Onderwysstudente vlugteling in die VSA het vir my gewys hoe baie ek het, en nog, om te leer

Onderrig aan en leer van studente vlugteling

Ter ere van Wêreld Vlugtelinge Dag 2017: Onderwysstudente vlugteling in die VSA het vir my gewys hoe baie ek het, en nog, om te leer.

Teaching and learning from refugee students

I’m a data person. I love charts. I love p-values (when they’re less than .05). I love taking a table of numbers and reorganizing it to tell a story, to change a mind, to inform.

High school math teacher felt like a good fit for me. I could play with numbers and trigonometric functions all day! I could share my excitement for patterns!

In plaas daarvan, I came out from two years of teaching having learned more than I taught.

I learned that students are not just numbers. I could apply numbers to them:
I have three from Burma.
I have four who were born in refugee camps.
I have seven who can understand more than three languages (and that’s not even counting the language of mathematics).
Their average age is 16.

The numbers didn’t help me understand, teach, or know the students. They’re not the students’ identities. Burmese refugees could be from many ethnic minority groups. Many students had a day they “thought” was their birth day or year, but it was more like an estimate. The students needed to be defined by their individual identities, their dreams, their style, their likes.

I learned to really look at the students. I can look in-depth at data and tests, and I needed to learn to apply that to the people around me.

In my first year, I was determined to show no weakness or soft spots. I had a tough evening personally and came to school the next day, ready to stick to the lesson plan. One of my refugee students, a senior hoping to graduate, came over to me.

Him: “Are you having a bad day?"
Me: [Hesitating] “Yes, actually.” Inside, I was wondering if my eyes still looked red from crying.
Him: “Yeah, it’s because you have so many fly-aways.”

My hair? He knew I was having a bad day because my hair was frizzy? I could (and maybe should) acknowledge that moment as a lesson in hairstyling.

Maar, the more important lesson was the sensitivity and closeness with which the students watched their friends and me. Could I tell when a student was having a bad day? Could I sense when a panic attack was going to come? Not if I was turned to the chalkboard, my back to the students, my focus on the lesson plan.

I learned to slow down. I could coach the track team for sprint events and distance events, pretending that I could do the hurdles I was describing “if I wanted to.” At one of our first meets, one junior ran the 400-meter race for the first time. If you’re not familiar with the race, it is one full lap around the track. It is intended to be the longest of the sprint events, but it must be run at a slower pace than the 200 of 100. The student went out fast – too fast. He looked great for the first 100. He looked strong for the second. He looked tired for the third 100. He looked … like he might not make it through the fourth. He remembers me sitting next to him after the race, trying to share the concept of pacing. Die 400 can be run faster if you don’t run your absolute max at the very beginning: pacing yourself is very important.

I spent time in class planning lessons and working through the materials and examples exactly as planned, to finish the content we needed, to get ready for the next test, to get ready for the next course. Was this the most important part of my refugee students’ lives? In all honesty, not really.

I learned so much more about culture, my values and upbringing, verhoudings, hardships, and individual students, when I slowed down.

When I set a pace that was appropriate to growing minds, bodies, and souls. When I slowed down, I saw the fly-aways and bad days. I saw the bonds between siblings. I saw the wisdom and inner strength that I never had to build as a high school student in Ohio. I saw the norms, and the exceptions to the norm.

I saw my students as individuals.

Onderwysstudente vlugteling in die VSA het vir my gewys hoe baie ek het, en nog, om te leer.

Ter ere van Wêreld Vlugtelinge Dag 2017, die vlugtelinge Center Online versamel stories van hoe vlugtelinge maak ons ​​lewens beter.

Die vlugtelinge Center Online glo nuwelinge maak ons ​​land 'n beter plek te maak. Vlugtelinge hervestiging is nie net die morele of etiese ding om te doen - dit ons en ons gemeenskappe bevoordeel asook. Hierdie stories van individue regoor die land te wys hoe wete, onderrig, werk met, en miskien die belangrikste, vriende met, vlugtelinge het die lewens van die Amerikaners verbeter.

Wêreld Vlugtelinge Dag Junie 20, 2017

Vind gebeure in jou gemeenskap en leer hoe jy Wêreld Vlugtelinge Dag kan vier 2017.

oor Julie Baker
Julie is a former high school math teacher. She manages the Education programs at the Refugee Center Online. She has a Masters in Human Development & Family Science and has been trained in content area literacy, SIOP, and Capturing Kids' Hearts.