Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Welcoming Refugee Families to School: Strategies for Educators

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

Welcoming Refugee Families to School: Strategies for Educators

Article excerpt

As the global refugee crisis continues to grow, it is expected that an increasing number of refugees will resettle in the United states. In 2013, for example, 69,930 refugees came to America, mostly from Bhutan, somalia, iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, congo, Burundi, and Rwanda (Morse, 2013).

Since refugees flee their home countries because of persecution or a valid fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, their transitions to American society can be difficult. subsequently, the entry of refugee children into the American public education system can be similarly fraught with trials and tribulations.


Refugee children and their families offer many positive aspects to the American education system. Their rich multicultural heritages, traditions, and customs can introduce school administrators, teachers, and classmates to new art, music, dance, and ways of communicating. their knowledge of geography, science, agriculture, environmental issues, politics, and history as informed by their homelands, give us unique insight into life in their native countries. their perspectives on international events and experiences and their unique views of the world that come from living abroad can promote new ways of thinking and solving problems. refugees have the ability to teach us about experiences we may never have and consequently, deepen our understanding of important global issues and communities.


A welcoming environment-that is personally relevant, values different cultures, and is safe, comfortable, and physically inviting-is important to all who work in and attend pubic schools. A welcoming environment is essential to refugee students and their families who must overcome many challenges to feel a part of the community. Many refugee families are uncomfortable coming to school due to different dynamics and expectations between parents and educators in their home countries. in many countries, teachers are revered and parents expect to be told what to do or are discouraged from becoming involved in their child's school. Also, limited skills in speaking English often foster feelings of confusion at the prospect of entering a new school. Welcoming strategies to make refugee students and their families more at ease include:

* Brief, repeated informational meetings with cultural navigators available who can help discuss unfamiliar U.s. school expectations and policies.

* Greetings in the native language of each family by important members of the school community (e.g., bus drivers, front office staff, administrators).

* Peer mentors to help with basic routines and procedures (e.g., how to use the library or bus system, where to get school supplies).

* Prominently displayed multicultural art and exhibits that honor and celebrate different family traditions and heritages represented at the school.

* Classroom lessons and school-wide assemblies that incorporate different world cultural identities and values.

* Stories, videos, texts, books, and other classroom and library media sources available in multiple languages and depicting multiple cultures served at a school.

* Opening and closing ceremonies during meetings and at important school-wide events that honor cultural traditions.

* Community dialogues at which diverse neighborhood members come together to gain a greater appreciation of their shared humanity and to dispel stereotypes.

* Community agencies that provide services before or after school hours in multiple native languages so that the school becomes a natural community resource center.


It is well known that strong relationships among families, schools, and communities foster successful academic careers for students. …

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