Engage Every Family: Five Simple Principles
Steven M. Constantino
Parent/Teacher Conferences were days I enjoyed when teaching at the elementary level. Yes, the days were long and filled with unknowns – Will they show up? Will they have complaints? Will I get a restroom break? – but they were also filled with discovery. Meeting the families always gave me insight into questions I had about my students and helped me understand their life away from school.
Another benefit of these days was that families could get to know me better and learn what their children were doing during the school day. Our conversations contributed to the foundation of our relationship.
Teachers have always known that developing relationships with students’ families is important to student success, but figuring out how to create these relationships can be challenging.
If you are interested in strengthening ties with your students’ families, you need to read Engage Every Family: Five Simple Principles by Steven M. Constantino. It is an easy, thought-provoking read that gets right to the heart of effective family engagement.
Many family engagement efforts center on events for families to attend, such as Literacy Nights, holiday music performances, or Parent/Teacher Conferences. Teachers and administrators often lament the work that goes into whole school events like these and blame low attendance on parents’ lack of interest.
Constantino draws upon his many years’ experience as a teacher and district administrator to look at family engagement from a different perspective. He challenges educators to withhold judgment of parents’ behavior, and instead consider what the school is, or is not, doing regarding engagement. He contends that our very foundational beliefs about engaging families need to be examined and, if found lacking, repaired. New events or strategies won’t create successful engagement practices, but changing how we think about engagement might.
He begins by addressing customer service in schools and the cycle of disengagement, which may not be what you expect. The bulk of the book is spent discussing his five principles for engaging all families. They include…
- A Culture That Engages Every Family
- Communicating Effectively and Building Relationships
- Empowering Every Family
- Engaging Every Family in Decision Making
- Engaging the Greater Community
The text includes many anecdotes and is written in a conversational style, which makes it engaging (pun intended) to read. Short exercises and reflective questions throughout the text encourage immediate application.
Reading Engage Every Family will benefit your relationships with students’ families; however, reading and discussing it with a group of colleagues could affect your entire school. Consider it for your next PLC focus or put it on your holiday wish list. You’ll be glad you did.