How to Work with Your Child’s School to Support Learning

By Rebecca Bauer
Parents meeting with their child's teacher, building relationships to help their child succeed.

A key ingredient to supporting your child’s learning and growth is the strength of your relationship with their teachers and school administrators. With a strong relationship as a base, you can work with them throughout the year to create meaningful opportunities to engage in your child’s education. This is the hallmark of family engagement.

During a recent episode of Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast, Karen Mapp—senior lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education and family engagement expert—offered practical strategies for enhancing family engagement in your school community.

“When we say family engagement, it means that we are serious about our relationship with each other to support this child, to support their learning, to support school improvement,” said Mapp.

How can you promote more innovative family engagement practices in your child’s school?

Mapp emphasized the importance of finding a team of passionate parents at your school and taking the initiative to try something new. She recommended a few books that can help:

Beyond the Bake Sale, a book Mapp wrote with Anne Henderson, Don Davies and Vivian Johnson.


Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher’s Guide for Engaging Families that Mapp wrote with Ilene Carver and Jessica Lander. “I’ve had some parents tell me that this book has been really helpful because it identifies specific strategies schools can use to partner with families,” said Mapp.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Mapp emphasized that, when it comes to family engagement, more isn’t always better. Instead of hosting more events and meetings—and sending more email reminders—be intentional about your efforts.

“Make sure whatever you’re doing is accommodating your families’ time and needs,” said Mapp who noted that many families have conflicting priorities and different communication preferences.

For even more helpful tips on bringing families and schools together for strong partnerships that support student success, listen to the full interview with Karen Mapp, available wherever you listen to podcasts!

Rebecca Bauer is the family engagement specialist with the Center for Family Engagement at National PTA.

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