25.4.14

Parents: Eternal foes or powerful allies?

Parents: Eternal foes or powerful allies?

" It takes two to tango". That was one of my favourite perceptions of  describing the need for both teacher and learner to be involved,  communicate and collaborate in order to achieve progress and the learning goals set. Very soon I  came across the word "stakeholder" in education and realized that sometimes  it takes three !!!

As a teacher, there were times when I experienced respect, openness, honesty, hostility, contempt and arrogance, to name only a few of the impressive range of attitudes shown by parents over the years. I know that the image of a teacher and the role of a parent vary depending on the local and national culture.  However,  over the years I became convinced that a parent can play an important role.

A parent's power
Parents are the first ones with whom the children share what their school day is like, their relationship with their classmates and teachers. Mothers and fathers can play an instrumental role in reassuring their children and explaining the role teachers have in their learning. If a parent expresses openly their doubt about the teacher's efficiency or their resentment about the teaching methods, there is no way that the learner can ever build a good relationship with the teacher or be motivated to be actively involved in class.On the contrary, a parent can be a powerful ally who can convey a picture of the child's life and personality away from school and can support innovative practices by reassuring the child that we need to be open to learning in various forms.


Yet, parents often tend to be hostile, complaining about everything and blaming the teacher even about the weather. Before giving tips about how to deal with parents, let's get into parents' shoes first.

A parent's guilt...
 I experienced the other side's feelings when I first went to school as a parent to ask about my daughter.'s progress.  Even though I'd been teaching English for nearly 15 years, and had had meetings with parents innumerable times,  I experienced the other side's feelings when I first went to school as a parent.  It was as if her teacher was there to judge me and assess my performance. I still remember the effort I made to shake off the  feeling and be open to what her teacher said.

Many parents are likely to project themselves and their ambitions on their children while others may feel solely responsible or that they have failed completely if their children's grades or behaviour are not up to their own standards.


Approaching parents: Tips and Hints

1. Devote time at a parent's meeting and let them talk about their concerns. It takes time and effort to build a relationship of trust with a complete stranger(the teacher)  and takes even more courage to lower inhibition and confide family or any other problems that your child is facing.
2. Be the first one to establish contact with the parents. They will appreciate it.
3. Don't contact them only when things go wrong. Contact them when the child shows fast progress or has achieved an important personal goal (e.g.  Participated actively in class instead of shying away behind his classmates)
4.Accept constructive criticism and state a clear course of action to deal with any problems that have arisen.
5. Be prepared to explain briefly the rationale behind your teaching approach e.g. "I ask students to work in groups or pairs in class to help them overcome their shyness -it is easier to speak English to one or two people than in front of a whole class.
6. Don't mention only the student's weaknesses when briefing a parent. Refer to their strengths too. These - do not have to be limited to cognitive areas but can also be interpersonal or life skills. In this way, you will give them a balanced and more accurate picture of their children.

Parents can play an instrumental role in the progress of a student, either in a direct or an indirect way. It is worth investing time and effort into building a relationship of trust with them to the benefit of your students.
Dimitris Primalis