14 SES 04 A, Teachers, Parents and Families in Diverse Communities: Contributions from Australia, Finland and Israel
Recent international events have highlighted concerns about refugees trying to cross national borders and, in some cases, perceptions of threat from those on the other side of national borders. For example, the media and research (e.g., Berry, Garcia-Blanco, & Moore, 2015; Georgiou & Zaborowski, 2017) have reported extensively on refugee crises in parts of Europe, and much has been said about the plan of US President Donald Trump to build a wall on the border between the US and Mexico (Graff, 2017). Such events highlight the tendency to distinguish between those who are insiders and therefore included – that is, those who belong to a particular space or place – and those who are outsiders and therefore excluded (Gee, 1996; Georgiou & Zaborowski, 2017).
The notion of belonging (or not belonging) and its relationship to space and place is thus a relevant consideration when talking about mobile groups of people in general, or about refugees, who have had to relocate, often by necessity, because of natural disasters, war or other conflict, persecution, and so on. There is certainly plenty of evidence that such groups are often framed in particular ways, usually negatively, and they are often regarded as deficient or are described in discriminatory and stereotypical terms (Georgiou & Zaborowski, 2017; Henderson, 2009; Henderson & Gouwens, 2013).
As researchers, we have recorded and analysed deficit discourses and stories of blame that have surfaced in our investigations of the lived experiences of farmworker families in Australia and the US and the education on offer for their children (e.g., see Gouwens, 2001; Henderson, 2008). Farmworkers are often migrant families, who move from place to place as they follow harvesting seasons during the year, although at times they settle in a particular location for a length of time. As such, they are often perceived as outsiders, and exclusion is part of their experience of these communities (Henderson, 2009).
Our thinking, however, is that it is important to move beyond the deficit discourses and stories of blame, in order to find examples of positive experiences, of inclusion, that provide the educational community with stories of success and evidence contrary to the dominant discourse. With this in mind, we interviewed teachers in the US Midwest who had worked in migrant education for a very long time. These teachers were reportedly fully committed to the philosophy of migrant education, the children they taught and the children’s families, often for many years after the children had left their classes.
The research questions were:
- How do the experienced and committed teachers in the migrant education program talk about their work and the children they have worked with?
- What kept them in the program, teaching migrant children during their summer breaks?
- What can be learned about working with migrant children and families and assisting them to ‘fit in’ to communities?
In reviewing the interview data, we realised that the teachers often found ways of assisting children and families to build a sense of belonging to their new place. The concept of place was a unifying theme in the teachers’ interviews. The Spanish term querencia (Cradle, 2007; Fisher, 2008; Huddleston, 2015; Lopez, 1991) provided us with a way of conceptualising the teachers’ attempts to build spaces where families felt safe and experienced a sense of belonging and inclusion. The conceptual framework, therefore, provides a theorisation of the relationship between the physical place of the community, the spaces that teachers built to assist families, and querencia.
The small study was located in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin in the US. The research participants were teachers who had worked with migrant children and their families for a long time. Migrant education in the US caters for the children of agricultural workers/farmworkers. Six teachers were interviewed. Although the number of research participants was small, this was to be expected because the main criterion for defining potential participants was ‘long term’ engagement with migrant education. The research participants had between 12 and 39 years experience of working with migrant children and families. Because migrant workers and their families work in rural areas, the teachers too mostly lived and worked in rural areas. This meant that the researchers travelled to these areas, in order to conduct the interviews. Semi-structured interviews (Barbour & Schostak, 2005) were conducted with the six teachers. The interviews generally took between one and two hours. Because semi-structured interviews allow researchers to extend the interview question protocol, the interviews enabled the teachers to tell their individual stories about working with migrant children. As a result, a rich and extensive body of data was collected. Following transcription of the interviews, our initial read of the transcripts highlighted the ways the teachers attempted to help families feel a sense of belonging to a new place. This theme became the focus of our data analysis. Using linguistic analytical tools based on the work of Fairclough (2001), along with a social analysis that investigated the teachers’ relationships with migrant children and families. The result was an analysis that identified the types of spaces described by the teachers. As a result of the focus on place and space in the data analysis, we added two specific sub-questions to the research questions we had established at the beginning of the project: • What was the role of ‘place’ in the teachers’ descriptions of their work with migrant children and families? • What types of ‘spaces’ did the teachers establish (or attempt to establish), in order to assist migrant families?
