The Essential Conversation is the crucial exchange that occurs between parents and teachers—a dialogue that takes place more than one hundred million times a year across our country and is both mirror of and metaphor for the larger cultural forces that shape the development of our children.
Participating in this twice-yearly ritual, in a meeting marked by decorum and politeness, parents and teachers frequently exhibit wariness and assume defensive postures. Even though the conversation appears to be focused on the student, adults may find themselves playing out their own childhood histories, insecurities, and fears. Through vivid portraits and parables, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot captures the dynamics of this complex, intense relationship from the perspective of both parents and teachers. She also identifies new principles and practices for improving family-school relationships. In a voice that combines the passion of a mother, the skepticism of a social scientist, and the keen understanding of one of our nation’s most admired educators, Lawrence-Lightfoot offers penetrating analysis and an urgent call to arms for all those who want to act in the best interests of their children.
This treasure of a book is full of wisdom and insight…Parents and teachers need to work in unison for the benefit of our children and our world. In The Essential Conversation, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot gives us the vision and shows us the way.
Bill Cosby, author of Fatherhood
An enormously important volume…soon to be a classic in the literature of education.
Robert Coles, author of Children of Crisis and Lives of Moral Leadership
Lawrence-Lightfoot draws readers in with elegant prose and carefully drawn narrative portraits…a significant and thoughtfully rendered exploration of a social ritual many adults commonly experience but seldom examine. Anyone who has ever sat through a parent/teacher conference, on either side of the tiny table, will find much to consider in these pages.
In precise and luminous prose Lawrence-Lightfoot connects our deepest passions and painful memories to the conversations that will determine our children’s futures.
Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Life
In scene after scene in The Essential Conversation, we recognize our own spoken and unspoken feelings, as Lawrence-Lightfoot reveals the underlying fears, struggles, and hopes that haunt parent-teacher encounters…Because we are all stakeholders in the outcome, it’s easy to adopt Lawrence-Lightfoot’s commitment on behalf of our essential learning through her soaring, generous intelligence, which heartens and inspires those great expectations.
Full of wisdom and insight, her book will help parents understand what happens when children leave home to learn at school and how to improve their learning experiences…The information in this significant educational work is told in a forthright and thoughtful manner and will continue to be of immense value.
For every parent who has ever suffered the anxiety of a parent-teacher conference, this book is an incredibly honest and insightful look at the undercurrents in this essential relationship between a child’s parents and teachers…offers much useful advice here for both parents and teachers on achieving the cooperation needed to reach the common goal of educating children.