Printer Friendly

Three narratives of parent-educator relationships: toward counselor repertoires for bridging the urban parent-school divide.

Drawing on the concept of a narrative, this article describes three basic patterns underlying the roles and relationships between parents and educators in urban schools: the deficit, in loco parentis, and relational narratives. The author offers evidence for the narratives from the research literature and from her interviews and participant observation as a counselor, consultant, and researcher in urban school reform initiatives. The article concludes by identifying repertoires that counselors can use to foster relationships between parents and educators that enhance the academic achievement and social and emotional development of students.


In an op-ed piece written in The New York Times, Anika Rahman, a New York lawyer of Bangladeshi origin, described her thoughts in the wake of anti-Arab sentiment in the days after the attacks on the World Trade Center,
 I am so used to thinking about myself as a
 New Yorker that it took me a few days to
 begin to see myself as a stranger might: a
 Muslim woman, an outsider, perhaps an
 enemy of the city. Before last week, I had
 thought of myself as a latter, a feminist, a sister,
 a friend, a woman on the street. Now I
 begin to see myself as a brown woman who
 bears a vague resemblance to the images of
 terrorists we see on television and in the newspapers....
 I feel myself losing the power to define
 myself.... (Rahman, 2001, p. A27)

Here, in a time of crisis and intense anxiety in New York City, Ms. Rahman wrote of the power of other's expectations over her own thinking, especially about herself. The pervasive stereotypic images of Arabs in the media challenged her own sense of her identity and, ultimately, her very power to define herself. Images from the media, as well as social cues that she received during everyday interactions, framed expectations about her identity, her actions, and her thoughts.

In this article, I want to suggest that in the social arena of relations in urban school reform initiatives in economically poor and working-class communities, a process similar to what Rahman experienced occurs between professional educators and parents. Whereas Rahman's sense of identity was reframed by the events following 9/11, so too, I suggest, are parents' identities reframed when they enter the educational arena to try to help to improve their children's schools. That is, a similar process occurs for parents in which social cues bear down upon, and potentially reframe, parents' sense of who they are and what their role ought to be as parents. In many cases, they receive the message that they may be called upon to help their children, but only in a limited, predefined capacity. This capacity is not defined by the parents themselves, but rather is defined for them by educators. These expectations for urban, inner-city parents about their behavior and where they fit into the school picture are transmitted via social narratives and roles. The cues for these roles may be subtle or direct, but their cumulative effect conveys powerful expectations to parents that potentially undercut their very notions about who they are, their capacity for imagining better schools for their children, and, hence, their ability to effectively transform those schools.

The purpose of this article is to offer school counselors and other educators a conceptual framework for discerning the nature and quality of their relationships with parents in urban schools. To describe basic patterns of roles and relationships between educators and parents, the thrust of the article will be to outline three "narratives" of parent-educator relationships: the deficit narrative, the in loco parentis narrative, and the relational narrative. The first two narratives offer more limiting and passive roles for parents, whereas the third narrative, the relational narrative, contains more active, dynamic roles for them. Evidence for all three narratives comes from both the research literature and my participant observation as a counselor, consultant, and researcher in several urban school reform initiatives. (1) After discussing the three parent-educator narratives, the article will identity, repertoires, or sets of practices, that counselors can develop to change the narrative of relationships between parents and educators in their school, to a narrative that better supports the academic achievement and personal development of all of their students.

I also use the narratives as a lens through which to examine recent recommendations for school counselor approaches to use to develop relationships between parents and schools (Bemak & Cornely, 2002), and the parents' role in the conceptual framework of the Transforming School Counseling Initiative (Education Trust, 2003). My aim is that by drawing upon these narratives, counselors can determine the extent to which they and other educators may be participating in narratives of" relationships with parents that limit and hence undermine theirs and the parents' contribution to the education of the children or youth in their school.


