This topic contains 35 replies, has 24 voices, and was last updated by  Katya Larson 5 days, 2 hours ago.

  • Author
    Posts
  • #10928 Reply

    sgaither
    Moderator

    Hello ERIS students!  

    As we were interviewing teachers about their needs and concerns for their newcomer students, one story stuck out. An ESL Teacher in IL was trying to connect with her refugee students by showing them photos online of their homeland (Burma). She was helping them with vocabulary by pointing out familiar objects and teaching new words. During this exercise, she accidentally showed her refugee students images of the people responsible for inflicting violence in the student’s community and forcing their families to flee. The students panicked and withdrew to a corner of the classroom.  It took a long time for the teacher to earn the students’ trust back.  She did so by being constant in her care of the students, as well as some mediation with a translator and the family.

    Have you ever had an experience like this with newcomer students in your classroom?  Something that, in spite of your best efforts, went horribly wrong?  What was your reaction to this event?  How have you been able to take this experience and move forward in knowing more about your students? How has this experience educated your understanding of refugee support in the classroom?

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by  sgaither.
    • This topic was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by  sgaither.
    • This topic was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by  sgaither.
  • #82716 Reply

    Katya Larson
    Participant

    One thing that I focus on with my refugee students is their social and emotional well-being. I like to help set up “playdates” with American students so my students are able to interact with peers outside of the classroom setting. Since I do not know any of the “mainstream” students in the schools, I specifically have to ask students, their teachers, and their parents for names of friends. I usually ask my student if he/she would like help setting up the playdate (usually my students are very eager), and then I call both sets of parents to set it up.
    There was one girl who I decided to talk to about how well she is making friends. She said she is best friends with another refugee girl. I dug a bit deeper and asked if she has any “American” friends. She said “no.” I asked if there were any other girls in her class that she would like to be friends with. All of a sudden she started crying. I was very shocked; she was typically a very happy, outgoing girl. Rather than pressing forward, I just sat with her and let her cry. When she was ready, she asked to do more schoolwork, so we haven’t talked about that since.
    I talked to her teachers and asked if there was anyone they could sit her next to in class or encourage to invite her to lunch/recess. I know friendships cannot be forced, but I hoped they could help facilitate friendships.
    This experience taught me that a standard approach to anything (especially social/emotional needs) does not always work. Sometimes I get caught up in the “now” and forget about all of the things that refugee students left behind. They HAD friends and social groups and teachers, and sometimes that affects how quickly or easily they are able to dive into their new circumstances. I had one boy who made a best friend in the first week, one boy who jumped around social groups for a semester until he found his “people”, and many students who are still struggling to find their place in middle school.

    • #83796 Reply

      Erin Kral Kemmis
      Participant

      I love the idea of setting up play dates after put some thought into the best matches for these play dates.

    • #83400 Reply

      Vanessa Wilson
      Participant

      I agree Katya, I am often surprised at the discrepancy in how immigrant students assimilate in our district. Some seem to be outgoing and speaking fluent English within the year while others spend all day without uttering a sound after 3 years. I like your point that it may not all be contributed to their “personality” but rather where they’ve come from and what they’ve left behind.

  • #83004 Reply

    Douglas Rossberg
    Participant

    What a story – and I could definitely see how that could happen with even the best of intentions. The part that really strikes me is the language barrier that made it difficult for the teacher to explain themselves to the students and families. I certainly have made mistakes as a teacher, and I take for granted that I’m able to quickly resolve those miscommunications with my English speaking students.

    My experience with newcomers in the classroom is fairly minimal, but the experience that comes most readily to mind is from my time teaching in Utah. My school district provided a grant-funded summer school opportunity for migrant and newcomer students where they would basically receive some pre-teaching to prepare for the next grade level and fill in some gaps. Though the program was designed for migrant and newcomers, other families could apply for their students to attend to keep the classes mixed. I had signed on to teach kindergarten – meaning kids who had completed their kindergarten year and were moving into 1st grade. When numbers weren’t as high as anticipated, they decided to add pre-k to my roster to fill my class – now I basically had half kids who had completed kinder and half kids who had never been to school before. It was a huge challenge. I was attempting to communicate with students using google translate on my phone and struggling to keep them safe in an unfriendly environment (the summer school was housed at a high school, no real appropriate furniture or tools for kids this age). I reacted to the situation by trying to develop relationships with the students and make them feel welcome and cared for, focusing my efforts less on academic success and more on social and behavioral successes. This has helped me realize that all students, not just refugees, require a relationship before they really can make meaningful academic growth. Spending those weeks at the beginning of the year creating a true classroom community are not wasted – we are all anxious to dig into curricula, but the relationships with students are really the foundation upon which we build.

