Micropolitics of parent-school interactions in an early childhood education setting



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The purpose of this study was to explore parent-school interactions in an early childhood education setting from a micropolitical perspective. Relying on the interpretivist perspective, a case study was undertaken as the methodology for exploring the interests, conflicts, strategies, and the patterns of interactions between parents, teachers, and administrators. This research was conducted in a private non-profit community-based early childhood development center in central Texas. Data were gathered through interviews, observations, the school documents collection, and field notes. The researcher first portrayed a general image of parent-school interactions at the research setting, the Big Bend Child Development Center (BBCDC). The BBCDC created an open and friendly environment for children and their parents based on the center’s philosophy and the Developmentally Appropriated Practice guidelines. Most of the parent-school interactions happened in informal arenas. Administrators and teachers provided different ways to get parents involved, and daily communication played an important role in building relationships within the BBCDC. Moreover, parents actively got themselves involved. Under the context of the BBCDC, parents’ school choice, the non-deficit discourse, and the process of socialization helped to reduce tension between parents, teachers, and administrators. Three groups of participants developed their own strategies of working with each other. Two types of strategies were found, including day-to-day strategies and facing-conflict strategies. All the day-to-day strategies were also used during the process of managing conflicts. The day-to-day strategies were “preparatory strategies” (Malen & Cochran, 2008), which were employed to accumulate resources that might be converted to influence at a later time. By analyzing the strategies, the researcher found that relationships, information, and authority were all resources of power which these three groups of participants gave every effort to gain. Four patterns of politics were found in this study, including operating cooperation, facing conflict, preventing conflict, and suppressing conflict. The important roles of administrators and daily communication on the micropolitics of parent-school interactions were discussed. Based on the findings, the researcher suggested implications for early childhood education administrators, for early childhood education research from a micropolitical perspective, and for future research.