Many teachers do not question the fact that they have a shared responsibility with parents for educating children, despite anecdotal evidence that this division of power can be problematic for both parties. Academic research has done little to help bridge the gap between parents and teachers; until relatively recently, it explored the motivation for parents and teachers to work together in separate studies (Jacobs, 2008). This belief seems to have infiltrated society as many teachers and parents are not yet fully used to viewing collaboration as two interwoven strands coming from different points of origin to create one common end – the education and development of their children.
The problem for teachers is that we often experience two extremes. At one end we struggle to engage parents who show little interest in their child’s education and at the other, we can feel vulnerable and even under attack from the omnipresent eye of parents who demand high levels of involvement. What can we do as a profession to navigate our way between these two extremes and build mutually supportive relationships between teachers and parents?
Successive governments and educational professionals have benefited from an increase in evidence of the beneficial impact to children’s learning from having positive partnerships between school and home. Indeed, Wherry (2010, p. 10) maintains that ‘building parent trust in your school is a prerequisite for student achievement’. Furthermore, Bryk & Schneider (2003) found that when school trust levels were high, so was student achievement and inversely weak levels of trust was significantly linked to poor academic performance. But there remains an imbalance between the numbers of studies exploring teachers’ motivation to enlist the support of parents compared with studies looking into parental motivation for involving themselves in their children’s education. Perhaps this is political and plays to a larger proportion of the electorate. Even so, scholars have still to reach a consensus on what motivates teachers to enlist the support of parents and as Jacobs (2008) states, ‘unless we know teachers’ perceptions of the utility of parent involvement, our picture is incomplete’.