The role of the family in a child's education is crucial, and research lines highlight the impact of the relationship between the family environment and the child's educational outcomes.
Studies have shown that 70.63% of children's development is influenced by the family, and children's school adjustment is smoother when the school-family partnership is strong and present, influencing it by 74.47%.
"Parental presence can transform school culture." S. L. Lightfoot
Fear is an instinctive feeling that has ensured the survival of the human species since ancient times for mankind. Fear also has an immense capacity to freeze thoughts and limit constructive intentions to make a change or to evolve in a certain area. People's fears may be different, but their reactions to them are often similar.
From rigidity in communicating openly what you think, to physical states that could harm your body, to conflict and crisis situations. All of these can arise when fears gain more and more ground, are not communicated, understood and managed.
Often fears are accompanied by anxiety and stress, as psychologists point out, and the first step in managing them effectively is to be aware of them, then to understand, communicate and find support in resolving them.
Fear inhibits the relationship between school and family
Michael Thompson, The Fear Equation, 2008, talks about the fears that parents and teachers might have in an educational context.
Triggers for fears that parents often face
1. Being a parent is often challenging
Parenting is inherently difficult and no one is an expert in this vast field. Every parent is always experimenting and trying to get better at raising and caring for their child. Once in school, there are a lot of challenges and situations that challenge parents.
2. The child's behaviour at school reflects the parents' mistakes.
This line has circulated a lot in social media, and it is obvious that parents' mistakes in child-rearing are exposed through the child's behaviour at nursery, school or peer group. All parents know that they have made mistakes with their children, but they don't always know in what way these mistakes were made or how they manifest themselves. By identifying this fear, parents may understand that it is natural to make mistakes and behaviours can change, especially for children.
3.Parents are often caught between love, hope and anxiety.
Every parent often feels a mix of feelings between hope, love, fears and anxiety. Parents are very vulnerable when it comes to their children. They want to show them and give them as much love as possible, they hope that they will do their best, but at the same time there are a lot of fears.
4. Teachers know more about children than their own parents.
It may be hard to believe this fear, but teachers do sometimes get to know a pupil very well, through behaviours other than those a parent sees at home. As children grow up and become more independent, they do not reveal all facets of their personality to their parents. When they become teenagers, they may voluntarily or involuntarily hide different aspects from their family, either because they feel they have grown up and don't want to tell everything, or because they prefer to talk to friends about things.
5. The influence of teachers on children is huge.
Teachers have a huge power over children's futures. Because teachers often spend many hours of their day with their children, they also have a huge influence through the different actions and behaviours they display around their students.
As Michael Thompson says, parents are aware of the power of teachers, because as children they had teachers who had an impact on them in a positive or negative way. One psychological fact is when parents talk to their child's teacher, but they feel feelings that connect them not to this teacher in the present, but rather to a teacher from their own past.
6.Choices about the child's education.
Choosing the right school is one of the biggest challenges for families. Among parents' biggest fears is this, the fear that they will not choose a good enough school for their child. If they are not part of a large city with multiple choices in terms of education providers, be it formal or non-formal education, there are concerns among parents about making the best choice for their child's education.
7.In the relationship with the school, professional experience does not help them.
Every adult is getting better and better in terms of professional experience, but this experience does not always help in relation to the child's school education.
Parents value their professional skills in their dealings with teachers, even though they may not be relevant in all school situations. While, as outlined above, parents may sometimes come to their child's school feeling anxious and fearful, they will naturally reach for the skill sets that make them successful in the world 'outside' school.
All of these sources of fear, and more specific ones, are latent in every parent. And schools and teachers should be empathetic, trying at times to understand parents who have deep concerns about their child's environment, relationships and future. Parents should not forget that schools are places that encourage collaboration, communication and openness, and here too are teachers who have their own fears.
Triggers for fears that teachers often face
1. Being a teacher is often challenging
The field of education is a complex and wide-ranging one, and the job of a teacher is a challenging one, whatever the level at which they work or whatever the environment in which they work. A Stanford University manager said there are three allied professions: medicine, education and agriculture. All, he says, involve bringing out the best in biology. The doctor is trying to get the body's strongest immune response, the educator is trying to increase children's desire to learn, and the farmer is trying to get the best fruit from the seeds he plants. A farmer can be very good, but as in any season, there can be too much rain, or too little, or an unexpected insect infestation.
