Various Patterns Of The Propensity For Teacher-Parent Dialogue


This research is about the complicated relationships between teachers and parents. The research checked if there is connection between stories of teachers about their interactions with teachers and parents - as a child, as a parent and as a teacher. The researchers tried to fine if there is an influence of these interactions stories and theirs initiatives. Initiatives try to promote good relationship and communication between teachers and parents. The relationship between teachers and parents become more complicated in our days. The primary theoretical base that binds parents - school collaboration's influence on a child's achievements and adaptability is Bronfenbrenner's (1986) ecological-developmental model. The model attributes the child's growth environment with great effect to his development. As the different systems surrounding the child provide him with ample opportunities for learning and development, his development will be improved ( Downer & Myers, 2010 ). Epstein's theory deals with correlating influences in the pupil's life and the importance of the partnership between home, school and community, integrating educational, social and psychological perspectives (Epstein, 1995, 2001). Initial responsibility for children's development and their education lies with the parents ( Cory, 2005 ). The 1948 declaration of human rights endowed parents the right to influence their children's education ( Beatie, 1985 ). School and home cannot function as two separate, independent units, as cooperation must take place ( Horowitz, 2000 ; Klein & Yavlin, 2008 ). The Israeli Ministry of Education had stated that teachers and parents must cooperate ( Troan, 2004 ).

Keywords: Teacher-parents relationshipinteractioncommunication


The research was carried out as part of professional development course for senior teachers. The starting point for formulating initiatives was taking responsibility and being proactive as initiating teachers and educational leaders. As part of the course, teachers developed initiatives to promote good communications with parents. The teacher-parent discourse is based on exposing pupils' parents to a holistic and high quality picture both from their children's personal and social perspectives and not just matter-of-fact reports dealing with their achievements and grades.

Literary Review

The need for partnership between parents and teachers is born with children's entrance into the education system. This is the stage at which parents, on whom initial responsibility for their children's development and education is placed, are pushed aside. Or, this is when the shared responsibility between parents and the education system is created (Greenbaum & Fried, 2011). However, this shared responsibility is open to many varied interpretations and implementations. Chaotic post-modern reality undermines the status of teachers and schools. Many parents 'carry' unpleasant memories of nursery school and school that affect their relationships with the education system (Katzenelson, 2014). This causes parents to lack belief in the system and be defensive parents whose motto is: "They won't do to my children what was done to me". In the era of social networks and online communications, parents find it difficult to accept and respect boundaries. The parental challenge constitutes, today, a heavy and wearing burden on teachers, who find it difficult to cope with belligerent parents who see themselves as customers of the system and demand service (Oplatka, 2011). It can be said that the education system was not prepared for changes that have occurred in parenthood. While teachers are supposed to possess professional abilities and high levels of sensitivity that will allow them to provide every pupil regardless with positive feelings (Cory, 2005), however in practices - they often struggle to cope with this challenge.

The principal theoretical basis for cooperation between families and schools and between children's achievements and adjustment is Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological-developmental approach. According to this approach, the environment in which children grow up has a decisive effect on their development, the more systems operate in coordination, so is it better for children. Lack of coordination and conflicts between systems are detrimental to children's development.

Teachers are responsible for creating partnerships and communications with parents (Gur & Zalmanson-Levi, 2005). Therefore, teachers need to broaden their professional identity and include this responsibility therein. This refers to qualifications and skills that are not structured within teacher training. Teachers' professional identity is tested through a study of the practice, the worldview, self-image, social image and more (Elbaz-Luwisch, 2007; Rodgers & Scott, 2004). The narrative paradigm helps examine various components of their identities and the way in which they are acquired, structured and directed at individuals' functioning (Riessman, 2008). One of the recognized means of understanding the school experience, both of children and educational staff is personal narrative (Schatz-Oppenheimer, 2008).

