EL students come from numerous backgrounds. Some EL students were born in the United States, some are immigrants and others are refugees. So what is the difference between an immigrant and a refugee? How do I help my refugee students in my classroom? Hopefully the information in this blog post will answer some questions you may have about the EL students in your classrooms and how you can support them.
What is the definition of refugee and immigrant? According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHRCR) “a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.” Refugees often cannot return to their home country for many years, or they may never return. An immigrant is a person who makes a conscious decision for several different reasons to leave their home country and live in a different country. They may return to their home country any time that they choose. Refugees and immigrants are both learning how to live in a new country and learning a new language. They are also learning how to navigate new cultural norms that may be very different from their own.
The Ted Ed video “What does it mean to be a refugee?” is a great video to understand more about refugees.
There are many challenges that refugee children face when they begin their life in their new country. One of the most significant challenges is that many refugees face mental health issues due to the extremely stressful situations that they left. Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the terrifying events that they may have witnessed or experienced. As an educator, it is important to recognize the signs of PTSD in refugees and seek out services to help students if they are experiencing such signs. You can find signs and symptoms of PTSD on the Kids Health website.
So how do I support my refugee students in my classroom? The articles How to Support Refugee Students in the ELL Classroom from the Colorín Colorado website and Ways Teachers Can Help Refugee Students: Some Suggestions from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network provide a few key strategies to support refugees:
If you have any questions or would like to workshop some ideas regarding our refugee students , please reach out to me.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
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