The home dynamics for all children are usually multifaceted and complex. Some children experience more difficulties due to family circumstances while others have more positive experiences regardless of family circumstances. No matter the dynamics, children’s actions reflect those circumstances (both negatively and positively) throughout the school day.
As the Parent Liaison, you have the unique opportunity to get to know both the student and the parents’ context. Your insight can help “break the cycle of immaculate perceptions” that educators often have about particular students and their behaviors. By examining and reviewing the example below about Jamal, you may see more clearly how misconceptions affect a student and how you might aide in minimizing preconceptions and misconceptions about students and their families.
Cycle of Immaculate Perceptions
Before you examine the comments in each box about Jamal, think about these basic concepts:
There are four basic functions of behavior (why children do what they do)
- To seek attention
- To avoid attention or escape a situation
- To obtain a tangible or access an item (i.e. they want to use the computer)
- Automatic reinforcement or sensory stimulation (such as rocking back and forth, rubbing one’s arm after falling)
Misconceptions(Immaculate Perceptions) about Jamal
Now reflect on how you might respond when involved in this type of conversation. Think about your role as Parent Coordinator/Parent Liaison. Use these prompts to examine how your role might mitigate or lessen misconceptions:
- Getting to know the child.
- Getting to know the parents/family.
- Providing accurate information about the family.
- Providing a safe space for the family to be involved at school.
- Do you know the student?
- Have you made contact with the parents?
- What do you know about the family dynamics?
- Are you able to share this information with the teacher?
What are your thoughts on addressing the assumptions?[reference the above diagram]
Being a Parent Coordinator/ Parent Liaison, your role may sound self-explanatory. However, knowing how to work with parents and what your limitations are may not always be clear. As you develop your role and responsibilities for working with parents, keep these ideas in mind:
- You are a Cultural Broker: someone who is bi-cultural or multi-cultural (has the ability to understand and navigate in more than one cultural type). This person is well immersed in two or more culturally identified groups (i.e. ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, single-parent homes, neighborhoods, etc.).
Being an effective Parent Liaison also means being an effective Cultural Broker. Knowing the cultural dynamics of your school, community, and neighborhoods and using that knowledge in a way that will contribute to and foster healthy relationships between home and school is the heart of being an effective Parent Liaison and Cultural Broker.
- You provide Mediation. The following scenario may illustrate your role as Cultural Broker and Mediator:
<Amy Davis is the Parent Liaison for Crossroads Elementary School, and has been working closely with Ms. Cummings, the school principal, to gather familial information on a student who is at-risk of being suspended. Ms. Cummings would like to meet with the student’s parents but has not had great success in having meaningful and respectful conversations with them. The parent’s interaction and experience has had a very negative impact on them. Amy feels that she will be able to make a difference this time as a cultural broker and mediator. She requests to meet with the parents first, on neutral ground in their own community.
Her meeting consists of providing the parents with the tools needed to navigate the education system and the norms that are expected when dealing with other adults in a professional situation. Key to Amy’s success was sharing her understanding and empathy as a parent and acknowledging that it is sometimes difficult to be objective when dealing with issues involving our own children.
The parents had the opportunity to share their frustrations and receive coaching from Amy, who subsequently shared this information with the principal. The Principal was thus able to better understand their perspective and to have time to think about how to approach the situation with a more optimistic attitude. Once both parties were better informed about the other, the meeting was a success!>
Reflection: How does this apply to your current role at school? The key to the successful partnering between parents and educators at schools is the Parent Coordinator/Liaison. You must own that power and influence. Share your insights with staff to enable them to alter any immaculate perceptions, broaden their lens and establish meaningful relationships with parents and their children, who are students in the classrooms at school. Model best practices and teach strategies to inform and empower staff, even the most seasoned teacher. Help them challenge implicit bias regarding the students and diverse families within the school community. The value you hold for educators, parents, and the entire school community, is immeasurable. Always use your powers for good!