Our narrative is the story of our lives, expressing identity, society and culture, but at the same time giving them structure (Spector-Marzel, 2012). The possibility given to teachers to tell about their professional work grows their professional identity and at the same time, teaches about ways of structuring it (Beijaard & Verloop, 2003; Tzabar Ben-Yehoshua & Dargish, 2001). Acts of teaching reflect teachers' personality. They bring into the teaching sphere, teachers' personal histories, views, experiences, beliefs, values and cultural norms. Stories are a type of examination of teachers' scenery; on the one hand, they allow tellers to structure their identities and on the other, researchers can expose identities and examine personal, biographical, socio-cultural and professional-practical components in teachers' stories (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999). Teachers' professional stories allow researchers to learn about their professional identity components and how they build them.


Phenomenological qualitative research deals with examining the essence of experience. The researchers collected the narratives of three teachers, studying on courses to develop communication initiatives with parents to achieve the grade of senior teacher. The process of gathering data is focused on transcribing a group discussion, after the meeting and the group discussion, the teachers wrote down the narrative circles they had related in the group and affiliated their needs to developing initiatives for dialogue with parents.

The story is the significant unit in data analysis. In this research, the stories of three teachers are presented as meta-narratives. Each meta-narrative contains three stories. Before us are nine narratives analyzed by subject themes around an axis of three circles:

  • Childhood circle - memories as a child, experience of encounter as a child with parent and teacher.

  • Parenthood circle - experience of encounter, as a parent, with their child's teacher.

  • Professional circle as a teacher - experience of encounter with parent, as a teacher.

The narratives and initiatives emerging from them were analyzed on two axes: personal and professional. The personal aspect will present the narrative of teachers and their insights by looking for meaning from a meta-narrative point of origin (Bruner, 2003). Another point of origin refers to the professional aspect and is based on the ecological approach, according to which it is essential that systems surrounding children will cooperate so as to provide them with the best conditions in which to grow and develop (Bronfenbrenner, 2001).

Data analysis was based on theory anchored in the postmodern field from Clark's (2005) school. Causative analysis is based on three generic situational maps representing post-modern views of people's situation in society:

  • Situational maps - what is the area of the phenomenon

  • Social world maps and social arenas

  • Positional maps - finding some type of order in abstract conceptualizations in critical viewing regarding analyzing and breaking down balances of power in society and culture (Shimoni, 2016).

Ethics - teachers were guaranteed complete anonymity. The research topic and aims were revealed to them. Teacher's names are false.

Findings and Analysis

The findings and analysis chapter is arranged according to the three meta-narratives. For each one of the three meta-narratives, first the childhood circle will be presented together with its analysis according to the three mapping points. This will be followed by the parenthood narrative and its analysis and finally the narrative and analysis of the teacher's circle. At the end, a description of the initiative and it context as an educational initiative will be presented.

Sarit's narrative - Sarit is a drama teacher at an elementary school in central Israel

Sarit: "When I was in 3rd grade, we moved apartments from the city peripheries to a prestigious neighborhood. I was a successful child with lots of self-confidence and I wasn't afraid of this transition. As soon as I arrive at my new school, the teacher asked us to watch a television program dealing with a subject we were learning and was broadcast at ten at night. My mother became very annoyed over this both because she didn't think the subject was appropriate for such young pupils and because of the late hour. She decided to come and express this to the teacher: 'Children of this age should watch children's television programs and go to sleep early' - she said to the teacher. The teacher got very angry and from that moment I felt that her attitude to me was negative. I felt that she harassed me. I suffered a lot at my new school and lost my confidence. I felt lost and alone".

Situational mapping: This refers to an event that turned into a conflict because neither the teacher nor the mother was endowed with the talents needed to carry out a respectful dialogue. The mother chose to come out strongly against the teacher and expressed her opinion about the teacher's demands. The teacher, for her part, saw her words as illegitimate criticism. In the eyes of the child, it was a harassing experience that hurt her greatly, "...lost my confidence. I felt lost and alone".

