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Teachers’ representations of their relationships with parents Mariacristina Picchio Institute of Cognitive Sciences & Technologies National Research Council,

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Presentation on theme: "Teachers’ representations of their relationships with parents Mariacristina Picchio Institute of Cognitive Sciences & Technologies National Research Council,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Teachers’ representations of their relationships with parents Mariacristina Picchio Institute of Cognitive Sciences & Technologies National Research Council, Italy 17 th EECERA Annual Conference, 29 th August – 1 st September 2007

2 The relationships with parents in early childhood educational services in Italy A much discussed topic Involvement of the parents is a basic dimension of nido Several strategies are implemented in order to: - promoting parental participation in the life of the service - communicating about the child’s development and behavior - sharing a project on the children’s education between teachers and parents

3 Teachers’ relationships with parents Caring for them is a part of their professional tasks A crucial element in their professional identity It highlights the relational component of their professional practice: - taking into account the relational world of the children and constructing a network of good communications and relations among the various actors in the service - relations with parents cannot be established according to predetermined and rigid practices but must be continuously adjusted on the interlocutors - recognizing the culture, relational models and educational project of each family, and assigning value to them in the educational practice

4 The establishment of the relationships with parents is a complex process Cultural and emotional difficulties and conflicts can emerge Several studies have found that the relationships with parents are experienced by teachers as one of the most problematic dimension of their work

5 Aims of this study The present study is aimed at further investigating: the representations that teachers have of the parents, of their needs and their attitudes towards the educational service the meaning attributed by the teachers to the relationships with the parents and the problems they perceive in the management of these relationships in their professional practice

6 Subjects and methods About 40 teachers from 4 day care centres in the Municipality of Rome were interviewed using the focus group technique. The focus groups were organized at two assessments, before and after one year’s experience in a new type of services, Centre for Children and Parents, named Spazio Insieme I assessment June 1999 II assessment November 2000 N. of focus groups 55 N. of teachers 3845

7 Spazio Insieme A service for children (18 to 36 mo.) together with their parents A place in which children and parents can share play time and socialize with other children and parents It is operated in the nido rooms and by nido teachers During nido closing hours ( p.m or Saturday 9-13 a.m.)

8 The aim of this study was to analyse whether and to what extent the experience gained by the teachers working in direct contact with parents in the new service, triggered a process of transformation of their representations of the parent and change in their attitude in their daily work with the parents also in the nido.

9 From I assessment interviews: Parents nowadays According to teachers parents are : “more aware, more responsible vis-à-vis their role” “more insecure and incapable of providing an adequate response, at the educational level, to the needs of young children” “less capable, unable to mix with the children, we have to teach them now” Critical judgments of the parents expressed by the teachers Asymmetrical representation of the relationships between parents and teachers

10 From I assessment interviews: Changes on the parents’ demand Increasingly directed towards the educational dimension of the service and expressing a request for support of parenthood On the one hand, the teachers are gratified as they feel that their professional role is being acknowledged “They no longer see us just as baby-sitters, if they perceive the child has problems, they ask our advice“ On the other hand, teachers feel that parents exert a stronger and greater pressure on them “I have greater difficulty in accepting the children as the parent’s expectations are much higher”

11 From I assessment interviews: Teachers’ problems in their educational practice Accepting the parent and her/his needs and providing an answer The presence of the parent in defined as stranger “ Inserimento weights heavily on our shoulders. There is a request for help by parent, of help in governing her emotional levels. This is a very burdensome task”

12 From I assessment interviews: Problems in sharing a project on children’s education Teachers complain of the attitude of mistrust and lack of confidence by parents: “For example there is a mother who has always displayed an attitude of mistrust. If her child did not eat, it was because we did not know how to feed him. If he ate, it was too much, because he had a swollen stomach”.

13 From I assessment interviews: Problems in sharing a project on children’s education For teachers it was difficult to accept the educational choices and interaction styles of the parents with their children: “For example, the fact that, in the evening, parents are unable to put their children to bed at the appropriate time. So, they sometimes ask: ‘How long did he sleep at the nido? He won’t go to bed in the evening, because he has slept too long’. And I will tell her: ‘Ma’am, for a young child, one hour’s nap is not too much! For a child of that age it’s not one hour’s nap in the afternoon that stops you from putting him to bed in the evening’ ”.

14 From I assessment interviews: When parents do not respect the nido rules Teachers consider it a personal slight, as though it were the expression of a lack of respect by the parent. ”Some parents deliberately arrive late”. Teachers expect the parents to comply with and to adapt to the logic of the institution regardless of the quality of the relationship established.

