“While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.” Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
In my EPSY 400 class we have a group presentation on the topic of Minority Groups. I decided to research/ discuss about students who come from a refugee background. In an article by MacNevin it said “by 2016 25% of Canada’s youth will have arrived as immigrants or refugees.” The result of this is populations within schools are becoming more diverse which in turn means that the learning needs are also becoming more diverse. I’m sure we are all aware of the crisis happening in Syria, and as a result Syrian people are fleeing their country. Approximately 26,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada, many of whom are coming to Saskatchewan and will be in schools we work at or in our own classrooms. The process of bringing Syrian refugees to Canada has not been easy and has been met with much criticism and resistance, Premier Brad Wall made headlines when he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suspend the plan to bring refugees to Canada, over a concern that the screening process of these refugees would be compromised. Fortunately Mr. Wall’s request was not answered and we began to welcome refugees to Canada.
Canadian schools have students from different part of the world, which can provide challenges for us as educators. Refugee students are entering English content classes in which they have to learn complex content in a new language when they have only limited conceptual development and basic vocabulary due to limited schooling. They are also a particularly vulnerable population, in part due to their pre-migration experiences, which are those experiences they have had before moving to a new country. Depending on the culture, life experiences, and refugee camps students are coming from, they may, have a fear and distrust of authority figures like teachers. As classroom teachers we have to adjust our teaching to include both English language learners and students who have had limited prior schooling. As a secondary teacher I am aware of how challenging this can be because we would normally focus on content-based instruction, but are now faced with teaching basic language and literacy skills. The following link has resources that can be used to assist educators: Student Resources on the Web.
It would be important for teachers who work with these students to know how to respond to what the students are saying as sometimes these stories can be difficult to hear. It is also important to know what steps to take, and other support services that are available to students and their families, such as The Regina Open Door Society.
Learning how to teach basic reading to youth is important when working with refugee students. In particular to facets are listed:
1) knowing how to teach basic reading skills and
2) finding age-appropriate materials that can be used to teach basic reading to students in intermediate and high school.
It is important to create an equitable environment for these students to learn the curriculum, in addition it is crucial that we create a safe environment for these students to learn and grow. In my research on this topic I found an amazing website called Teaching Refugees with Limited Formal Schooling, created by the Calgary Board of Education. This website has so many great resources, tips, and unit plans that can be used when teaching a refugee student. It is important to promote effective programming for students of this profile, with help of resources and colleagues it is possible to create a safe environment that promotes equity and success.