5 ways to support classroom management through family engagement

Why you should read this post on classroom management

I am writing this article to share with you some of the things that helped me lead two consecutive school turnarounds at two urban public schools. Whether you are a brand-new teacher or principal or a seasoned veteran, the content of this post will help you become a more effective educator. It will also help you be an example and leader to those around you, no matter your role in the school.

As a school principal, I firmly held the belief that “order precedes teaching and learning” and I communicated this belief to teachers, students, and families on a routine basis. I believed that teachers could not effectively teach, nor could students learn in a chaotic and disruptive classroom environment.  To provide support to teachers, I assisted them in developing effective classroom management systems. Like all professional skills, there is always room for improvement when it comes to classroom management and the practices that support it, even for those at the top of their craft. When classrooms are effectively managed, quality teaching and engaged student learning can result.  When teachers are able to teach with minimal distractions and students are able to focus and actively engaged in their learning, both student achievement and teacher satisfaction increase. I operated on the premise that classrooms must be safe and secure learning environments, where students can comfortably ask questions and teachers can respond accordingly.  If your classrooms are not being effectively managed, it will be very difficult to make substantial gains in student achievement.

Seasoned and successful teachers are masters of classroom management who use a multitude of techniques to achieve order in the classroom. Today I am going to discuss one of the most overlooked aspects of classroom management – family engagement – and how it can help with classroom management.

Family engagement is one of the four pillars of effective classroom management

As a quick reminder the components of an effective classroom management system are the following:

  • Clear and consistent expectations of student behavior, aimed at success for all.
  • Clear and consistent consequences for disruptive behavior.
  • Clear and consistent acknowledgment of desirable behaviors.
  • Clear and consistent communication with families early and often.

When families are welcomed into the school and provided with opportunities to constructively support their teachers, these actions can have a positive impact on student and teacher behavior.  While the goal is not to place families in the role of “decision makers” (i.e.creating school policies or deciding on curriculum matters) their support and influence can go a long way towards improving student discipline issues in the classroom and throughout the school. 

As I mentioned in last week’s post, family engagement helps students meet their academic goals and objectives and opens lines of communication between families, students, and school professionals.  When families know and understand the challenges facing not only their children, but also the teachers who work with their children everyday, then they are much more apt to be supportive and offer assistance, instead of criticism and negativity. This support and assistance extends to classroom management.

5 ways to use family engagement to support classroom management

During my tenure and experience as an educator, I learned that I must believe that all families want the best for their children, regardless of how that may manifest itself. However challenging developing this feeling may be, educators must begin to incorporate families into the school.  They should capitalize on the fact that many families are very willing to engage with the school, if they are welcomed to engage. I feel that educators miss daily opportunities to harness the energy and the commitment of families, which ultimately makes the mission of educating students easier and a more shared experience.

  1. It increases attendance and reduces behavioral events. Maintaining consistent family engagement will aid and support teachers with classroom management and behavioral challenges.  When students understand that there is a direct connection between their teachers and their families, attendance increases and behavioral incidences are reduced.
  2. It makes families more likely to hear and act on “bad news.” When families are in regular communication with their child’s teachers – rather than only hearing from the school when a problem occurs – they are more likely to accept that problems exist when they do arise, and help teachers and staff address those problems, making classroom management less difficult. 
  3. Families can be utilized to support academic instruction in the classroom.  While it is not necessary for families to understand all of the content being taught in the classroom, families can assist at home by providing students with a quiet place to read and do homework, in addition, to helping student plug academic gaps by using flashcards or by asking thoughtful questions about reading, writing, and math concepts.
  4. Family engagement can result in additional support for classroom management.  During my tenure as a school leader, many families began to support the school by chaperoning events, serving as “room parents” for their children’s teachers, and by providing additional support during our morning breakfast program and at dismissal in the afternoon.  Families that participate throughout the school have a greater sense on connectedness to the school overall and more willing to support.
  5. Lastly, there is the ‘network effect’ of family engagement: Families who regularly participate in school have the ability to attract and support “hard to reach” families, which will ultimately benefit all stakeholders. Engaged family members can be instrumental in conducting tours to new families, explaining information about how the school operates, highlighting important meeting dates throughout the year, and providing support on how to obtain additional services for their children.

In conclusion…

As a school turnaround leader, I faithfully incorporated families into my school improvement planning and in the educational experiences of their children.  I knew that neither I nor our school community could fully educate our students without active family engagement. I modeled for staff how to engage with challenging families and I was willing to take on challenging student behavior issues with families, to enlist their support in the disciplinary process.  In addition, I allocated funding to support family education programs that constructively trained them in strategies to support their children at home and I also provided them with structured opportunities to assist throughout the school. By engaging with families in this manner, they began to learn how to become constructive advocates for their children.

Educators, stop working alone!  Begin engaging your families today!

About the Author

Marlon Davis is a school turnaround specialist who trains principals on leadership, parent involvement, change management, and data-driven instruction. A former teacher, school principal and charter school executive director in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mr. Davis holds an M.Ed. in education leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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