- What should I know about immigrant students?
- What can I do to help immigrant students thrive at school?
In staff development programs, it’s essential that educators learn how to better serve and support their immigrant students. Here are some important considerations, which can be used as a starting point for building a comprehensive and culturally responsive approach.
Assess your awareness and understanding.
- What are the home countries of my immigrant students?
- Do I serve any unaccompanied minors? Other refugees?
- What understanding do I have or am I lacking about the cultures, politics and education systems in my immigrant students’ home countries?
- Am I engaging my students and their families in ways that are meaningful and culturally competent?
- Do my classroom and school affirm and reflect the identities of immigrant students?
- What are immigrant students’ perceptions on school climate and safety?
- Have I observed any signs of trauma in my students?
- Am I aware of how social boundaries like cliques are informing immigrant students’ day-to-day experiences at school?
- Do my students carry heavy out-of-school responsibilities?
- How is the current political climate impacting my immigrant students (for example, increased fear of deportation or separation from family members)?
- Do I use a variety of teaching modalities to make the curriculum more accessible and less intimidating to immigrant students who are English language learners?
- How much do I know about the rights of ELLs?
- What other questions should I be asking myself?
Make sure that your understanding of immigrant students is data-driven and comprehensive, not limited to, for example, their English-language acquisition. Be mindful of where the gaps and silences are in your knowledge and find proactive ways to fill these. To fill knowledge gaps, consult these resources, among others:
- Colorín Colorado offers a variety of useful information, including these pages about creating welcoming classrooms for ELL students.
- The American Federation of Teachers offers a guide on how to support and protect immigrant and refugee students.
Take deliberate steps.
Assess and identify your biases. To create equitable and inclusive classrooms, educators must acknowledge their own biases and take steps to confront them. Consider taking an implicit bias test to uncover any negative assumptions or stereotypes you may hold about immigrants, immigrant students and ELL students. Teaching Tolerance offers the free, on-demand webinar Equity Matters: Confronting Implicit Bias. This resource from the U.S. Department of Education offers a diversity self-assessment (page four) and a self-monitoring form for evaluating the inclusivity of the school environment for ELL students (page six).
Share knowledge and build connections. To learn more about your immigrant students, make connections with ESL teachers, school counselors, family members and other important stakeholders. Pass along accurate information to these stakeholders and even to immigrant students’ peers, where appropriate. Take extra time to get to know immigrant students and make them feel comfortable in and part of your class, providing them with opportunities to share about themselves and their experiences. Seek out for additional, high-quality, student-centered supports in and out of school.
Teach about immigration and immigrant experiences. Consider weaving two Teaching Tolerance lessons, “Who Is An Immigrant?” and “Exploring Young Immigrant Stories,” into your curriculum. Take time to debunk common myths about immigrants with colleagues and students. Consider inviting family members to your classroom to provide presentations on their cultures and home countries.
Additional appropriate lessons on immigration can be found on Share My Lesson’s website:
- A lesson about DACA students that includes a PBS NewsHour segment.
- A lesson centered on writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story.”
- A lesson that includes a video about a Syrian refugee in Canada who now counsels other newly arrived refugees.