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What's ther to talk about?

Posted By: Dick Schutz on September 13, 2005
Both “teachers” and “parents” are a heterogeneous group. And “communication” is a “catchall” term. Recall the classic line from Cool Hand Luke, where the Warden tells Luke after his prison escape, “What we have here is a communication problem.” One could say that about almost any personal interaction. Kids and parents have communication problems. Supervisors and employees have communication problems. Husbands and wives have communication problems. People at the UN have communication problems

The Psycho-Educational Abstractions (PEA-talk) in which professional educational discourse is couched is not conducive to productive teacher-parent conversation. Parents say they don’t understand the talk, when there is really nothing there to understand. PEA-talk lubricates professional conversation, while permitting professionals great latitude in their operational behavior, but it’s neither Street-talk of everyday conversation, or Tech-talk that grounds professional discourse in other sectors.

Cross-out all the PEA-terms, and the talk becomes pretty much tongue-tied. With the measures of instructional accomplishments similarly ungrounded (Psychometrists and teachers also have communication problems.), that doesn’t leave too much left to talk about except for student or parental shortcomings. (No teacher is going to say, “Ya know, I’m just not teaching your child very well, and no one in the “system” from top to bottom can tell me how to do it right.)

Of course, there are exceptions, but there are good reasons on both sides for avoiding teacher-parent conversation. Communication, as Ehly recognizes, does require time. This time requirement could be minimized if those higher in the Ed-chain would also take some responsibility for the communication and give both teachers and parents something to talk about. But as usual, the buck starts and stops with the teacher. And in today’ climate, with teachers valiantly attempting to avoid the AYP guillotine, there isn’t time for sound instruction, let alone “parent communication.”

There are operational steps that can be taken that indirectly promote and encourage parent-teacher communication. These involve providing teachers the means by which they can reliably deliver generally-desired instructional accomplishments—accomplishments that are transparently visible without going through all the loops of “Standardized Tests.” These means are arrived at through the D of R&D. Technical Development in education has all-but been eliminated, but there are a few “shelf items” available and more in the pipeline. These product/protocols incorporate opportunities for parents who wish to do so to take an operational role in the instruction, and they include information mechanisms about the instructional accomplishments being attained for all to observe with their own eyes.

Efforts to “change people” directly-- teachers, parents, or anyone else—is a hard row to hoe. Providing people the product/protocols to do what they aspire to accomplish, and thus indirectly change what people do has had a much better track record. Might be worth a try in education?

Dick Schutz
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 What's ther to talk about? by Dick Schutz on September 13, 2005
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