14 SES 12 A, Home-school-community Links
School entry of the eldest child constitutes an important transition not only for the child, but also for the parents, who have to adopt a new role as participants in their child’s school education (Dockett & Perry, 2007). This is a key moment of negotiation of roles and identities restructured around the child’s school entry. Since educational research has established the important contribution of the quality of family school relationship for academic achievement (Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Patrikakou, Weissberg, Redding, & Walberg, 2005), school and families are nowadays strongly called to build a relation of partnership, even of coeducation (Rayna, Rubio, & Scheu, 2010), especially in an aim of equalisation of school opportunities for minority families’ children as for children from migrant or low income families (Kherroubi, 2008). However, some critical educational researchers (e. g. Périer, 2005) have stressed that this call for partnership paradoxically tends to increase rather than reduce the distance between school and minority families, since it is easier for families already close to school culture to adopt the partnership codes and practices.
In an ethnographical study supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), we investigate in a suburban Swiss school how the relationship between the school and the families builds up in its very first moments. We consider this relationship as largely resulting from communication processes taking place in the interactions between teachers and parents, notably their everyday interactions (Ogay & Cettou, 2014). Since this relationship brings together the school and the family cultures, which can be more or less distant and therefore facilitate or complicate the construction of the relationship, we analyse these communication processes in an intercultural communication perspective (Frame, 2013). In this contribution echoing that of last year about the role negotiation between teachers and parents, we investigate especially the issue of the initiation of the interaction between parents and teachers during their informal interactions along the child’s first school year. Who takes the initiative to interact? How? At what point? On what subject? How do parents and teachers see their roles in initiating the interactions?
Parents and teachers build their relationship largely during their face-to-face interactions. Communication from school to minority families can be sometimes very unidirectional and prescriptive (Conus & Nunez Moscoso, 2015). Yet, reciprocal communication would reinforce parental involvement, collaboration between parents and teachers and the possibility of implementing a relation of partnership (Epstein, 2011). The perceived quality of their interactions is a major factor in the building of trust between parents and teachers (Adams & Christenson, 2000). Several researchers stress that teachers have an essential role in initiating a bidirectional communication, especially with minority families (Dumoulin, Thériault, Duval, & Tremblay, 2013; Miller & Petriwskyj, 2013). Nevertheless, Delay (2011) notes that the teachers’ discourse generally tends to remain largely focused on encouraging parents to take the initiative in the interactions with teachers, which appears much easier for parents close to the school than for minority parents. Lott (2001) denounces a discourse letting the sole responsibility of the initiative in the communication to parents as just the best way for the school to blame them afterwards for their lack of collaboration. Our communication aims to investigate further the link between the issue of initiative taking in interactions and the building process of the family school relationship.
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