    • #83247 Reply

      Bryn Rouse
      Participant

      I appreciated your post Doug and the reminder of how critical relationships are to success for all students in our classrooms. There is often so much pressure to catch students up or getting them exposed to the content prior to testing, that I have sometimes forgotten to take those extra moments to make connections with students. One way I tried to incorporate community building and connection building in our classroom, while balancing academic needs, is what I call “Turn and Talk Monday.” Each Monday students have 1 minute to share what they did over the weekend (either one activity or summarize) with a partner (which can be me too). Their partner then asks them a question or makes a comment/connection. They then switch roles. This have been a success both for building speaking and listening skills for all students, as well as providing a low-stress opportunity for my refugee student to practice his English/ask questions, as well as see that he does/likes the same things as so many of his peers!

    • #83798 Reply

      Erin Kral Kemmis
      Participant

      Full heartedly agree, Doug. Sometimes you just have to focus on the child’s social/emotional health before the academics in cases where trauma is involved.

    • #83541 Reply

      Amy Stemple
      Participant

      Last year I had a refugee student in my 1st grade class. He came to our school in October of his kindergarten year and had learned a great deal academically, socially, and culturally. He is not only smart but highly gregarious. He was able to complete many grade level tasks. If he struggled, he used great strength to problem solve through most of the project, assignment, or activity. We built a pretty strong relationship and I felt confident in our work.

      He has two older brothers that attend our school. The middle boy was really struggling academically and in November I thought that it would be beneficial to invite him to attend our whole group reading lessons. This third grader is a lovely boy but is shy, very quiet and cautious. My class loved having a third grader in our class; each student would beg him to sit next to them. At the beginning, he was shy and didn’t often offer to participate in discussions. During a “share the pen” activity a student gave him the pen to write on the board. It was very difficult for him and he was very self-conscious.. I jumped up to help and the whole experience embarrassed him. I am sure that having his younger brother in the room was even more embarrassing for him. I tried to smooth it over but the damage had been done. His visits started to be less frequent and by February he had stopped coming to our classroom for reading.

      The first grader continued to make tremendous progress throughout the year. The third grader continues to struggle academically but is a very nice boy. When I see him at school, and I still feel bad about putting him in an embarrassing situation.

    • #83406 Reply

      Joe Slemberger
      Participant

      Doug –

      Good point on your idea of connecting with kids before focusing on curriculum. It reminds of the square peg/round hole analogy. Yes, there are things we absolutely need our students to know and learn. However, we also need to thoroughly understand how all of our students learn before we really know what our lesson plans will look like. I’d say this is a valid point with our refugee students as well as our mainstream students.

  • #83018 Reply

    Angela Palin
    Participant

    The first year I had a new student, one of my other kid’s dad died in a terrible accident. We got my class together with the school counselor to talk to the class why X was gone and when he came back how to be kind and nice to him. (I teach 3rd grade) My new student had been in the US for 3 days. We had someone who we thought new the same dialect. Come to find out, she new the language, but NOT the same dialect, and my new little boy thought that we were telling the class that his dad had died. It was AWFUL!!!! He had tears running down his face sobbing uncontrollably. The translator quickly tried to fix the mistake, and did, but the added trauma that we gave to this boy was horrible. I still haven’t forgiven myself. If this should ever happen again, I will send the new student out of the room, or just not even involve the translator. While it’s important for kids to learn compassion, not on their 3rd day in a new country, over a really bad experience.

    • #87045 Reply

      Katya Larson
      Participant

      I am sorry that you (and your students) had to experience that. I know that coming to a new place is difficult for anyone, but especially coming from a traumatic past. I do think that it is good to involve refugees and ELL students in as much of the class conversations as possible, but as you mentioned, sometimes it is better to wait until the student has more familiarity with their peers/new setting before diving into difficult conversations.

