Communicating With Parents Across Cultures: An Investigation of an ESL Parents' Night


  • Yan Guo University of Calgary\



Increasing diversity in the student population intensifies the need for establishing culturally responsive communication between teachers and parents. This study examines the communication processes between Chinese immigrant parents and Canadian English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in a Parents' Night event organized to increase understanding of the ESL program. It is based on observations of three annual Parents' Nights, interviews of ESL teachers and bilingual assistants who acted as interpreters for parents, and focus groups. Results indicate that teachers approached Parents' Night as a mass educational event, which limits the scope for Taylor's "dialogue across differences." As an educational event. Parents' Night appears to be effective in providing general information about the ESL program for new parents. But as an intercultural conflict negotiation event, Parents' Night is ineffective in satisfying experienced parents. The study illustrates how teachers' failure to understand the cultural frame of reference of the immigrant parents created more tensions (Scollan & Scollon, 2001). Implications for preparing teachers to work with parents from diverse cultures are discussed.