Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Resources and Reflections on Migrant Education Programs
"Our migrant children ...
they are our only hope ...
Like seedlings, they have been sown in your school.
It is our wish they blossom into harvests of hope."
Source: Illinois Migrant Education Program brochure
This time of year most teachers are packing up their classrooms and beginning their summer vacations. But a number of educators around the country are unpacking boxes, setting up their summer programs, and welcoming new children into their classrooms right now. But these are no ordinary summer school programs. The teachers I am talking about are those working in migrant education programs.
Each year thousands of children and their families move in order to work in the agricultural or fishing industries. Collectively, these families are considered migrant agricultural workers. For many migrant children, their life experiences are impacted by substandard housing, poor nutrition, low wages and seasonal work. Repeatedly moving in order to find employment can impact students' academic achievement. Therefore, the goal of migrant education programs is to reduce the impact of these issues on the children's education. Illinois alone identified over 1,700 children through its Migrant Education Program during the 2011-2012 school year.
Each summer I look forward to attending and presenting at our local conference for migrant program educators. Last week's conference was no different. The theme was "Continuing the Journey: Migrant Education in the Land of Lincoln." As I reconnected with colleagues I had met in years past, I couldn't help but ponder the wonderful work that migrant educators are doing each summer. As seeds are sown and produce is harvested, families move to work the fields. Awaiting them are caring, supportive teachers eager to provide them with instruction. As you might imagine, some children of migrant farm workers are English language learners. Therefore I typically present on topics related to ELLs. But each year I am intrigued to learn more about the inter-state collaborations that take place to better identify, serve and share relevant information about migrant children. I am also awestruck by the stories I hear and the passion and dedication of the teachers who serve migrant students. This year a teacher shared her experiences in the "migrant stream" and what it was like to raise her children as they moved from place to place. In the 1990s, her family settled permanently in Illinois. Now she works as a teacher in the summer migrant program. The keynote speaker this year, WIDA's very own Susana Ibarra Johnson, shared her insights and personal experiences growing up in a migrant farmworker family. She shared that the strong oral traditions in her family and other families can be a resource for classroom teachers. During their travels, her father often related stories like La Llorona and Cucui and adivinanzas (riddles) to help entertain the children. She remembered fondly some of the dichos (sayings) that her parents related. Susana inspired the conference participants to see themselves as cultivators, guides and architects of learning. She also shared a resource, Literacy Con Cariño. This book is a wonderful resource for understanding the unique needs of teaching migrant students. It also underscores the benefits of using dialogue journals. Read this online book review.
For a list of children's books about the life experiences of agricultural workers, visit Colorín Colorado.
For more information on federal programs for migrant students, visit the US DOE Office of Migrant Education page.
For an inside look at migrant working and living conditions, watch Invisible America a short YouTube video.
Written by: Tammy King
Image of teen: www.freedigitalphotos.net
Migrant Education logo: http://migrant-education.aurorak12.org/