Inside California Education: Refugees in Our Schools


♪♪ Nicole: So yeah the
earth moves. The earth shakes. The earth quakes,
the earth changes. So the cause and effect Jim: It’s not your usual English class and Nicole
Rawson is not your usual English Teacher. She is an English Language
Development Coach at Horace Mann Middle
School in San Diego. Nicole: We have a unique
situation at this school because our students are
from so many different countries. Some have never been to
school because they are refugees and there was no
schooling accessible to them. Some of them think they’ve
been to a lot of school but there really wasn’t any
rigorous teaching going on. But across the board, their
English proficiency is very limited and it makes it
extra difficult to teach English when there’s no
primary literacy in their primary language. Jim: Nicole’s class provides
an opportunity for these refugee and immigrant
students to not only improve their English but share
their stories of life before coming to the United States. Ruta is a young
girl from Uganda. Ruta: When I was in
Uganda, life was so bad. In Uganda if you don’t
work you can’t have food. In Uganda I didn’t go to
school because I have to work. Now everything is okay. I like school,
I eat and drink. And I thank my mom
to bring me here. (Applause) Zakareya: When I
was in my country there was a
lot of war going on. And we could not live there
because the war is so bad. If we stayed
there you will die. Or they will took
you to the jail. They took my
dad to the jail. Allen: We have
some Syrian refugees, a large population
from the Congo, from Africa, from Yemen,
Southeast Asian immigrants, Burmese, Cambodian,
Kayin minority from Burma, some Lao. And then we also have
Mexican and Vietnamese immigrants. So we’re kind of
represent the world. Nicole: Today we’re
doing a thinking part, so as we’re listening to the
story in their own dialect, I want you to think of some
questions you might have. Jim: Much of Nicole’s
language development coaching is done in a
“co-teaching” environment. Working with a
core subject teacher, she will not only help
the students improve their English, but also help
them understand new academic concepts. Erica: A benefit for
teachers in co-teaching is that there’s two people
actually thinking about the child. What is the best way to
teach this group and that group? So we get to have a
dialogue of ideas. What is the best approach? Jim: The San Diego area and
the San Diego Unified School District have one of the
largest populations of refugee and immigrant
students in the United States. Facing that challenge
prompted the district to establish eight school sites
that provide specialized approaches to improving
language skills and academic readiness. Sandra: So we have eight
international centers in San Diego Unified, two at
the elementary level, two at the
middle school level, and four at the
high school level. We educate roughly
around 300 students in those international
centers, every year. Alex: Is that present
tense or past tense? Student: Present. Alex: It’s present tense. Jim: Alex Kunkel is the
English language Development coach at San Diego’s
Crawford High School. Students with little or no
proficiency in English are assigned to his class
to improve their English comprehension and better
understand the work required in their other
high school classes. Alex: So even if your
language skills are not proficient, we still try
to offer you access to the regular curriculum as is
appropriate most of us believe. Along with that, we offer
you the extra supports, so your math teacher is
helping you to learn all of the English words that
you would use in math, as well as the
math concepts. Jim: English Language
Development teachers assist their students with
one on one coaching. And computer programs
are also available to test language readiness
and writing skills. In addition to the language
and academic support, schools provide
supplementary programs from breakfast and lunch to after
school enrichment classes: Providing more opportunities
to have the general school population interact with
the refugee and immigrant students and understand the
diversity in their school. Erica: Little by little,
they start asking questions, like, because it’s
part of their normal, like, “Where did
you come from? Oh, tell me about that
place,” And we start building
those bridges that we don’t see color
or language anymore. It’s more like, “Oh, tell me
about that experience that you’ve had.” Jim: Those “experiences”
tell the story of what these youngsters have left behind
and what they see for the future. Rayan: One day my dad
went to buy my little sister clothes. When he got there, the
police took him to the jail. After a year ago my
dad got out of jail. We wanted to go to Jordan. One day after we left the
school we lived in everyone died from a bomb. When we came to the U.S.A. we didn’t know any English. But we come to
school here to learn. (Applause) Nicole: Just
seeing these children blossom and becoming these
confident young people that have such high hopes for
themselves and want to help others and can
articulate this now, it’s wonderful to see them
so happy If we can do the best we can to
educate these students, we’re doing a great job. It’s really a profound,
unique thing that we’re doing here for them. ♪♪ Narr: In the last 15 years,
California has welcomed more than 100,000 refugees, with
the majority settling in San Diego, Los Angeles
and Sacramento. In recent years California’s
refugees have been mostly from Iraq, Iran and other
Middle Eastern countries, with a significant number
also coming from Africa and Southeast Asia.

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