A substantial body of" research documents the contribution of strong, trusting relationships between professional educators and parents to the success of initiatives to improve urban schools and increase student achievement (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandier, 1997). Studies also show that differences in race and social class between parents and educators, and the differential power of their institutional roles, pose significant barriers to developing such relationships (Abrams & Gibbs, 2002; Giles, 2002; Gold, Rhodes, Brown, Lytle, & Waff; 2001; Horvat, Weininger, & Lareau, 2002; Lawson, 2003; Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). A recent group of studies, however, has found that although race, class, and power differences between parents and educators clearly have a strong impact on relationships, the local culture created by educators and parents in a school can minimize the potentially negative impact of these differences. By working to transform the traditional, bureaucratic culture typically found in urban schools into a more relational culture, educators and parents in several reform initiatives, often in collaboration with community organizing groups, have developed close and fruitful relationships with each other, across differences of race and social class (Gold, Simon, & Brown, 2002; Lewis & Forman, 2002; Shirley, 1997).

To identify and explore these different cultures and patterns of relationships between parents and educators, the work of scholars recently has converged upon the concept of roles. In describing a social process similar to that reflected in Rahman's (2001) experience after 9/11, researchers note that parents' perception of the appropriate role for them in a particular school appears to be a function of the way the school treats them. Roles, defined as the expectations that groups have for the behavior of particular members (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandier, 1997), are informal and often implicit, evolve over time in the context of an organization, and influence individuals' ideas about how they should act and the nature of their relationships with people in other roles (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001). In their observations of the daily life of urban schools, scholars have identified a variety of roles, or sets of expectations, that have emerged for parents--for example, client, consumer, collaborator (Gold et al., 2001; Lewis & Forman, 2002), comrades in struggle (Lewis & Forman), welfare parent, parent-in-recovery, bureaucrat, citizen (Giles, 2001), monitor, helper, advocate, decision-maker (Abrams & Gibbs, 2002), supporter, and fund-raiser (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel). Each is shaped through a gradual social process in one's everyday interactions with educators in schools.

In this article, I will expand upon the concept of roles and invoke the concept of narrative to describe different logics of relationships between parents and educators in urban schools. A narrative has the advantage of pointing to distinctive ways of "ordering experience," or "of constructing reality" (Bruner, 1986, p. 11), which underlie particular parent-school relationships, as opposed to simply identifying clusters of roles. In Kathleen Casey's (1995) review of narrative research in education, she identified one strand of narratives as falling within what Gramsci (1980) called the "collective subjective," in which "a distinctive definition of the self and its relationship to others is generated" (Casey, p. 222). In this article, excerpts from individual narratives by parents and educators, along with data from observations of schools, will be offered as evidence for three larger "meta-narratives," or collective subjectives, describing patterns of relationships between parents and educators in schools.

As such, the larger narrative here is considered to be a basic story or plot that captures the essential logic underlying actors' ways of acting and interacting in a system or organization. Although the culture of a school typically is characterized by one dominant narrative between parents and educators, pockets of "counternarratives" or alternative narratives may be reflected in the language and behavior of some teachers and parents at the school.

In the following sections, the three narratives--deficit, in loco parentis, and relational--will be described, with examples of each from the research literature and from my own work as a counselor, consultant, and researcher in urban schools involved in reform initiatives.


In this narrative, educators consider working-class and low-income parents to be deprived, deviant, or "at-risk" and have low expectations for their involvement in their children's education (Laosa, 1983; Lawson, 2003; Swadener, 1995). School professionals hold low expectations for educational achievement or personal growth and development for students and for their parents. Educators view the perceived pathologies and problems of families as undermining their ability, as educators to successfully teach their children.

Historical evidence of a deficit narrative goes back to the origins of the role of the school counselor. William Cutler (2000) wrote, "Between 1908 and 1930, visiting teachers, vocational counselors, and school nurses joined the professional team. It was up to them to save the American family, by dispelling maternal ignorance about the nature of childhood and the principles of homemaking" (p. 9). Cutler added that many of those teachers and mental health professionals "disdained the people they professed to be helping, failing to distinguish between the real and imagined deficiencies of African-American, immigrant, and working-class parents and children" (p. 10).

