How to Build a Family Engagement Team
We all know it's easier sometimes, actually most of the time, to decide something and then carry it out by yourself. Have you ever decided how to teach a lesson and then asked 14 friends what they think? Yep, they all have different ideas about it. However, when you do it yourself, it's your idea and it either works or you go back to the drawing board and try again.
When I do work with schools, helping them and their parent community, I sometimes run into the problem of one person--the principal or the parent group president or someone else--who knows how it should be done and proceeds to carry out the plan. Most of the time that one individual has a really good idea. However, quite often these efforts don't get very far or unutterably fail before they get started. It's truly not for lack of effort or thought. The real reason is that no one else was included in the planning and implementation. It was all one person's idea.
Building Your Dream Team
It takes a team to create what will work in each community. It takes people feeling that their ideas are heard and valued. It takes people participating and actually engaging in the process of creating an environment for themselves and the children.
how to build your family engagement dream team
Naming Your Team
You can call your team anything you like. We like P-TAG (Parent-Teacher A to G). Alief ISD likes its FAME (Alief Family and Community Engagement). Joyce Epstein is into Family-School Partnership. The name is not the issue as much as what is involved in the process of creating what is wanted at the school as well as who is involved in making those decisions and carrying them out.
Who Should Join?
Your principal and several teachers can certainly decide what to do and probably get it done well, but they've been doing it that way for a long time and in most cases the parents don't feel and really aren't involved. Parents will either give in or get resentful and create problems. Giving in often means there's no differences of opinion, but it also means there's little to no engagement. Making problems speaks for itself and is the thing we were trying to avoid!
Building a team is a lot more work. A football team can't function with only a quarterback or a baseball team with only a pitcher. Sure they are pivotal players, but without the rest of the team, there's no game. There's no reason to even be there and there are certainly no fans eating hot dogs and enjoying the day.
Building a team means including everyone--the math teacher, the truck driver, the tech guru and the mom from across the street. It's the principal and the pottery designer. And as you can tell just from the descriptions of the players, there will be big differences in the way things are seen and done. That's not a bad thing, but it can feel uncomfortable if these are not things you've done before.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, it's a lot easier sometimes to just do it yourself. However, for this particular activity to work, it will take a village.
Getting the Support You Need
The what, the results of your team's decisions, are up to each team. That's where it often helps to have someone who has been doing this work for a bit to help with the process. Your team doesn't need someone to give them answers. The answers actually emerge from your team when communication, trust, and relationships are built. The results are then yours to enjoy.
Family Friendly Schools has been doing this work for over 20 years. Helping facilitate team building and providing accountability is a big part of what we do. We know how this can feel. We also know why you may not want to do this kind of team building, and our experience tells us this is what works.
There are ways to build family engagement teams that make engaging families easier. Why reinvent the wheel? Let us help you with the process either in person or online. We'd like to be there with you in those frustrating moments when the principal and the pottery designer see things so differently they are having trouble getting past it. We can help. We'd also like to be there with you when you celebrate having a school that is open to everyone and everyone knows it. They helped build it!!!
Talk to us, work with us, and let's enjoy your results with you.
Committed to your success,
Dr. Joni Samples
P.S. If you are a district looking for training, workshops, or other resources for your entire district, request a free consult from Family Friendly Schools.