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September 20, 2017

A Book Study Guide for Powerful Partnerships

By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Let me be brutally honest: I’m easily bored by professional reading, yet I know it is powerful for me to engage in research and reading about education. One of the best ways for me to digest professional reading is through book studies with colleagues and friends. A book study keeps me focused, and discussion about the reading brings out new ideas.

    One focus this year for me, and for my school, is family engagement. As a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to know and understand what goes on inside the classroom, but I do believe most parents truly want the best for their kids. Most parents can and will support you, but there are many obstacles in the way. Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher’s Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success is a research-based, action-oriented professional book that is easy to read and gives concrete suggestions for engaging families in the school environment. Whether you tackle this read alone, with a team, PLN, or school, I’ll break down the chapters and provide supplemental materials to support a book study of your own.

    Setting Up the Study

    Book studies work best when you can offer choice and get buy in for the book selected. Carve out a specific time and place to meet on a regular schedule to hold yourself and others accountable. Having some meeting norms, like a commitment to begin and end on time, makes everyone feel more at ease in a group. While a social setting is great, sometimes keeping it professional can help keep the pace moving and the focus on learning. Don’t rule out virtual possibilities; one book I studied had daily questions to reflect on as a chapter was read and our insights were shared through Voxer virtually.

    Chapter Engagement

    Book studies usually tackle a chapter or two at a time. Often reading is assigned outside of the book study, though I’ve been participating in a study with other coaches where time is allotted to pick out and read selections during our meeting. We are aware of the chapter we will cover ahead of time, so of course, reading independently is allowed, but giving time to read important passages in study sessions is very helpful for a group of busy professionals.

    To truly engage in a book, try adding reflective questions. Powerful Partnerships, like many professional texts, offers reflective questions in each chapter. This text also has links throughout to short videos with researcher and author Dr. Karen Mapp, as well as actual families and teachers. Graphic organizers to help readers frame their thinking can also be useful, as is tying to outside texts and websites. Here are some suggestions to enhance and support your reading:

    Chapter 1 — Examine Your Core Beliefs

    This chapter encourages the reader to consider their own perception of the family role in the classroom, gives four Core Beliefs that are essential for success, and challenges teachers to consider their mindset in dealing with families.

    • Use a graphic organizer before reading to reflect on personal beliefs. Included on page 19, these writing prompts given in an actual organizer can help focus reflection and conversation.


    Chapter 2 — Harness the Power of Partnerships

    Chapter 2 examines the types of school partnerships that exist and the five process conditions needed to build engaging partnership events.

    • Before reading, use the graphic organizer to describe a person you enjoy collaborating with and then keep in mind these attributes as key to creating effective partnerships.

    • The Institute for Educational Leadership and Coalition for Community Schools has a three-part Strengthening Partnerships assessment. The first checklist can be useful in understanding how community partnership efforts are currently perceived and highlighting areas that need improvement.
    • If creating community partnerships with outside agencies is key to your school strategy, or you just can’t get enough of partnerships and want to extend beyond engaged family members, the Community Planning Self Assessment Toolkit for Partnerships is an in-depth look at long-range goals and systems to support developing and maintaining all types of ongoing relationships.

    Chapter 3 — Welcome, Honor, and Connect With Your Families

    The start of the year is the perfect time to begin building relationships with families. Ideas in this chapter get you started on home visits, phone calls, and school events for families.

    Chapter 4 — Transform Your Family Conferences and IEP Meetings

    Chapter 4 dives into the two most common types of family meetings you will conduct over the year: Family-Teacher Conferences and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Meetings. A particularly useful feature is the Goal-Setting Family Conference Form on page 80.

    Chapter 5 — Maintain Strong Family Ties Throughout the Year

    Text-messaging, special events, and other strategies help keep the focus on quality communication and collaboration throughout the year.

    • Before reading, generate a list of all the family contact and event opportunities throughout the year. If you are working with a large group, do this as teams. Then organize the events by circling those that are academic in nature, starring those that involve students or the whole family, and cross out those that are poorly attended or have no real benefit. Use this list to help plan and guide your events through the year, cutting back to focus on positive, academic events that have the most benefit.
    • Print a simple parent contact log to help keep track of calls, home visits, and more during the year. Collecting and tallying the number of contacts can help your staff raise awareness of the kind and amount of contact they are having.
    • Read about “Tips for Building Positive Relationships With Families” from middle grade teacher and blogger John DePasquale while exploring the chapter that highlights a different teacher at each grade level.

    Chapter 6 — Support Your Work With Family-Friendly Resources

    This chapter has sample parent letters, forms, and links to a variety of free family resources.

    • Divide out the provided resources and use a graphic organizer to have individuals or groups explore and share out what they find. You might just identify valuable resources to help you throughout the year!

    Wrapping Up

    Exit tickets are one way to ensure that students have learned and engaged during a lesson. Take that idea to your professional learning, but challenging teachers to share engaging quotes or “ah-has” throughout their reading. The tweet-able quotes throughout this post are my takeaways and powerful quotes discovered in each chapter. At the end of this book, you should be ready to dive into planning your family engagement events throughout the year.

