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Chapter 5 Dealing with non participation and resistance

ED 589 Achieving Success with Parents of Students with Special Needs

1. Relate teacher response to non-participation to characteristics/demographics of your school.

A. Non-involvement is a problem
I teach adolescents who come from predominantly broken homes at the low end of the
socioeconomic scale. Often, these single parent homes receive most, if not all, funding and
housing from state and Federal agencies. Often, the parent is not a high school graduate and
does not have pleasant memories of his or her school years. During the first round of parent-
teacher-student conferences this term, not one parent scheduled a meeting with me. Is this a
problem for me? Yes. This creates more work for me to engage these adults in the school
success of their teenagers. It has also become clear over the years that when housing and food
are subsidized and there is a social security disability check every month, the adolescent is
coming of age in a home where no one goes to work. That adds to the difficulty in motivating
the teen to regularly attend school and have goals that are different from what is evident at home.

B. Non-involvement is a blessing
When I feel drained by the daunting task of helping the most at-risk teens become students, the
absence of hovering and/or hostile parents can feel like a blessing. But my job is not all about
me, and for the reasons explored in the response above, this attitude does not serve the
adolescents on my roster.

C. Involvement is incidental to education

While I do teach in an alternative setting, I am somewhat engaged in main campus events. So
when I go to a school play or soccer game and see parents, grandparents and younger siblings
actively supporting positive extra-curricular activities, I have a glimpse of how parental
involvement fosters belonging, pride and the ability to challenge oneself. If that is true onstage
and on the field, then it certainly must hold for core content curriculum, daily attendance and
accomplishing graduation. I just don’t experience that often in the setting where I work.

2. Describe the demographics of your school or community in terms of non-involvement vs.

non participation.

While non-involvement may have its roots in parental disengagement and dissatisfaction with
their own schooling and feelings of intimidation in a school setting, non-participation may have
more to do with demanding jobs, pressing family demands or a lack of awareness about how
they can best support their child in school. In addition, the adolescents I teach may be
discouraging their parents from participating in their education. I know many instances when
letters home have been intercepted and phone messages deleted before the parent can read or
hear what the school is trying to communicate.

In my own teaching practice, I believe I encounter parents who care about their kids, but have
either given up on school or take an oppositional approach to dealing with educators because of
unresolved conflicts with teachers, counselors and administrators that go way back to the grade
school years.

3. Three reasons for parental non-participation

Chapter 5 Dealing with non participation and resistance
ED 589 Achieving Success with Parents of Students with Special Needs

1) Lack of involvement or interest may be a reflection of their own negative experiences with
school. Education does not seem relevant to their children’s future.

2)Some parents may be intimidated by teachers and school officials who they see as authority

3) Though they desire involvement, some parents are restricted in their ability to participate due
to demanding work schedules or more urgent family needs.

4. How can parents of adolescents be involved in developmentally appropriate ways?

Encourage these parents to talk to their teens about the value of school and the traits that school
fosters for teens who are willing to regularly attend and connect with the work. These traits
include personal discipline, courtesy, dependability and clarity in speech and writing-- all traits
that make a young person a more desirable employee to any boss.

Encourage parents to share the dreams they hold for their teen with that teenager as this has been
found to relate to school success (., p. 68)

Inform parents about the importance of monitoring their adolescents’ friendships and activities in
order to detect problems and take action before they become serious.

5. Describe your use or intended use principles for dealing with non-participation and resistance.

Get to know the parents: I established an event called Pizza Night with Parents that takes place
each semester. This is an informal way of engaging the parents of teens assigned to the
alternative setting with each other and with teachers. Having food after their work day is a good
incentive to bring parents into school. Usually, after they have had a chance to share concerns
and ask questions about their child, the 3 teachers can sit back and listen tight as these parents
have lively conversation about raising a challenging teenager.

Be creative I have created a classroom blog this term, http:/

Parents are invited to post responses to what their teen writes in response to literature and social
issues. To date, no parent has visited this blog. Most do have Internet at home. I will have to be
more creative in soliciting their postings.

Confront(listen): Gorman defines this type of confrontation as asking a very specific question or
two that gets to the heart of the matter and then listening to parents. I have yet to figure out how
to choose the words with precision and kindness that will open the way to hearing about how a
teen developed certain habitual patterns that are allowed at home and prove detrimental to school
success. These habitual patterns include: excessive parental excused absences since grade school
that add up to 30+ missed days in a semester and parental permission to smoke marijuana or
drink alcohol in the home.
Chapter 5 Dealing with non participation and resistance
ED 589 Achieving Success with Parents of Students with Special Needs

Help parents participate I have learned over the years to be flexible in setting meeting times. I
have met parents before work in a local coffee shop and made home visits. I have sent email and
even registered letters to the home to let parents know the time, place and purpose of a meeting
in succinct and simple language. I have often found myself in the role of social worker or
counselor, working the telephone to find resources for a family or a parent in seed of agency
support to meet basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and safety.

6. Approaches to avoid

Pressuring parents to meet or participate in other ways can harden an already defensive or hostile
attitude even further. This could result in a power struggle or a total breakdown in

Blaming parents or expressing disapproval of their parenting is a simple recipe for disaster. No
matter how poor I think their parenting might be, unless the parent is abusive, under the
influence or threatening, there is never a good time to express blame or negative judgment. That
is best left of outside agencies or high level administrators.

Making dire predictions about the future of a disengaged and unsuccessful child to the parent is
another sure way to eliminate any good will or trust that might exist.