Teachers filling in for resettlement agencies?
Posted by Christopher Coen on July 22, 2012
Teachers in the Omaha school district’s English as a Second Language Teen Literacy Center have their hands full trying to teach refugee teens lessons in the alphabet, vowels and consonants, and figurative and literal meaning. They also have to teach skills such as completing homework, accepting the word “no” and dealing with embarrassment. They also teach them to take notes and write five-paragraph essays with main and supporting ideas. Then there is adding and subtracting by 20s, multiply and divide by 12s, science and constitutional amendments. But, lessons in personal hygiene and dental health? Driving students to the hospital for immunizations? Visiting students’ homes to tell families the difference between the stove and refrigerator and that canned goods go in the pantry, cheese in the fridge? It seems like teachers are having to fill in for work not done by resettlement workers. An article in the Omaha World Herald covers the topic:
The bulletin board in a classroom on the fourth floor of the [Omaha Public Schools] headquarters succinctly describes this tiny school for the district’s newest at-risk teenage students.
Vertical cutouts of student photographs — southeast Asian boys with punk rock haircuts or African girls in modest, colorful Muslim wear — form words proclaiming: “WE R THE TLC.”
That’s shorthand for English as a Second Language Teen Literacy Center.
This is ground zero in OPS for newcomer non-English speakers with little formal education who are 13 to 21. Younger students generally enter their schools’ ESL programs. The TLC serves as a crucial bridge for these older students...
The public has a stake in this. A government survey of refugees resettled between 2004 and 2008 showed a correlation: The better the refugees’ command of English, the better their employment and earning potential, and the less likely they were to rely on welfare.
“It is critical that we do things right with the first generation so that we don’t have long-term societal problems,” said Susan Mayberger, who heads up the district’s $17 million program for ESL and migrant students, which includes about $370,000 for the school-year TLC...
Teaching the core subjects is a big enough challenge, but teachers can’t help but get pulled into other aspects of their students’ lives.
“They need so much,” said Scurlock, who is in her ninth year at TLC. “They need academics … job skills … counseling.”
But the teachers aren’t trained social workers and are frustrated by how helpless they feel.
There is little time to call state welfare offices, navigate labyrinthine public assistance programs or deal with red tape. Yet how can they not step in?
Math teacher Diana Saunders drove a student to Douglas County Hospital for immunizations. Language teacher Jackie Leet drove two students and their parents to a summer jobs program and sat with them through all the training.
Scurlock was a birth coach when a former student, pregnant and divorced and alone, needed someone.
Rodricks, the reading teacher, bought students clothes at Target. Married to a chef, she helped get one student a restaurant job as a cook.
Teachers keep bins of used clothes and shoes at the school to give away. The newest students usually have only one or two outfits, said Stratman, and are always in need of winter clothes.
They give spontaneous lessons in personal hygiene and dental health. They have to explain to every newcomer from Myanmar or Thailand that flip-flops won’t work in an Omaha winter. They visit students’ homes and tell families the difference between the stove and refrigerator and that canned goods go in the pantry, cheese in the fridge…
“We’re like surrogate parents,” Leet said. “Our connection with them is really important.”… Read more here