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As we look at the preventive interventions that can encourage conditions for healing the losses of the immigrant family separated for so long and to the traumatic experiences that caused originally, or are present, so often, in their journey towards a new land, it is important to direct our attention to a significant part of the equation in the lives of the youngsters: their teachers. They play a great role in creating some of the “corrective emotional experiences”, (much like the mental health professionals if you wish,) that the youngsters need, as also the much needed encouragement on the arduous and long road towards adaptation and integration into a new society and language. And this is no easy task by any means, as teachers struggle to understand and encounter not only the different values and behaviors, but also the emotional turmoil of youngsters that are not only faced with the normal battles of growing up, but also with so many new challenges in their present life.  Supporting teachers become paramount then and this translates into giving them the tools to find roads of communication and self-care, as well as much needed knowledge that could then make for easier understanding understanding of the immigrant child, or any child of a different culture, or developmental history, even though a native of this country for that matter. Hopefully, this will prevent judgmental interpretations of behaviors, overreaction, or negative personal involvement and power struggles with the child.  A compassionate understanding of the teacher is much needed in this endeavor, as this is such a challenging role. And, who better than a mental health professional to understand the difficulty of the road, when as such he/she has had to struggle all along with the same issues to become a better helper? Is it not similar to transference and countertransference in psychotherapy? So, we will turn to  mental health professionals for help in this matter and to teachers that are following a self -discovery and self -enrichment work that sustain them in finding success and satisfaction in a challenging professional role.  The good news is that there are good resources for help nowadays, that were not so readily available before. Back when the hidden corner of a school would often witness a teacher letting go of tears barely contained at the end of a difficult confrontation with one or more students during class and… perhaps an understanding professional did not have the right tools to help at that moment except for a hand on the shoulder and supporting words.  And..

Teacher

in the other part of the building an equally frustrated administrator was thinking “do not send me  that child again for me to solve the problems. You as a teacher better learn some class management skills.”  Or …is this scenario still playing in many schools, with very few answers and support available to the many professionals involved in educating the child who is a challenge? And perhaps the focus continues to be on the academic achievement part ignoring the emotional components of the equation for every child,teacher, guidance personnel and administrator?

 

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