Ineffective communication between parents and teachers can be a major obstacle
when trying to solve problems with students, but fortunately it can be
Let’s first examine the two major causes of communication
dysfunction. Teachers judge the parents of their students all the time. They
judge them based on students’ language, hygiene, dress and social
Parents judge teachers, too, based on comments from their
children. “What did you lean in school today?” is usually followed by,
“nothing.” Sometimes children accuse teachers of being unfair, picking on them,
being prejudiced or a myriad of other questionable treatments.
and students constantly judge each other and the source of their judgments are
kids, often with a vested interest.
Good kids want their parents and
teachers to like each other. Troubled students want the opposite. Many children
can, in their eyes, benefit from animosity between parents and teachers, and
play one against the other. This is a dysfunctional form of
The second problem is called “dumping.”
ineffective, frustrated or angry teachers call parents about their child, they
tend to “dump” the problem in the parents’ lap.
They describe the offense
the child committed, and demand that the parent do something about it. This is
no more effective than a parent calling a teacher about a problem at home and
asking the teacher to fix it.
Parents “dumping” on teachers is also
common. They claim the teacher is responsible for a child’s bad grades, bad
behavior or bad attitude. They demand that the teacher must change. In Israel,
parent dumping is growing, reaching dangerously high levels. They have too
little respect and belief in the professionalism of teachers.
parents and teachers blame each other and make unreasonable demands, the one who
suffers the most is the child.
Blame creates no winners and lots of
PARENTS AND teachers have the same goal, and therein lies the
remedy for these problems. Both want the best for the student.
the child from parent/teacher communication process can alleviate much of the
I don’t mean that children should be left out
totally. There is certainly an important place for the child to be part of the
process. But there is also a place for teachers and parents to build a
relationship of their own. Both need to talk directly to each other.
suggest the three-call method for teachers.
As early in the year as
possible, teachers need to call as many parents as possible, hopefully all of
them if their load is small enough. The purpose of the call is to welcome the
parent into the learning community and to establish a positive communication
“Hello Mr. Curwin. I’m David’s teacher. I just want you to know how
happy I am to have David in my classroom this year, and to let you know that if
any problems should occur, I’d be happy to talk with you so we can work together
to make things better,” is an example of the type of call I suggest.
second call is to tell the parent something good the child has done. Stay away
from superficials like dress and focus on behavior, improvement and quality of
work. These calls are not meant to be a calculated strategy, but rather to open
communication and show the parent that the teacher notices good things as well
Only after these calls have been made should the teacher call
about a problem, not before. In this way, parents and teachers have already
established a trusting, workable relationship that significantly diminishes
Parents, too, can help communication.
They can inform
teachers of things happening at home that might affect student behavior; a
pending divorce, serious illness, birth of a new baby, a change or addition of a
medication, a parent on an extended trip abroad are all examples of information
that can help teachers.
Children who strongly object to going to school,
hate a certain subject, are being bullied or have too much homework are other
helpful things to discuss with teachers.
The second major change in
communication is to stop the dumping and blaming on both sides. These tactics
help no one, make the other party defensive and prevent finding possible
Say things like, “Since we both care so much about David,
let’s work together to find a way to improve things.” Become a team, not
adversaries. Share your perceptions honestly. Tell the other what works at home
or in class and what doesn’t. Work out a plan of action to try, and be flexible
enough to change it if it doesn’t help.
Deflect accusations by not taking
them personally. “I understand why you might feel that way, but what we really
need to do is find some solutions that we both can agree to. I’d like to hear
your ideas,” is better than, “That’s not true, and your son is not being
truthful. I’ve never done that.”
Setting up effective communication and
forming a team are very powerful tools in helping children be successful in
Children spend most of their time in home and school. When
teachers and parents are allies and teammates, their combined influence on
children is very powerful, indeed.The writer is the co-author of
Discipline with Dignity and author of
Meeting Students Where They Live, and a
professor of education at David Yelling College in Jerusalem.