Talking Immigration in the Classroom - National Council of Teachers of English
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Talking Immigration in the Classroom

This is a guest post written by Katelyn Sedelmyer. 

KatelynSedelmyerThis summer there has been much talk around issues pertaining to immigration. As we head back to school, it’s likely that these public conversations will continue, and as teachers, we know that rhetoric matters. In these times, how can districts and schools ensure that immigrant and refugee students feel safe and free from discrimination? How can teachers facilitate productive classroom conversations about diversity, politics, and current events that affect their students?

Below are some resources NCTE has compiled for teachers looking to have these tough but important conversations in their classrooms.

NCTE positions:  

  1. Resolution on the Dignity and Education of Immigrant, Undocumented, and Unaccompanied Youth
  1. NCTE Position Paper on the Role of English Teachers in Educating English Language Learners (ELLs)
  1. Resolution on Diversity

 Teaching materials:

  • Teaching Tolerance’s resources on the 2016 election, lessons on civic activities and countering bias


Teaching after Tragedy
“Coming to school on tragic days is one of the toughest parts of teaching. It’s also, of course, one of the most important.” -Ken Lindblom
Teaching the 2016 Presidential Election: Racism, Immigration, and Xenophobia

“As educators, there are some important ways in which you can empower students to use the current rise of xenophobia and intolerance in the US and abroad to inspire global competence. Doing this will, in turn, help develop your students into young leaders who can engage with the current political discourse in a way that is meaningful and authentic to their own lives and contexts.” –Apoorvaa Joshi
Teaching Students to Consider Immigration with Empathy
“I ask students to see cultures, including their own, as experiments in sustainability. I encourage them to ask, ‘If we continue as we are (in this case, without immigration reform), what will things look like forty years from now–and what do we want them to look like?’” -Miguel Vasquez

What Undocumented Students Bring to the Classroom
“Classrooms can be forums for the honest, uncomfortable, revealing conversations adults don’t make enough time for in their public lives. Every student has important insights to share.” –Andrew Simmons

Katelyn was NCTE’s policy and research intern in the DC office in 2015-2016. A graduate of American University’s MPA program, she currently works on ICF International’s Youth and Adult Education team. As a former ESL teacher of adult immigrants, she is interested in the intersection of education and immigration. You can find her on Twitter as @katesedelmyer.