Commit to one action item under each category: Know, Leverage, Meet
Know your students.
- Learn students’ names, the meaning of their names, how many surnames they have, and the significance of each surname, understanding this differs considerably by culture. Make every effort to pronounce their names correctly. Take the pledge at the My Name, My Identity Campaign: https://www.mynamemyidentity.org/
- Use classroom activities to share about yourself—your joys, struggles, accomplishments,and dreams. Then, invite students to share about themselves, as they feel comfortable, with you and others. Use literacy to learn about their countries, what they miss the most, why they came to a new country, specific skills they have, or what their journey was like to get here. What interests them? What are their greatest struggles? What have they accomplished? What dreams do they have for their futures?
- Learn a few words and phrases in students’ languages. If the students seem like they appreciate your efforts, greet them in their language each day, being careful that you are acknowledging their language as a skill and not othering them in the class.
- Look for opportunities to build a relationship with immigrant youth and their families. Extend the invitation during lunch, after school, at community events, or at after-school activities. Take initiative and be prepared to learn from them.
- Choose to take an asset-stance toward immigrant adolescents, looking for strengths and exceptional skills. Before focusing on what they need to learn or lack, focus on what they already have and their potential.
- Acknowledge students’ strengths verbally and in writing. Tell them about the advantages of being bilingual and write them a note recognizing their unique perspectives from living in different countries that you hope they will share with the class.
- Build on students’ strengths by connecting in-class learning to knowledge students already possess that is unique to their experiences.
- Encourage students to share their learning through non-traditional ways that will allow them more affordances and privilege their strengths. Knowledge can be shared through technology, the use of the first language, collaborative work, and other creative means by using the arts.
- Nurture and develop students’ L1 and provide students’ world language credit for their continued L1 learning and development. This might happen through advanced world language classes offered in the school. When that is not a possibility, students can continue their L1 development under the supervision of a teacher trained in language acquisition through the use of technology or by inviting community members who possess literacy skills in a specific language into the school.
- Sanction a space for students to nurture their strengths in the school. Encourage the use of their L1s or translanguaging abilities for official school assignments and explore the connections of the countries they have lived in and the languages they speak.
- Sponsor language and/or cultural exchanges between immigrant and non-immigrant students. Provide groups of immigrant and non-immigrant students authentic tasks to accomplish together where everyone’s skills are valued.
- Provide engaging and appropriate resources to help student learn English both in and outside of the classroom. Ensure that books, technology applications, textbooks, videos, translation devices, and dictionaries are available to students as they eagerly pursue English language development.
- Help students verbalize and write down their dreams while helping them think about the practical steps they need to take to reach them.
- Officially recognize students’ linguistic accomplishments through the Seal of Biliteracy for high school diplomas. http://sealofbiliteracy.org.
Meet students’ unique needs that might be obstructing their success.
- Officially partner a newcomer student with another student who speaks the same language or someone who at least can patiently explain the new school’s norms. Ensure that the partnering students understand their responsibilities and will help newcomers with an encouraging attitude.
- Connect students to caring adults who can serve as mentors outside of the classroom. Ask for community volunteers, university students, or faculty members who are willing to meet regularly with a newcomer.
- Provide information and resources about the K-12 and higher education. Use people who speak the family’s language and understand the educational system they have in their countries to explain the differences here. Ensure students understand what they need to do to graduate and how the post-secondary educational systems works including financial resources that might be available.
- Make efforts to welcome immigrant students’ families, and connect them to services within the city such as the libraries, food pantries, places that offer ESL classes, and other organizations that serve immigrant populations.
- Ensure that counseling services are available to students who are dealing with family separation/reunification or past trauma.