I don’t know how I could be prepared as a teacher to deal with that, even working at the Refugee Development Center and being a part of ISK these past two days. I want to know how I can be better prepared to deal with students who go through these events so I looked up advice for teachers of refugee students. What I found was a .pdf for teachers in Canada (http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/esl/refugees_teachers_guide.pdf). Even though it was a Canadian resource, it will still be applicable to me in Michigan.
Some of the most important things that teachers have to remember are that the students are coming from extremely different environments. They have lost friends and family, have varying levels of self-esteem, could have had exposure to violence, or might have serious physical or emotional problems. Today I also realized how important it is that these students are just people, too. They have the same feelings and emotions, and (right now) similar lives. Even though the experiences of many of these students have been terrible, it is important that we don’t dwell on those events, but move forward. That is a very hard thing to do. I was so curious to learn about the events of the students’ lives. It took a lot of effort not to make the whole day about their stories, but to teach them so that they can move forward, even just for a little bit.
The resource I found gave important information about getting to the final stage, where the students will feel at home. They first start in a honeymoon stage, where they are excited, but still foriegn. They are also tired. After that, they might enter a hostility stage. A common indicator of this is the inability to retain language. Kelsey and I were talking to our host teacher about this. She said that one of her students took over a year to learn to write. From her observstions and expertise, she said it was because he still wasn’t motivated because of frustrations and distractions of the new culture.
The next stage is the humor stage. This is where the student becomes more proficient in their new language, but also has more behavioral problems. This could be from peer pressure or new value changes. I also saw this in class. When we asked the students to share their hobbies, one student said karate, after that, many more repeated the same thing. I wonder if the students learn from on another how they are “supposed to act” here. I saw the same thing at the RDC, the older students tried so hard to fit in with their peers. I don’t think this only applied to refugees, however.
The last stage is the home stage. This is when the student feels like they belong in their new environment. One indicator of this is proficiency in their new language and making friends of other cultures and ethnicities. The class that I was in today was a lower-middle class. The longest a student had attended from this group was one year. I noticed that most of the students were males from Afghanistan, and that many of them spoke their first language most of the time.
Even after they go through these stages, I dont understand how positive they can be. The handbook that I looked up gave so many “what not to do’s” that it was hard to see what I can do, especially because I am not a specialist. Most of the advice warned against doing anything that could trigger traumatic memories. Even though I kind of assumed that, I didn’t have enough information to know what would trigger something like that. Later on I learned that one student was used by the Taliban in horrific ways, they were their “women” and made to dance and do other things. I didn’t know about this until after the lesson, and it just shows that no matter how prepared we think we are, we can never cover all of the bases.I will forever be amazed by their resilience.
Good inquiry. This could be useful for migrant students and students moving into a district as well. I'm glad you looked into this issue. I think the refugee school experience was very important for many other students as well. You may want to read other inquiries as well.