Jenna Shim

Jenna Shim, from the University of Wyoming, discusses how the parent involvement aspect overlooks the importance of parent-teacher relationships. The article, Involving the Parents of English Language Learners in A Rural Area: Focus on the Dynamics of Parent-Teacher Interactions, the author, Jenna Shim, explores how students will benefit from parental involvement and closes with three themes on parent teacher power relations. The purpose of this article is to study the growth of English Language Learners in rural areas, to determine why teachers feel unprepared to work with ELL students, and why parents and teachers of ELL students are having a hard time developing connections.

The author, Jenna Shim, uses statistics in the article to give the readers an understanding on how much of the population are English Language Learners. From her findings, “by 2025, it is predicted nearly one in every four public school students will be an ELL.” (National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, NCELA, 2007; Winke, 2011).This statistic shows that the population of English Language Learners are growing rapidly. ELL students tend to succeed best when their parents are involved in their education. Shim cites an article that states, “Barriers that may prevent involvement of parents of ELLs have been identified as “language, cultural differences, work schedules, and lack of transportation” (Padgett, 2006, p. 44). This statement applies to all parents. Lack of parent involvement happens all over, not just with ELL students. Although, parent involvement will not improve how their student succeeds in school, it will help the student feel loved and cared about. When a student feels this way, he/she wants to make those involved proud, so they try harder. The author states that parent involvement can include volunteering at school functions, assisting their child with homework, and becoming involved with their schools governance issues. The biggest way a parent can get involved is by developing a relationship with their students teacher.
Parent and teacher relationships, in general, tend to have a lot of tension between them, states Jenna Shim. This is caused by cultural differences between the parents and teachers. Shim cited from Two takes on the critical. In B. Norton, & K. Toohey (Eds), Critical pedagogies and language learning, which states “Furthermore, ELL parent-teacher relationships are grounded in unequal power relations” (Luke. 2004). These unequal power relations that the parents and teacher have could be the reason why there is tension. The power relations are caused by the different positions the these two have. The article mentioned by Shim gave the example of doctors and patients.
The benefits of parental involvement are very broad. The results could be as simple as passing a test or a deciding factor on their child going to college. If a parent is constantly involved in his or her’s child’s education the student might feel supported enough to continue their education. The author states that parental involvement can also help their child have a better attitude about going to school. If the parents are excited than that energy will be passed down to the kids.
The last topic the author discussed in the article is three themes that shape parent-teacher interactions. The first theme Shim explained is teacher judgements. This theme explained that teachers can easily assume that students or parents who do not speak English fluently lack in their capacity to think at the same levels that people who speak English as their first language. This theme is supported by an experience a Chinese mother with an ELL student faced. The mother was frustrated with the teachers’ judgements towards her and her child. The mother expressed how she feels as if the teachers think that because they have limited English and accents mean that their IQ’s are low. The second theme is about the inability to influence a teacher’s decision making. This theme is supported by a hispanic ELL parent stated that “They tell us that our opinions are welcome and that we are free to voice our opinions but then they do whatever they want to do anyway.” Teachers need to take comments and opinions from a parent into consideration and apply what they’ve heard from the parents and turn it into something positive. The third theme is the fear of negative repercussion against speaking up. ELL parents feel as if the teachers’ do not want to answer their questions or they feel like a burden for mentioning something. This theme is supported by an ELL parent that said “I just feel that the only way to make them happy is if you remain quiet and you just agree with everything they say”
After reading this article, as a future educator it is necessary to develop those relationships with the parents of all our student, but especially with ELL students’ parents. By doing this, the parents will feel welcome and accepted by the teachers. The parents also need to make sure they are involved in their child’s education. Finally, this article explained three themes that shape parent-teacher interactions.