Teachers: Ipshita Chakladar (science), Gerry Skinder (English and WEA president), Chris Kurhajetz (social studies department head), Sharon Martin (math), John Fleming (transition program and Excell), DJ Prowell (special education)
Parents: Mikie Ulwich (PFA president), Maria O’Connor, Diane Cipro, CC Cordeiro, LouiseVan Gelder
The goal of our first meeting was to open lines of communication and to establish guidelines that will enhance understanding between Winchester High teachers and parents. While teachers are encouraged to attend PFA meetings, the general feeling was that discussions within a smaller group might be more conducive to an honest exchange of concerns, issues, and perspectives. The hope is that we will be able to find ways to work on important issues together and provide suggestions/recommendations to parents and teachers that will help to facilitate improved relationships and a productive learning environment.
As a group we decided to focus on two of the “hot topic” items that the PFA had solicited from its members.
The first topic pertains to the perception that students and/or parents can not or should not speak directly to teachers over concerns for fear of retaliation. Furthermore, the statement was made that retaliation”… is under-reported and creates a culture of adversary relationships, fear, intimidation and stress for our students. Our students are becoming passive against the injustice.”
Parents shared various alleged comments from class room teachers as examples of retaliation. Teachers voiced the conviction that we, as a group of committed educators, are here “because we want to be here and want to be supportive of students”. Both teachers and parents discussed frustration at receiving emails with inappropriate tone, and parents shared their frustration with not having emails returned. Parents also expressed frustration at not receiving other expected forms of communication, more specifically, edline reports.
The PFA-Teacher group was able to come to agreement that the perception that students and/or parents could not safely communicate with teachers is a perception that is extremely counter-productive to good relationships and to the educational process in general. We also agreed to move the discussion away from “retaliation” to a discussion about tone. It is important for educators and parents to be circumspect with tone. Teachers want to receive valuable parent/student imput directly, rather than have parents go directly to administration. Having direct lines of communication enables the parties to avoid confusion, misinterpretation of language or intentions, and/or development of inaccurate assumptions. Both parties felt that there is important work to be done to address these issues.
Our teacher group agreed to bring these concerns over tone, communication, and perceptions to the general faculty and to try to engage in brainstorming options to help improve relationships with the parent community. We will begin this process in next Tuesday’s faculty meeting. At least one member of the teachers’ group will also be at the next PFA meeting to collect any other hot topic items.
Another question that was raised at this first meeting regards expectations of academic rigor: “How are teachers collaborating to ensure that rigor is consistent across the same content-level-grade?” This is also a question that seems to warrant further discussion and brainstorming.