SPOKANE, Wash. - Teachers and school administrators around the state have a new training tool to help them understand what their foreign-born students go through while adjusting to life in America.
Four students from Washington schools are featured in "Starting Again," a documentary in which they describe their experiences as refugees. They speak candidly about how hard it is to fit in and learn, and how much they miss the foods, music and friends they left behind. They also talk about the hardships their families faced in their home countries, and their hopes for brighter futures in the United States.
Phil Koestner, English-language development coordinator for the Spokane School District, works with refugee students. He's been showing the film to teachers and administrators.
"They're just moved. They're moved at what the students have to encounter every day, refugee students and refugee families and cultures - how resilient they are, how hard-working they are. It's an incredible professional growth tool and just an information piece, of who are our students, and what do they face on a daily basis."
In the Spokane district, Koestner says, 55 languages are spoken in students' homes. The documentary is just one approach he uses to foster understanding; another is role-playing.
"It's a three-hour workshop that is also what the video is about. It's a three-hour simulation of putting groups of 30 - either educators or students; we've had high school-age students go through this - simulating what it's like to go through the refugee camp."
School's Out Washington,
produced "Starting Again" with funding from a federal Refugee School Impact Grant. The half-hour video was made by Jill Freidberg of Corrugated Films and can be viewed at SchoolsOutWashington.org