Abundant evidence can be found for a deficit narrative in contemporary educational contexts. Describing their conversations with the principal and other school staff as they prepared to set up interviews with parents in an elementary school in northern California, Smrekar and Cohen-Vogel (2001) wrote,
 These officials suggested that most of the parents
 in the school were lazy, irresponsible, and
 apathetic when it came to school involvement
 and that these attitudes were inextricably
 linked to the low performance of their children
 .... School officials warned that it was
 unsafe and unwise to enter the school neighborhood
 and conduct interviews at parents'
 homes. Teachers warned that we would be
 lucky to get one third of the initially contacted
 parents to participate. (p. 85)

The authors went on to note that, contrary to the expectations of the school staff; all but one of the 15 parents they contacted were willing to participate in their interviews, and that parents "welcomed [them] warmly and politely into all the homes" and most "responded that, if asked, they would find ways to increase their involvement at home and at school" (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, p. 85).

One example of the deficit narrative that surfaces over and over again in educators' descriptions of their efforts to engage parents can be found in variations of the "we even offered them food and they didn't come" script. In Lawson's (2003) ethnographic study of teachers' and parents' perceptions of parent involvement, he described a representative example of this script in one of his interviews with a teacher. The teacher said,
 Unfortunately, we're frustrated because we're
 not seeing parents making that commitment.
 And, I think it's gotten to the point where the
 staff feels that we're bribing the parents to
 come in. "We're serving dinner." "If we serve
 food, they'll come." "If we give out prizes,
 then they'll come." (Lawson, p. 110)

Lawson observed that teachers view these "bribery tactics as a signal of parental deficits" (p. 110). Referring to such "bribery tactics," another teacher in the same study concluded, "It's the only way that we can get them in here to show them what's good for them" (p. 120). Lawson's analysis of these and other teacher narratives in his study led him to conclude that in that school, teachers' theory of action (a concept similar to that of "narrative" as defined in this article) for parental change was "based on defining and then reluctantly meeting the needs of parents" (p. 121).

Another example of a deficit-based role became evident during a training activity for a community initiative to reform several urban schools in low-income neighborhoods. A Latino father, Jose, told me of his experience when he approached the principal of his daughter's school. In an angry, indignant tone, Jose told me,
 I went to the principal to tell her that a group
 of us parents wanted to talk with her about
 some ideas about how to make the school better.
 She told me, "Look, I'll give you letters
 for welfare." I couldn't believe it! I told her
 that I had a job, I wasn't there for a handout.

The principal projected an image of these parents, who perceived themselves as potential allies in improving the school, as dependent, needy, and trying to "work the system" to meet their welfare requirements. I labeled this role the welfare parent. Other roles identified in the research literature that may be located within the deficit narrative are those of parent-in-recovery (Giles, 2001) and client (Gold et al., 2001; Lewis & Forman, 2002).

In schools with families from mixed social classes, middle-class parents often contribute to strengthening the deficit narrative, reinforcing perceptions of working-class and poor parents as deficient. Abrams and Gibbs (2002) gave an example of this dynamic in the narrative they shared from a white, middleclass parent who was talking about parents' roles in the parent-teacher association (PTA) at school,
 If none of the White parents showed up, there
 just wouldn't be any fundraising, there would
 be no activities, there would be nothing. You
 can call it cultural, but I think for the most
 part White parents are fairly middle- to upper-middle-class.
 They're used to being disciplined,
 being on time, sticking to the subject,
 and getting tasks done. I don't think that this
 is shared across cultures. (p. 398)

This parent relied on a description of parents from other social classes as being deficient in the skills needed to run a productive meeting to explain the dominance of White, middle-class parents in the PTA. As such, the deficit-based language and behaviors of middle-class educators and middle-class parents toward working-class and poor parents of children in a school can entrench the deficit narrative ever more firmly in the school's culture. While in this example the dominant parents are White, the dynamic also occurs with parents from a variety of social identity groups (e.g., different races, ages, and immigration statuses) identifying some "other" group of parents as deficient by comparison to themselves (R. Domanico, personal communication, February 2004).