  • #83070 Reply

    Erin Kral Kemmis
    Participant

    I have, unfortunately, only had one experience with a refugee student and his family and none with immigrant families. There are no instances I can recall where I felt I really offended the student or his family. I feel my student, his family, and I had a really positive relationship. The student’s father spoke English pretty well and he always felt comfortable enough to come tell me about concerns. His family was very kind and open.
    My only regret was not getting to know more about their back story from his parents. I wasn’t sure how much I should pry. My student was only 5 years old, so in the beginning of the year his English was very limited. He was an extremely fast learner and by the middle of the year, I loved to hear the stories he would tell me about Iraq. He talked about his family still there and a dog that was very important to him.

    • #83265 Reply

      Melissa Cooper
      Participant

      I look forward to using the resources from the RCO to help me better understand refugee/immigrant students and their families better also!

  • #83192 Reply

    Jeremy Harder
    Participant

    I am looking back into my 20 years in education, I have one identified refugee student. We have a few ELL students but this one student entered our school in my 4th-grade class. Trying to be understanding and opening up with her I asked her to tell me her story about traveling to the US. Although all intentions on my side were to create a positive introduction, I only realized minutes into her story she was struggling and fighting back tears. I said something like “its alright” “continue”. Her story was devastating and had many violent events that I asked her to recall without thinking forward that this may be the case. As she got to some of those parts, I realized that I was prying into a life I didn’t understand, experiences that were beyond mine. As she wiped tears from her eyes, I calmly asked her to stop, realizing I had not considered what she might have gone through before I asked her to tell her story. After apologizing several times, she stopped. I felt terrible and that was our first interaction. It took a bit to rebound from that and for me to build a trusting relationship but eventually, we did and she later wrote the story down on her own accord. When she handed it to me later that month, i couldn’t tear myself away from her account of her escape from Central America.

    • #87051 Reply

      Katya Larson
      Participant

      Thank you, Jeremy, for sharing that story. I think it is important for students’ to share their stories on their own time, and I also think it is important for teachers to hear about what their refugees are coming from. The first day that my class (all refugees) decided to talk about their experiences (that was Not the lesson plan; they just organically brought it up), I went home emotionally devastated because that was my first real glimpse into what my students had been through. It was important that my students had a safe place to comfortably share their thoughts with each other, and it was important for me to recognize a bit more of the scope of their resilience. It gave our class a better mutual understanding of each other.
      I’m glad that you were able build a trusting relationship with your student because it gave her a safe space to process.

  • #83243 Reply

    Bryn Rouse
    Participant

    I had an experience similar, if not nearly as traumatic. At the beginning of this year I was explaining the sensory tool options available in my resource classroom. I was going through each and brought up one called “a snake.” My refugee student jumped up out of his seat. looking around anxiously and saying, “Where? A snake where?” I was completely caught off guard and reassured the student that there was no real snack but a term for a long sand-filled piece cloth that can be laid around the neck for extra weight, which can be comforting for some students.
    I tried to stay calm and reassure the student, but I also had to suppress a desire to laugh as not to embarrass the student for what was really my poor choice of language and complete unawareness of how his previous experience might should have impacted my language choices in my classroom. The experience made me realize I need to be more careful of my own assumptions.-Just because his English is rather impressive, doesn’t mean that he has all vocabulary words done, especially multiple meaning words.
    After class, the student did reveal some of his background as having been in a refugee camp in Uganda where dangerous snakes would crawl into their beds sometimes. I realized how I had been insensitive to the possibility of his trauma in his past and could have done more to learn about his personal background. Vocabulary instruction, including with multiple meaning words, asking about him personally more often and being mindful of potential triggers related to refugee camp life have been more frequent since then in my classroom. In the end, this was a positive discussion as he saw that I cared about him, could trust me to keep him staff and it had been an honest mistake. We are continuing to use these misunderstandings that can happen at any time to further his personal and academic growth.

  • #83381 Reply

    Kasey Marks
    Participant

    Greetings!
    I have not had any experience with refugee students in my classroom. In the past I have had limited experiences with immigrant students and none of which I think involved any horrible experiences as the ESL teacher in IL. My most challenging experience involved students from Uganda who came to the U.S. in an adoption situation. Their English was limited so it took longer to get to know them and a challenge to be successful teaching them. The kids had great attitudes, were patient, and most of all grateful to be at school. I think the most important thing I did with them was to continue to get to know them and their story.

