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.
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 BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved