Rural, Secondary School Parents’ Discourses About Feeling in Community in Their Children’s Schools: Insights to Shape Teachers’ and Principals’ Questions

  • Bonnie StelmachEmail author


Despite a large corpus of research on parents’ roles in schooling, less attention has been paid to parents in rural contexts, particularly, in Canadian secondary schools. Written in the style of a letter to teachers and principals, this chapter describes the results of a qualitative study that included 21 parents from three rural, northern Alberta schools and 13 parents from urban schools throughout that province. The aim of the study was to privilege the concept of community over the reigning partnership discourse by examining what makes rural secondary school parents feel in community with their children’s schools. McMillan and Chavis’ four-part sense of community theory—membership, influence, fulfilling one’s needs, and emotional connection—framed the analysis. As might be expected, rural parents claimed a stronger sense of community than did urban parents. However, two discourses were constructed from the data suggesting a more complicated experience for rural parents than typically assumed: (1) family, familiarity, and fitness and (2) discourse of doing. Rural parents’ sense of community was contingent upon their history and current engagement not only in the school but in the external community, which impacted how well and where they were situated vis-à-vis unspoken boundaries.


Secondary school parents Rural schools Secondary schools Sense of community School community 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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