The literal translation of the Latin phrase in loco parentis is "in the place of a parent," and it came into use in the United States in the late 1800s in court cases debating educators' right to discipline students in the place, or absence, of their parents. In American courts, the concept of educators assuming parents' rights and responsibilities toward their children has expanded to include questions of search and seizure and reasonable rules the school can set for students, such as whether they can eat lunch off-campus or their appropriate hair length (Zirkel & Reichner, 1986). In a related but broader sense, and in the meaning drawn upon in this article, in loco parentis refers to educators' beliefs and practices that assume that it is their responsibility to provide an academic, and often social and emotional, education in the place of students' parents, that is, with very limited or no participation by parents. This narrative shares the assumption of the deficit narrative that working-class and poor parents generally are not capable of contributing in significant positive ways to their children's education and development. However, the in loco parentis narrative differs from the deficit narrative in that it assumes that educators will be able to compensate for parents' deficits themselves, to help students achieve to high levels. Lewis and Forman (2002) captured the essence of this narrative in their observation, "Many urban schools have taken the posture of educating students in spite of their families, rather than in concert with them" (p. 82). Another way of characterizing the in loco parentis narrative is that educators have high expectations for students, but limited or low expectations for their parents.

Approaches to working with parents generated from this narrative tend to assume that educators are "the providers of knowledge and opportunity, and parents [are] the 'receivers,'" and parents tend to feel "even in the context of parent-attracting policies and gimmicks, that their input and participation is not valued" (Smrekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001, p. 97). Though parents may be called upon to play various roles that involve them in their children's education, such as those of supporter, fund-raiser, and helper, their help is sought for the priorities and issues identified and shaped by educators. Parents also may be called to play the role of consumer in this narrative, with schools working to keep them "happy and at a distance" (Lewis & Forman, 2002, p. 82).

Evidence of this narrative can be found in several recent reform initiatives, which exhort counselors and other educators to raise their expectations for the potential of their working-class and low-income students, and to work to narrow the achievement gap among students of different classes and races, yet they do not articulate a significant role for parents in accomplishing these objectives. For example, in the description of the "scope of work" for counselors in the Transforming School Counseling Initiative, parents are not mentioned in the "Leadership," "Advocacy," or "Teaming and Collaboration" areas of work but are identified as recipients of resources under the "Counseling and Coordination" area (Education Trust, 2003). Though the role of parents may be evolving given the newness of the initiative, it would appear from the written materials that the narrative of relationships between parents and educators currently guiding the initiative is in loco parentis.

Another example of in loco parentis can be found in the training for educators offered by several school districts around the country based on a book intended to help middle-class educators effectively teach economically poor children. Payne (1998) wrote that given that poverty is directly related to existing social relationships, those who want to escape it must sacrifice poverty-culture relationships, at least for awhile. This recommendation might be understood to mean that in order to develop middle-class values, and ways of thinking and acting, students must distance themselves from their families and communities. This kind of thinking about relationships between educators and parents suggests an in loco parentis narrative. The danger of such thinking lies in the damage that it risks inflicting on students' relationships with their families and communities, as well as in further alienating parents from the process of educating their children.

An entirely different kind of dynamic occurs in contexts where educators and parents trust and respect each other and have similar values and similar cultures. In this kind of context, the teacher acting in the place of the parent is likely to contribute positively to students' development and academic achievement. Immigrant parents from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean islands often tell of a more fluid relationship between home and school in which they expect the teacher to act in their place. A Mexican mother interviewed in Smrekar and Cohen-Vogel's (2001) study observed,
 I believe that school is better in Mexico....
 In Mexico if the kids don't do their homework,
 the teachers can punish them, so the
 kids won't be disrespectful.... There the
 teachers are like parents and they can discipline
 the kids, because it's for their own good.
 The teacher is like the second parent. School
 is where their behavior is formed apart from
 the home. (pp. 89-90)

African-Americans who attended segregated schools in the South before Brown v. Board of Education described a similar dynamic (hooks, 1994). Unfortunately, educators in most urban schools do not have this kind of relationship of trust and respect with the parents in their community, and an in loco parentis narrative risks further alienating and distancing parents from the school and from their children.


