Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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Love and care
Zélia Duarte
Professional HIgher Secondary
Integration of immigrants students
It was the year 2000 and ETEPA, a avocational higher education school in Castelo Branco, was contacted to receive students from Timor Lorosae (East Timor). This was a challenge to which the school responded. It likes challenges and changes.
The school welcomed four students, a girl and three boys who were enrolled in Portuguese schools according to their skills in Portuguese.
One of them was older, a Fretilin soldier; another had been a policeman in Indonesia; and the third had been enrolled at the university in Indonesia.
At first, only one of them spoke Portuguese and communication was often difficult. They were lodged in a hall of residence and their living conditions were poor. It was winter and they were very cold, because unused to the cold climate.
The classes went on as normal as possible, despite the miscommunication problems. At a certain point, the school required a local teacher from Timor to come and help facilitate communication between school and the students.
There were many issues that required the attention of teachers, namely health issues. The head teacher facilitated all integration issues in the local community and health services, and friendship grew betwen her and the students while they attended together medical consultations.
The youngest student was shy and only spoke English. He took longer to develop a relationship of close proximity with the headmaster and did it most of the times very discreetly, at first. Gradually, however, his communication difficulties disappeared. He exchanged words, letters, and on Valentine’s Day he would send the head teacher a letter of friendship and care.
The had teacher tried to show him the advantages of the opportunity that he had been offered to study in Portugal and in Europe. The course might not correspond to his desires, but it could open doors for him. Thus, he became a good student and he adpated socially. During his holiday, he travelled to France.
When he left school, with his professional diploma, he said goodbye to the head teacher as a true son. It was an emotional goodbye for both.
As soon as he arrived in Timor, he phoned the head teacher; during the following years, he continue to write to her about his house, his work, his marriage, the birth of his children, till today (2014).
Although he lives and works in Timor at Telecom, he still feels a son of his school ETEPA.
The secret for this deep relationship lies in proximity, care, sensibility, love, strategies of encouragement and words from the heart.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2015.02.19

Posted by Nicoletta Grossi (Italy)

Message: The title of the story, "love and care", is emblematic, it clarifies what immigrants students really need. I think that a school who accept immigrant students has the duty to receive them with affection and sensibility. The immigrant students’ integration is a difficult challenge and school must face it with great passion. Most immigrant students have to overcome multiple barriers in order to succeed at school: they usually are in social and economic disadvantage and have a serious linguistic gap. Sometimes they cannot regularly attend class because they help their family, they care younger brothers or sisters or they work themselves. The concentration of socio-economic disadvantage at school is among the most strongly related to poor performance. They need help and the school should provide it. A school that limits its action worrying of pupils just from a didactic point of view will hardly be able to integrate immigrant students’ successfully into school. One of the most important tasks for school is to create all kind of strategies to break down the barriers to immigrant students’ success to school. First of all, the school should analyze and understand the situation of each student and to look for the right tool to facilitate his inclusion at school. For example the story which we are talking about, deals with the experience of four students from timor lorosae who were received in Portugal. They didn’t speak the language of the host country (only one of them spoke Portuguese) and had very serious problem of communication. The school required the intervention of a local teacher from timor who helped the relations between the students and the school (I think this a very good solution even if can be very expensive). Many other problems required attention of the teachers, then the school helped these students to face these problems especially health issues. In general, the entire relationship between the teachers and the students was based on care, affection, sensibility, strategies of encouragement and confidence and this helped the students’ progress both from the linguistic and relational point of view. The teachers gradually gain the students’ confidence and established a friendly relationship.
The weak point of this experience is the difficulty of implementing. The task asked the school is very arduous. It requires a lot of financial and human resources. It’s necessary a great effort and a lot of time for teachers and headmaster.

Date: 2014.05.28

Posted by SORIN AIONESEI, "Alexandru cel Bun" High School, Botosani, [email protected] (Romania)

Message: Different places, different cultures. If you want to make a distinction between the Eastern and the Western civilizations, it all comes down to the way the individual is regarded. In Europe we have developed a culture of the individual, in Asia the community is more important than the single person.
The traditional values are more cherished in the Eastern civilizations, and this explains the level of emotional attachment the student from East Timor has developed for the headmaster. In Eastern conception, the image of a teacher is associated to wisdom, paternal figure. If you want to integrate a foreigner, you must show respect for his culture. This kind of respect should not be only formal, but proven in the daily interactions.
I guess this is the main learning we can derive from this success story. If you want to integrate a foreigner, you should develop a relationship which mirrors his system of values. The headmaster acted wisely, when he chose to respond to the emotional communication of the student with a similar attachment. A distant, more ‘European’ relationship would have not helped the student from overcoming his shyness and he would probably returned in his country with unpleasant memories.
The most important things thought in school pertain to a hidden curriculum. Beyond the lessons we teach in classrooms, there is a type of knowledge absent from books, which only emerges in the special relationships established between the teacher and his student.

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.