“My Journey of Hope and Peace” Learning From Adolescent Refugees’ Lived Experiences

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Stewart, Mary Amanda. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 59, no. 2 (2015): 149-159.

In this article, Mary Amanda Stewart reflects on how classroom activities centred around the refugee experience informed her teaching of refugee students during an English language summer literacy program. Stewart begins by answering why paying attention to refugee students’ lived experiences is important. She highlights the importance in resisting the assumption that all refugee experiences are the same. She stresses that reading literature about refugee experiences can promote cross-cultural understanding in the classroom, as well as increase consciousness about social issues. She adds that encouraging students to write about their experiences can be empowering, allowing students to have complete control over the way they present their refugee narratives. The second part of her article focuses on how she put these principles into practice while teaching refugee students. Stewart reveals she was not prepared for her students to be recent refugee arrivals, and resolved to let her students guide her in privileging their experiences as she tailored her curriculum.

Throughout her discussion of these topics, Stewart cites various relevant studies and scholars to lay the contextual foundation behind her way of teaching English during the summer program. She provides unedited excerpts from her students’ journals, which allows the reader to see how the scholarly theories materialise in the classroom. There is a short reading list at the end of the article to help teachers implement refugee stories and experiences in the classroom. This article may prove useful for anyone who is working with refugees in an educational setting. It illustrates the power of including language learners’ own experiences in classroom activities, helping them reclaim traumatic events that potentially led to them needing to learn that language initially, and establish a stronger connection with the language being learned. More broadly, the article speaks to the power of sharing narratives to combat discrimination in an educational environment.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1002/jaal.445

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