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The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other Hardcover – August 26, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0375505270 ISBN-10: 037550527X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037550527X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505270
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On the surface, this book is about that most ordinary of human encounters-the parent/teacher meeting-that takes place more than 100 million times a year, usually in uncomfortable, undersized chairs. Beneath the smooth surface of this mostly polite exchange, according to Harvard education professor Lawrence-Lightfoot, lurk ancestral ghosts and ancient psychological themes, a turbulent mix of fears, anxieties, drives and biases that both parties bring to the table. Add to this the vectors of race, class, gender, culture and language, and you have a set of complex and passionate dynamics that often have as much to do with the adults' desires and needs as with those of the children. Parents and teachers have a lot to learn from each other, says Lawrence-Lightfoot, and these essential conversations are a crucial if neglected aspect of children's educational success. As in her previous works, Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools and The Good High School: Portraits of Character and Culture, Lawrence-Lightfoot draws readers in with elegant prose and carefully drawn narrative portraits. Curiously, she does not feature any male elementary school teachers; their inclusion could have made the discussions of gender and power even more thought provoking and complex. But this is a minor shortcoming in an otherwise significant and thoughtfully rendered exploration of a social ritual many adults commonly experience but seldom examine. Anyone who has ever sat through a parent/teacher conference, on either side of the tiny table, will find much to consider in these pages.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

For every parent who has ever suffered the anxiety of a parent-teacher conference, this book is an incredibly honest and insightful look at the undercurrents in this essential relationship between a child's parents and teachers. Lawrence-Lightfoot, Harvard professor of education, explores the dynamics at work in the parent-teacher conference, from the subtle institutional barriers that make parents feel unwelcome to the defensiveness of teachers who feel their competence is being challenged. The author draws on her own experiences as a student and a parent as well as narratives from an economic and racial cross section of parents and teachers. She begins by exploring the reverberations of the parents' and teachers' own past experiences as students and how that experience haunts the present. She explores often unacknowledged or even unrecognized psychological and social factors, including the different dynamics at work in conferences at poor inner-city schools versus wealthy suburban ones. Lawrence-Lightfoot also offers much useful advice here for both parents and teachers on achieving the cooperation needed to reach the common goal of educating children. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard and the chair of the board of the MacArthur Foundation. As a sociologist, she examines the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, socialization within families and communities, and the relationships between culture and learning styles.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I bought this because because every teacher needs some help working alongside parents. I have yet to have a class (undergraduate/graduate) where we have been taught how to collaborate with parents. This is not a list of what to and what to not do with parents. Instead, this book shares many personal accounts of both teachers and parents.
As I work toward my doctoral degree, I will remember this book as a text in my teacher-training classes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Olivia Brown on March 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an educator, I have recommended this book to everyone. It is so important to consider what each of us brings into a conversation about; our children and their education; parent/teacher relationships; and conducting classrooms where everyone is included!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By william r gentner on May 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book promotes the idea that teachers and parents should be in a relationship based on the well being of the child. Leaving open the idea that it is up to each individual teacher to create the most effective way for the communication to develop. Great suggestions and some basic core principles about how to establish healthy connections with parents.
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