The Language Barrier: A Handbook for Parents & Teachers: A Handbook for Parents and Teachers
Ask employers about bringing PTA to the workplace. Some parents aren't sure they have anything of value to contribute. They feel intimidated by principals, teachers and PTA leaders. These parents may have had unpleasant experiences when they were in school, or they may have limited education.
Extend a personal welcome to parents who appear to be withdrawn or uncomfortable. Learn about their interests and abilities.
Actively seek opportunities for hesitant parents to use their experience and talents for the benefit of the school. Everyone has something to offer. Don't Know How to Contribute Barrier: Some parents feel they have talents but they don't know how to contribute them to the school or the PTA. Don't wait for parents to offer to help. Conduct a talent survey. You can then figure out ways to use the many talents parents possess. Not Understanding the System Barrier: Many parents don't understand the system or how to be involved at their children's school. Help write a parent's handbook covering rules, procedures, where to find answers to typical questions.
Be sure to include phone numbers of people who can answer questions. If possible, include pictures of staff and PTA officers and contacts. Childcare may not be provided at PTA and school functions. At the same time, parents may be discouraged from bringing their children to events. Find an available room in the school for childcare. Ask PTA members to volunteer to baby-sit on a rotating basis. Hire students in family life class to care for children at after-school or evening meetings.
Research and understand your PTA's liability. Provide safe, quality childcare. Parents for whom English is a second language may not understand newsletters and fliers or speakers at meetings. Have printed materials translated-English on one side, another language on the other. Ask the school to assist in providing an interpreter at workshops and meetings.
People talk about common courtesy, but courtesy is not common; it is culturally determined. American manners can embarrass or offend parents from different cultures. Meetings can conflict with religious observances. Work to increase everyone's awareness of and sensitivity to all cultures represented in your school. Learn about and be sensitive to other cultures' values, attitudes, manners and views of the school community. Know the religious holidays and observances of all groups in your school.
Lack of transportation or access to parking at the school during school hours keeps parents from visiting with the teachers and volunteering in the classroom or on committees. Work with the school to mark a block of spaces in the parking lot where appropriate "for visitors only. Hold small group meetings in places that parents can easily get to, including homes. Bus parents to special evening events following regular school routes. Parents may feel they are not welcome in the school.
Many parents have met a principal or teacher who sends the message, "Parents need not interfere. Burnaby and Sun report in their research that Chinese teachers mentioned that "many of the activities common in communicative language teaching seemed like games rather than serious teaching. Thus, some Chinese teachers feel that they are not really teaching when they use such activities, and they expect the students to complain about them" p.
Burnaby and Sun's research compares Chinese and Canadian contexts of English teaching. They report the views of 24 Chinese People's Republic of China teachers of English on the appropriateness and effectiveness of "Western" language-teaching methods for use in Chinese situations. Their interview data show that Chinese teachers are constrained by government-controlled curriculum, traditional teaching methods, large class size, scarce resources, and pressures of examination.
These teachers appear to see that on the one hand, communicative methods are suitable for the contexts and purposes of use in English-speaking countries. On the other hand, Chinese methods are suitable for the 39 purpose and context of learning English as a foreign language in China. Harvey states that "understanding the grammatical framework of a language is extremely important for speakers of very different languages. However, grammar should never be taught as an end in itself but as tool to be used in communication Rao, Additionally, learning grammar provides an essential basis on which to further develop the learner's communicative competence.
The data show that many participants of the study felt that ESL classes provided them the opportunity to relax and relieve some of the tensions of other classes, as well as many opportunities for active participation. However, some other participants felt their ESL classes were not cognitively challenging and stimulating.
She reports that some students found the project method used in ESL programs interesting and useful in creating opportunities for them to learn technological and social skills. Yet others felt it was an overwhelming method that left them without close teacher-guidance. These students felt bored and frustrated because they did not feel they learned enough considering the amount of time they spent on this way of learning.
For example, Gunderson in press argues that whole language, as an extremely complex model of language learning developed by teachers, "would appear to be a pedagogical phenomenon uniquely imbued with mainstream North American cultural features. They wanted a skill-based curriculum, much homework, and teacher-centered instruction. Anderson interviewed thirty parents selected equally from three cultural groups—Chinese Canadian, Euro-Canadian, and Indo-Canadian in Vancouver.
He finds that Euro-Canadian parents were much more supportive of an emergent literacy perspective whereas Indo-Canadian and Chinese Canadian parents "unanimously These parents rejected invented spelling, which is a norm in Vancouver elementary public schools. In these studies Chinese parents' views about teaching and learning are not monolithic; there is variation, though they share many of the views of other groups of immigrant parents about ESL programs. In another context, Ghuman and Wong interviewed 34 Chinese families in 41 Manchester, England, to ascertain their views on various aspects of their children's education and schooling.
Ghuman and Wong find that Chinese parents viewed education as a central part of their children's life. This attitude is clearly represented by the following comment by a Chinese food take-away restaurant owner: I encourage my kids to study as much as they want, it does not matter it they are sons or daughters.
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It doesn't cost much to send them to school or university. I only ask them to help me during weekends. On weekdays they have to go to bed at 10 p. Education is more important. These parents valued education highly, wanted more homework for their children, and preferred a stricter regime in schools.
These parents interpreted self-discipline and informality in the British school as being too lax and ineffective. They also find that the 'lack of respect' within the English education system presents a worrying concern for the parents rooted as they were in their cultural norms. Similarly, the Chinese American parents also reported their grave concerns about the lax discipline in the schools, lack of moral education, poor mathematics training, and insufficient homework Lee, Again, Salzberg conducted ethnographic interviews with eight Taiwanese immigrant families in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada, in order to examine the attitudes of parents toward the ESL learning program.
Her findings show that parents were not satisfied with the holistic learner-centered approaches prevalent in Canadian schools. They also expressed discomfort with the overly long periods most students took two to three years spent in ESL classes without clear external markers for achievement or criteria for advancement. Salzberg's data demonstrate that parents were anxious to mainstream their 42 children as they believed second language learning was delayed through separate ESL classes.
For example, one mother questioned: If they were put in with regular students, wouldn't they catch on naturally?! Kids learn so quickly from each other.
Breaking Down Barriers to Communications between Teachers and Parents
If there are so many students and only one teacher [in ESL], then of course they learn slowly and then the time they spend in ESL is so long and then they are going from one class to another and saying, 'it's so easy, so easy Salzberg's work clearly represents the perceptions of Taiwanese immigrant parents on education and ESL learning. These perceptions are bound up with culturally engendered notions and values that seem to clash with those experienced in the host country.
The Taiwanese immigrant parents who were interviewed tended to prefer greater use of testing, more intensive homework tied to material frequently tested, and a concept of the teacher as disciplinarian, urging students to greater academic progress as measured by such tests. How do ESL teachers perceive immigrant parent's concerns? Interestingly, although there are many cross-cultural studies 43 on parents concern over the academic achievement of their children, there seems to be no qualitative studies that focus on the interpretations of ESL teachers' perceptions of immigrant parents' concerns.
Gougeon , in the first phase of his study of the relations between urban schools and immigrant families, conducted interviews with 27 teachers in one school in Alberta, Canada. His analysis of interview data suggests that, from the teachers' point of view, Chinese parents were distrustful of the Canadian school system.
They were suspicious about the lack of discipline, and lack of national entrance exams. They were confused about the significance of credentials, and confused about Canadian style of teaching and learning. According to one teacher, "I think they [ESL parents] may feel very disappointed with the Canadian system. Gougeon's data analysis shows that the teachers were aware that many immigrant parents criticized the laxity of the host country school system and teaching styles. Such a Canadian study is highly relevant for the present study which focuses on the perspectives of ESL teachers and parents.
In sum, Ghuman and Wong's study examines the Hong Kong Chinese immigrant parents' views on various aspects of their children's education and schooling in England. Gougeon's work represents teachers' perceptions of ESL students, of their parents, and of the school systems in Alberta, Canada.
Salzberg's research reveals recent Taiwanese immigrant parents' perceptions of their adolescent children's ESL learning and academic achievement in British Columbia, Canada. There appears to be no study that examines both teachers' and immigrant parents' beliefs about language education and communication, nor investigates the interaction between ESL teachers and parents about 44 language education and communication. The research conducted by Ghuman and Wong, Salzberg, and Gougeon reveals the complexity of the views of parents and teachers, as well as the difficulty of negotiation.
Gibson's interview with teachers in one California high school reveals that many teachers believed that "success in even the slower-paced mainstream classes required at least a 6th grade command of English" p. Vancouver School Board states that "the acquisition of a new language is a long, gradual, complex and social process" a, p. Learning a new language takes a sustained effort. It is believed that in general, students take from one to two years to develop sufficient basic interpersonal communication skills BICS to converse in everyday social situations.
Learning a new language is also complex. A survey of ESL programming in Canadian schools Pieronek and Chuter, shows that teachers believed that ESL programs helped language minority students acquire proficiency in the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing within the shortest possible period of time.
Teachers also believed that ESL classes helped students acquire basic study skills and socialize into North American school cultures, which were fundamental to their continuing education in Canada. ESL teachers are encouraged to use "interactive techniques" and "group or individual self evaluations," and to conduct "learner-centered" activities in their classrooms Brown, ; Nunan, This section of the review indicates that Chinese parents' notions and values related to their children's education, such as what constitutes academic achievement, teachers' and parents' responsibilities, and students' role in their learning, represent the parents' beliefs which are based upon their Chinese cultural background and experiences.
Owing to the competitive Asian "testocracy" system Sorensen, , where secondary school and college entrances are governed by national entrance examinations in the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, Chinese parents place tremendous pressure on their children and their children's teachers. The Chinese parents tend to see regular homework, practice tests, and strict teachers as crucial in their children's academic success. The immigrant Chinese parents have brought with them their culturally engrained notions and values of education.
The Chinese notions of the teacher, teaching styles, and examination style significantly contrast with those currently prevailing in ESL classrooms. This clash between immigrant parents and teachers indicates the complexity of communicating the differences between Chinese immigrant parents and Western teachers. To study the practice of parent-teacher interaction, it is necessary to study the norms and understanding that parents and teachers bring to that practice Harre, Parents are expected to come to the routine parent-teacher conferences before or after they receive report cards Wine, They are also expected to volunteer at school functions, help their children with their homework, and initiate parent-teacher meetings if they have any particular concerns.
At a local level, the School Board identifies immigrant parent involvement as an important goal in ESL students' education. For example, the Vancouver School Board states: As with all students, the collaborative effort of parents and school staff to educate students facilitates with overall development. Where culturally appropriate, family and community members should be involved in students' education. Even though the involvement of immigrant and refugee parents in our schools represents a significant challenge, it is a worthwhile goal.
Vancouver School Board, a, pp. Parents play a vital role in the education of their children by working in partnership with educators. Parental support is an important component of an ESL students' education. Parents are encouraged to actively participate in the learning process. Ministry of Education, BC, , p. Vancouver School Board, b, pp. However, "parent involvement" is mainly a North American concept. It is neither expected nor practised in China Ogbu, Chinese parents "do not feel it is appropriate for them to tell teachers what to do because they think that teachers are experts" Ogbu, , p.
The ESL parents from a focus group discussion conducted by the British Columbia Teachers' Federation a report that "the notion of helping in schools is a 'western idea,' so they need more outreach to involve them" p. Based on her data from a series of dialogues with nine immigrant Cantonese-speaking mothers in their native tongue, Wan concludes that the concept of visible parent involvement is foreign to immigrant Chinese parents in the United States.
In fact, there is a negative association with the parents' presence in schools. Chan explains in Hong Kong, that Chinese parents seldom attend school functions because if the school asks to see parents, it means their children have got into trouble. This social stigma associated with communicating with teachers 48 might prohibit some Chinese immigrant parents from interacting with schools when they came to Canada.
Other researchers find Asian parents are reluctant to challenge a teacher's authority because in their cultures they have a great respect for teachers. For example, Scarcella notes that "recalling the traditional Vietnamese respect and awe with which the teacher is regarded, one realises that the teacher can expect the total support of the parents.
Learning is highly valued, and teachers are ranked just below the king and above the father" p. Asian parents see teachers as professionals with authority over their children's schooling. They believe that parents are not supposed to interfere with school processes. Yao explains that Asian parents seldom initiate contact with schools as they see communication with teachers as a check-up on them and that is culturally disrespectful.
According to Heath , Chinese parents "see their role as complementing that of the school; and they tell their children to listen to the teacher, to obey, and to recognize that practising habits rewarded by the school will help ensure their future job opportunities" p. For example, parent involvement in Taiwan is a relatively new phenomenon in an educational system that traditionally showed great respect for teachers Lin, In his survey of school principals' response strategies and parents involvement in Taipei municipality public elementary schools, Lin adopts Epstein et al.
He reports that in these types of parent involvement, parenting had the highest mean score, and volunteering had the lowest one. Although parents in Taiwan are concerned about their children's education, they try not to interfere with the teaching process: Lin also mentions that parent involvement in secondary schools in Taiwan is not the pattern. Parent involvement declines dramatically as students grow older Epstein, ; Stouffer, If parent involvement is not the norm for Chinese parents, how then do they communicate with schools?
Chinese parents are in fact very much involved in their children's education. In China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, parents get plenty of information about their children's education. Detailed discussions are given in chapter 4. Chyu and Smith note how parents of high school students in Taiwan are required to sign the homework booklet before the child returns it to the school. It is generally "the duty of the individual teacher or school guidance counselor to contact or call parents in case of minor student-related problems.
More recently in some schools in Taiwan, teachers keep contact with parents through electronic mail T. Yang, personal communication, Spring A class list server is built for parents of children who are in the same class. The daoshi homeroom 50 teacher posts daily homework assignments to the class list server so that every parent in the class receives them. The teacher also informs specific parents about specific behavior and other problems.
If parents have a question or concern, they can also contact the teacher via electronic mail. A l l the studies highlight the interrelationships between the home environment and high academic results. They notice that most Chinese students appear to see school as central to their lives. Chinese parents support their children's efforts by organizing the home environment to make it conducive to studying.
One of their important findings shows that Chinese parental involvement accounted for most of the difference between math achievement of Chinese and of American grades 1 and 5 pupils, the results favoring the Chinese. Parents' expectation for their children's progress was also significant. In sharp contrast with American mothers, who were most satisfied with the schools for their children, Chinese mothers were often critical of the schools.
The studies of Stevenson and his associates shed light on how Chinese parents support their children's education in China and Taiwan. However, in their review of research on families, schools, and multicultural communities, Hidalgo et al. The issue of Chinese parental involvement in education in North America remains an unexplored field. But to my knowledge, no study has been done to date on ESL parent-teacher communication that adequately recognizes the problematic nature of such communication and which approaches the discourse data from a functional linguistic perspective.
The present study is essentially one of ESL parent-teacher communication. It raises the issues of conflict and negotiation, and it is intercultural communication. The research literature on the area of communication, conflict, and negotiation across cultures is considerable and quite diverse. For example, it appears that there is no generally agreed definition of conflict shared by researchers in the area.
Thus Tidwell , in a review of concepts of conflict that have influenced the area of conflict resolution, states: The same can be said of the term 'communication'. The research strategy adopted in this thesis will therefore be a selective one. The study views communication from the standpoint of systemic functional linguistics SFL , examining discourse data using 52 frameworks from SFL work.
The study will not be doing a SFL grammatical analysis, but rather will look at the discourse data from a SFL theoretical framework. A key concept of SFL is the notion of field of discourse, which is typically subdivided into two: In addition, the study draws upon two non-SFL approaches to conflict and negotiation which are quite different from each other, but are both particularly relevant to the data of the present study; one approach was developed by Charles Taylor, and the other was developed by Stella Ting-Toomey.
In terms of the SFL notion of field of discourse, Ting-Toomey's approach relates to a , the social activity, and Taylor's approach relates to b , the topic of discourse. In the following sections a brief discussion of these two perspectives will be presented. What can help teachers and immigrant parents communicate better with each other? Is it possible to conduct a real dialogue about their different views of education?
Conditions of dialogue 53 remain an unexplored area in intercultural discourse analysis. This group of research pays great attention to differences of rules for performing speech acts, such as apologies, complaints, compliments, promises, and requests in cross-cultural settings involving different groups. They assume that intercultural communication could automatically occur, thus they overlook the conditions of intercultural discourse.
Sleeter and Montecinos argue that teachers should move from domination to partnership with parents, and "collaborate to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. Taylor , , on the other hand, suggests that differences between different cultures can be negotiated through "diversity dialogue. Taylor suggests four steps for different parties to engage in "diversity dialogue. Secondly, it is significant to recognize and understand differences since non-recognition or misrecognition can inflict harm and can be the basis of oppression and domination.
Taylor holds out the possibility that we might recognize the worth of different cultures by expanding our horizons or fused horizons Strike, The third step is to respect differences. The 54 equal value of different cultures is not only recognized, but also cherished.
The next step is to negotiate and accommodate differences. We can accommodate differences because cooperation allows us to build some remarkable things together Taylor, For Taylor, the precondition for achieving all of these steps is that we have to "communicate with each other in a democracy of mutual disposition" Taylor, However, it is assumed that the participants of different parties can actually engage in a sustained and intensive dialogue.
Taylor does not examine how different parties negotiate their differences and under what conditions they can reach a shared common ground. Thus investigation of conditions of intercultural negotiation is needed. He is aware of the difficulties of negotiation where conflicts are at issue. Taylor's suggestions for addressing these difficulties are in terms of achieving a fusion of horizons between the parties in relation to what they are talking about. Systemic functional linguistics SFL offers an approach to analyzing discourse communication situations that the study will use in the analysis.
It is noted in Chapter 1 that SFL offers a particular conceptual framework which views language as a social semiotic Halliday, This point is significant at two levels. First, meaning is situated in contexts of situation and SFL pays a great attention to contexts. Halliday states that "the contexts in which meanings are exchanged are not devoid of social value; a context of speech is itself a semiotic construct" p. Second, SFL claims that meaning can be specified through three variables of field, tenor, and mode Halliday, , b. Christie and Unsworth explain that field refers to the socially constructed activity e.
Tenor refers to the nature of the relationships among people involved e. Mode is the medium and role of language— whether spoken or written teachers' and parents' comments can be oral or written. This study focuses on field and does not address the differences between tenor and mode. Field is one of the variables of situation. Field is concerned with the social action and its content or topic which Halliday calls 'subject matter'.
More precisely there is a useful distinction that Halliday , a makes between field one and field two. Field one is the social activity being pursued e. Field one in this study refers to the social activity of Parents' Night Chapter 5 is about field one and how it actualizes field two. Field two is the content of Parents' Night, that is, ESL teachers' and parents' views of the ESL program and of the education of immigrant students Chapter 4 presents a possibility for field two.
Taylor's suggestions appear to apply to the content or topic about which there is conflict field two rather than to the social activity as a whole field 56 one. It is important to note that field one and field two distinction is a useful analytical tool for discourse data. However, it is not that straightforward in application. Ting-Toomey's work appears to relate to the social activity field one. She takes a cultural variability perspective where cultures vary on 'core value characteristics', for example, individualism-collectivism. These appear to be values that influence how a participant will interpret and structure the social activity.
It is important that researchers are aware of the issues of cultural variability that she identifies. However, it is also important to note that field one is not limited to the value characteristics that she identifies, and field is only one of the three situational variables within SFL field, tenor, and mode. Many researchers other than those in SFL identify contextual variables that relate to the social activity field one.
For example, Scollon and Scollon mention that the "grammar of context" includes scene, key, participants, message form, sequence, co-occurrence patterns, and manifestation. These can be seen to be labels for some of the components of the social activity. By contrast, Ting-Toomey's main focus is on the metaconflict issues in a conflict episode. She declares that "Different cultural value assumptions exist as the metaconflict issues in framing any intercultural conflict episode" , p. She rightly zooms in on these quite specialized matters. But this study takes a broad view of the social activity.
Ting-Toomey speaks of the "cross-cultural conflict negotiation process" , p. However, she says "intercultural conflict typically starts off with miscommunication" , p. But it is important to note that parents and teachers considered in this study hold different views, and are potentially in conflict before they interact. If there was any conflict, it did not begin with miscommunication, though it may be aggravated by miscommunication. Parents' Night can be conceived as, in Tracy's words, "a dilemmatic situation—a communicative occasion involving tensions and contradiction" p.
Tracy's study of academic discourse in the departmental colloquium in two American universities depicts the web of dilemmas that faculty and graduate students faced in their intellectual discussion. Specifically, in their roles as presenters and discussants, individual participants risked being seen foolish or provoking interest, intimate with or distant from ideas, displaying theoretical interests or practicality, intellectual ability or self-aggrandizing, and linguistic elegance or interactional naturalness.
As a group, participants confronted dilemmas such as serious or playful climate, displaying expertise or equality, and critique in terms of idea merit or speaker experience. Simply put, academics believed that intellectual ideas and people cannot cleanly separated. Although Tracy deals with academic discourse, the researcher's interest is in her attention to a dilemmatic perspective of her analysis. Such dilemmatic perspectives may enrich our understanding of the problems that teachers and parents face in their communication at Parents' Night.
In sum, the importance of the research process of the SFL perspective on field is that it contains both the social activity and includes the issues referred to by Ting-Toomey, but is much broader and the topic which includes the issues referred to by 58 Taylor. As will be seen, Parents' Nights are shown to involve multiple dilemmas in terms of both social activity and topic. The ways by which conflicts are perceived and handled reflect a culturally-shared set of attitudes and beliefs" Fry and Fry, , p. For individualistic cultures, conflict is viewed as "an expressed struggle to air out major differences and problems," whereas for collectivistic cultures, conflict is viewed as "damaging to social face and relational harmony and should be avoided as much as possible" Ting-Toomey, p.
Conflict is avoided in Chinese communication in order to preserve harmony he. According to Gao and Ting-Toomey , the Chinese term " 'he' denotes harmony, peace, unity, kindness, and amiableness" which is the "foundation of Chinese culture" p. For Gao and Ting-Toomey, the notion of harmony affects any communication event in Chinese culture. Inherent in this notion of harmony are the constructs of self and face, which are frequently used in explaining Chinese conflict management. The Chinese self is relational and other-oriented.
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Gao and Ting-Toomey , p. How then do the Chinese manage their conflicts? Therefore, a third person, also called an intermediary, is customarily used for resolving a conflict. Several writers Cohen, ; Leung, ; Ma, ; Ting-Toomey, ; Tung, indicate that for the Chinese culture, conflict is typically managed through the use of informal third-party intermediaries. Such a structure allows Chinese people to avoid direct confrontation and combat, and protect and save the face of each of the parties involved in a conflict situation.
It is important to note that intermediaries in North America are mostly "professional or contractual in nature: Intermediaries in Chinese culture are usually informal; they are close friends of both parties, and have knowledge of the both parties' characteristics. Close friends are chosen to be intermediaries because most Chinese "won't talk about their conflict to a wai-ren outsider " Ma, , p. Insiders refer to members of an in-group and outsiders refer to members of an out-group. Insiders include members of the family and relatives in a family unit, and 3 Tung reminds us that Chinese people asked President Clinton many confrontational questions about substantive and controversial topics during his visit to China in June Caution of generalization is needed.
In organizations, people on the same hierarchical level, such as co-workers and students who are in the same class, may be considered insiders. Outsiders are strangers and others with whom one has not established a special relationship. In conflict situations, the Chinese often choose insiders to be their intermediaries because these intermediaries are expected to persuade each party in conflict to accommodate each other's views without a loss of a face Bond, In their study of Chinese parental involvement in the schooling process, Constantino, Cui, and Faltis report that the active "intervention" of third parties, the mediator or the arbitrator, such as Chinese bilingual resource teachers, serving as a "bridge" between teachers and parents, determined the success of parent-teacher communication.
Their study, based upon their interview of ten elementary teachers and fifteen Chinese immigrant parents in southern California, indicates that parents and teachers placed different weights on parent-teacher meetings. Teachers believed all the parents should attend the meetings.
In contrast, parents chose not to attend because, in addition to language barriers, they did not understand the significance placed on the meetings. The Chinese bilingual resource teacher attached Chinese translations to all the 61 signs in the school area, and translated many school forms and monthly school newsletters into Chinese.
The bilingual resource teacher also provided teachers in-services, including discussions about Asian and Chinese culture, cultural values, and the myriad of roles members play within the culture, and crash course in conversational Chinese. Because of these active interventions, teachers and Chinese immigrant parents were more at ease when they communicated with each other. This is the only study the researcher can find from the literature pertaining specifically to communications between teachers and Chinese immigrant parents.
It makes a good point about the importance of intermediaries in Chinese immigrant communication and it shows that the parents and teachers had different views concerning what actually was significant involvement, but it does not deal with how they negotiated their differences. Hirji and Beynon in press also find that the Punjabi bilingual teachers helped to smooth communication between home and school because they served as intermediaries between the parents of their Punjabi Sikh students and school personnel. The purpose of the study was to examine role perceptions of teachers of Punjabi Sikh ancestry in the British Columbia public education system.
They interviewed 20 Punjabi Sikh bilingual teachers, three of whom were born in Canada and seventeen who immigrated to Canada. The Punjabi bilingual teacher-participants who took part in the study reported that they were viewed as being appna or "one of us" by the Punjabi Sikh parents because of their understanding of Punjabi Sikh language and culture. The members of the community often approached them for advice. Their linguistic skills and cultural background enabled them to serve as translators and cultural brokers with the Punjabi community as well as with 62 schools.
The study includes some examples of how these bilingual teachers transmitted the needs of the school to parents and disseminated cultural information to their colleagues as a result of preventing misunderstandings between the Punjabi community and schools. Buchanan also suggests that schools should use intermediaries in a multicultural community communication to build parent-school partnership.
Buchanan reports that parent liaisons part-time hourly workers were employed in Fairfax County Public Schools of Washington D. Parent liaisons worked directly in schools — reflecting the family's cultures represented in that particular school. These liaisons had substantive knowledge of, and appreciation for, the cultural diversity present in school communities, including racial, ethnic, socio-economic status, religious and language diversity, and good knowledge of school operations and community resources.
They served as links among the school, parents, and community groups to facilitate school and parent communications. The topic of the thesis is ESL parent-teacher communication as it relates to decisions 63 about ESL students' education. We have already noted that Ting-Toomey's definition of conflict is useful to view Parents' Night as a 'cross-cultural conflict negotiation process'. Ting-Toomey maintains that "conflict denotes a state of dissonance or collision between two forces or systems.
This state of dissonance can be expressed either overtly or subtly. In the context of intercultural encounters, conflict is defined.. This study interprets Parents' Night as a conflict situation in relation to this definition at two levels. First, parents and teachers may have different ideas about the education of the students.
This is a state of dissonance about a substantive issue of Parents' Night. A main topic of Parents' Night is the education of the immigrant students i. Second, at a metalevel of conflict, one cannot assume that parents and teachers share the same cultural values, expectations, and processes about how conflicts are negotiated, in other words, about the metaconflict issues in a conflict episode.
The study interprets Parents' Night as an intercultural conflict negotiation process on the grounds that it is communication between parents and teachers that covers the topic of education of the students. The conflict is expressed by the parents in a more subtle way than an overt way. Furthermore, the teachers are well aware of the differences, and regard Parents' Night as an opportunity to discuss ideas about the education of the students. The study does not focus on superficial quick-fix negotiation between parties, but more on a search for better explanation and analysis.
It pays particular attention to the component of the situation described by SFL as a "field" of discourse, which means "social activity, and topic" Halliday, In other words, there is both a first order field, the social activity of Parents' Night, and a second order field, the topic of Parents' Night e. The following three research questions thus form the basis of the present study: What are teachers' and parents' perspectives of the ESL program and education, and what are the differences between them?
Determined by the nature of the research topic, the researcher chose a qualitative research approach as the methodology for the present study. This chapter discusses how the study brings together qualitative methods and an approach to discourse analysis based on systemic functional linguistics SFL. The History of ESL Parents' Night This section frames the study contextually through descriptions of the history of Parents' Night, and the evolution of the three annual Parents' Nights being examined. The department encouraged cooperative learning and content learning.
A number of parents were not happy about this 66 approach and wanted to move their children out of the ESL program as soon as possible. Teachers in the ESL Department recognized the need to explain to the parents about the goals and philosophy behind their system.
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The head explained the ESL program to the parents, and the administrators spoke about school rules, and sometimes an invited guest speaker from the Vancouver School Board gave a speech. By the time they had seven ESL classes in , there were too many people to fit into one classroom, so they had their Parents' Night in the school cafeteria. The E L C students facilitated discussions, compiled the parents' concerns, made all the presentations, and explained the ESL program.
In , the ESL department added the teachers' presentations. Six stations were set up, of which two stations were for explaining the differences between ESL and mainstream classes, two were for ESL programs, and two for skills and attitudes. At one of these stations, the ESL teachers and mainstream teachers jointly explained to parents how ESL classes teach prerequisite skills for the academic tasks which students face in mainstream classes. But parents had different cultural views of issues discussed in Parents' Night, such as motivation, the ESL program, homework, and assessment Salzberg, However, they planned to have a Parents' Night.
They spent seven meetings planning the event, but they kept postponing the date. In February of , the department as a whole decided not to have a major Parents' Night, but one teacher designed an evening solely for her homeroom class. Out of 18 students, 15 parents and guardians attended. The teacher asked the parents to brainstorm in small groups the question: The teacher addressed the importance of student self-motivation. Three former ESL students made oral presentations about the difficulties ESL students have in regular classrooms and how parents can help their children. The vice-principal talked about the school rules, and the ESL counselor used her personal experience to advise parents about how they can assist their children in learning.
The teacher then discussed the rest of the topics from why students generally stayed in ESL for two years, how students moved from ESL to ELC, the importance of field trips, and the use of L l , to students' motivation and homework. The whole ESL Department, that is, eight classes participated. On February 17, about parents and 68 guardians attended the first part of the meeting in the school auditorium from 6: Some parents came with their children and some came with their grandchildren.
The school principal made a welcome speech, and a school trustee and an ESL support teacher from the district made a short speech about the ESL program. The Science Department Head, the English Department Head, and one Social Studies teacher all talked about the requirement for students to be successful in mainstream classes.
One former ESL student and one parent representative of a former ESL student talked about their experiences, and three multicultural home-school workers were introduced. Some of the speeches were translated into Mandarin and Cantonese. Then the parents went into seven different ESL core classes two ESL classes had their meeting together for class presentations. The researcher and her assistants participated in each classroom. The activities of the seven classrooms varied from the teacher doing all the presentations in one classroom to the students doing all poster presentations and role-plays in another classroom.
Finally, all the parents, students, and teachers gathered in the school cafeteria for potluck desserts and socials. The ESL classes were reduced to six owing to low enrolment. The meeting took place in the school auditorium on January 26, Mandarin-speaking parents sat on one side and a multicultural liaison worker translated for them.
Cantonese-speaking parents sat on the other side and one parent-volunteer translated into Cantonese. Those parents who could understand English sat in the middle. The principal made a welcome speech and one of the vice- principals spoke briefly about the purpose and importance of the ESL program. The meeting lasted from 7: Qualitative methods use discourse as data, and it is important that discourse be analyzed using rigorous and known methods of discourse analysis. The following sections will discuss the design of the study from a fairly standard qualitative point of view.
Then, turning to discourse analysis, later sections will discuss Parents' Night as a sociocultural activity in terms of an approach to discourse based on systemic functional linguistics. Significant in the present study are the relations of theoretical and practical discourses because they provide evidence of the cultural meaning of Parents' Night activity. Both primary and secondary sources were used to obtain information for this study. The secondary source was in the form of documents. As will be discussed below, the approach taken in the present study sees Parents' Night as a sociocultural activity.
An activity has a theory and practice dimension. Qualitative research uses theoretical discourse to illuminate the theory of an activity, and practical discourse to illustrate the practice of an activity. The design of the study is 70 graphically represented in Figure 1. Parents' Night as a Sociocultural Activity Theory Interviews, focus group discussion, documents, and discourse analysis Practice Observations, documents, and discourse analysis 3.
The procedure was purposeful because the school selected could supply adequate and suitable information for investigation. The school's mandate was to encourage parent understanding and participation and promote development of a sense of community. The ESL Parents' Night and the participants chosen could provide significant insights about the questions under investigation.
It is a relatively large secondary school with about students from grade 8 to grade It is situated in a quiet, middle- to upper-middle income 71 neighborhood. According to the Vancouver School Board , 62 percent of the students of the school spoke a language other than English at home. At the time of data collection, about , , and of students respectively in , and , who attended this school were studying in the ESL program. Physical Education Mainstream 1.
