The following is a summary of responses to the Teaching Fellows’ series of questions about parent-teacher partnerships posted on the blog from Oct. 22-Nov. 2. Summaries of the posts are available on the web and also published internally at the Department of Education to help those shaping policy and assistance to educators in the field. In addition, the information from the posts helps to inform the Teaching Ambassador Fellows work as we continue conversations with teachers, parents, school officials, and students.
Questions posed by the blog:
What do you think teachers want from parents? What do you think parents want from teachers? Where might their interests converge? What is your vision for an effective partnership between parents and teachers?
“I find that teachers make or break the nature of this partnership, and teachers’ attitudes are shaped by the principal’s approach.” — Natalie, parent
Teachers and parents care about the quality of children’s education and want what is best for children. However, often because of pressures, past experiences, or lack of information, the adults sometimes turn their frustration toward each other. When they are able to work in partnership with one another to support the other’s distinct roles and engage in authentic partnership, then true collaboration can occur.
Parents and teachers share many goals for children. Both want children to succeed, thrive, and to do well in school so that they create pathways for success in the future.
- “Everyone wants… the child to be successful by being independent and a positive, contributing member of our society.” — Lisa
- “Teachers and parents should both want the best for their children/students.” — Bev
- “The convergence (of our goals) is our future.” — Wendy
Though they have goals in common, parents and teachers often have different needs from one another. Both recognize that for education to work, each side must do their part.
- “Teachers want support from parents… Parents want communication from teachers.” — Cheryl
- “Teachers want parents to discipline—not punish—their children, teach them right from wrong… responsibility… how to speak respectfully… to accept consequences… Teachers want parents to support education… to believe that education is good and necessary… to love their children enough to set limits on their own and their children’s behavior.” — Bev
- “Parents want teachers to communicate, understand that each child is different and value their child for being different.” — Adam
- “Parents want teachers to unconditionally love their children while teaching them.” — Lisa
Parents and teachers sometimes sabotage their relationship when they don’t understand each other or don’t feel heard. When a teacher’s or a parent’s needs are left unmet, or when a child’s needs are unmet, the adults might become defensive and blame one another.
- “As the parents of a disabled child, we understand the struggles on both sides… to blame one or the other is not the answer.” — Chris
- “In order to ‘build’ a partnership, each party has to first be honest and trustworthy. It is when the trust has been broken time and again that the partnership dissolves and barriers begin to build.” — Jewels
- “[The parent/teacher] relationship is often sabotaged by defensiveness. Parents often suspect that teachers may be unfairly treating their child, while teachers often assume parents are going to be hostile or critical.” — Joe
- “If teachers are not helpful to parents, i.e., spend more time complaining and lecturing parents about how to parent than coming up with ways to deal with the issue, then there is no way they can work as partners.” — Natalie
- “[Teachers need] parents [who] support the most basic discipline their children require in school [instead of arguing], ‘My kid would never do THAT! You’re picking on my kid!’ ” — Nancy
- “Right now what the [education] industry’s ‘parent involvement’ mantra really means is getting parents to say, “How, sir” when educators say, “Hold a bake sale.” — Dee
- “With 180 students every semester… Even One minute on the phone or in e-mail for each student is 3 hours of work.” — Carol
Parents and teachers best meet their common objectives for students when they form partnerships on behalf of the child. Two factors seem to be most important: authenticity and communication.
- “An Effective Parent Partnership always invites parents to the table to make decisions about school curriculum and programs for students. This practice must be done with integrity and not as a superficial gesture to appease the community.” — Nicole
- “Effective partnership includes role definition and clarification. Let parents parent. If you’re a teacher, do not [impose] your parenting style on others.” — Lorrie
- “An effective partnership is one in which each side trusts the motives of the other, where the teacher exhibits caring for the child and the parent exhibits support for the teacher.” — Joe
- “We might as well come up with partnerships, not sole proprietorships…” — Cecelia
- “Communication is key.” — Monique
- “Children learn both at home and school… Parents, teachers, community leaders, and school administration will achieve more if the goals are met with a team approach.”
Post Script from the Teaching Fellows: The President’s proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) doubles the funding to foster meaningful conversations such as these between parents and teachers—dialogs that support teachers and equip parents to be advocates for their children’s education.