15 From I assessment interviews: Conclusions The teachers had difficulties in acknowledging: Parents as subjects having needs of their own and consequently to devise strategies that can respond to these needs Parent as an active partner in a dialogue aimed at constructing a shared educational project

16 The teachers’ experience in the service Spazio Insieme A different position and role vis-à-vis the parents who immediately enter as protagonists and users of the service The teacher’s intervention is aimed entirely at promoting well-being and the quality of the social encounter between parents and children, setting up a welcoming environmental and relational context Instead of being principal actors on the scene, teachers take on a more peripheral position as discreet observers

17 From II assessment interviews: Standing “shoulder to shoulder” with parents It changes the teachers’ attitude vis-à-vis the parents “When you are in Spazio Insieme, you are often close to a parent who is near her child. You both often comment on what the child is doing and so you are able to understand their expectations and fears more fully as they express them as things are actually happening”. It changes the teacher’s representation of parents “We no longer see the parent as an antagonist”.

18 From II assessment interviews: Teachers acknowledge their own difficulties in their relationships with the parents Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity vis-à-vis parents Fears of being criticized by parents Discomfort to be observed by parents “Before, when the parent was present at the time of inserimento, I felt embarrassed, uncomfortable. I felt I was being judged for what I was doing and not doing”.

19 From II assessment interviews: Becoming visible when they work with children Teachers acknowledged that becoming visible during their interactions with the children forms the basis of building a relationships of confidence with parents “ We now admit the parents to the classroom, giving them a chance to join us, and so we give the parents also the possibility of criticizing us. This is the important fact! This relationship of mutual trust with the parents can only be built up if you give them the opportunity to see, criticize and ultimately to say “After all, however, my child is fine here”.

20 From II assessment interviews: A critical reappraisal of attitudes vis-à-vis parents in the day care centre Quitting rigid and critical attitudes towards parents “Before, the nido style was rigid. Now we adopt a different attitude to parents. Now, we manage also to establish affective relations; we have become more approachable. Now, we no longer play the role of judges, but we act as persons accessible to another person, who may have needs also as parents. Before, there were many judgments, much criticism”.

21 From II assessment interviews: Listening to and accepting the parents’ needs is a relief for parents and teachers “Before, not much attention was paid to the parents. We were the teachers, these were the rules, and that’s the way things were done. Now, by talking to the parents we manage to get the best out of them and also the best out of ourselves. I was tired of being a teacher the other way. Now, I feel I am participating more, that I am more active, more convincing in the role”.

22 From II assessment interviews: A good communication with parents It emerges from the teacher’s strong intention of finding a space and a time for it “I didn’t realize that some of the parents really wanted to communicate, to tell me what they do at home, what they do with their children. Sometimes, before, we had a thin veil over our eyes which prevents us from communicating with the parents”. “Sometimes we are unable to communicate with parents in the nido, because we haven’t given them the chance to communicate with us!”

23 From II assessment interviews: Feedback from parents The teachers perceived a significant change also in the parents’ attitudes towards them: teachers declare they feel “more respected”, “more loved”. It is interesting that this change in the parents’ attitude is described by the teachers in terms of a “feedback”, that is, an effect of their own change in the parents’ representation and in the professional practices implemented.

24 From II assessment interviews: Conclusions Analysis of the interviews has shown that, for the teachers, the experience of working in an educational service in which the parents can play a direct part and to have a direct relationship with them, proved to be extremely important.

25 From II assessment interviews: Conclusions The teachers interpreted the parents’ behaviors and needs in a new light and tried out new professional practices in the nido. They had acquired a fresh capacity to listen to the variety of needs expressed by the parents and to accept the different relational styles and parenting models without judging them.

26 From II assessment interviews: Conclusions The teachers became aware of the close relations that exist between the attitudes and the actions of the teachers towards the parents and the parents’ attitudes and responses to the teachers, and to the educational service.

27 From II assessment interviews: Conclusions They acknowledged that the quality of the relationships with the parents is not determined a priori by the institutional contract between the service and their users. It must be constructed in a continuous dialogue about children and their needs, in which the parents are active participants. Teachers’ professional task is to guarantee the quality of the interaction and the dialogue themselves.

28 From II assessment interviews: Conclusions Thanks to the experience made in the Spazio Insieme, the teachers have reshaped their own professional identity in a more complex key, assigning a central role to the relationships with the parents.


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