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Reasons for Poor Communication Between Teachers & Parents

by Shelley Frost

Effective communication between home and school improves student learning and creates a positive support system, but that relationship between parent and teacher takes work on both ends. Without intentional effort, many families feel left in the dark and teachers may feel like they lack support from home. Identifying the barriers to communication can help you reconnect with your child's teacher to create a more positive educational experience.

Unknown Expectations

Teachers vary in their methods of communication, frequency of contact and how personal they want to get with families. Parents also vary in how involved they want to become with the school. If neither the parent nor the teacher pushes the communication or expresses their expectations, both parties may stay silent. Parents sometimes feel they are taking up too much of a teacher's time with frequent communications. Teachers may assume a parent who doesn't initiate contact is uninterested or doesn't have any issues to address. If the teacher doesn't set forth her expectations and preferred methods of communication, initiate the step yourself. Asking questions about how you should contact her with an issue, when you'll meet for conferences and how you can stay in touch with classroom happenings can help overcome this communication barrier.

Attitude

A negative attitude from one or both parties often negatively affects the relationship between home and school. If the teacher looks at parents as a nuisance or a time waster, the parents are likely to pick up on the attitude and limit communication. Likewise, if all communication from the teacher is negative, the parent won't look forward to contact from school. Parents can give off an unapproachable attitude that causes teachers to hesitate. If the parent is defensive or argues about the teacher's methods, the communication lines can also close. Positive attitudes and mutual respect support strong communication between home and school. Focusing on the child helps both the teacher and the parent realize that they both want the child to succeed in school.

Language Barriers

A family whose native language isn't English typically has more difficulty communicating with the school. Both the parents and the teacher may hesitate to communicate because of the language barrier. When communication does take place, it is possible that either the parent or the teacher will misunderstand what the other says. Some larger school districts -- or those with a large population of students from a particular country -- employee interpreters to translate notes and conferences into the native language. If an interpreter isn't available at the school, parents may have a friend, family member or acquaintance who can interpret.

Lack of Presence

Parents who drop their kids off and pick them up each day are likely to see the teachers frequently. Stay-at-home parents may volunteer in the classroom. Working parents often don't have time to stick around and chat or drop their kids off at a child care program at the school. The lack of contact between parents and teachers often makes it difficult to communication. Phone calls, notes and email messages open the lines of communication between home and school even if you aren't physically present.

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