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(Re)Constructing Home and School: Immigrant Parents, Agency, and the (Un)Desirability of Bridging Multiple Worlds


by Fabienne Doucet — 2011

Background/Context: This study examines the tactics that Haitian immigrant parents used to negotiate the boundaries around home and school, presenting the possibility that families play an active and deliberate role in creating distance between the worlds of home and school.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The following research questions were explored: (1) Why do Haitian immigrant parents resist bridges between the worlds of home and school? (2) How might this resistance be seen as a show of agency? (3) How do the resistance and agency of Haitian immigrants complicate the in-school/out-of-school dichotomy and push theories that too easily bring in-school and out-of-school worlds together?

Setting: Greater Boston, Massachusetts.

Population/Participants/Subjects: Participants were 54 parents of Haiti-born (1.5 generation) and U.S.-born (second generation) Haitian American adolescents.

Research Design: The study draws from a subset of data collected with Haitian families in a large longitudinal study of newly arrived immigrants from five different countries and from data collected in a supplemental study of second-generation Haitian families. Data sources include structured interviews and field notes.

Data Collection and Analysis: Data were collected by bilingual, bicultural research assistants. Interviews were recorded whenever possible, transcribed, and, if necessary, translated to English. Data were analyzed for this article using classic qualitative thematic analysis techniques.

Findings/Results: The findings suggest that parents actively constructed and reconstructed distinct boundaries for home and school rather than being passive victims of these boundaries. Three metathemes and seven related themes emerged related to the research questions: protecting the home terrain (displayed as a concern with family privacy; parental strictness; and discouraging friendships); equating schools with Americanization (shown through criticisms of U.S. schools/schooling, and parents’ limited contact with school), and negotiating a seat at the table (through parental advocacy; and reciprocal partnership-seeking)

Conclusions/Recommendations: These findings question the pervasive notion in educational literature and practice that close links between home and school should be the goal of both teachers and families.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 12, 2011, p. 2705-2738
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16203, Date Accessed: 10/21/2017 8:09:40 AM

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About the Author
  • Fabienne Doucet
    New York University
    E-mail Author
    FABIENNE DOUCET is an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her research program addresses the educational experiences of immigrant and U.S.-born children of color and their families’ relationships to U.S. schools. Recent publications include: Doucet, F. (2008). How African American parents understand their and teachers’ roles in children’s schooling and what this means for preparing preservice teachers. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 29(2), 108–139; and Tudge, J. R. H., Freitas, L. B. L., & Doucet, F. (2009). The transition to school: Reflections from a contextualist perspective. In H. Daniels, H. Lauder, & J. Porter (Eds.), Educational theories, cultures and learning: A critical perspective (pp. 117–133). London: Routledge.
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