The town will be receiving children in a few weeks, some who will go to the elementary level, and some to preschool. What should the schools do in preparation?
Today I met with the Director of Educational Affairs, teachers, special education teachers, school psychologist, youth center head, recreation leader, and program managers.
“Do we put all the children together in the same school/class?”
“Will they do better is with others like them, or the only one in the school like them?”
What is the goal: to assimilate quickly? Parents and school officials might choose to have distribute the children. If the child feels safer, more connected, less on the outside if grouped together, what impact will that have?
How will religious holidays be addressed?
How will clothing styles be managed?
Iceland’s school system has after school programs for which most students attend. Will these children feel comfortable attending? Will their parents want them home? How will this affect the child’s feelings of belonging?
Refugee children, not unlike many children of immigrants, are often placed in-between two worlds: one of their parents who often hold protective feelings of their home culture, and one of their peers with which the child may feel close to but where they may never fully belong. Because they are younger, they often pick up the new language quicker than their parents. With all the new challenges, parents might find it easier to use their children as language and cultural interpreters. This adds an additional burden on the shoulders of these children. At times the children might feel critical of their parents’ desire to hold onto cultural traditions, while also feeling isolated from the society around them. Their world is a mixture and unique, and a gift, and a burden. They are to assimilate, to show others that they are as smart/brave/independent as the dominant group, to show their parents that they will not forget their culture, to show themselves that somewhere in all of this they have an identity separate from it all.
Do you place them together or apart?