In the third narrative, the relational narrative, educators work with parents, rather than for them. The Iron Rule, a principle espoused by a community organizing group involved in urban school reform, exemplifies this narrative: Never do for another person what he can do for himself (Cortes, 1996). Educators expect parents to bring knowledge and strengths to improving the school, and parents expect educators to do the same. They hold each other mutually responsible for their parts in educating students. They build strong, trusting relationships, often across differences of race and class, and together identify and address issues that interfere with the education of students in their school.

In Lewis and Forman's (2002) study, they described an elementary school, Metro, in which a relational narrative appeared to guide interactions between middle-class educators and low-income parents. A description of the parent conferences at the school gives a sense of the expectations for relationships between parents and educators:
 Parent conferences were not viewed as a time
 for teachers to report to parents about a
 child's academic progress, but as a way for the
 important adults in a child's lift: to share not
 only academic information, but also social and
 emotional information. Expert status was
 understood not as the sole purview of school
 staff but as something shared with and
 encouraged in parents. (Lewis & Forman, pp.

The authors went on to note:
 Parents were rarely called upon to be fundraisers,
 bakers, or room morns. Instead, they
 were involved as members of a community, as
 educational collaborators with important
 information about their children, and as comrades
 in struggles related to keeping the
 school functioning. (p. 78)

Parents' role as "comrades in struggles" with educators, taking action together to address the many issues that typically face urban schools in low-income neighborhoods, is a central component of the relational narrative. Lewis and Forman (2002) concluded that Metro was able to develop these kinds of relationships because of the culture established by the school's principal and teachers, characterized by "no closed doors" of classrooms or offices to other educators or to parents, an openness of conflict, a valuing of the ideas and abilities of people in every role in the school, and frequent spaces for conversations among and between educators and parents, for example a weekly parent breakfast to solicit community input on different issues. Another important finding of this stud), noted by other studies as well, is that educators are more likely to develop open, collaborative relationships with parents if they themselves feel respected and powerful in their school context (Bryk & Schneider, 2002).

A narrative that envisions middle-class educators and working-class and low-income parents as partners in struggles to improve schools represents a major shift in the roles and relationships typical in urban schools (Lopez, 2003). A key moment or "tipping point" of change in one school's narrative of parent-educator relationships illustrates one way that such change may come about. The story emerged in my interviews with the principal and assistant principal of an elementary school in a working-class, low-income community in a city in the Southwest about their efforts to improve the quality of education in the school (Giles, 2001). They told the story of how a group of parents in their school, with the coaching of the education coordinator of a local community organizing group, had persuaded the school district to get rid of an infestation of rats in the school in a period of 2 weeks, something that the administrators had tried to do without success for several years. The assistant principal described sharing the news of the parents' victory with teachers,
 The teachers weren't involved [in the effort to
 get rid of the rats], and the teachers wondered,
 "What's going on? Why are all these
 parents here so early? Are we in trouble? What
 did ,are do? Oh my gosh, it's a riot." And the
 next day at the faculty meeting, we told them
 and we shared the story with them, and they
 were clapping and they got all excited. It was
 an example of these parents advocating for
 their kids, maybe not in the traditional educational
 way that we expect, but they are. (Giles,
 p. 142)

The administrators were intentional about communicating to the teachers that the parents could be powerful allies. As the assistant principal explained,
 These are the examples that we bring to the
 teachers. Making sure that the teachers know
 that these things are happening because they
 need to understand that these parents have a
 lot of power. And that we need to be working
 with them and inviting them in, in order that
 they can help us because there are things that
 we cannot do. (Giles, p. 142)

In this example of cultural change, the administrators presented images to teachers of parents as people who can be trusted and who have power that they can use to improve the school. The administrators had begun to create a culture that was open enough that they would let the parents know that there were rats in the school in the first place. In marked contrast, the norm in many struggling urban schools is to withhold negative information about the school from parents (Mediratta, Fruchter, & Lewis, 2002).

