With the recent migration of refugee and immigrant families, schools have seen an influx of enrollments. Are schools prepared to meet the needs of the students? I believe schools can meet their needs but only with the appropriate resources. The students’ needs will vary dependent upon their specific school, that school’s budget and availability of staff at their school. Some of the resources and support that I believe will be effective in meeting the needs of these students include providing basic needs, providing native language instruction, and taking a collaborative approach school-wide.
Before any student can learn in any environment, their basic needs must be met. Most school have program that cater to the immigrant community and can provide items such as school supplies, uniforms, and transportation in form of public transit and school buses. Some schools may also have items such as deodorant, toothbrushes and socks to give to the students in need. Principals and their staff should have this information readily available to the parents so that they can access it as soon as possible to increase the chances of a successful transition into their new school.
Providing native language instruction will be the most important for students to receive the proper academic education but more importantly, providing instruction in their native language helps to foster and build safe, trusting relationships and connections. The students will also learn to be confident and begin to participate in classroom activities. Providing native language instruction requires students to have access to bilingual paraprofessionals, teachers, and other supportive staff to ensure that their transition into school and their educational journey is one that is supportive, flexible and solution focused. Are schools able to hire new staff members to meet the needs of language learners? I do not know. But it is necessary so that the needs are being met and students are not just in class unengaged.
When schools take a collaborative approach to meeting the needs of the language learners, the entire school thrives. Taking a collaborative approach can look like being flexible with schedules, teachers adjusting their curriculums to include native languages, student pairings to include bilingual students with non-English speaking students to foster connections with at least one student in the class, teachers and staff modeling their request with gestures and visual schedules. These are just a few examples of what collaboration can look like.
I leave you with these reflective questions: If you are a school counselor, do you have the community resources to provide to the families? If you are an educator or support staff, what are some ways that you can meet the needs of your language learners in your specific school? What are your thoughts on how we can best support our language learners during this stressful time in their lives?
Janeisha Hood Rogers is a doctoral candidate in the counselor education and supervision program in Chicago, IL. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) that has worked as a therapist in various settings including schools, community mental health agencies and in-patient hospitals. Janeisha is also a social justice advocate and enjoys raising awareness and educating others on mental health topics, social and cultural issues, and holistic healing.