    I agree with Katya and Doug in that there are times we should be more concerned with the social and emotional well being of the student rather than the academic success. The students need to feel welcomed and a part of the community before they will be in a position to succeed academically. This can be very challenging if we are not familiar with the student’s culture and background.

    • #83520 Reply

      Joe Vincent
      Participant

      Hey Kasey,
      I am a new teacher and also have not had experiences with refugee students. This year, in our middle school, there are a few immigrant students who speak no English. While they are not refugees, they come from places vastly different from the community that they are living in now. My greatest struggle is the language barrier between myself, and the three ESL students in my classes. Being able to speak to them in simple Spanish has helped our relationships to start off with what I believed to be a strong start, but it is a constant struggle to engage those students in an English speaking classroom. When they are around, we are able to talk and overcome some language barriers to do some of the same work as the English speaking students. But, often these students are pulled out of class by the ELL teacher. This is great as they are getting a chance to work on English, but I never know when they will be in class, for how long, or if they will be there at all. This makes it tough to build meaningful relationships and to include the students in the curriculum.

  • #83864 Reply

    Shirley Lindburg
    Participant

    When we began enrolling refugees in our district, I expected that we would find our the stories of each family from the International Refugee Committee (IRC), the organization that resettles the refugees in Missoula. However, we were told not to ask for their stories since many families had suffered through hardships and trauma and they had to share their experiences multiple times during the vetting process. Over time, as I got to know the families, I was able to ask one man about the experiences of Eritreans who fled their homeland. He stressed that they do not want to talk about the past but he would tell me stories so that I understood better.

    Many Congolese refugees spend many years (some over 20 years) in camps but many Eritreans have left their country more recently and did so by paying others to smuggle them across the border into a safer country. When they would travel was often dependent on the age of their children. If they traveled at night with a baby or toddler, the child might cry which would give away their location. They would leave behind their home, their friends, family, a pet possibly, their jobs and school and walk away with no expectation to ever return. I’m sure most of us could never imagine that kind of choice and the dangerous situation that would put our families in.

    I struggle with wanting to know more about each family and their background and knowing that finding out may take a long time. That’s one reason why reading the backgrounders provided on this website as well as others, helps me to begin to understand where our students have come from. But I have also had the privilege of getting close to one family and as a result have learned so much more about their life in the refugee camp the the struggles they have faced.

    • #85343 Reply

      Scott Chook
      Participant

      This is why I struggle with the idea of even asking! It is often impossible to know if my questions will uncover traumatic experiences. It is also really hard to find the time during a 45 minute period to make these connections.

  • #83727 Reply

    Meaghan

    Bryn I love your “Turn and Talk” Monday! What a great way to connect with students on a personal level. Too often I think our conversations still revolve around the school day. I think it strengthen relationships tremendously with students when we get to know them beyond the walls of our school. What their hobbies are, what they did over the weekend, etc. I think in addition to relationship building, you also hit on some key life skills and learning targets: speaking and listening, as well as letting ELL and refugee students practice English in a non-threatening or stressful way.

  • #83726 Reply

    Meaghan

    In regards to something going terribly wrong even though I had the best intentions, I think of a situation I had with a kindergarten refugee student in my P.E. class. My number one priority with all of my students is to build a relationship with them. I want all of my students to know how much I care about them, and that my classroom is a place I want them to feel safe. This was the student’s first day in P.E., so I had not had a chance to build a relationship yet, but instantly tried to make him feel welcome. He was able to play with the other students and follow along with the game pretty well. I tried to check-in with him to give him positive comments right away. As soon as something didn’t go his way in the game he began throwing scooters and polo sticks across the gym floor, even towards others. I tried to stop him, but he began screaming at the top of his lungs and scratching me if I got too close. I had to remove my class from the room. I felt completely helpless as a teacher. Did the game set him off, too much stimuli, did I do something? From that point on I tried to build a relationship with him during class, talk to him in the hall or at recess… but it continued to happen and he continued to impulsively hit other students. Time has passed and he is now a first grader and doing fantastic! He is safe with his body, respectful towards others, keeps his hands to himself, is laughing and smiling during our games. This is because of amazing classroom teachers and support staff going above and beyond to be with him throughout his day. As a specialist I don’t always feel in the loop with communication and the process. I want to be the best teacher I can for all my students and do everything I can to help transition our refugee students and their families into the school. I want to have a better understanding of the process the family goes through, as well as the procedures and process we have as a school district (which that piece I know may be out of the realm of this class), and what support team the schools should or do have in place. I want to have a better understanding how to serve refugee families in our school and community.

