Natural Allies: Voices of Teachers Committed to Families
Soo Hong

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Wellesley College

Primary Discipline

While the teacher-parent relationship may be the most common interaction between families and schools, it may also be the least examined. Studies of the relationship have often focused on sources of conflict and tension—fueled by differences in race, class and experience—leading to the oft-cited conclusion that parents and teachers are “natural enemies.” Progress in this area is stymied by the frequent challenges expressed by teachers in communicating and collaborating with parents coupled with the lack of teacher support or training in family engagement. This project recasts the possibilities of parent-teacher relationships through a study of five urban teachers who engage families in varied, meaningful and effective ways. These teachers work in impoverished communities with students of color, English-language learners and immigrant students whose families may be labeled as “hard to reach” and where challenges to parent-teacher communication might be expected. This ethnography is rooted in teacher narratives about their motivations and experiences gleaned through a series of in-depth interviews, observations of formal and informal interactions between teachers and parents in and out of school, and parent narratives that describe families’ experiences with schools and teachers. These narratives along with the fuller school context that is explored within each teacher case will freshly examine the parent-teacher relationship and its potential for collaboration and partnership.
About Soo Hong
Soo Hong is an assistant professor of education at Wellesley College. Her first book, A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2011), examines the role of community organizing groups in facilitating relationships between families and schools and promoting new forms of parent engagement and leadership. Her research focuses on the relationship between schools, families, and communities. She examines issues such as parent leadership, education organizing and school-community partnerships. She explores these as avenues for school and community transformation, particularly in communities that seek to foster improved relationships between families and schools. These research questions originate from her experience as an elementary and middle school humanities teacher. She holds an Ed.D. from Harvard University and a B.A. and M.T. from the University of Virginia.

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