Here, it is important to emphasize that any narrative of relationships between parents and educators emerges out of the particular power dynamics of a school. Given that the usual power arrangements in urban public schools exclude parents from knowledge about the school's functioning, and from agenda-setting and important decision-making, a first step in creating more collaborative relationships between educators and parents often has involved community groups joining with parents and community residents, and in some cases educators, to pressure schools to be more responsive to parents' concerns and priorities (Lopez, 2003). It is in this context of power relations that school counselors make decisions about the norms of relationships among educators, parents, and community members that they will work to create.


As tools for counselors and other educators to use to change the narratives of relationships in schools, this section describes repertoires, or sets of practices, they can draw upon to build more fruitful relationships among the adults in the school community. As noted earlier, the three narratives outlined in this article are intended as a lens through which counselors can look to discern the nature and quality of the relationships between parents and educators at their schools. However, before looking outward, at the school, it is critical for a counselor to begin by looking inward to consider which narrative is most prominent in his or her thinking about relationships with parents. Once counselors have some clarity about their own internal narratives, they can listen to the language and observe the relationships of educators and parents in their everyday interactions at the school to discern which narrative seems to be predominant.

Counselors can consider the following questions: What language do the principal and teachers use when they talk about parents? Does their language reflect high or low expectations? What kinds of implicit and explicit cues do educators give to parents about their "proper" role in the school? Do they expect parents to be passive recipients of knowledge from them, as the experts? Or, do they expect parents to help to define the school's priorities and issues it needs to address to improve? What kinds of relationships do teachers have with each other? Are their classrooms open to each other? Are their classrooms open to parents? Are there times and places for conversations among teachers about their hopes and concerns for the school?

Once counselors have a sense for the narrative of relationships that is most evident at their school, and for the narrative driving their own relations with parents, they can decide whether and how they want to try to work toward changing the dominant narrative to a narrative that is more conducive to improving students' education. Changing a narrative takes time, persistence, and the collaboration of many people inside and outside of the school. However, counselors, by virtue of their role as liaison among parents, the community, and the school, and their training in listening skills and group and organizational dynamics, are in an excellent position to offer leadership in initiating such systemic change and to play the role of "midwife" to deepen and sustain it.

One of the most basic and important steps to take toward creating a relational narrative is to develop space where parents and educators can share their hopes and concerns with each other about the school and identify issues that they would like to take action on together. These can be individual conversations that the counselor has with parents, or small groups of parents or educators, facilitated by the counselor or others identified as educational leaders in the school. In facilitating such conversations, it is important for the counselor to shed the role of expert, and simply be a good listener, as well as to share his or her own hopes and concerns for the school. Through these conversations, the counselor and others working with him or her can discover leaders among parents and other educators who can join as "comrades in struggles" to improve the school.

The counselor also can develop a collaborative relationship with a community organization that has strong ties to parents and others in the neighbor hood, which will help him or her to reach out and initiate conversations and relationships with parents, and to build their capacity to take action to improve their children's education. Given counselors' large caseloads and multiple responsibilities, a community organization with knowledge of how to engage parents and train them in leadership skills can be a crucial partner. Counselors can learn whether there is such a group in their community by contacting the Cross Cities Campaign for Urban School Reform at or the Institute for Education and Social Policy at http://www.nyu. edu/iesp.

To develop a deeper understanding of how other schools have developed a more relational culture between educators and parents of different social classes, counselors can read stories of reform initiatives in other urban schools. Good sources include books and reports by Gold et al. (2002), Hirota and Jacobs (2003), Mediratta et al. (2002), and Shirley (1997).

