The Big Questions – Immigration – Lynch School of Education

By | September 7, 2019


One of the distinctive features of the
Lynch School of Education at Boston College is the emphasis on justice that,
as a Jesuit University, we’ve always been concerned with trying to serve
others: men and women in service of others is one of the mottos of the
Jesuits and with immigration we pursue that emphasis on justice on serving
those who haven’t been served well in the same way. Our faculty members spend a
lot of time trying to understand how is it that these kids from immigrant
backgrounds run into particular roadblocks that aren’t due to
intelligence – they’re just as intelligent as anybody else – doesn’t have to do with
work ethic – that immigrant children often work harder than their native-born peers –
it has to do with this difficulty in appreciating the language and the
difficulty in fitting into a society that’s unfamiliar to them and their
families in many ways. Teachers are in very challenging situations in both the
Catholic and the public school systems and that they have children in their
classrooms who are living in extraordinarily stressful situations in
which their parents are threatened or many of these kids have seen their
parents detained and deported. One of the projects that we launched with local
immigrant organizations here in the Greater Boston area was a series of ‘Know
Your Rights’ workshops. We could provide, if they interested, a consult with an
attorney through the Center for Human Rights or the immigration clinic at BC
School of Law. We’ve found they’ve been very receptive to participating in these
educational programs that we’ve been able to offer through the wonderful
resources of students who work as interns in the project and service
volunteers. I think that when working with immigrant families and their
children we need to understand their background, their immigration history,
their language use, and we also need to know more about the context in which
they’re living. All of this information can help us create and develop more
effective interventions. I have been working with immigrant
children and their families for almost 10 years now and one of the projects
that I recently completed was a family literacy program that created
connections between the school and the home. One of the most important findings
is that parents, immigrant parents, in particular are eager to support the
learning that is going on with their children at school but often times they
don’t have the information or the knowledge or the resources to support
learning at home, and once of the families were participating in the program, they
increased reading at home and they saw the connection between what they were
doing at home and what the children are learning in school and all of that I can
contribute it to children’s school readiness and also learning at school.
Everybody has ideas about who they think immigrants are: they give accounts of who
immigrants are the counts are usually simple things like, immigrants are
revitalizing America they’re just like my ancestors they come here they work
hard they’re going to assimilate they’re going to be successful citizens and in a
generation or two they’ll be just like the rest of us; or immigrants are
parasites they come they take our jobs they subsist off our social services
they’re ruining our country we have to send them all back.
The stories are wrong. The life of any individual immigrant is not like that.
Immigrants experiences vary widely across a lot of dimensions depending on
what age you came to the United States, depending on which town you came to,
depending on what kind of reception you receive from the people immediately
around you, these contingent factors make a huge difference in terms of the
trajectories of immigrant kids as they go through school and on into life. What
we’re seeing in schools today and in classrooms is an increased diversity as
more immigrant children and their families are entering this country and
when I prepare students to be future educators this is something that I
always keep in mind: we need to train students so that they understand
diversity they’re going to face in the classroom and the language dynamics in
order for a word to be effective.

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