  • #83690 Reply

    Joe Vincent
    Participant

    Hey Kasey,
    I am a new teacher and also have not yet had experiences with refugee students. This year, in our middle school, there are a few immigrant students who speak no English. While they are not refugees, they come from places vastly different from the community that they are living in now. My greatest struggle is the language barrier between myself, and the three ESL students in my classes. Being able to speak to them in simple Spanish has helped our relationships to start off with what I believed to be a strong start, but it is a constant struggle to engage those students in an English speaking classroom. When they are around, we are able to talk and overcome some language barriers to do some of the same work as the English speaking students. But, often these students are pulled out of class by the ELL teacher. This is great as they are getting a chance to work on English, but I never know when they will be in class, for how long, or if they will be there at all. This makes it tough to build meaningful relationships and to include the students in the curriculum.

  • #83687 Reply

    Joe Vincent
    Participant

    Hey Kasey,
    I am a new teacher and also have not had experiences with refugee students. This year, in our middle school, there are a few immigrant students who speak no English. While they are not refugees, they come from places vastly different from the community that they are living in now. My greatest struggle is the language barrier between myself, and the three ESL students in my classes. Being able to speak to them in simple Spanish has helped our relationships to start off with what I believed to be a strong start, but it is a constant struggle to engage those students in an English speaking classroom. When they are around, we are able to talk and overcome some language barriers to do some of the same work as the English speaking students. But, often these students are pulled out of class by the ELL teacher. This is great as they are getting a chance to work on English, but I never know when they will be in class, for how long, or if they will be there at all. This makes it tough to build meaningful relationships and to include the students in the curriculum.

  • #83619 Reply

    Sonya Sugarman
    Participant

    I think the importance of building relationships with your immigrant and refugee students cannot be overstated. Students need to feel that they have someone to turn to, someone they can trust when they are feeling insecure or overwhelmed. As an ESOL teacher, I always want my students to feel like they can come to my room and be themselves—away from the stress of trying to fit in or speak “perfect” English.

    A few years ago, I was working with an immigrant student from Japan. Though he spoke very good English, he choose not to say much in group and seemed content keeping to himself, declining numerous invitations for lunch bunch with me and some other students. One day, I noticed him waiting in the hallway with his class and said my normal hello and asked him how his day was going. He then proceeded to follow me into my room and then suddenly burst out sobbing. He revealed to me that another student in his class had been bullying him and he just couldn’t take it anymore. The classroom teacher had no idea, so I was glad that my attempts to build up a trusting relationship with him actually had worked and that he felt he could confide in me. Immigrant and refugee students need to know they have allies at school and that there are people that accept and welcome them as they are.

  • #83568 Reply

    Jennifer Seaman
    Participant

    As of now, I have not had a refugee student in my classroom, but we have many refugee families in our school from Africa and Syria. I have observed, mostly from afar, many of their transitions into our school. I am frequently in awe of the amazing strides they take in such a short time. I am also always impressed and thankful for the way our staff unites to provide them with as much support as possible. They truly are resilient and adapt quickly to their new surroundings. One observation I made at the start of this year was how two siblings who were newcomers to our country and our school reacted to this enormous change in their lives. One sibling is a boy in second grade and the other is a girl in 5th grade. The girl seemed to internalize her feelings and was extremely quite and shy to begin with, while the boy expressed his feelings in an external and more disruptive way. He would run out of class often, and he would ignore adults. With the support of staff and volunteers the brother’s behaviors quickly lessened as he learned the routines and started to feel comfortable in his classroom setting. The girl has become more talkative but seems to still be very intimidated when she doesn’t understand what you are saying. These observations reinforced my belief in the importance of staff members taking time to connect with these children and support them as they navigate such a tremendous transition. It also helped me realize that even though these children came from the same home and experienced many of the same things, their reactions to situations are not always the same. Through these observations I have learned that all children, but especially these children are unique and need different supports to feel comfortable and successful in the classroom.

