Music can help immigrant students acclimate in the classroom
- Indianapolis Public Schools 2019 Teacher of the Year nominee Kristin Gladish is helping newly arrived immigrant students acclimate through music, as described in a Q&A on Chalkbeat.
- The music class, which includes drums, recorders and ukuleles, is part of the district's Newcomer Program, which teaches immigrant students English and provides a period of adjustment before they transfer out to other schools in the district.
- This special class incorporates music that these students can relate to and understand, and provides a forum to build trust and form relationships.
Immigrant students, as music teacher Kristin Gladish notes, are often traumatized to some degree. Part of her goal in using the universal language of music is helping them heal. She has noticed that the more she gets to know each student as an individual, and the more she shares about herself, the better results she sees in the students. Making a point of picking up clues about things that interest them or that they're good at reduces behavior problems. It can be easy, she notes, to forget that there is often something else going on in a student's life that has nothing to do with school that is negatively affecting his or her behavior. With new students who speak very limited or no English, sussing that out can take a while, but eventually they start to respond. Bringing parents in to the conversation as much as possible can shed light on issues in a student's life that aren't obvious in the classroom.
The Newcomer Program in IPS works with many refugees who arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs. A social worker and a parent involvement educator help the students in the program with emotional as well as practical needs, even establishing a school food bank and a grief counseling group.
When working with students with varied interests, especially those who come from a variety of countries and cultures, meeting them in the middle, so to speak, can be important. Integrating a range of music (or books, or films, or whatever medium a particular teacher employs) may keep students engaged. As detailed in a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the well-being of immigrant students is affected not only by differences between their home country and the U.S., but also by how well the schools help them overcome the obstacles they face in succeeding at school and life.