Natural Allies: Hope and Possibility in Teacher-Family Partnerships (Paperback)
In Natural Allies, Soo Hong offers a paradigm shift in how we think about family engagement with schools. Hong challenges the conventional depiction of parents and teachers as "natural enemies," and shows how, through teachers' initiative and commitment, they can become natural allies instead. Based on a three-year ethnographic study, the book features the experiences and motivations of five urban school teachers who have successfully created meaningful, productive relationships and partnerships with students' families. In Natural Allies, the teachers' personal narratives are juxtaposed with rich descriptions of their interactions with families and children. The book explores how the dimensions of race, class, culture, and family history shape the interactions between teachers and families, particularly in schools where teacher-parent dynamics may be fraught with distrust or misunderstanding. The book demonstrates how commitment to families and community can become a central part of educators' development as professionals. In addition, the research provides new insight and seeks to merge the study of family engagement with the field of culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies. Offered with optimism and urgency, Natural Allies addresses an area in which many educators feel ill equipped and unprepared. Readers will emerge from a reading of the book with new ideas on family engagement that are grounded in an analysis of the deep contours of the parent-teacher relationship.
Soo Hong is a sociologist of education whose research interests lie at the intersection of schools, families, and communities. Born in South Korea and raised in Baltimore by a rich, vibrant, loving immigrant family and community, Soo seeks to explore the narratives of young people, their families, and educators in communities that strive to dismantle racism, address social inequality, and build liberatory and transformative school communities. Her research and teaching is deeply influenced by her experiences as an elementary and middle school teacher. She is the author of A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2011). Soo is an associate professor of education at Wellesley College.