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Bridging the Gap Between Home and School:
Guidelines for Parents and Teachers

from Gifted Parent Groups:  The SENG Model
by James T. Webb, & Arlene DeVries, Gifted Psychology Press, 1998.



Recognize that home and school have different goals, tasks, situations, and constraints. Schools focus primarily on academic preparation, secondarily on socialization.  At home, the focus is primarily on socialization, secondarily on academics.


Both are very important in their long-term effects on gifted children, through of the two, homes may be more crucial.  The ideal is for both to work together, to avoid conflicts, or to bridge gaps.


Misunderstandings, differences in expectations and disappointments can usually be avoided if parents become involved in the school functions early and continually. Parents, making yourself known to teachers, principals, guidance counselors, etc. early and frequently is important.


Parents should offer to help teachers, librarians, etc. in ways that benefit all children, not just "gifted" students.  Avoid appearing elitist. Gifted children's educational needs are often different, but gifted children are not necessarily "better."


Support school efforts to plan for able children.  Help to interest the PTA and the school administration/school board in the topic.  Support study groups on gifted children and similar cooperative endeavors. Ask if parents can attend school in-service programs on gifted children.


Parents, make periodic gifts of books, articles, or tapes about gifted children to the teacher, principal, guidance counselor, or librarian.


Parents and teachers must not give the impression of pushing or exhibiting a child, but should continually strive to give the child whatever he or she needs to reach his or her potential.


Teachers most often fear or expect that parents of gifted children will be "unguided missiles" and critically demanding of special favors for their children.  Parents most often fear or expect that teachers will not understand and will retaliate on their children. Rarely is either one true.


Teachers are increasingly more informed about gifted children and their special educational needs, but are also often hampered by the constraints of the educational system within which they work and by their responsibilities to the other children they teach.  The search for solutions to school problems must start with the realities of the classroom, in the same way that solutions to home problems must start with the realities there.


If a problem seems to exist between home and school, first consider that what the child tells you is that child's perception. The problem may be with the perception rather than with the situation.


Parent-teacher consultations are strongly recommended. Not only do they allow sharing of information and avoidance of being manipulated by the child, but they also promote building of a focused alliance to stimulate the child's achievement and self-concept.


Define concretely for yourself what you hope to accomplish in the parent-teacher meeting(s), and begin to formulate a specific plan for achieving those goals.


Prior to your conference, evaluate what NEW information you have and consider how your information might differ from what the teacher or parent knows about the child.  Seek to SHARE observations and information.


How much of your information can the other use constructively? Will your information demonstrate a pattern, promote understanding, or evoke compassion? Or will it frighten the other, lead to unhelpful behavior, or disrupt the relationship with the child?


Express understanding of the other person's feelings and viewpoints in the situation.  Attempt to engage the other as an ally rather than as an enemy. Be sensitive to the other possibly feeling invaded.


Avoid blaming. Recognizing that most persons do not act out of malice, but rather they drift into problem situations through oversight, lack of information, or by attempting to handle too many responsibilities.  Only rarely is there a teacher or parent who just doesn't care or who is actively malicious.


Avoid trying to bludgeon insight or your point of view into others. It does not work and only results in resentment and hardening of positions.


Initially, ask for the other's overall perceptions of the child - how the child is doing and what the teacher's or parents's plans are. This allows you to learn where you are starting from and may bring some pleasant surprises.


Parents, give teachers professional respect in your approach, even if you must disagree at times. Teachers need support also. It is important that you not appear to be attacking the teacher's ability or character.


Teachers, parents need to feel genuinely listened to and respected, rather than like intruders or insignificant figures in the lives of their children. They are only seeking what is best for their children from their points of view.


In your conversations, avoid saying "What are YOU going to do about ....?" Instead say, "What can WE do about ... ?


In sharing new information, start with those parts most likely to fit with the other's perceptions and which will tend to build a common base from which to begin.  Actively seek the other's opinions.
Ask what the other thinks about each new piece of information.


Gradually share more information as the conversation progresses. Avoid dumping all of your complaints or new and different information onto the other. Instead, after each major piece of information, check to see you this fits with the other's perceptions or beliefs about the child or the situation.


Receive new information from the other as openly as possible, and ask questions in a spirit of curiosity rather than defensiveness.


When making a point, give examples and data rather than just general opinions.


If you have data from an outside expert, remember that this can often be quite threatening, since it tends to imply that the other is wrong. Try to present such information in ways that allow the other to not lose face.


Focus on solutions or attempts at problem-solving that are in small steps, measurable in outcome and achievable. Avoid broad, sweeping generalities, such as "improve self-concept."


Always attempt to give an alternative when making suggestions or recommendations.


Emphasize ways which show that working jointly is clearly preferable, and that it will make teaching or parenting easier or more enjoyable.


Try to come to agreement on some specific joint action plan, even if it represents only a partial solution, or to meet again.


If agreement is not reached or is only partially reached, do not insist on a definitive answer right then. Give the other person time to think and reflect on the new possibilities or new data.


Follow up the conference with a brief letter of appreciation confirming your understanding of the issues, information and actions that are planned by each.


It may be wise to involve the guidance counselor, principal, or others in the parent-teacher conference, though this can leave one or more people feeling as though they have been ganged-up on. Realize that administrators must be supportive of their teachers, at least in public, but they are typically also quite sensitive to concerns by parents and other members of the public.


Sometimes conferences do not work. Know when to give up trying to build a bridge or to change a situation. Instead, the focus may have to be on coaching the child to cope, building a safety net, or moving the child to a new class or new school.


Most of all, keep on modeling active problem-solving for the child!