Responding to Youth on the Muslim Ban

Guidance for those who teach.

March 2, 2017

The following recommendations are on how to respond to youth on immigration and the Muslim ban.

These recommendations are for teachers/educators working directly with students. Please note that school leaders should provide collective responses to support teachers and students’ emotional needs on these issues.  

  1. Do not bring up this conversation for students or delve too deeply for them to share how they feel or the impact of these issues on them emotionally. Sometimes as teachers, we feel the need to plan and teach specific issues that are important, but often are very sensitive.
  2. Do consider escapism and denial as a real stage of grief. Sometimes, students appear as if they don't care, but in actuality, they do. However, they just want to feel like this isn't their problem, they want to feel a sense of "normalcy". They want to laugh, have fun and just enjoy being a kid.
  3. Do not make the students unpack America's problems with race and identity and how it directly affects them. Sometimes, we want the personal connection, but for some, this isn't their place of security or empowering. No one wants to feel like a victim as much as they want to feel like perpetrator. 
  4. Do offer an open platform as a routine, preferably in a circle where you can create a safe space for students to share what comes up for them. Let them lead the conversations from an authentic place and find their voice in the process. Some may want to opt out of this, and that should be fine too.
  5. Don't point out that Muslim students are being attacked by media, people, and the President's actions. The truth is, it reinforces from an authority figure that in fact this is true, which is an unintended consequence. It also further perpetuates the ideas from those who believe this is justified.
  6. Do allow for students to hold cross-cultural discussions on cultural and religious norms and how we are perceived differently or the same. This allows the opportunity for students to all identify their experiences from their own relative point. Teachers should serve as facilitators and listeners.
  7. Don't assume that because you discussed these issues that it will change students' feelings or behaviors. Students are hurting, but that hurt manifests in a variety of ways. It doesn't mean that students trust the adults to console them. It also means that students may not be in the physical/emotional state to absorb anything more, including academics.
  8. Do find private time, lunch or other in the day, that you have an open invitation for students to come and discuss any of these issues. You'll be surprised that some of what you learn has nothing to do with the current events.
  9. Don't be surprised if you are having difficult conversations that lead to your own emotional breakdown. Take care of yourself, talk to a colleague, take a break, a day off, ask for support and lean on others when needed.
  10. Do think about how systems affect people of marginalized communities. We have to create the time and space that parents/families trust us and come to us, not just at a time of uncertainty.

Farah Assiraj founded Peregrinum to initiate support for issues that she felt passionate in pursuing on behalf of underserved and marginalized students. Farah’s urgency is to serve the need for educators, practitioners and community members to collaborate and further develop in their professional capacity to best serve families and students with an equity lens and quality education at the helm of her philosophy. Her mission is driven by her educational background as an immigrant, former ELL and undocumented student. Being of service to all student populations in urban schools, Farah’s reflective practice and urgency for the most underserved students is at the heart of her work with a core mission of a quality education.



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