     

    Let me be brutally honest: I’m easily bored by professional reading, yet I know it is powerful for me to engage in research and reading about education. One of the best ways for me to digest professional reading is through book studies with colleagues and friends. A book study keeps me focused, and discussion about the reading brings out new ideas.

    One focus this year for me, and for my school, is family engagement. As a parent myself, I know how hard it can be to know and understand what goes on inside the classroom, but I do believe most parents truly want the best for their kids. Most parents can and will support you, but there are many obstacles in the way. Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher’s Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success is a research-based, action-oriented professional book that is easy to read and gives concrete suggestions for engaging families in the school environment. Whether you tackle this read alone, with a team, PLN, or school, I’ll break down the chapters and provide supplemental materials to support a book study of your own.

    Setting Up the Study

    Book studies work best when you can offer choice and get buy in for the book selected. Carve out a specific time and place to meet on a regular schedule to hold yourself and others accountable. Having some meeting norms, like a commitment to begin and end on time, makes everyone feel more at ease in a group. While a social setting is great, sometimes keeping it professional can help keep the pace moving and the focus on learning. Don’t rule out virtual possibilities; one book I studied had daily questions to reflect on as a chapter was read and our insights were shared through Voxer virtually.

    Chapter Engagement

    Book studies usually tackle a chapter or two at a time. Often reading is assigned outside of the book study, though I’ve been participating in a study with other coaches where time is allotted to pick out and read selections during our meeting. We are aware of the chapter we will cover ahead of time, so of course, reading independently is allowed, but giving time to read important passages in study sessions is very helpful for a group of busy professionals.

    To truly engage in a book, try adding reflective questions. Powerful Partnerships, like many professional texts, offers reflective questions in each chapter. This text also has links throughout to short videos with researcher and author Dr. Karen Mapp, as well as actual families and teachers. Graphic organizers to help readers frame their thinking can also be useful, as is tying to outside texts and websites. Here are some suggestions to enhance and support your reading:

    Chapter 1 — Examine Your Core Beliefs

    This chapter encourages the reader to consider their own perception of the family role in the classroom, gives four Core Beliefs that are essential for success, and challenges teachers to consider their mindset in dealing with families.

    • Use a graphic organizer before reading to reflect on personal beliefs. Included on page 19, these writing prompts given in an actual organizer can help focus reflection and conversation.


    Chapter 2 — Harness the Power of Partnerships

    Chapter 2 examines the types of school partnerships that exist and the five process conditions needed to build engaging partnership events.

    • Before reading, use the graphic organizer to describe a person you enjoy collaborating with and then keep in mind these attributes as key to creating effective partnerships.

    • The Institute for Educational Leadership and Coalition for Community Schools has a three-part Strengthening Partnerships assessment. The first checklist can be useful in understanding how community partnership efforts are currently perceived and highlighting areas that need improvement.
    • If creating community partnerships with outside agencies is key to your school strategy, or you just can’t get enough of partnerships and want to extend beyond engaged family members, the Community Planning Self Assessment Toolkit for Partnerships is an in-depth look at long-range goals and systems to support developing and maintaining all types of ongoing relationships.

    Chapter 3 — Welcome, Honor, and Connect With Your Families

    The start of the year is the perfect time to begin building relationships with families. Ideas in this chapter get you started on home visits, phone calls, and school events for families.

    Chapter 4 — Transform Your Family Conferences and IEP Meetings

    Chapter 4 dives into the two most common types of family meetings you will conduct over the year: Family-Teacher Conferences and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Meetings. A particularly useful feature is the Goal-Setting Family Conference Form on page 80.

    Chapter 5 — Maintain Strong Family Ties Throughout the Year

    Text-messaging, special events, and other strategies help keep the focus on quality communication and collaboration throughout the year.

    • Before reading, generate a list of all the family contact and event opportunities throughout the year. If you are working with a large group, do this as teams. Then organize the events by circling those that are academic in nature, starring those that involve students or the whole family, and cross out those that are poorly attended or have no real benefit. Use this list to help plan and guide your events through the year, cutting back to focus on positive, academic events that have the most benefit.
    • Print a simple parent contact log to help keep track of calls, home visits, and more during the year. Collecting and tallying the number of contacts can help your staff raise awareness of the kind and amount of contact they are having.
    • Read about “Tips for Building Positive Relationships With Families” from middle grade teacher and blogger John DePasquale while exploring the chapter that highlights a different teacher at each grade level.

    Chapter 6 — Support Your Work With Family-Friendly Resources

    This chapter has sample parent letters, forms, and links to a variety of free family resources.

    • Divide out the provided resources and use a graphic organizer to have individuals or groups explore and share out what they find. You might just identify valuable resources to help you throughout the year!

    Wrapping Up

    Exit tickets are one way to ensure that students have learned and engaged during a lesson. Take that idea to your professional learning, but challenging teachers to share engaging quotes or “ah-has” throughout their reading. The tweet-able quotes throughout this post are my takeaways and powerful quotes discovered in each chapter. At the end of this book, you should be ready to dive into planning your family engagement events throughout the year.

     

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