Parent Engagement

How Tellin’ Stories works in schools

Our approach is based on the concepts of story-sharing, community organizing, and popular education. Rather than entering schools with a fixed agenda, Teaching for Change starts by making connections through sharing stories, allowing concerns to emerge and looking for ways to address them. In many cases, we work in schools where parents hold negative stereotypes of each other based on race, language, and country of origin. By making space for every voice to be heard, all participants find common ground in their desire to create a better education for their kids.

The school communities in which we work have:

  • Increased family involvement and advocacy.
  • Have produced a more positive school climate.
  • Shown improved academic achievement.

School-based meetings and workshops provide families, teachers, and school administrators with unique forums to bridge differences and achieve shared goals. By building relationships and capacity between parents and teachers, the Tellin’ Stories approach increases families’ access to schools and broadens their school-based roles as supporters, educators, advocates, decision makers, and ambassadors. In claiming these roles, parents use their power collaboratively to transform schools.

Tellin’ Stories Approach

The Tellin’ Stories approach can be summarized into five components that guide our process and serve as the core of our school-based organizing, meetings, and activities.

Tellin’ Stories Signature Activities

Over the years we have worked with parents, teachers, and administrators in schools to develop a set of signature activities that also define Tellin’ Stories:

  • Story Quilting Series
  • Welcome Back Breakfast
  • Community Walk
  • Welcoming Climate Walkthrough
  • Roving Readers
  • Parent-Principal Chit Chat
  • Grade Level Dialogue
  • Academic Classroom Visit
  • Academic-based Workshops

We believe that schools can put into practice the changes we want to see in society. Teaching for Change’s approach works to overcome the boundaries between parents, teachers, schools, and communities that can get in the way of creating change.

Tellin’ Stories Assumptions

See Bilingual Assumptions.


Schools determine how parents are involved. Parents’ roles are limited to fundraising, chaperoning and attending PTA meetings. Families and school staff together decide meaningful ways for parents to be involved in multiple roles: as teachers, supporters, advocates, decision makers, ambassadors and monitors.
Parents need to have specific skills to be resources.  Many lack the capacity or willingness to be involved.  (deficit-model) All parents are resources to their children’s schools.  Schools must recognize and cultivate the knowledge and strength of each family.
Starting point: Hold a PTA meeting and have parents sign up for committees. Starting point: building trust through sharing our stories.
Diversity is a challenge.  School culture  must be imposed on the educational community. Diversity is a strength.  School culture and leadership must reflect the diversity of the school community, and racism must be addressed.
School knows best, is solely responsible for decision-making, and passes knowledge on to families. Everyone has knowledge and has children’s best interest at heart. Collaborative decision-making.
A system-chosen standardized test determines accountability. Families, schools and communities hold each other accountable.
Parents who are not visible at the school are not contributing to their children’s education Parents who help their children at home to be ready for school each day are contributing to their education.
Underlying message: parent engagmenet is not important for school success.

Parent engagement/family-school collaboration is required for school improvement


For our recommended booklist on family engagement visit:


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