  • #83565 Reply

    Amy Stemple
    Participant

    Last year I had a refugee student in my 1st grade class. He came to our school in October of his kindergarten year and had learned a great deal academically, socially, and culturally. He is not only smart but highly gregarious. He was able to complete many grade level tasks. If he struggled, he used great strength to problem solve through most of the project, assignment, or activity. We built a pretty strong relationship and I felt confident in our work.

    He has two older brothers that attend our school. The middle boy was really struggling academically and in November I thought that it would be beneficial to invite him to attend our whole group reading lessons. This third grader is a lovely boy but is shy, very quiet and cautious. My class loved having a third grader in our class; each student would beg him to sit next to them. At the beginning, he was shy and didn’t often offer to participate in discussions. During a “share the pen” activity a student gave him the pen to write on the board. It was very difficult for him and he was very self-conscious.. I jumped up to help and the whole experience embarrassed him. I am sure that having his younger brother in the room was even more embarrassing for him. I tried to smooth it over but the damage had been done. His visits started to be less frequent and by February he had stopped coming to our classroom for reading.

    The first grader continued to make tremendous progress throughout the year. The third grader continues to struggle academically but is a very nice boy. When I see him at school, and I still feel bad about putting him in an embarrassing situation.

  • #83552 Reply

    Nicholas Shepherd
    Participant

    Like many teachers I have not many classroom interactions with students who are refugees or immigrants. However, I have one student currently who is a newcomer from Iraq. Fortunately I don’t think there has been anything that has gone horribly wrong. But I cannot say with certainty that I have not crossed lines with this student and they have had unanticipated reactions or have gone home and talked with their parent(s) regarding the situation.
    I believe a common thread is to ensure that new students feel welcomed at school. I had the opportunity to send my children to school for a day with relatives in Italy while we were there visiting. What stood out to me is how welcoming the school was to my kids. Extra social time was given throughout the day because of their visit so the children could interact with each other. I asked a teacher if this was out of the ordinary. She said that they will alter their schedule when there is a new student in their class. She felt, and the school as well, that it was more important to make the new student(s) feel welcomed and comfortable. instead of assimilating them into the instructional routine and act as if there is nothing different. What I can say is that I am often guilty of just proceeding with lessons rather than taking the time to acknowledge the difficulty of being a new student.

  • #83523 Reply

    Rebecca Kellman
    Participant

    I can relate to the issue of making assumptions based on a lack of information. In my class last year, I had two refugee students from the same area and during class I almost ALWAYS sat them together and paired them up thinking this would be their preference. The two students were both female in the same grade although they did have a signficant disparity in language/literacy levels. I very wrongly ASSUMED they would be appreciative of having each other to speak to and work with. After about six weeks had passed, one of the students asked me to please stop assigning them to work together! She expressed that she was a hardworking student and the other student was not as hardworking, which was very irritating day in and day out. She also was tired of all the questions from the other student and felt distracted during class. I started pairing the students with others immediately and both of them benefitted from the separation academically and socially. Lesson learned… don’t assume! Better to ask and check in frequently regarding student preferences. It truly had not occurred to me that the students would weary of one another and that my pairing them may have impeded their growth had one of the students not spoken to me about the problem. Another one of the reasons I decided to take this class. My best intentions might not be the best approach, so I look forward to learning more about how to work with students and families in ways that are both compassionate and effective.

  • #83513 Reply

    Patty Hamblin
    Participant

    I have not had any experience with refugee students, although there are a number of immigrant students in our school. My relationship with these students has been positive. There were two girls in particular that I had in class (I teach high school students) two times a day. We were able to form a relationship as teacher and students and I was truly sad to see them move on when they left at the end of the year. I know I could have done so much more to help them feel more welcome and prepare them for life outside of the classroom but I don’t feel I’ve been given the right training to do more. This year I have a student who I am having a really hard time connecting to. I look forward to learning more so I can bridge the gap between us.

