ERG SES H 03, Migration and Transition in Education
Newly arrived minority language pupils (NAMLPs) arrive in host countries with a huge variety of educational, linguistic, cultural, social, and emotional needs. Several studies have investigated the mental health of newly arrived migrant children in the European context (e.g., Hamilton, 2013; Karakulak, Baylar, Keles, & Dimitrova, 2017; Makarova & Briman, 2016; Margari et al., 2013; Pastoor, 2015). Margari et al. (2013) affirm that migration as physical and social stressors may lead to mental health problems in migrant children. In the context of migrant children in the UK, Hamilton (2013) examined some of the factors (new language, buildings, people, culture and system) that may affect migrant children’s mental and emotional well-being and their learning. In their qualitative research review (2000-2013) across different countries, Makarova and Birman’s (2016) findings are consistent with previous research suggesting that due to an ‘acculturation dilemma’ (p. 11) minority children, in many host countries’ educational systems, face psychological and mental distress. Research has also underlined that good relationship building is arduous as teachers consider migrant children to be a burden to classroom management and cause of discipline challenges. Further, teachers were found to feel more positive about the inclusion of native children with physical disabilities in comparison with inclusion of migrant children with behavioural disorders, mostly due to their impact on other children. In a study with Turkish youth in Bulgaria, Karakulak, Baylar, Keles and Dimitrova (2017) found that these youth have many challenges, which included high risk of dropout from school, disadvantaged social capital, low school grades and academic achievement, discrimination, and a less conducive school environment. In a systematic literature review of 36 studies about migrant children’s mental health published between 2007 and 2013 in Europe, Kouider, Koglin and Petermann (2014) affirm that ‘a migration status itself can often be postulated as a risk factor for children’s mental condition, in particular migration in first generation’ (p. 373).
In Norway, NAMLPs are placed in classes called reception/introductory classes (mottaksklasser) where they are taught the Norwegian language and receive remedial education (Hilt, 2016; Norozi, in press). Inclusive and personalized education for all pupils is an established notion in the Norwegian Education Act (Opplæringsloven, 1998). The act (sections § 2.8 and § 3.12) identifies Norwegian language learning as the most pressing need of NAMLPs. Consequently, the holistic needs of individual migrant learners may not be fully recognized in reception classes. On the other hand, the prevalence of mental health problems is high among migrant children in Norway (Pastoor, 2015). The combination of academic, social, and mental health is rarely perceived in its complexity and connection, although all these aspects cumulatively affect the lives and achievements of NAMLPs. Despite educational efforts aimed at supporting migrant pupils, they continue to perform poorly compared to ethnic Norwegian pupils (Rambøll, 2016). This begs the question as to why this is so. Such an exploration needs to go beyond language and academic support provided in schools. In addition to focusing on NAMLPs’ proficiency of the Norwegian language, it is equally important to attend to their mental well-being to create an optimal state of learning as well as integration in the Norwegian society.
For NAMLPs, reception classes are the first contact with the host culture, school system, and socialization. Thus, reception classes can be an ideal setting to promote NAMLPs’ mental well-being. Familiarizing NAMLPs to their new environment may need to include an understanding of how to meet their mental and emotional needs by affirming their experiences and cultural background. The aim of this paper is to explore how a teacher in a reception class understands her responsibility in terms of giving NAMLPs support related to mental well-being in everyday practices.
Research Questions and Methodology To the best of my knowledge, there is almost no research about reception teachers’ practices regarding the mental well-being of NAMLPs in Norway. In this context, my research questions are as follows 1. What are the reception teacher’s classroom practices that construct pedagogies that promotes mental well-being of NAMLPs? 2. How does the reception teacher interpret these practices? The Research Context and the Informant Anne (a pseudonym) has been a teacher in Reception 2 (comprised of NAMLPs from second to fifth grade) for five years in Trondheim, Norway. She is a certified teacher with no formal training and education in counselling, mental well-being, and health promotion, yet she has a basic understanding that well-being of pupils is an important factor. Most of the pupils in her class are political refugees from Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Some come from Poland and Ukraine with working migrant parents. There is huge diversity in terms of culture, religion, language, Norwegian language proficiency, age, grades, and schooling background. Anne told that in earlier years, NAMLPs had behavioural expression that were disturbing for her. The behavioural expression included kicking and hitting walls, throwing furniture and other objects, assaulting other pupils and adults. As a lesson learned from her experiences, she now say that she focusses on NAMLPs’ well-being and on making the reception class a happy place for everyone, instead of too much focus on the Norwegian language learning and subject content. The data for this qualitative study was collected in two phases. In the first phase, a 1.5-hour interview with Anne to discuss her perceptions and experiences about teaching the reception class was followed by video recorded observations (almost 24 hours). Video observations were helpful in understanding Anne’s activities, responses, and conversations with pupils. Anne also watched the selected videos and reflected on them. Her conversations and reflections on these video vignettes were audiotaped and transcribed. In the second phase of data collection (after five months), I was again in Anne’s class for video-recorded lessons (approximately 22 hours) and the whole process from the first phase was repeated. Finding new themes and patterns then relating them to the themes and patterns from the first phase was a complex process that demanded moving back and forth between the data, ideas, and theories. The last semi-structured interview with Anne was focused on summarizing her perceptions and reflections about her practices.
