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Helping Parents Communicate Better With Schools (page 2)

By — Harvard Family Research Project
Updated on Mar 8, 2010

Communicate Even When There are Different Cultures and Backgrounds

Even when parents and teachers speak the same language, they may come from very different backgrounds and have different beliefs and traditions. One African-American mother feels differently from the teacher about the importance of music and dance as a part of her daughter's education. It is important to share your views with your children's school.

Many teachers want more information about a child's family, the family's beliefs, and what happens in the child's life outside of school to help them understand the child better. But some teachers are afraid to ask families about this, or feel too busy. Some teachers may end up guessing about what is happening with the child outside of school.

  • Share your beliefs and values if you feel comfortable. One mother feels that children should not be sent on to the next grade if they are struggling with learning. She explains that in her country, children are not promoted until they are ready. When her own children had difficulty learning, this mother found out about the school's policy about promoting children to the next grade, and made sure to share her own beliefs with the teacher and principal. The school respected her wishes.

Choose the Way That's Right for You

In addition to attending parent-teacher conferences, parents can visit the school, chat after school or by phone, or ask another person to pass along information. There are many different ways for parents to communicate with teachers about children's learning. It's important to find the way that's right for you.

The Role of Teachers and Schools in Communication

To do their job better, teachers need to know about the child's life outside of school. Some teachers schedule conferences that fit in with parents' work hours. Offering child care or transportation when possible would also make it easier for parents to come to the school. Schools that greet visitors warmly or open a parent center make some parents feel more comfortable and welcome in the school. Some teachers call parents at home. Some teachers also write notes to parents, or send home information about the child with other family members. Finally, some teachers and schools provide translators and celebrate the diverse cultural backgrounds of children and their families. Teachers and schools can do many things to make communication with families easier. It's important to tell your child's teacher the ways of communicating that work best for you.

This Early Childhood Digest, produced by the National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education of the Office of Educational Research and Development in the U.S. Department of Education, is based on information from the School Transition Study, sponsored by the MacArthur Network on Successful Pathways through Middle Childhood and conducted, in part, by Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP). It is also available in Spanish.

About Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP)

Since 1983, HFRP has helped stakeholders develop and evaluate strategies to promote the well being of children, youth, families, and communities. HFRP's work focuses on early childhood education, out-of-school time programming, family and community support in education, complementary learning, and evaluation.

Visit www.hfrp.org to access hundreds of resources with practical information for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.

© 2007 President & Fellows of Harvard College. Published by Harvard Family Research Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the publisher.

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