    I also agree with those of you who believe that our concern should be more on the social and emotional well being of students. These students are experiencing something completely foreign and it is partially up to us as educators to help them.

  • #83405 Reply

    Joe Slemberger
    Participant

    I have now had refugee students in my classes for the past three semesters. I haven’t had situations in which something went horribly wrong, but I have had experiences that were awkward for the refugee students and myself as the teacher. I am a Health Enhancement teacher, so most of what we do in class is physical activity and new students tend to pick up rules and norms faster than in a classroom setting. However, in a Health class I found myself struggling to help a refugee student understand a concept and my other, non-refugee students had to wait and watch while I tried to find an effective explanation. I quickly moved on and instead choose to work one-on-one with my refugee student before and after class to give him the assistance he needed in understanding the various concepts. Since that experience I’ve made it part of my routine to check in with my refugee students often, away from their peers, to check for understanding and I feel it’s helped them integrate in the classroom.

  • #83403 Reply

    Vanessa Wilson
    Participant

    I was fortunate enough to work one on one with a student last year and my resource-teacher brain immediately went to researching interventions to get this student reading at grade level. After a few weeks of little improvement, I started to get to know her. She loved sharing about her country and she finally told me the goals she wanted to accomplish in her education. I was amazed at the insight this student had in to her own level of English proficiency and where she felt she needed to go. Had I spent the time to get to know her in the beginning, I would have seen my job through a different lens than a special educator. I think we are quick to go to what we know and forget that these students are very unique in their educational needs and that our “go-to’s” don’t always work.

  • #84690 Reply

    Samantha Pierce
    Participant

    Hello,

    Unfortunately, my interactions with immigrants in the school setting has been vey limited. To my knowledge, I have yet to have a student in my class that has immigrated to our country from another country. I do recall a few years ago, though, when a colleague had a student in her class that had just arrived from Mexico and spoke very limited English. It just so happened, that my son was also in this first grade class and I remember how excited and eager he was to communicate with his new friend that spoke Spanish. We bought a picture dictionary of Spanish-English words and my son brought it to school and used it daily to communicate with his friend. From what I could gather, the new student got along very well with his peers but because there was virtually no support available at that time, the student did not progress academically. Sadly, the very next year, the student and his family had moved on to some new location. I have always felt bad that we weren’t able to do more for him and his family. I do, however, take consolation in the fact, that it was the students in that first grade class who probably learned the most and gave him their friendship in return.
    As so many of the participants have mentioned, I think the first most important step is to form a relationship with all of our students, immigrant or otherwise. Once they feel safe then the learning can begin. Every day we start the day in my room with a circle time where kids are encouraged to share their thinking on a particular subject or topic. Children are allowed to pass if they don’t feel like sharing or are uncomfortable with the topic. I truly believe this time, which might be seen as a waste by others, is extremely valuable and gives me insight to my students that I might not have otherwise. Even when a child doesn’t share something that tells me something. Eventually, even the shy students begin to share a bit more. I am not sure how this would work with an immigrant student, but I don’t think it would hurt. I also liked the idea of just turning to a partner and sharing– I think that would definitely be less intrusive and uncomfortable for an immigrant child.
    I look forward to working with you all these next weeks!

