do, let’s not. I don’t think American education reformers are setting their sights on the Guatemalan education market. Heck, even the cellphone companies that may be painting their logos on school walls soon are largely local (it isn’t Verizon and AT&T you see much down there).

But it does speak to the danger of reform for reform’s sake. If one truly wants to improve education in a country like Guatemala, is it more valuable to have books or cell phones? Is there more benefit to content-based professional development of teacher GPS tracking? And is it more valuable to think through plans rather than announce the first thing that pops into your head when asked about education?

No matter how well meaning, we can’t close achievement and opportunity gaps by simply providing a child a cell phone that they may not have a month into the term.

What Congressman Paul Ryan Can Teach Us About Modern Fathering

It is truly disappointing how some folks in the political sphere reacted to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s public concerns for what serving as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives would do to the work/life balance he seeks and his relationship with his family.

Over at Medium, I write on the importance of Ryan’s public statements, and how every father can and should learn from this important topic. From my electronic pen:

America’s fathers must stop making excuses for why we can’t be a larger part of our children’s lives and we must stop punting responsibility for our families to the women in our lives. We must spotlight those men, like Paul Ryan, who ask the right questions and make the right choices, seeking the right balance, and trying to do what is right for them and for those that truly love them.

The role of a father in the 21st century cannot be understated and cannot be dismissed. As we demand more from our schools and our communities and our kids, it will fall to fathers to be a key part of any meaningful progress.

For #SmartParents, It’s About Getting Smart

I’ll admit it. I get into far too many Twitter fights where someone asks me what right I have being involved in education policy or even talking education and classroom instruction, having never been a teacher myself. Sure, I can offer the resume, detailing two decades of experience in education policy and education research. I can cite my tenure as a school board chairman, school volunteer, and advocate. But more often than not, my immediate response is, “I’m a parent.”

During my time in the education trenches, I have seen too many parents who seem to abdicate responsibility for educating their children. The common line is that it is the school, and more important, the teacher, who is responsible for instruction. That what happens behind the schoolhouse doors or between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm is the responsibility of the educator, and not the parent. But we all know that just isn’t true.

The most successful of schools are those where educators and parents work in partnership. It isn’t the adversarial relationship, where parents come in when there is a perceived problem with the teacher or the student. It isn’t the absentee relationships, where parents don’t come in at all. And it isn’t the “Facebook” relationship, where parents pretend they are active parts of the school community to impress their friends, but in reality could never find their way from the office to their child’s classroom without a guide.

No, the success comes from parents and teachers working together. It comes from parents being smarter about how school work, what is expected of teachers, what is expected of students, and how parents can support all of the above. It is about parents understanding what teaching and learning really means. And yes, it is about a keen understanding of assessment and how good tests should be used (and how to determine when a lousy or unnecessary test is presenting itself).

I’m proud of my role as a parent. One of the reasons I wrote my book, Dadprovement, was to issue a call to arms to have fathers more involved in their children’s lives. That means more than just putting down the iPhone during the weekend soccer game or asking “so how was your day, sport?” on one of the few evenings when the family is actually having dinner together. Real involvement means knowing your kids’ interests and friends and teachers and classroom lessons and general progress in the learning process.

Earlier this year, I was part of an important project from Getting Smart called #SmartParents. It was developed, with the support of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, to provide both guidance and personal stories from parents to parents about how we can be more active and positively involved in our kids’ learning process. The final product of that effort is a new book, Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning.

I am incredibly honored to be a contributing author to this book, offering an essay based on my SXSWEdu talk earlier this year on parental engagement. But I’m even more excited by the total product and the inspiration, the guidance, the support, and the sense that we are not alone that it provides to parents, all parents of school-aged children. It serves as a true unifier for those parents who understand the power of public education, for those who know how important a positive experience in the classroom and with the teacher is, and who are committed to being a part of that learning process.

As I recently said about Smart Parents:

There is nothing more powerful than an engaged, informed parent. Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning provides all families – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or zip code — the tools and resources they need to be effective advocates and inspiring teachers for their kids. Successful learners need smart parents supporting and encouraging them.

Check out the book. You won’t be disappointed. And I guarantee you will see your own family in at least one of the stories told. If you don’t, I’ll personally buy the book back from you.

Happy reading!

Woo Hoo! I’m Evergreen

Readers of the Eduflack blog know that I am particularly proud of my book Dadprovement, which chronicles the adoption of our two children from Guatemala and what raising these two incredible kiddos has meant to me and how it has helped me change my priorities and become a better father, husband, and man.

I can’t put into words how it feels when someone tells me what the book has meant to them or how it had impacted their own thinking or their own family dynamics. And that is the point — to break from the stereotypical role of the “father” and to help establish a new look at what a modern-day day really is.

Earlier this month, I learned that Dadprovement was the winner of a 2015 Living Now Evergreen Medal from Independent Publisher. According to IP:

We launched the Evergreen Book Medals to commemorate world-changing books published since the year 2000. We all seek healthier, more fulfilling lives for ourselves and for the planet, and books are important tools for gaining knowledge about how to achieve these goals for ourselves, our loved ones, and for Planet Earth. Divided into five categories, these books are honored for their contributions to positive global change.

For 2015, Dadprovement received an Evergreen Medal for Personal Growth. In honoring my book, the folks at Independent Publisher singled out an excerpt that is particularly important to me:

I was playing at being a father; I wasn’t being a father. I was playing at being a husband; I wasn’t actually being a supportive husband. I was doing everything I had always done. I was being selfish. I wasn’t being a real man, and I certainly wasn’t being a real husband or father. I was a selfish little boy. And I had had enough.

Big thanks to the Independent Publisher judges who bestowed this honor, and to all of those who have been so supportive of both the book and of my personal evolution.

Happy reading!