The teachers’ stories about their work with migrant children and families suggested that they did much more than ‘teach’ the children. They took a holistic approach, explaining that they felt a responsibility to help the families more generally. In particular, they assisted the families in multiple ways to deal with their experiences of residing and working in a ‘new’ place. For the families, home was a long distance away, either in the south of the US or in Mexico, thus family and other support mechanisms were not always available. To borrow a term from Massey (2005), the children and their families experienced a ‘throwntogetherness’ in joining their new community, and the teachers worked with the families to build querencia, a sense of belonging and inclusion. The presentation will provide details of the classification of spaces that resulted from the analysis of the data. These included: building a space for talk; negotiating community space; rethinking cultural space; sharing space/s; dealing with new space/s. In all of these spaces, the relationships between and amongst people were identified by the teachers as being of paramount importance. These included the relationships that the teachers built with the families, reflecting Massey’s (2005) description of ‘space as a product of interrelations’ (p. 10), as well the relationships that resulted from their work with the families. In theorising the relationship between the physical place of the community, the spaces built to assist families, and querencia, this study offers insights into strategies that might help families counter their outsider status in new communities, and thus enable them to ameliorate their experiences of exclusion and marginalisation. Despite the small size of the study, implications will be discussed for other groups of outsiders, including those who have crossed national borders and taken up residence in a ‘new’ country.
Barbour, R. S., & Schostak, J. (2005). Interviewing and focus groups. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Research methods in the social sciences (pp. 41–48). London: Sage. Berry, M., Garcia-Blanco, I., & Moore, K. (2015). Press coverage of the refugee and migrant crisis in the EU: A content analysis of five European countries [Report prepared for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees]. Cardiff, Wales: School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Cardiff University. Cradle, S. (2007). A spiritual ecology: Finding the heart of art education. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 5(1), 77–93. Dunne, L., Hallett, F., Kay, V., & Woolhouse, C. (2018). Spaces of inclusion: Investigating place, positioning and perspective in educational settings through photo-elicitation. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(1), 21–37. Fairclough, N. (2001). Language and Power (2nd ed.). Harlow: Longman. Fisher, K. G. (2008). Reclaiming Querencia: The quest for culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable economic development in northern New Mexico. Natural Resources Journal, 48(2). Retrieved from http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nrj/vol48/iss2/10/ Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Routledge Falmer. Georgiou, M., & Zaborowski, R. (2017). Media coverage of the “refugee crisis”: A cross-European perspective [Council of Europe report]. London: The London School of Economics and Political Science. Gouwens, J. A. (2001). Migrant education: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Graff, C. C. S. (2017). ‘Build that wall!’: Manufacturing the enemy, yet again. International Journal of qualitative Studies in Education, 30(10), 999-1005. Henderson, R. (2008). A boy behaving badly: Investigating teachers’ assumptions about gender, behavior, mobility and literacy learning. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 31(1), 74–87. Henderson, R. (2009). Itinerant farm workers’ children in Australia: Learning from the experiences of one family. In P. A. Danaher, M. Kenny, & J. Remy Leder (Eds.), Traveller, nomadic and migrant education (pp. 47–58). New York: Routledge. Henderson, R., & Gouwens, J. A. (2013). Mobile farmworker families using cocoon communities to negotiate multiple lifeworlds. In M. Korpela & F. Dervin (Eds.), Cocoon communities: Togetherness in the 21st century (pp. 105–121). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge University Press. Huddleston, E. (2015). Querencia: Placemaking in the heart of northern New Mexico (Unpublished masters thesis). University of New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona. Lopez, B. (1991). The rediscovery of North America. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage.
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