In the school counseling literature, Bemak and Comely (2002) recently proposed a model for ways that counselors can develop links between families and schools. Several of the authors' proposals reflect a relational narrative, particularly the recommendations for building bridges between schools and families "so that education becomes a two-way street" (p. 325), "creating environments that welcome families," and "encouraging family advocacy programs" (p. 327). However, some of the language in their recommendations, including using the term "marginalized families" to describe families whom they perceive to be "difficult to reach," suggests a lingering deficit narrative in their thinking. Though the authors noted that they did not intend to use the term pejoratively the term highlights the deficits of some families, as compared to other families whom they labeled as "integrated families," those who "feel comfortable at schools, and regularly participate in PTA and booster club activities" (Bemak & Comely, p. 323). Affixing such labels to differentiate groups of parents, even if it they are only used "in-house," masks the strengths and potential contributions of some families and risks marginalizing them further.

It is important to note that working toward a more relational narrative in a school involves altering the dynamics of power among the adults in the school community and, therefore, is likely to encounter some resistance (Gold et al., 2001). As such, it will be important for the counselor to develop relationships with powerful allies inside and outside the school. The most important ally inside the school is likely to be the principal, as the person with the most formal power, though having the support of other educators and parents who are formal and informal leaders in the school is also essential. Outside the school, a community group with experience in school reform can be a critical ally in creating strategies for overcoming educators' resistance to more collaborative relationships (Gold et al.).

The likelihood that some parents will not have the time or the desire to collaborate with other parents and educators to improve their children's education should not deter a relational approach with other parents; a school with even 10% of its parents engaged as leaders is of great value in enhancing the quality of education.

It will be important for the counselor to locate and coordinate training for educators and parents to take on their new roles in a relational narrative. As observed by Gold et al. (2001) regarding the Children Achieving reform initiative in Philadelphia, part of the reason the reform did not succeed as fully as was hoped is that the district did not offer the professional development that "school principals and teachers needed to work collaboratively with parents and community members, including how to work through the inevitable tensions and conflict of" changing roles and expectations" (p. 47).


The three narratives of parent-educator relationships described in this article--deficit, in loco parentis, and relational--offer a framework that can be used to observe and reflect upon the nature and quality of relationships between parents and educators in urban schools. Two of the narratives, deficit and in loco parentis, place parents in more limited and passive roles, whereas the relational narrative offers opportunities for both parents and educators to take on more active roles in which they can bring their knowledge and strengths to improving students' academic achievement and social and emotional development. Finally, the article identifies repertoires, or sets of practices, that counselors can use to "midwife" relationships among the adults in the school community that are more likely to bear fruit in students' intellectual and social lives.

The repertoires needed for counselors and other educators to develop a relational narrative in their school require significant energy and commitment. However, it is helpful to keep in mind that change occurs gradually, and that the process of developing closer relationships among and between parents and educators who have been isolated and distant from each other can be a deeply gratifying, poignant experience that ultimately will benefit the children and youth in their care.


Abrams, L. S., & Gibbs, J. T. (2002). Disrupting the logic of home-school relations: Parent involvement strategies and practices of inclusion and exclusion. Urban Education, 37(3), 384-407.

Bemak, F., & Cornely, L. (2002). The SAFI model as a critical link between marginalized families and schools: A literature review and strategies for school counselors. Journal of Counseling and Development, 80(3), 322-331.

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cam bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Casey, K. (1995). The new narrative research in education. In M. Apple (Ed.), Review of research in education, 21 (pp. 211-253). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Cortes, E. (1996). Organizing communities and constituencies for change. In S. L. Kagan & N. E. Cohen (Eds.), Reinventing early care and education: A vision for a quality system (pp. 247-266). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cutler, W. (2000). Parents and schools: The 150-year struggle for control in American education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Education Trust. (2003). Scope of work: Transforming School Counseling Initiative. Retrieved January S, 2004, from School+Counseling/

Giles, H. C. (1998). ERIC Digest: Parent engagement as a school reform strategy. New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education.

