The 2017 Beijing International School Expo (BISE) has brought a host of opportunities for parents who are looking for the best education for their children. As many moms and dads sifted through the information for more than 60 schools and kindergartens, as well as over 20 after-school institutions, others gathered to listen to different lectures about various educational issues and strategies.
One of the most important but underestimated issues about a child’s educational growth is about the dynamic nature and relationship of parent-teacher communications.
To provide insight into the topic, beijingkids convened a panel of six distinguished academic professionals:
– Mr. Yew Yi, Principal of Primary School at Beijing Huijia Private School;
– Mr. Brad Nitschneider, Elementary Program Coordinator and sixth grade homeroom teacher at Hyde Academy, Beijing;
– Ms. Lara Ronalds, Curriculum Coordinator for Innova Academy;
– Mr. Daniel Smith, Primary Assistant Head and Year 5 teacher at British School of Beijing, Shunyi (BSB, Shunyi);
– Ms. Evelyn Lucero, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator at Beijing International Bilingual Academy; and
– Ms. Meghan Dickie, Grade 5 teacher at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB).
Vanessa Jencks, managing editor of beijingkids, moderated the event. The six educators first weighed in on the importance of parent-teacher conferences or meetings and their effect on parenting and teaching strategies. Yew Yi explained that these meetings should be built upon the foundation of trust and respect from both sides, while Nitschneider added that mutual trust would be developed through consistency.
Speaking of consistency, Jencks asked the panelists about the issues surrounding regular communication. Smith pointed out that parents and teachers should have cultural understanding since there is a difference between educational and communication strategies employed by teachers of various nationalities, as well as perception of parents from different countries.
Yew Yi added that WeChat is taking over the communication space between parents and teachers more than any other medium. He said it is important that schools put up policies and regulations so as not to intrude into individual privacy as well as to have a direct and action-directed approach to children’s academic issues.
The topic on the use of WeChat went on to parents’ “secret groups” where they discuss gossips and grievances toward schools. Nitschneider compared gossip to children’s misbehavior. He explained that educators and administrators should handle parents’ grievances through three points: clarity (i.e. clearly getting on the issue), compassion (or approach it as any other parent will do), and action (based on school policies and parents’ feedback).
Jencks pointed out that there’s a difference between a teacher’s perspective and a parent’s perspective regarding solving grievances or issues. Ronalds discussed that in China, language barriers and inexact translations on mediated communications play a big role in either a lack of understanding or getting the wrong messages across to both parents and teachers. She suggested that both sides should examine issues from a different perspective.
Dickie, on the other hand, said that receiving feedback from a number of parents from different cultures can be taxing but is important when creating strategies and solving issues. Nitschneider said that translated messages are still different from direct communication. He also said that aside from the perspectives of teachers and parents, it is also important to try and see things from a school administrators’ perspective and, ultimately, from the child’s point of view.
“Is it all right if parents direct grievances to school administrators,” Jencks asked the panelists. Yew Yi said parents have the right to do so, but administrators should bring them to the right person — the teachers — to deal with the matter.
On opportunities for conflict resolution, Nitschneider gave two points: fact-finding and fault-finding. He said emotions will also be involved when resolving conflicts (in terms of fault-finding) and it will always be difficult to get facts (not necessarily as objective as hard or scientific facts), but he challenged parents, teachers, and administrators to think about what they need and what do they want. Lucero said all sides should work together as “one team and one family” to find solutions and not just complain.
Ronalds said that while teachers and parents are supposed to work as a team, all the solutions are always directed to parents. She explained that parents can judge how to use these solutions for the benefit of their children. Smith added that communication is two-way, and that teachers are always keen to hear from parents to help children grow.