Teacher B is a high school teacher and varsity coach in Grand Rapids, where he/she has taught and coached many refugee students. When asked about the linguistic, social, and cultural challenges that he/she faces in working with refugee students, Teacher B first acknowledged a major factor that contributes to the three above mentioned categories, and that was gaps in education. Teacher B said, “I think they are really eager to do well, they want to succeed, but a lot of them just have so many gaps in their education,” which poses, of course, linguistic and content-area deficiencies, but also contributes to their behavior. Teacher B understands that many of his/her refugee students have experienced traumatic things and are constantly “grappling with cultural norms,” therefore B is more understanding of outbursts or emotional and social irregularities among his/her refugee students. Teacher B understands certain cultural norms that students bring to the class dynamic, such as not looking an adult in the eye, and he/she sees how those differences in belief manifest themselves in the classroom. Simply this awareness is such a powerful asset for a teacher to have. Both through teaching and coaching, Teacher B has witnessed immense growth in a students language proficiency and behavior when the refugee students’ basic needs are met outside of school, which in some cases results from students moving from group homes to a foster family setting. Another way in which refugee students have overcome linguistic and social challenges is through sport, cites Teacher B, saying “even the other teachers said since he’s been on the team, his behavior has been so much better and his school work has been so much better, his English is way better.” When asked about how aware he/she was about their refugee students’ home cultures, Teacher B said he/she always seeks to find out about students’ home countries, languages, and cultures. As for the other students’ awareness, Teacher B said that due to the vast diversity within the school, “I don’t think they are crazy aware, but that’s not them being ignorant, I think they’re just really really used to being around kids who are really different from themselves,” which Teacher B goes on to support by saying, “I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to learn from each other…for them to go off into the world and be really aware of the fact that there are other cultures.” When asked the final question on what refugee students most urgent needs are in terms of integration and how we can best meet those needs, Teacher B offered the perspective that giving these students a way to become invested in the school is huge, whether that is through sports or through something else. Teacher B emphasized, “if they can just feel like they are becoming apart of the community, and I think that sports is a really good way to do that.”
📌 Big thank you to Teacher B for your willingness to speak about your experiences teaching and coaching refugees! You provided a unique perspective from both inside and outside-the-classroom that highlights the power and potential of using sport as a means of further integration for refugee students.