Emily Hargroves Professor of Education, Harvard University
The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other
In her hugely influential 2003 book, The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Ed.D., chooses an unusual term to describe the relationship between parents and teachers: “natural enemies,” inevitably adversarial because a parent’s view of their child is highly subjective, intimate, protective, and very loving, whereas a teacher’s view of the same child is more distant and dispassionate, balancing the needs of individual students with the development of the classroom community. While both are striving for “the best interest of the child,” what that means for each can produce conflict and distrust. Together with what Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot labels the “ghosts in the classroom,” the “generational echoes” of autobiography, culture, class, identity and values, these dynamics, and others, create powerful forces that shape the quality and tone of parent-teacher encounters.