Patrick S. Muhammad brainstormed the phrase “FATHER-nonymous.”
It got about 50 men – fathers, grandfathers and neighbors among them – to come to Rock Chapel Elementary School last month for FATHER-nonymous: Known Fathers Dedicated to Taking Their Children Farther.
The purpose of the program is to create opportunities for Rock Chapel Elementary fathers to interact with their children in an educational setting. The school held its first “FATHER-nonymous” Chess Night on Dec. 3. The event allowed fathers and their students to learn chess from a well-known Atlanta chess champion Orrin Hudson.
“We feel that chess is something universal,” said Muhammad, an assistant principal. “It evens the playing field.”
The evening not only provided participants with chess tips and strategies, but also parenting tips and fathering strategies.
Rock Chapel Elementary teachers and administrators believe that the chess activities will reap student academic benefits such as focusing, concrete analysis, planning and visualizing – as well as social benefits like increased motivation, building friendship, sportsmanship and an increase in school spirit.
But Muhammad said his primary goal was to get male role models back into students’ lives.
“The single-family pretty much dominates the community right now. It happens for various reasons,” he said. “The male has to be a staple in the community.”
In many cases, Muhammad said, fathers are less likely to get involved at their child’s school because they have their own educational gaps and aren’t keen to return to the classroom.
At Rock Chapel Elementary, the FATHER-nonymous program can eventually lead to getting fathers back into classes or learning programs.
“It’s kind of tricking the dads into being more involved with their kids and learning more along the way,” he said.
Rock Chapel Elementary anticipates increased paternal involvement, increased reading and math scores, and a decrease in behavior problems as a result of the new parent initiative.
“If we don’t get a hold of the youth then we’re going to lose them,” Muhammad said.