Unaccompanied minors are coming again; We can teach them.
Reports indicate that more waves of unaccompanied minors will enter our country in the days ahead. They will also be entering our schools.
While border issues and immigration policies spark passion and incite dialogue and even raise voices, one thing is for sure. We have a moral obligation to teach the students who enroll in our schools.
One can debate whether or not we would flee a country overwhelmed by violence. One can judge parents who would send their children with ‘coyotes’ across borders, through harms way. One can even vote for policies that build higher fences and place more agents at the borders.
But we cannot debate the following: All children have the right to learn. All children can learn. Great educators teach all children in their classes. And our schools can deliver agency, via education, that can improve the lives of students and their families for years to come.
In preparation for slight, and in some cases drastic, shifts in the demographics of our schools, we should prepare.
I assert we can prepare the following ways:
1. Analyze data regarding how we are currently serving English Language Learners. 2. Recalibrate expectations. While we want to see all ELL students progress, one year for each year of instruction, we should remember that it takes 5 years to fully learn a new language.
3. Train teaching staff, making this a focus of Professional Development.
4. Increase support services. We can predict that students fleeing a country of violence will have experienced trauma. Students spending extended time apart from primary caregivers will struggle. And students facing
5. Celebrate the successes of our students. Many of these students will be the first in their families to learn English, to acclimate to American culture, and to attend University. We should celebrate accomplishments along this journey, with and for students.
On days where teaching this demographic of students feels challenging and slow, it may be important to tap into the wellspring of empathy. Because the majority of our families were immigrants to America at one time or another, revisit this time. Ask relatives who that first American student was. Discover how their success led to your own. And know that you play a critical role in the lives of students whom you serve.