Childhood circle - mothers have eaten sour grapes

World mapping: The teacher's radical reaction derived, it appears, from her approach in which parents have no right to interfere in learning contents and the view that the "new" mother in the neighbourhood, who did not appreciate the teacher's striving for achievements, as not being legitimate. It seems that the clash here was on the basis of three components: (1) Professional - invading the teacher's judgment concerning learning content and the hour that learning was supposed to happen. (2) Social-status - from the teacher's point of view, how did a new resident in the neighbourhood dare express her critical opinion to a veteran teacher educating the next generation. (3) Moral - different perceptions of excellence and achievements. It appears that the new school operated according to the model espoused by homogeneous schools. According to this view, pupils can only fully exploit their learning potential if they study with other pupils at a similar level to them without being disturbed by pupils who are not similar (Mevorach, 2008).

Positional mapping: Moving from a neighbourhood with medium socio-economic standing to another with high standing, exposed a cultural gap between the parent and teacher. One side is likely to feel that it is being patronized (Katzenelson, 2014). It is possible that the teacher at the new school was ambitious and competitive. The mother, in contrast, saw her nine-year-old daughter, who was unable to stay up late and who, in her opinion, did not need to be exposed to difficult contents. The results of the meeting, from the child's point of view, was that she was greatly harmed, when exposed to the implications of the teacher's critical approach and hostility.

Parental circle - the correction

Sarit: "When my son was five, his kindergarten teacher asked me to have him tested because he was impatient at had attention and concentration problems. As a teacher, I was aware of the importance of testing. At diagnosis, it transpired that he had the highest level of attention and concentration. I understood that this wasn't the problem, and I suggested to the kindergarten teacher that I, as a professional drama teacher, would voluntarily teach drama and music at the nursery school. The teacher was happy to accept my offer and hence I could demonstrate to my son how important and how much fun it was to cooperate and listen. As a result of these encounters, he changed from a naughty disruptive child to the nursery school's star. The kindergarten teacher was pleased because she got help, and I felt that I had corrected my experience, because I found a way in which we all benefited from the process".

Situational mapping: Many parents expressed opposition, anger and offence when it is suggested that they have their child tested. Good communication and a supportive ecological environment, according to Bronfenbrenner (1986), between parents and teacher or kindergarten teacher, is an essential condition to helping a child. While responsibility for creating good communication is placed, first and foremost, on teachers, parents too have the opportunity to contribute much to the success of this link. Sarit is endowed with the skill and ability to be attentive, in a way defined by Buber as empathic communications that has the ability to hear the subjective reality of the kindergarten teacher as well (Avnon, 2008).

World mapping: The refers to an encounter between two systems: kindergarten and teacher on the one hand and home and mother, on the other. For Sarit, as a mother, it was important to find a way to help her son. She identified aims common to her and the teacher: to help the child.

Positional mapping: Sarit remembered as a child, that conflict between the two systems, school and educational institution, damaged her a lot. She understood that creating a partnership between home and the educational institution, coming from solidarity and empathy would be best for all. Research literature shows that children benefit from the fact that between home and school, respectful reciprocal relations and open communication channels exist based on acceptance and enabling a basis of trust and partnership (Noy, 2014).

Teacher's circle - empowering new immigrant parents

Sarit: "In time, when I became a drama teacher at the elementary school where I had studied, I knew that I would behave differently! One day a mother approached me, a new immigrant, and complained to me with great sorrow that her daughter felt very alone in close and that the homeroom teacher did not relate to her. I identified greatly with the daughter and the mother. The daughter sang beautifully and I decided to recruit the parents to a musical we were presenting at school. The mother and father, who were professional musicians, accompanied the musical and their daughter sang the lead role. The show was spectacular. As a musical family, they contributed so much to an artistic show at a high level and earned many compliments and recognition".

Situational mapping: A pupil, a new immigrant feels "...the homeroom teacher ... harasses her and doesn't see her daughter's good qualities and talents". The pupil's experience was that the teacher did not like her. The parents felt hurt because they were new immigrants and according to Gur and Zalmanson-Levi (2005), the fear of being stereotyped, judged and patronized by the homeroom teacher prevented them from approaching her. Approaching the music and theater teacher was easier and natural for them as musicians.

World mapping: According to Gur and Zalmanson-Levi (ibid), most models describing the link between schools and parents maintain, whether unconsciously and without evil intentions, schools' power over parental power. Sarit, using her power, as part of the system, in order to welcome the family and allow it to participate in a key school event, in significant roles and thus earn recognition and a sense of being part of the school. According to Adler (Dreykus, 2000), one can cope with conflict and a sense of being foreign and rejected through creativity.

