5 Tips for Helping Immigrant Students

Want to know how to help your immigrant students? In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, my student, Fredy Gonzalez, offers up some great tips!

This is a guest post from my student, Fredy Gonzalez, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Being an immigrant student in the United States is a difficult yet awesome thing. It’s the best feeling in the world for a person from another country to come here to the United States because there are so many opportunities.

Even so, there are ups and downs. It can get really frustrating for students who don’t speak English or know much about American culture. Normally, immigrants bring their culture here to America, and we try to live between our two worlds. It’s actually a great opportunity to be able to speak two languages and to know two different cultures.

I was born in the U.S., but I was raised in Medellin, Colombia. My family came back to the United States when I was 14 years old. At the time, I felt sad because I had left my beloved Colombia, but I was also happy because I was about to face an exciting change in my life.

I had always dreamed about coming to the United States because I thought it was such an interesting country. As I’ve been exploring life in America, two things that I’ve come to love the most are the diversity of people and how concerned teachers, the police, and doctors are about people here.

When I began middle school, I felt very excited because I knew it was going to be a totally different experience than Colombia. I met some of the most important people in my life at school: my best friends, who are still there for me today.

But I also struggled with pretty much everything I was assigned in school because I couldn’t speak or read English well. I’ve always been the type of person who doesn’t give up easily, so I kept trying to do well. Things got harder as time went on, but I promised to never give up on my desire to succeed.

I was 16 years old when I graduated middle school in 8th grade. I was honored when my ELL teacher handed me my diploma. I was also able to transfer into ELA classes at my new high school. My friends and family were so proud —and that moment of glory felt surreal for me.

Teachers can do a great deal to help students who are new to this country—no matter where those students come from.  Here are my five suggestions for teachers who have immigrant students:

1.  Don’t automatically get us interpreters and extra help. Make us feel like we belong in your classroom, just like any other American student.

2. Don’t give up on us. Help us challenge ourselves. We come from hard-working backgrounds, and we can do a great deal better if we get the necessary help and support.

3. Please let us ask you LOTS of questions. As students, we are curious, and we love to learn about things we have never ever seen or heard about before.

4. Correct our mistakes when we speak English—even if you’re not an English teacher. We will learn English much faster this way.

5.  If you are currently teaching students in sheltered/ELL classes and you see that we have the potential to learn in a full immersion class with native speakers, please recommend to our guidance counselors and teachers that we can get switched to those classes.

Please keep in mind that all students like challenges, no matter how hard they might be. We like to take risks because that is how we know we will succeed!

Fredy Gonzalez was born in the U.S but moved to Colombia when he was two years old. He returned to the U.S. in 2009 when he was 14. He is currently a senior at Revere High School, where he is a member of the Student Council and Yearbook Staff. Fredy also studies karate and enjoys watching movies and acting. He hopes to pursue a career in graphic design.

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