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links and resources

Children, N. A. (2020). Principles of Effective Family Engagement. Retrieved from NAEYC:

Norma Gonzalez, L. M. (2005). Funds of Knowledge Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and Classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Riojas-Cortez, E. H. (2016). Parents as Partners in Education: Families and Schools Working Together. Pearson.

Riojas-Cortez, M. (2001). Preschoolers’ Funds of Knowledge Displayed Through Sociodramatic Play Episodes in a Bilingual Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1, 35-41.


other STF links

iWhy: Evolution of a Spiritual Servant (Feature)

Spiritual Growth for
Elementary School Children (ETnet)

Working through
Working-Memory Difficulties (LDnet)


LEA is looking for writers

LEA is looking for writers in front-line ministries for articles in future ShapingtheFuture magazine pieces. If you would like to write, contact (do not reply to this publication) to express and discuss your interests.



Engaging Families
in our Lutheran
School Settings 

When parents don’t respond to a teacher’s mode of communication, it’s in the child’s best interest for the teacher to find alternative methods of communication, which in turn can build family partnerships and engagement. Every year educators enter into relationships with families on behalf of their students. The relationships can be described in many ways, some positive and some not-so-positive. Often, parents who are responsive to a teacher’s communications are seen as supportive or responsible, while parents who are less responsive may be seen as non-supportive or irresponsible. What we often forget is the all-important role of the parent as the child’s first teacher. Before a child enters kindergarten, a parent may have spent over 1,800 days with their child, influencing their continuous growth and development. Parents hold the key to vital insights into their child’s developmental history. This knowledge is imperative for the success of each child’s school journey. When parents don’t respond to a teacher’s mode of communication, it’s in the child’s best interest for the teacher to find alternative methods of communication, which in turn can build family partnerships and engagement.

As one considers the topic of serving and engaging families in Lutheran school settings, the words complexity and introspection come to mind. Complexity defines the broad, ever-changing definition of the term family. Introspection is the term that reflects the need to understand the varied influences in the lives of students. While the definition of family continues to morph and family needs and expectations seem never-ending, it is a true blessing to know that our Savior “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8 ESV). Our earnest prayer is to understand the complexities that define our families and for God to bless us with wisdom and compassion in our service to them and with them. 

Prayerful, intentional, professional development with a focus on family engagement would seem to be a long-term enduring goal of all Lutheran schools. Yet other things distract or take precedence over such a goal on a yearly or even daily basis. Student achievement, teacher accountability, budget reviews, behavior incidents, and weekly communications are just a few of the items on an administrator’s to-do list. In a perfect world, families and school personnel would collaborate and communicate in such a way that both parties would see themselves as partners in the life of the school and in the life of their students. But we know, there’s nothing perfect this side of heaven. So what tools are available to help build successful family-school relationships, which launch engaged parents into the life of the school?

One potential tool to help teachers assess how they feel about collaborating with parents is to reflect on the following questions:

As a teacher, ...

I feel parents are more work than help. 


I enjoy having them assist when possible.

I feel tense when parents enter my room. 


I encourage parents to drop in when they can.

I have prejudiced feelings about certain types of families. 


I allow for differences among families.

I compare siblings from the same family. 


I begin anew with each sibling, building on strengths.

I have anxiety when it comes to conferences. 


I stay positive, build on strengths, and listen to parents.

I am not comfortable with spiritual discussion. 


I begin with prayer and emphasize grace in tough times.

Recognizing negative or challenging attitudes leads to a sociocultural consciousness that builds nuggets of wisdom and compassion into daily practice.These questions are just a sample of what administrators can use to survey their teachers’ attitudes or feelings about working with parents. There are no right or wrong answers, and most teachers find themselves on both ends of the spectrum, or somewhere in the middle, in any given week. The end-goal of this question and answer experience is to identify negative feelings and perhaps some anxiety about relationships with parents. In turn, recognizing negative or challenging attitudes leads to a sociocultural consciousness that builds nuggets of wisdom and compassion into daily practice. You can find a complete list of questions in the text, Parents as Partners in Education: Families and Schools Working Together by Berger and Riojas-Cortez, Chapter 5: Teacher Attitudes and Feelings (Riojas-Cortez E. H., 2016).

A second tool that can be helpful in building positive family engagement is to consider authentic ways for the parents to “speak.” An example of inviting parents to speak, goes beyond the typical questions asked on intake surveys, such as the child’s allergies, favorite stories, sleep habits, etc. The Funds of Knowledge format (Gonzalez et al. 2005) allows parents to share a deeper understanding of their family’s culture, daily practices, and shared family knowledge. Parents demonstrate their expertise as the child’s first teacher, and teachers discover more meaningful ways to connect with students and families. The classroom becomes a place where more authentic learning happens. Cultural traits that Funds of Knowledge can identify include language, values and beliefs, ways of discipline, and the value of education, among others. Teachers can use sociodramatic play as a tool to observe children and learn about their funds of knowledge in order to implement a culturally reflective curriculum (Riojas-Cortez M. , 2001).

The following links provide educators with a deeper understanding of the Funds of Knowledge and a process for the staff to explore their own Funds of Knowledge.

One final resource for administrators to explore is NAEYC’s Six Principles of Effective Engagement, which provides a strong rationale for creating ways to involve parents in decision-making, two-way communication strategies, learning extensions from school to home, and shared family resources and information.

When families feel welcome beyond the front door, children and teachers flourish as learners in the classroom.

Cheryl Haun serves as full time Director of Early Childhood Education at Zion Lutheran School in St. Charles, Mo., a program that hosts approximately 260 children, ages 18 months through kindergarten. Her role includes opportunities to lead, mentor, and coach a diverse group of 36 teachers and their assistants. Cheryl also serves as a co-consultant for the Missouri District of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and teaches online graduate courses for Concordia University Nebraska. She was LEA’s 2017 Distinguished Lutheran Early Childhood Administrator.

Photos © iStcok/studio1one, monkeybusinessimages, fizkes