Positional mapping: Sometimes, using the word parents blurs different identities of parents and separates them from their symbolic and cultural capital (Gur, Zalmanson-Levi, 2005). Sarit, as someone whose childhood memories formulated her worldview, sees the parents' identity as a whole, and not just as supporting learning and achievements.

Sarit's initiative: The happiest play in the town

Sarit: "As a drama teacher, I developed an initiative in which parents are partners, together with pupils and teachers, in a school theater project. Rehearsals take place at school during the afternoon and are funded entirely by the school. All pupils and parents who are interested in participating in the show are invited to take part without cost or auditions. Everyone is accepted. Cooperation between parents and pupils is experiential, without the pressure of homework or tasks. Appearing together adds to the positive adrenalin and bring parents, children and teachers closer".

Sarit's initiative meets many needs of family links not met in daily routines. This contributes to developing pupils' self-confidence and sense of emotional protection. Many parents work so that their children lack nothing, but do not open their world to their children. Children need their parents as they are: their personalities, emotions, to recognize their dreams and enthusiasms. This initiative encourages sensitivity to investigate the world in which they live, their worlds, their essence using their vocal chords and eyes, a look and a smile (Cory, 2005).


The three narratives presented above demonstrate that the teaching profession is a practice interwoven with many and varied emotional experiences. Empathy emerged as the second thread in almost all the stories in all the circles, and as such one can reach conclusions about the enormous importance of empathy as one of the factors molding the relationships between children and adults and between adults - teachers and parents - themselves. Good teaching means pedagogy and feelings (Oplatka, 2017). Weinberger and Bakshi-Brosh (2013) emphasized the importance of empathy in interactions between teachers and pupils, and the responsibility of teachers to express it. One can add that this empathy is also needed both in the relationship between teachers and parents and parents and teachers. One can identify empathy in Sarit's stories - both as a mother who revealed support and understanding of the kindergarten teachers' difficulties and as a teacher when she demonstrated caring and sensitivity to the family of a new immigrant pupils who was struggling to find her place at school. Sarit herself linked here emotional and professional reactions to a painful childhood experience she carries. This perception underpins the broad conceptual infrastructure that empathy, both for themselves and for parents and pupils, is one of the fundamental qualifications of teachers and nurturing it should be a central purpose of teacher training programs and professional development programs for educational personnel. This argument takes effect in light of the criticism of educational policy and educational aims in the current century. The choice to deal with childhood memories from one's school days derives from the fact that it is possible to refer to these memories as a reflection of individuals in society and the place they hold in it and the way in which they operate in it (Aruas, 2004).

The initiatives chosen by teachers teach us about a significant process and the way in which teachers can go as a result of encounters with narrative circles in their lives. Connecting teachers to their experiences from a retrospective point of view, expanded their ability to sense and understand their emotions, axioms and beliefs, some of which are subconscious, and influenced how they related to the topic. Combining teachers' broadened perspective and giving intrapersonal and interpersonal communication tools and skills constitutes an important stage in expanding teachers' emotional qualifications. This integration enables producing movement from automatic perceptions to the ability to choose an approach and means of coping consciously and from an empathetic, not judgmental position. Another significant layer is teachers' giving up power and control struggles. Instead, to look for the ability to establish dialogic communication and try to sign a partnership covenant between responsible adults in children's environments, which are committed to providing them with the best possible conditions for their education and growth.

It seems that at the declared level, there is agreement in the education system in among teachers with regard to the importance of including parents in school. However, in practice, there are great difficulties turning parents into partners.


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28 June 2018

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Teacher, teacher training, teaching skills, teaching techniques, special education, children with special needs

Cite this article as:

Chen, S., & Letzter, I. (2018). Various Patterns Of The Propensity For Teacher-Parent Dialogue. In V. Chis, & I. Albulescu (Eds.), Education, Reflection, Development – ERD 2017, vol 41. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 814-821). Future Academy.