Expected outcomes Based on the notion of health by World Health Organization (WHO) the two continua model (Westerhof & Keyes 2010) holds that mental illness and mental health are related but distinct. Guided by this model, I define NAMLPs’ mental health as a positive state of mental well-being rather than presence or absence of mental illness. The study is expected to generate new knowledge on mental well-being of NAMLPs. The video observations (from both phases) reveal activities that are geared towards supporting NAMLPs’ mental well-being, for example massage sessions (once a week), gym (daily), music (daily), cooking and baking (once a week), art and handwork (once a week), swimming (once a week), skiing (twice a week during winter: Trondheim has long winter as usually there is snow from October to April), skating (twice a week during winter), field trips (once a week) to woodlands, parks, forests, museums, fire stations, grocery shops, markets and libraries. Additionally, morning circle time prioritises mental well-being through group discussion, dialogue, and storytelling. The discussions engage NAMLPs to reflect on their life experiences with the description of range of emotions and how to better handle them. In light of Anne’s reflection on her practices, it will be discussed, how Anne interconnects the aspects of integration, academic and social development with mental well-being as a core component in NAMLPs education. The findings show that the execution of health promotion policies are primarily dependent on teachers’ motivation and realization of the notion. Notes The acronym NAMLPs comes from ‘newly arrived minority language pupils’ is the translation of ‘nyankomne minoritetsspråkelige elever’ used in all official documents for those migrant pupils who are new in Norway.
References Hamilton, P. L. (2013). It’s not all about academic achievement: supporting the social and emotional needs of migrant worker children. Pastoral Care in Education, 31(2), 173-190. Hilt, L, T. (2016). ‘They don’t know what it means to be a student’: Inclusion and exclusion in the nexus between ‘global’ and ‘local’. Policy Future in Education, 14(6). 666-686 Karakulak, A. A., Baylar, A., Keles, S. C., & Dimitrova, R. (2017). Positive affect and school related outcomes: Feeling good facilitates school engagement among Turkish Bulgarian minority adolescents. In R. Dimitrova (Ed.), Well-being of youth and emerging adults across cultures, Novel approaches and findings from Europe, Asia, Africa and America (pp. 145-156). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. Kouider, E. B., Koglin, U., & Petermann, F. (2014). Emotional and behavioral problems in migrant children and adolescents in Europe: a systematic review. European Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 23, 373-391. Lovdata (2017). Opplæringslova [Education Act]. Retrieved from https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1998-07-17-61 Makarova, E., & Briman, D. (2016). Minority students’ psychological adjustment in the School context: an integrative review of qualitative research on acculturation. Intercultural Education, 27(1), 1-21. Margari, L., Pinto, F., Lafortezza, M. E., Lecce, P. A., Craig, F., Grattagliano, I., Zagaria, G., & Margari, F. (2013). Mental health in migrant schoolchildren in Itlay: teacher-reported behavior and emotional problems. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, (9), 231-241. Norozi, S. A. (in press). How do Norwegian reception schools cater the academic and integrational needs of newly arrived language pupils; cases from two municipalities. European Education: Issues and studies. Pastoor, L. de W. (2015). The mediational role of schools in supporting psychological transitions among unaccompanied young refugees upon resettlement in Norway. International Journal of Educational Development, 41 (2015), 245-254. Rambøll (2016). Evaluering av særskilt norskopplærimg of innføringstilbud (Evaluation of a special Norwegian language education introductory offer): Kunnskapsdepartement (Ministry of Education). Westerhof, J. G., & Keyes, C. L. M., (2010). Mental illness and mental health: the two continua model across the lifespan. Journal of Adult Development, 17(2), 110-119. WHO (2013). Mental health: A state of well-being. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/
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