Academic journal article Rural Educator

Considering Student Writing from the Perspective of Parents in One Rural Elementary School

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Considering Student Writing from the Perspective of Parents in One Rural Elementary School

Article excerpt

This article explores the perspective of parents regarding their elementary children's writing in one rural, elementary school. During the research, thematic strands emerged indicating that parents may value their children's writing for purposes that differ from the purposes deemed appropriate by the school. Upon interviewing 30 parents/guardians, the following codes materialized identifying elements that contribute to the parents' perspectives. These elements include the following: Parents do not see the connection between school and real world writing, parents lack understanding on writing purposes, parents' perceptions of writing are based on their own school experiences, and some parents are illiterate. Not only are these elements identified, but suggestions as to how to address each are considered.

Teachers Link Students' Lack of Writing Success with a Lack of Parental Concern

Having taught for over a decade and served as a school administrator for four years in Appalachia, I was familiar with the schoolhouse mantra mat student lack of success is due to the disinterest on the part of many parents regarding their children's education. Perhaps I should not have been surprised when in the role of teaching assistant in a doctoral program, my first group of pre-service teachers voiced the same reason for many students' lack of success in writing. Intrigued, I wondered aloud how a group of pre-service teachers, with no teaching experience, had come to this conclusion. They explained that everyone knew this: It was just a fact of life.

When researching writing strategies in a rural, Appalachian school, I once again was confronted with teachers who saw a clear link to students' lack of success, particularly their inability to write well, and parents who did not care. Fueled by a need to better understand the perspective of the parent in this situation and to determine whether or not unsuccessful student writers are merely just products of uninterested or uncaring parents, I began a formal study. I hoped that by interviewing parents, particularly parents of students in Appalachia, and illuminating their thoughts on how they perceive writing, I would acquire insight that would help teachers better understand and communicate with parents regarding student writing.

Background

The literature is replete with calls for parental involvement in the classroom and, specifically, in children's learning. Au, Carrol and Scheu (1997), for example, suggest that conversations with students' parents are an insightful way for teachers to better understand students and their backgrounds. Nistler and Maiers (2000), too, concur and refer to parents as a "powerful, underused source of knowledge" (p. 679) while Warren and Young (2002) describe parental involvement as "imperative" to student learning (p. 217). Researchers also suggest that involving parents in the learning process of their children benefits both teachers and students in developing an awareness of cultural backgrounds and differences (Nistler & Maiers, 2000; Stotsky, 1999).

Despite these numerous calls in current literature for parental involvement, few researchers, with the exception of Heath (1983) and Purcell-Gates (1995), have explored the literacy of Appalachian children in relation to their parents (Perry, Nordby & VandeKamp, 2003). As a result of the little emphasis in the literature on involving or informing parents about their children's writing development, teachers have not thought to share writing information with their students' families (Perry, et al. 2003). A second reason that teachers may not include parents in their children's writing development is that some teachers have observed parents scolding students regarding their writing (Perry et al., 2003). While the answer seems to be that parents need training or information to alleviate this type of concern, some teachers feel that the time it would take to train parents is prohibitive. …

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