Giles, H. C. (2001). A word in hand: The scripted labeling of parents by schools. In G. M. Hudak & R Kihn (Eds.), Labeling: Politics & pedagogy (pp. 130-159). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Giles, H. C. (2002). Transforming the deficit narrative: Race, class, and social capital in parent-school relations. In C. Korn & A. Bursztyn (Eds.), Rethinking multicultural education (pp. 127-146).Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

Gold, E., Rhodes, A., Brown, S., Lytle, S., & Waff, D. (2001). Clients, consumers, or collaborators? Parents and their roles in school reform during Children Achieving, 1995-2000. Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

Gold, E., Simon, E., & Brown, C. (2002). Strong neighborhoods, strong schools: The indicators project on education organizing. Chicago: Cross City Campaign for Urban School Reform & Research for Action.

Gramsci, A. (1980). Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. New York: International Publishers.

Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Hirota, J. M., & Jacobs, L. E. (2003). Vital voices: Building constituencies for public school reform. New York: Academy for Educational Development and Chapin Hall Center for Children.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. London: Routledge.

Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., & Sandier, H. M. (1997). Why do parents become involved in their children's education? Review of Educational Research, 67(1), 3-42.

Horvat, E. M., Weininger, E. B., & Lareau, A. L. (2002). From social ties to social capital: Class differences in the relations between schools and parent networks. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 319-351.

Laosa, L. M. (1983). Parent education, cultural pluralism, and public policy: The uncertain connection. In R. Haskins & D. Adams (Eds.), Parent education and public policy (pp. 331-345). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Lawson, M. A. (2003). School-family relations in context: Parent and teacher perceptions of parent involvement. Urban Education, 38(1), 77-133.

Lewis, A. E., & Forman, T. A. (2002). Contestation or collaboration? A comparative study of home-school relations. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 33(1), 60-89.

Lopez, M. E. (2003). Transforming schools through community organizing: A research review. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project. Retrieved May 9, 2004, from resources/research/lopez.html

Mediratta, K., Fruchter, N., & Lewis, A. C. (2002). Organizing for school reform: How communities are finding their voices and reclaiming their public schools. New York: New York University, Institute for Education and Social Policy.

Payne, R. (1998). Framework for understanding poverty. Highlands, TX: Aha! Press.

Rahman, A. (2001, September 19). Fear in the open city. The New York Times, p. A27.

Shirley, D. (1997). Community organizing for urban school reform. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Smrekar, C., & Cohen-Vogel, L. (2001).The voices of parents: Rethinking the intersection of family and school. Peabody Journal of Education, 76(2), 75-100.

Swadener, B. B. (1995). Children and families "at promise"." Deconstructing the discourse of risk. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Zirkel, P., & Reichner, H.F. (1986). Is the in loco parentis doctrine dead? Journal of Law and Education, 15(3), 271-283.

(1) The names of individuals and locations in my consulting and research are pseudonyms to preserve the anonymity, of participants.

Hollyce C. Giles is an associate professor in the Graduate Program in School Counseling at Brooklyn College City University of New York. E-mail:
COPYRIGHT 2005 American School Counselor Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Giles, Hollyce C.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Previous Article:Fostering educational resilience and achievement in urban schools through school-family-community partnerships.
Next Article:Culturally congruent strategies for addressing the behavioral needs of urban, African American male adolescents.

Related Articles
School counseling now and in the future: a reaction.
The role of school counselors in homework intervention.
Teachers and non-teachers as school counselors: reflections on the internship experience.
Conducting a school-based practicum: a collaborative model.
Academic achievement among Caribbean immigrant adolescents: the impact of generational status on academic self-concept.
Fostering educational resilience and achievement in urban schools through school-family-community partnerships.
The transformative individual school counseling model: an accountability model for urban school counselors.
Ethnic identity development in early adolescence: implications and recommendations for middle school counselors.
How collaboration and research can affect school counseling practices: the Minnesota story.
School counselors and school psychologists: collaborative partners in promoting culturally competent schools.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters