The Perceptions (and the Reality) of Refugee Students – What are we really seeing?

March 2, 2016

In December my school was one of three in the CBE that started up a program whose purpose was to support refugee students who have been identified as English Language Learners with backgrounds of Limited Formal Schooling. The ultimate programming goal of our LEAD class is to provide sheltered, trauma-sensitive, short-term language, academic and cultural instruction to enable students to transition into community classes.

Going in, I had a definite perception of what I thought the students would be when they came and joined us. I want to share what my early thoughts were, and what the actual reality was when they came to our school!

Basic Needs

I have seen a big difference between “Privately Sponsored” families and “Government Sponsored” families. “Privately Sponsored” Refugees have a group of people, such as a school group, who have put up supports for a family to come to Canada. I made assumptions about what our “new to Canada” families would have for basic needs, but it is very dependent on the supports they have. Our “Government Sponsored” families do not have the same levels of support, and we are working to support any of our kids, already in our community or if they are new to Canada, with nutritious food, clothing, footwear, winter clothing, etc.

School Readiness Skills

As our “new to Canada” students have had limited experience in a formal school setting, I did not know what to expect when they joined us. For many of our students, they had to learn much of the basic learning and processes Canadian kids would have learned in Kindergarten. Two things that surprised me were:

  1. Many of the “basic” school skills our “new to Canada” students were missing (e.g. lining up…)
  2. And how quickly our “new to Canada” students learned these skills (not perfectly, but better)

Our “new to Canada” students, with differing levels, came to our school with a desire to learn, respect for others, manners, smiles, parental supports, etc. Just like us…

Ability to Participate in School

Our “new to Canada” students have already become a big part of our school. Community students welcomed them right into our school, want them to integrate into their classes, act as leaders in a reverse integration model, and want to include them in play and social situations. Our “new to Canada” students want exactly the same things any other kid would want. They want to feel included, welcomed, be able to learn and to engage in social activities. We had a Teacher-Student Floor Hockey game, and were not sure if our LEAD students could handle it. They LOVED it! It was their first “hockey game” ever, but even though they had no English and had never seen the game, you should have seen their SMILES!!! J

Parental Support

I had no idea what to expect as to levels of parental support our “new to Canada” students would come with. Guess what? They are exactly like any typical cross section of our Canadian students and parents. All parents want the best for their child, and want to send their best child to school every day. Just like we all do!


School Council and Parents

Our School Council had a great discussion the other night in how we could support our “new to Canada” parents, and I was amazed at the ideas, thoughts, and supports that were raised by our parents from the perspective of parents. They truly want to support our “new to Canada” families, and want to integrate them into our school community as much as possible. They are such an inspiring group, and such a great group of role models for students and parents. They want our new families to feel comfortable to come to our huge Book Fair event, our Family Dance, our assemblies, etc. Just like we all do!


It has been a ton of work for our school staff in getting this program going, and I want to thank everyone, staff, parents and students, for all of your support for both our school and our new to Canada” families.

After all, they are just parents and kids… just like we all are!

Mr. R


Reporting on Student Learning

October 30, 2013

It is interesting watching the news as there has been a lot in the digital world on some comments that teaching is a job like parenting, and that anyone can do it. I would say that effective teaching (and effective parenting) is another story… Parenting is not easy! Good educating is technically sophisticated and difficult, requires high levels of education and long periods of training, is developed through continuous improvement, involves wise judgment informed by evidence and experience, and is a collective accomplishment and responsibility among all of our stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and our community.

Reporting on our students’ learning is a big part of that work. I love my own children and know them well as a dad, but I am not there to see their performance and thinking while they are at school. I rely on our kids’ teachers to help me with that. There has been a lot of discussion around what excellent reporting of learning looks like, and I would say the biggest part of all of this is back to “relationships.”

The greater the relationships we try to create with parents, as teachers and principals, the greater the understanding of the successes and needs of their individual child. In order to provide parents with greater information and understanding about their child’s learning, as well as to provide more opportunities more often, Keeler school has developed the following reporting plan for the 2013-14 school year:

  1. Aug. 22 – Welcome Back Barbecue – our first chance to meet as a school community
  2. Sept. 19/20 – Meet the Teacher Conferences and Individual Program Plan Development – our first formal meeting with parents to develop learning plans and goals for individual students
  3. Dec. 5/6 – Parent Teacher Conferences and Individual Program Plan Reviews – an opportunity to meet with the teacher to examine your child’s growth and develop next steps
  4. Jan. 30 – Report Cards
  5. Mar. 20/21 – Student Led Conferences and Individual Program Plan Reviews – an opportunity to have your child “show off,” meet with the teacher to examine your child’s growth and develop next steps
  6. June 25 – Final Report Cards

This allows parents to be receiving information and providing input every couple of months. This formal reporting process would also be matched with informal reporting processes such as:

  • Notes in Students Agendas
  • Phone discussions with teachers
  • Letters to or from the teacher
  • Tracking and Monitoring Tools
  • Individual Program Plans (IPPs) for Students who are Coded
  • Iris – an online tool for students and teachers in creating Learning Plans and documenting student learning. We have just stared using this, so more information will be forthcoming.
  • Informal meetings before or after school
  • Formal meetings scheduled as needed

Knowing that we are all on the same team and trying to enhance the learning that our students are undertaking is the biggest part of helping our students be successful!

Work hard, learn tons!

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