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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Parent Involvement & Immigrant Engagement: How Can Teachers Form Healthy Relationships with Parents?

Parents are one part of a teacher’s job that teachers are rarely prepared for.  This research contends there are four components that every teacher must employ, if a collaborative relationship is to occur:  diplomacy (dealing with people in a sensitive way), support (giving comfort and emotional help to those who need it), empathy (placing oneself in the role of another), and reflection (an idea about something, especially one that is written down).  Policy recommendations are given to help fill the gap between parents and teachers that so many educators feel in their teaching lives, and hopefully help teachers work with parents more productively.

It is my goal with this research to help guide teachers in how to build a relationship with students’ parents that is collaborative and beneficial to all parties:  student, parent, and teacher.  For all intents and purposes of this work, “parent” will refer to any primary caregiver that has contact with the teacher and is “in charge” of the student.  This research question came about after I had several unpleasant experiences with one particular parent in my classroom and I needed to figure just what was going on and how I could make it better.  As it was getting increasingly more difficult to work with this parent, I decided I needed to reflect on my own practice, in order to make sure I was doing everything I could to facilitate a healthy relationship with this woman.  This research is critical to helping both those teachers who are inexperienced, as well as those who are experienced to work with parents, while also maintaining the integrity of their work.

Since the mother that inspired my research is a single mother, it was important for me to rule out the notion that she was challenging me simply because she was a single mother.  To this end, I chose two more single mothers in my class to focus my research question on.  Here, I could examine my interactions with all three mothers to find patterns; my largest goal at this point was to make sure I treating each mother with equal amounts of diplomacy, support, reflection and empathy.  The following tables were created to help code interactions with the three moms included in this study.

Mom F






Email, 9/6:
“We assessed J. today in reading and she moved up to level ‘R.”  We’re so proud of the hard work she has obviously been doing.”

Email, 9/11:
“We’d love to schedule a meeting so we can talk about your concerns.
We are available after school from 3:00-3:15, Monday-Thursday in the
mornings from 7:30-7:45, and on Friday mornings from 8:15-8:30.

Journal Entry, 9/17:
“It seems like everything I do with/for this woman is not good enough.  I am beginning to think that this isn’t so much about me, but about her need to exert power over me.”

Phone call on 12/20: 
“I just want to let you know that I understand your concerns about middle school for J.  Granted, she may not get into all of the middle schools you are both applying to, but that does not mean there is not a place for her in this world.  She will find a middle school that fits her just right.”


Barbara Golub

Research Focus:
Parental Involvement & Immigrant Engagement

TNLI Affiliate:
New York City

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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