Can We Talk?: What Parents and Teachers Want Each Other to Know


Most teachers and parents recognize the importance of effective parent-teacher communication. Few, however, gleefully anticipate the actual occasions of that communication. If only we understood each other better!

A former teacher told me

"When I taught 4th grade, I got a call every night from one parent or another.

When I taught 7th grade, a parent told me, 'I won't bug you about my kid. And unless he kills someone or burns down the school, you don't need to call me either.'

When I taught high school, I never got a call from a parent about anything."

At this very moment, elementary school teachers across the country are stampeding toward their local middle and high schools.

That might be an exaggeration, of course, but the fact is that many teachers, while fully aware of the importance of effective parent-teacher communication, still dread the actual occasions of that communication. And those of us who also are parents, have found that it isn't any easier from the other side of the desk.

 When I was a young teacher, for example, a parent at a parent-teacher conference informed me that his child's parents and both sets of grandparents had advanced academic degrees. "There's no way," he bellowed, "that my child is struggling in reading." When I was a parent of a third grader, a teacher at a parent-teacher conference greeted me with a disappointed sigh. "Your son," she told me, "hasn't completed an assignment in 2 months. You need to teach him some responsibility." Neither conference was a rousing success.

I don't attend parent-teacher conferences in either capacity any more, but it occurred to me, as conference time approaches, that it might be helpful for parents and teachers to get to know each other a little better before they face offten, face each other across a conference table. So we conducted an informal survey among the teachers and parents who often serve as advisors to Education World editors. We asked, "What do you want your child's teacher -- or your student's parent -- to know before you meet?"