There are too many variables to predict that a farmer will always produce a good crop. The same is true of yield. Most teachers prepare as well as they can for their work with students, they invest a lot of resources, but learning depends not only on them, but also on many other conditions, one of which is parental involvement in education and the family environment the child has at home. Thus, it would be good to dispel the myth "If the pupil doesn't learn, the teacher doesn't teach", so often encountered in society.
2. Teachers are almost always seen by parents through the distorted lens of children.
Teachers are always seen by parents through the eyes of children, through what they tell at home about the teacher, transposed through their own experience. Very often, this subjectivity of transposition may not be very consistent with some of the real issues. That is why knowledge, communication and teacher-family collaboration is essential. Parents should not only get to know the teacher through the children's stories, but it would be ideal for them to get to know each other much better face to face and be connected all the time.
3.When the child succeeds, teachers rarely get credit for it.
If you teach well and effectively, it's not always the family or those around you who are grateful for it. All teachers have felt this at some point and probably needed a simple "Thank you!" or even a warm smile. Researchers have been saying since ancient times that a teacher's effectiveness is also influenced by the appreciation they receive from those around them, let alone their parents. Of course, there are plenty of factors that support student performance, but a healthy family-school partnership can be crucial.
4. The current status of the teacher in society.
Perceptions of the teaching profession have suffered greatly over time. Teachers are not sufficiently respected in our culture, which increasingly affects their work in the classroom.
In a report by the Institute for the Future of Education on the Global Teacher Status Index
, it is pointed out that society underestimates the status of the teacher, especially in terms of actual working hours. In addition, cultural factors play a key role in the perception of the teaching profession. Countries such as China, Russia and Malaysia, see the educator at the same level as a doctor, while in Argentina and Peru, their level is seen as similar to that of a social worker, the data shows.
The 2018 Global Teacher Status Index also showed a strong relationship between teacher pay and PISA test scores.
5. Fear about conflictual relationships with parents.
As in any human interaction, communication is both a complex and fragile pillar, so inherent conflict situations can arise. Every teacher has experienced at least one difficult conflict situation at some point in time. This can be a serious source of fears about the relationship with the family.
As far as this fear is concerned, the literature has a huge range of studies, research and recommendations, including:
Experts at Cornell University - Centre for Teaching Innovation, have noted six key actions for conflict resolution:
6. Parents can influence the dynamics of a teacher's relationship with the school and even their career.
Closely related to the above point, which addresses conflict situations, we also highlight teachers' fears about the influence parents may have on school managers, and that their own jobs may be at risk as a result of these conflicts. Like to believe it or not, but this really is the source of a major fear, the fear of losing one's job. Not only that, according to the talk of society - "the customer is always right" - in the minds of many teachers, parental influence can cause them to lose their jobs.
7. Fear of not being understood by parents.
Good teachers see the world through the eyes of adults and also through the eyes of children. To teach you have to be and behave like an adult, but also be able to identify with children's feelings. This unique ability of teachers can sometimes put them at a disadvantage when dealing with people who only see things through an adult lens. There are times when teachers do certain actions thinking from the student's perspective, and for the benefit of the student or the class they lead. Sure, there may be times when families can't empathize and understand certain issues. This is a source of fear that teachers may constantly feel.
Data also shows that young children thrive when the adults in their lives understand and support them at every stage. For this reason, it is important that the adults around them cooperate and work for the well-being and harmonious development of children, but also for the overall atmosphere of the child-family-school relationship.
Both parents and teachers have their own fears and vulnerabilities, which is perfectly normal. However, it is essential for them to be aware of them, to try to manage all these fears and to create a solid alliance between them for the common good, but above all for the good of the child.
How can teachers and parents move beyond their mutual fears?
Once again, the importance and role of family involvement in the child's education is clear. The first step is awareness of this need and immediate action by decision-makers and school managers, who have the main role in creating the basis for this solid partnership. A very important step is to identify and communicate the expectations that both parents and teachers have. Schools need to train teachers to work with different types of families, providing specific training in dealing with tense or challenging situations. Teachers trained in this way will feel more courageous, more competent and, as a result, will be able to be more honest and more effective in dealing with parents.
"If we want to find our way back to each other, we need empathy." Brené Brown
Brene Brown's research shows us that those who have the courage to break through fear, shame and accept that they are imperfect people can come to terms with vulnerability and be happy! "The most surprising finding, to me, is that fear is not the most important barrier to courageous leadership. In fact, the bravest leaders we interviewed told us that they are afraid every day. The biggest barrier to courageous leadership is not fear, but how we react to fear: armour gets in the way," says Brené Brown.