Trusted school leaders are advocates for all school stakeholders (i.e., faculty, staff, students, parents, and administration). They value and model healthy, open relationships fostering positive and supportive interactions between stakeholders. Trusted school leaders know that advocating for all stakeholders results in a higher quality educational experience for students and a positive environment.
Research provides large amounts of evidence that when parents and teachers frequently communicate positively, the benefits to the child’s educational experience are tremendous. However, research also shows positive parent-teacher communication is lacking for many.
According to a poll in Instructor Magazine, asking “educators to name the one thing they would like to tell national policymakers about the most effective way to raise student achievement. The answer given most frequently was ‘more parental involvement.'” Those same teachers prioritized and valued parent involvement above: smaller class sizes, increased teacher control, power in the school, and even more important than promoting student responsibility.
Other research has suggested there must be a multifaceted approach to building positive parent-teacher-student relationships. The following practices are identified as being essential:
- Assisting families with parenting skills
- Recruiting and training parent volunteers in the schools
- Involving families in their children’s academic activities
- Including families on committees and in other school organizations
- Working with community agencies and businesses to provide resources to parents and strengthen school programs
- Communicating with families about school programs and student success
For these essentials to be effective, schools must first close the many gaps that divide faculty and staff demographics from those of the families they serve. Closing the demographic gap is especially true in urban public schools and international school settings. Cultural, socioeconomic, educational, and ethnic barriers must be identified, understood, and intentionally addressed.
Unfortunately, there is both a perceived and very real struggle to empower parents’ role in their child’s education in many communities. Schools sometimes post signs such as No Parents Allowed Beyond This Point to reduce the involvement and challenges of operating an open campus. The signs may be necessary to keep disruptive parents from endangering the campus’ emotional and physical security, but they also clearly communicate a power structure.
The concept of a school giving parents power is also at odds with what we know is best in students’ emotional and familial development. It should be the parent who empowers the teacher and school, rather than vice-versa. School leaders who embrace and communicate this worldview develop a greater level of trust – parents view these school leaders as compassionate through their understanding of the parent’s role and the family’s centrality.
When school leaders define the appropriate level of parental involvement within the school, they must determine their school’s philosophy regarding the parents’ role. Some schools view parents only as supporters of the learning process. Others view them solely as consumers of the school’s educational products and services. Still, others see parents as completely independent of the school.
However, the philosophy which trusted school leaders embrace, and which the research supports as most helpful to students, views parents as responsible for their child’s educational career and fellow participants and partners with the school. School leaders who demonstrate this belief and advocate for their role develop greater trust levels with those parents.
©Toby A. Travis, Ed.D. All Rights Reserved
- Marzano et al., School Leadership That Works
- Lee Canter, Parents On Your Side: A Teacher’s Guide to Creating Positive Relationships With Parents Second Edition
- Kimberly S. Adams and Sandra L. Christenson, “Trust and the Family–School Relationship Examination of Parent-Teacher Differences in Elementary and Secondary Grades,” Journal of School Psychology 38, no. 5 (2000): 477-497.
- Carol Vincent, Parents And Teachers: Power And Participation
- Graham Daniel, “Family-school partnerships: towards sustainable pedagogical practice,” Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 39, no. 2 (2011): 165-176.