Physical Education Mainstream 2. ESL Science or Science 3. ESL Science or Science 4. ESL Social Studies 4. ESL Social Studies 5. Elective 72 As Figure 2 illustrates, the students generally took courses in the ESL program for two years, except Physical Education and Math where students are placed in mainstream classes.
The ESL courses did not have credits. The philosophy of the ESL courses was to integrate language and content Mohan, For example, the ESL Science was designed to prepare students for mainstream science programs at the appropriate grade level. Language patterns, vocabulary, thinking skills, and scientific procedures were developed through studies of biology and chemistry, including demonstrations, dissections, labs, and other hands-on activities.
Most of the ESL classes were, according to the department handbook, heterogeneous classes in which students are randomly assigned by the computer. The school referred it as a multilevel grouping system. This meant any single ESL class might have students from different ages and from varying levels of English language proficiency. This system was unique in the city where most secondary schools used a lock-step level system, in which ESL students moved through various levels to reach regular classes. The multilevel system allowed ESL students to move into mainstream classes at any time during the school year when a student was ready and a space in the mainstream classes was available.
The multilevel and mixed-age system of the ESL program intended to encourage cooperative learning and provide peer support for new immigrant students. The school also had an English Learning Center ELC , offering transitional support for students who could handle the regular content classes but needed additional language and cultural support. Nine ESL teachers participated in the study. The educational backgrounds of teachers varied from having a bachelor degree in a particular subject area to those who were not content specialists.
They also had significant experiences in teaching English language learners. Some had taught in Japan, Taiwan, and others taught in the public school systems in other parts of Canada. The teachers spent much time during their lunch hours in planning for Parents' Night. A l l teachers in the ESL Department participated in the planning, delivery, and feedback sessions of the event.
A l l the teachers involved their students in the whole process. Six bilingual assistants from a Canadian university also participated in the study. They acted as interpreters and intermediaries between ESL teachers and Mandarin-speaking parents of ESL students who attend the teachers' classes.
Unlike earlier immigrants in the study of Ghuman and Wong , many Chinese parents in the present study were entrepreneurs, investors, or independent immigrant status. This group consisted primarily of middle to upper-middle economic class, post secondary educated, achievement oriented business people or professionals Salzberg, For many parents the major reason they immigrated to Canada was for their children's education. The lengths of these parents' stay in Canada ranged from a few months to four years.
Parents were asked about their perceptions of the ESL program, their questions and concerns they wanted to express to the teachers, their experiences at Parents' Night, and their suggestions regarding the communication between home and school. The bilingual graduate students acted as interpreters at Parents' Night when asked to do so by the teachers.
Some of them did simultaneous interpretations for a small group of Mandarin-speaking parents when the teacher was talking. Some of them took notes and explained to parents afterwards. Some translated parents' questions from Mandarin to English and asked teachers these questions on behalf of the parents. The researcher attempted to conduct formal face-to-face interviews with the 75 parents but parents did not wish to be interviewed.
This was not unexpected. As part of a research team studying ESL students, their teachers and their parents, the researcher had learned that direct access to parents was difficult. One of the bilingual assistants had interviewed Taiwanese parents for her M A thesis Salzberg, Salzberg found access challenging even though she had considerable credibility with the parents beforehand.
Her interview data was very valuable, and the researcher used her data as part of triangulation in this thesis, but clearly other kinds of data were needed. Since formal interviews were not possible, another approach had to be found. It was decided to use various forms of observation of the parents' engagement with the events of Parents' Night the initial contact with the parents, the parents' interaction during Parents' Night, and follow-up and feedback and to draw on relevant documents.
Data about the Chinese parents' perspectives in the researcher's thesis were gathered from six bilingual assistants, who telephoned the parents before and after Parents' Night. Data about the parents were also gathered from the researcher's and the bilingual assistants' direct observations of the parents at Parents' Night, parents' written responses to the teacher's invitations, parents' written responses to the questionnaire designed by the ESL Department after Parents' Night, and reports about parents in student journals. She 76 played a role of a moderate participant observer Spradley, , seeking to "maintain a balance between being an insider and an outsider, between participation and observation" p.
She participated in some activities in response to teachers' requests. She explained Parents' Night to the parents on the phone and presented information gathered from the parents at the teachers' planning meetings before Parents' Night. She also interpreted for Chinese parents at Parents' Night and reported parents' feedback to the teachers after Parents' Night. Detailed discussions about the procedures of the data collection for the present study will be given in the following sections.
These planning meetings occurred in the classrooms at lunch hours. Each meeting lasted for about 50 minutes. A l l the meetings were audio-recorded with permission. At the planning meetings the teachers discussed parents' feedback about Parents' Night. The feedback was based on a survey they did with the parents after Parents' Night in The survey questions included "Would you come to a follow-up session in the school to get answers to your questions?
In the evening after the meeting or on the following day, the researcher transcribed all the data and then tried to discover the emerging themes.