Monday, April 16, 2012

Parent-Teacher Communication

Parent-Teacher, or Parent-School communication is a thorny topic.  Gone are the days that a bi-annaul parent-teacher conference suffices; in the digital age we have lots of access to communication, for good and for bad.

We are delighted to bring Michael Thompson to Maine to offer an interactive workshop on this topic, because communicating about communication is actually a really important step in designing a system that is efficient, humane and responsible.  Schools both need to establish boundaries around communication -- we all know how consuming email can be -- and guidelines for enhancing family involvement... this takes work!

Within our communities, there are divergent pressures -- the iconic "helicopter parent" who needs disproportionate resources from schools and the iconic disengaged parent who never shows up. Thus, schools need strategies for educating all parents about what constitutes healthy involvement and needs strategies to reduce anxiety for parents leaning toward over-involvement while increasing a sense of welcome for parents who never step through the door.  

Here are some resources for perusing:

  • An NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) summary of a similar workshop with Michael Thompson and an article by Thompson himself arguing that sometimes less is more when it comes to school -- parent information exchanges. 
  • From the other side (schools wanting more connection to families) is a blog post summarizing social media techniques for sharing info
  • Harvard School of Education's Family Research Project (lots of research, lots of ideas on Family Involvement in School) - this research focuses more on strategies for helping disenfranchised families connect with modern schools.
  • Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot has a book, "The Essential Conversation : What Parents and Teachers Can Learn About Each Other.  I really liked her analysis that there is a "ghost in the classroom" as parents negotiate their own memories of being a student and awkward power relationships between adults.  There are lots of excerpts, tip sheets, etc. on the internet, based on her book.

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