Protective Factors Immigrant Children Bring to the Classroom

Protective Factors Immigrant Children Bring to the Classroom

Jacqueline Onchwari (University of Minnesota – Duluth, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4928-6.ch016
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This chapter focuses on strengths and protective factors immigrant children bring into the classroom. If well nurtured, these strengths can enhance immigrant children’s positive outcomes and those of future generations. The “immigrant paradox” is a phenomenon used to describe the positive outcomes of immigrant children despite developmental risks associated with their relocation and adjustment. Unfortunately, the effects of these protective factors reduce with later generations. This incredible loss is a gap that educators could fill. Using strategies that give immigrant families and children “voice” is critical in breaking through the barriers, stereotypes, attitudes, and under-information that come between the educators and the immigrant children in their care. Some strategies that have proven effective in accessing immigrant children’s strengths are suggested in this chapter.
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In light of my opening paragraph it is not surprising that a lot of existing literature addresses the plight of immigrant children and their families from a deficit perspective (Maiter & Stalker, 2011). The overwhelming use of demographic data like poverty guidelines, high stakes test scores, and other cut-and-dry poverty guidelines imposed on developing countries to describe the otherwise rich experiences of many of the immigrant children from their motherland, often lead to gross mislabeling of children. In addition, studies often tend to explore the problem once it has occurred, hence missing the processes that lead to the problem. Many immigrant children have had and continue to maintain a socially rich and supportive environment in the new land (Ceballos & Bratton, 2010; Hei-Sung, Brown, Mitchell, & Shiraldi, 2008; Chun & Chun, 2011). While it is indisputable that acculturation can be stressful and that poverty, often associated with many immigrants, can have a debilitating effect on immigrant children, the social and cultural capital these children bring into the classroom should count for something in their educational trajectory. So the question is, how can these strengths be used to further enrich the immigrant child’s success?

This chapter looks at the child’s outcomes from a holistic perspective, that is, physical, cognitive, emotional, and social developments. All these developmental aspect are interdependent on each other. This chapter, therefore, will not be limited to specific academic outcomes.

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