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Working With Families


Teachers and parents can often have a communication problem. It’s more than just words alone; it can an occupational hazard for teachers to be “teacherish”- to instruct, advise, and take charge. This can be useful for work with children, but when it comes to talking with adults, it can be counter-productive. However, parents can be equally off-base with over-expectations for their school. Why do we, as teachers, sometimes see parents as unwilling and uncooperative? According to Caspe (2003), social class and culture shape teachers' understandings of families. Personal beliefs and values are a filter through which teachers understand the families they work with. Teachers need to critically reflect on their own values and judgments so that their basis for understanding families is rooted not in inaccurate stereotypes, but in authentic relationships and culturally-sensitive interpretations.

Similarly, parents’ values, beliefs, and experiences shape their views as well. If their experience is that their parents did not participate in their education or if they had poor school experiences themselves, they may not want to have much to do with school involvement. Parents may not see themselves as “smart enough” to be a help to their children, and they may think teachers feel that way about them as well. Teachers need to show parents that by being partners with us, they can help their children succeed in school, and that there are many things they can do at home to help their children learn. No matter what – both parties are interested in having respect from one another. 

The following table lists some kindnesses teachers and parents have said they want from each other.

  What Parents Want from Teachers What Teachers want from Parents
Pay attention to my child as an individual
Remember, homework is your child’s job, but you need to be sure he is doing it
Be fair to my child Be an example; read, turn off the TV, discuss things with your child
Listen to me: don’t let me feel small and insignificant Believe in my caring and ability to do right by YOUR child.
Don’t make me look bad in front of my child Be consistent in upholding and enforcing what you believe , but realize that I work with many children, not just yours
 Talk to me in a language I understand; I am not an educator so I don’t understand some of the acronyms and terms Talk up the importance of education; if it is important to you, it will be important to your child
Hold high, realistic standards for my child and make them fair and clear Give me support; don’t put me down behind my back or complain about me to other parents
Tell me what I need to know to do the job I have to do Come talk to me if you have a question or problem, don’t wait for things to get worse before you talk with me
Send consistent messages about homework so that we know at home what to expect Ask questions about your child and what you don’t understand; share ideas with me
See me as a partner Make time for your child - come to meetings/conferences
Believe in my caring and ability to do right by MY child. Believe in my caring and ability to do right by YOUR child.

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