The Communication Requirements of Democratic Schools: Parent-Teacher Perspectives on Their Relationships
by Debra Miretzky — 2004
Research on parent-teacher relationships tends to relegate parents to visitor roles in schools and to reinforce student achievement as the primary goal of parent-teacher relationships. This article argues for the recognition of the importance of talk among parents and teachersboth as a research methodology and as a desirable outcomein creating and sustaining democratic communities that support school improvement. The study described used a qualitative approach that incorporated interviews and focus groups in a participative inquiry. Individual interviews with fourth through eighth grade teachers and parents determined the issues to be explored first in separate and then joint focus groups. Teachers and parents together discussed issues such as defensiveness, communication, and alliances. While parents and teachers did not espouse "democratic communities" per se, the values they expressed as importantinvestment in the school community, direct and honest communication, trust, mutual respect and mutual goalsall reflect the "communication requirements" of such communities. Parents and teachers may routinely frame the meanings of their encounters in terms of the children they have in common, but it appears that what they look for from each other is clearly connected to what they need for themselves as people who share a community that reflects democratic values.
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