  • #84810 Reply

    Lisa Keyes
    Participant

    I was working as an ELL teacher in Oregon when I was pregnant with my first child. At this time, the majority of the students in my sheltered English Humanities class were poor children of migrant workers, most of whom were illegal. Some had been living in the States for a few years with higher basic interpersonal communication skills, while others were new to the US and limited in their English language abilities. There was a 7th grade girl named Maria (not her real name) who had been in my class from the beginning of the year and had fairly strong English communication skills. From the start, she was easygoing, outgoing and social with everyone in class, including the boys. Maria was athletic, and, although beautiful with bright, green eyes and long, dark hair, was a a tomboy. In the spring, I noticed she was often wearing an oversized, light, black jacket and observed that she would wear it all day, even when warm outside. Maria was never a petite, lean girl, but rather had a stocky build. I would ask her if she wanted to take off her jacket, if she was too hot, but she always refused in her easygoing manner and sweet smile. So when it seemed she was gaining weight, I assumed she was wearing the jacket because she was uncomfortable with her body image. Over time, as she became bigger and bigger, she withdrew a bit, was more quiet, almost shy, and I noticed her interacting primarily with girls and very little with the boys. Continuing to wear the jacket each day, Maria became more untidy, arriving to school with greasy hair and seeming to care less and less about her hygiene, Although I spoke with my students a lot, I respected their privacy and would wait for them to tell me about their personal life at home, rather than ask too many questions. I had a great relationship with the girls, who at lunch would come eat with me in class and speak with me about whatever was on their minds. One day, we conversed about beauty, that it is who we are on the inside, not the outside, about the effects that fashion magazines have on females, and that it’s ok to not look like the people in the magazines. Maria was pretty quiet that day. Eventually I talked with a counselor about her, explained my concerns, and she said she would talk with her. The counselor tried to establish a relationship with Maria, but to no avail. She divulged nothing.
    One day, Maria came in to my room at recess when the classroom was empty and very hesitantly confided to me that she was pregnant. Feeling ashamed, she couldn’t hold back her tears and with me eight months pregnant and her five, I wrapped my arms around her and let her wail, trying to be strong for her. . I was blown away as I had no idea! She felt too ashamed to tell me the details of how the pregnancy came to be, but told me her mother was helping her. Eventually, I found out that she had been raped by one of the high school boys, someone who was a friend of hers who eventually forced himself on her. After talking with her and her mom, they agreed to get some counseling services with help from the school counselor and they had others in their support group as well.
    This was a very challenging time for me as an educator. I felt guilty for so many reasons: for not figuring out or catching on sooner, after seeing and talking with Maria day after day, when she could have chosen to do something about it if she had wanted and for all the conversation students and I had about my own pregnancy as I grew larger and larger. I felt guilty about my own lot in life, feeling so privileged as an American born woman who had experienced virtually no adversity in my life up to that time. I felt sad and worried for Maria. She was only 13.
    17 years later, being a mother of two, along with life ‘s experiences, I feel I am more in tune with students and families than I was back then. My hope is that I am approachable for students if they need emotional support and try to be as sensitive toward and caring of the refugee students I am lucky to see each day as possible. I am fortunate to work at a middle school that has a very warm, caring staff whom many of our refugee students seem to enjoy and with whom they feel quite comfortable talking.

  • #85580 Reply

    Blake Love
    Participant

    Many good thoughts and ideas. Thank you all for sharing. I liked reading the stories and learning about the many different encounters we have all had. I have two refugee students in my class right now. I had another earlier in the year but his family transitioned to another state. I also had one last year who did not return to our school as an 8th grader. I guess he was scared of our 8th grade teachers. lol Actually he really like Mr. Marks! I’m sure Mr. Marks remembers who I am talking about. I’ve not had anything out of the norm other than one of the students punctured my class pet, an inflatable cow. I did not know quite how to handle that as the communication gap was fairly large. I’m the one who really felt intimidated probably almost as much if not more than our new students and their families. I know I could have gone to the phone call translator with the family, but how were they going to understand that their child’s incident, puncturing and destroying our class inanimate pet, a blow up cow, was inappropriate. What were they going to understand, how were they going to take it and what were they going to do about it? All of the outstanding questions just left me a little dizzy so I just let the cow pass onto greater pastures without any repercussions towards the student. I enjoy seeing these students interact pleasantly at all the attention they get from other students. I do not sit them together but sit them in close proximity. I find it best to seat them with class leaders, students that get their work accomplished quickly with quality so they can then turn their attention to help our refugee students be successful in my classroom in pertinent academic settings. I’ve had pleasant encounters for the most part, but look forward as I said before, to learning more ways, more strategies in producing a classroom where students not only feel welcome, but are learning at a high level with their peers. I guess more than anything, my thoughts are right along with Patty H.

  • #85332 Reply

    Scott Chook
    Participant

    Hello!
    This is something i struggle with, because I am afraid to touch on any sensitive areas, I’ve been reluctant to ask any more than “Where are you from?”
    I try to help my students feel comfortable in their new environment. I try to pair them with other students to help them be more successful. I look forward to learning strategies to help me get to better know my refugee students.

    -scott

Reply To: ERIS – week 1
Your information:



Thank you for using the Refugee Center Online's forums. We will review your forum post. After we approve the post, you will be able to see the post on the forums.