Parent Teacher Communication

Some of the factors that affect communication between teachers and parents and some specific things both parents and teachers can do to build better relationships.

Every parent starts off with high hopes and dreams for his child. From the moment a mother knows that she is pregnant she begins a special and private relationship with the growing child. Mother and father find themselves day-dreaming, sometimes together, sometimes separately. Beyond the fears and anxieties of being good parents there is the wondering about what this child will be when she grows up. Will she be the next President?

Every teacher starts off with high hopes and dreams for her students. No teacher starts off the academic year with failure on her mind. She sees every student as a young mind to mold and develop in some way. And she starts off with enough confidence and high spirits and looking forward to this trip down the road of learning with her students. But that road is strewn with many obstacles. Not the least of which is the parent involvement or non-involvement in the journey. One of the things that teachers welcome is the support of the parents. No teacher likes to deal with a difficult parent. And an absent parent is a teacher's nightmare. Parents, on the other hand, have enough of a task parenting the child at home and they welcome the break they think they get when the teachers takes over for six hours each day.

Nothing works as well in the process of education as a common understanding between teacher and parent. It is not always easy to remember that when it comes to the child both teacher and parent are on the same side. Both parties hear from several different sources that parents and teachers need to get along and things they must do. But there are factors that get in the way of this happening. Some teachers may have noticed how threatened they feel when parents confront them or accuse them of not doing their job competently. They may have noticed how frustrating it is when the parents can't seem to cooperate, for example, when they won't respond to requests for meetings or when homework is not properly supervised. The truth is that when it comes to school affairs parents experience the same feelings- fear or threat, incompetence, frustration, even anger sometimes. For parents these feelings may be stirred by different stimuli. How many parents themselves had a bad time in school ? Now it feels scary to even walk into a school compound. How many parents on being called to a parent/teacher conference having feelings of being sent to the principal's office stirred up?

Parenting in most societies is a generally frustrating and invalidating job. Teaching we all know feels like another thankless job with its own societal pressures. These internalized feelings that both parents and teachers carry around are what get in the way of building good relationships. These feelings get targeted at each other because neither parents nor teachers have safe places to work through these feelings and clear them out. Attempting to relate to another human being while such negative feelings are operating does not work.

For parents and teachers to work together they must recognize these feelings in themselves and find safe places (support groups, circle of friends, mentor, ally) to talk about and express these feelings. Once there is some clearing out of these feelings, then relationships can be built on natural connectedness as human beings and on the mutual concern and care for the young people.

Parents can do specific things to reach out to teachers:

· Make sure to say a few pleasant words especially at the start of the school day. If you can't do it in person send a note or better yet make a phone call.



· Show concern for the teacher as a person, not just as your child's teacher. Listen to him with full, non-judgemental, non-critical attention. Encourage him to talk about his life and what it is like being a teacher. Encourage him to talk about his own experiences of school. Don't interrupt or invalidate the expression of feelings, especially rage, indignation, frustration ,fear , as he talks. The more he clears these out the better attention he will have for the classroom.

· Be specific in your appreciation, for example.. "I appreciate the time you took to explain "¦ to my daughter", or "I like the way you taught them about"¦".

· School bazaars, PTAs, school outings and events are good opportunities to spend time with the teacher, getting to know each other and listening to each other.

· Have a teacher appreciation "party".

· Helping with physical tasks is always welcome. Offer to help prepare teaching aids, (charts, posters etc.), photocopying material.

Parents also need to be listened to about how difficult it is to be a parent. Teachers can listen to parents in the same way. Tell the parent how much you like having her child in your classroom. Point out specific qualities of the child that you appreciate. Take time to explain to the parent your method of teaching and suggest specific ways the parent can help at home. Don't assume that the parent, because she is an adult, should know what to do and how to do it. Thank you and validation notes and phone calls need to go both ways.

The bottom line really is to think of each other as a good friend, because in effect that is what you really need to be to accomplish the tasks of educating our young people. Building that friendship is no different from building an alliance with a teacher or parent.

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