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Lesson Notes: How Do Fathers Fit In?

Topic: The importance of fathers

To the teacher: The ‘How Do Fathers Fit In?’ fact sheet will be useful for teaching about family relationships including marriage and parenting, and children’s growth and development in PSHE, Religious Studies, or other courses.

The lesson plans outlined below are merely suggestions. Teachers know their own pupils and their own courses best. Teachers should consider the age, type, and number of pupils in the class when deciding how to discuss the information in the fact sheet and related issues. Some pupils might benefit from using a board or overhead projector to facilitate the discussion.

How Do Fathers Fit In?

N.B. Care and sensitivity is needed. The ‘How Do Fathers Fit In?’ factsheet is based on the findings of social science, which is primarily concerned with what works best on average. Many individuals will be striving to make the best of a difficult situation and social science does not seek to diminish the importance or sincerity of their efforts. In an open society, however, the role of social science is to help us all to learn from the experience of others and to discover the best way forward.

Good teachers may be able to let pupils talk about people they know, but care is needed if children start talking about their own parents or family members. It is better to break this off by some phrase such as: ‘We don’t want to judge individual cases of people who are not here to speak for themselves’. However, this need for sensitivity is not a reason for avoiding the discussion of fatherhood and relationships. The main advantage of the fact sheet is just that: it deals with facts and not opinions.There is a tendency today to speak of ‘parents’ or ‘carers’ rather than ‘mothers’ or ‘fathers’. People often say that the most important thing in raising children is to give them lots of love, something that all parents can do, regardless of whether they are a mother or a father.

Aims

To present to pupils information about the role and importance of fathers based on the best modern research. To encourage pupils to consider how they hope to organise their family life in the future and what role fatherhood will play.

Lesson series

Ideally, the fact sheet would be part of a series of lessons. The first could be a general discussion, led by the teacher, about current views and practices relating to fatherhood. The second lesson could be a careful and thorough examination of the facts included on the sheet. The third could be a follow-up lesson asking pupils to outline some of the factors that are most important and how they could affect their future lives. If the material is to be used for only one or two lessons, then the lesson plans below could be condensed. For example, lesson one could be dealt with briefly by the teacher as an introduction.

Lesson One: Current views

  • Ask pupils to read just the first page of the sheet.
  • Ask pupils to consider the roles of both mothers and fathers. Are they identical? The teacher should establish an atmosphere of respect wherein pupils listen to each other’s views. If a pupil seems to be revealing too many personal details, then the teacher should diplomatically yet firmly intervene. (See N.B. above.)
  • Ask pupils to consider and discuss whether it is easy to bring up children without a father. What would be lost for both boys and girls? For the mother? For the father?
  • Ask pupils to consider and discuss what kind of mother or father they would want to be and what would be important for them in bringing up their own children at different ages: what rules they would lay down; how much time they would spend with them; how they would play with them; how they would try to ensure that their children were brought up as healthy, happy, and well-adjusted people.
  • Ask pupils to consider and discuss how they would like their spouse or partner to help in bringing up their children and how they would work together. How would they share the family responsibilities-taking care of the house, caring for the children, supporting the household financially? Does it matter whether parents are married? What should a father’s rights and responsibilities be if the parents split up? N.B. There is no need to be frightened or shy of talking about marriage. Most children hope and expect to be married. The focus is on the benefits to children of long-term relationships between fathers and mothers.

Lesson Two: The core lesson about the fact sheet.

(In a course with plenty of time, this alone could take up two or more lessons.)

  • It is best if all pupils have their own copies of the sheet, but it is a good idea for the teacher to introduce some of the thinking and ideas behind the sheet, before pupils begin reading. The teacher could ask pupils what they think might be said in the different sections. For example, pupils could be asked what they thought would be the importance of fathers for each stage – infants, toddlers, school-aged, teenagers – before that section of the sheet is read.
  • Depending upon pupils’ ability, read the fact sheet aloud, assign pupils to read sections aloud, or have pupils read silently. Ensure that pupils understand the points made in the fact sheet by ‘brainstorming’ and listing the concepts (e.g. how parenting requires many different skills; how fathers influence their children’s development at different stages of childhood; how fathers influence children’s thinking skills, relationship skills, academic performance, and overall emotional health; and how the relationship between fathers and mothers influences their children) on a board or overhead.
  • It is important for pupils to understand the need for the length of the ‘references’ section on the last page – that the material in the sheet is based on research which is in the public domain and has been open to challenge.

Lesson Three: Follow-up.

  • The lesson could be started by reviewing the main ideas or by addressing any points previously omitted.
  • Ask pupils to sum up some of the points about the importance of fathers from the sheet.
  • Ask pupils to re-consider some of the questions they discussed in the first lesson – is it easy to bring up children without a father? What would be lost for both boys and girls, for the mother and the father? What kind of mother or father would they be and what would be important for them in bringing up their children at different ages? How would they like their husband or wife to help in bringing up their children and how would they work together? How would they share the family responsibilities? Does it matter whether parents are married? What should a father’s rights and responsibilities be if the parents split up?

Optional Written Assignments:

  • Pupils could write a short essay summarising the material learned about fatherhood.
  • Pupils could be asked to write a response to the following or something similar: ‘A good friend of yours, a girl, says that she really wants to have a baby, and she is very much in love with her boyfriend. She wants your advice as to whether it really matters whether she gets married so that her baby will have a father around or whether that does not matter.’ Write a letter giving your advice. Be sure to supply reasons for your ideas.

Other lessons

Teachers might consider using ‘How Do Fathers Fit In?’ in other subject lessons.

English: A number of books used in English could provide ideas. For example, the commonly studied book To Kill a Mocking Bird is interesting because the children are brought up by a lone father, his wife having died. The father, Atticus, is a model father, but he himself is concerned that his children lack a mother and what she would give them.

Media Studies: How are fathers treated in the media? Are fathers included in advertisements, in television programmes, or in newspapers? And, if so, then how are they characterised? Are the portrayals accurate? What might influence different media outlets in their choices about how to depict fathers?

History / Cultural Studies: How has the understanding of family life changed in England over the years? Are fathers less important, or more important than they were in the past? Do all cultures have the same beliefs and expectations about the role of fathers? Biology: What are the biological roles of fathers and mothers?

Are there evolutionary reasons that most human cultures developed institutions in which mothers and fathers raise their children within marriage? What is the role of fathers in other species, such as dogs, cats and other mammals, or reptiles, or fish? Are there biological or evolutionary reasons that fathers are more important to some species than others? Are there moral reasons?

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