Educating the Eastern Europeans… #ThrowbackThursday

Another older post of mine…

It’s always an interesting life in a multicultural school….. The way an educational institution changes with the advent of a new culture, a new people entering its walls.  And the differences of why the school has to change to cater for these children.

I feel this keenly, as an educator in the local school.  A huge difference with then, when the Indians flocked over here, and now with the arrival of the many Eastern European families, which other colleagues of mine have echoed, was the ethos of the Indian parents and their children.  There was a hunger to learn, to better themselves, and the parents were there right behind their children, sometimes a bit too much! But everyone wanted their child to be something, to go to university, make a name for themselves, as their parents had done before them.  A child with not much English would arrive at the school but with some help, would integrate, and learn what they needed to, and go on to learn at the pace of the others.

Now, however, the issue we have is that there are all these children from various Eastern European countries coming, with very little basic education, or knowledge, very little English, and parents who don’t have the capacity to help their own children to fit in, as they don’t have the education behind them themselves.  No English, and just the promise from someone, that coming to England will make your dreams come true…

Before you think I might be being a tad racist, no, I’m not. In India and Kenya, I have experienced this very same thing from family members, and their thinking.  We work hard here, save money, and go to spend holidays with our families back home, only for them to see our material possessions, like phones and cameras, or nice clothes, and some money to go shopping, and think that ‘this is it, we need to get there, this is what we can do then, live like kings!’

Ok, yes it might seem like that, but no, we don’t just sit at home, money doesn’t just pour into our accounts.  We plan for months, years even, to go home and have a good trip, slogging our guts out sometimes, so we can relax back home.  In fact, when I look at the lifestyles some of our families have back home, it makes me wonder why our parents came over here in the first place!  There is someone to cook and clean, most of the women I encounter aren’t working, from affluent families, and can afford to lead a ‘ladies who lunch’ lifestyle. And the men have the  money behind them from their own parents who would have built their own businesses from scratch, so their children would have security.

Going back to the Eastern Europeans, I won’t tar everyone with the same brush.  We have Polish, Lithuanian, Slovakian, Hungarian, Czech children amongst others, who do come, they have a great capacity for learning, and after a while, they get there.  They have parents who want to learn too, and are willing their children to succeed here, so they too, can have a comfortable life.  It is the Roma children, those from the traveller communities of these same countries, which are the hardest work.  And again, it’s not their fault they can’t learn well, and integrate.  For as start, they don’t have a written language, so how much reading and writing is going on at home?  These people were often persecuted back in their home countries, treated like third class citizens, and not given any opportunities, so coming here, they don’t like to admit their backgrounds, not realising that at school, the more knowledge we have of a child’s background, the more help we can get financially to cater for these children’s needs.

I have been working in a school that has a high percentage of non-English speaking pupils for 4 years now, and it’s an interesting experience!  I’ve learned a lot, I’ve had to learn a lot, so we can communicate with all these children.  I’ve also got to know a lot of them, as they get older, and it pleases me so much to see one of them grasp a concept that they have struggled with, as much as it pleases me when any of my pupils succeeds, it just has an extra tinge of happiness, as for a lot of these children, learning is a hard thing… school is tough for them, alien words being thrown at them, and concepts which they probably haven’t even encountered in their mother tongue, let alone a new language.

Another thing is that there is no real settling for them.  We get children joining us, and we work hard to help them, and just as the child is adjusting, getting to grips with the school, and learning, the family move as their might be ‘better’ opportunities elsewhere, only for them to come back 6 months later, having forgotten what they had learned previously, if they hadn’t been in school all that time.

For a lot of the parents of these children, school is just a formality for their kids, if they are to live here.  It’s not a necessity, but this thinking only stems from the fact that there was no emphasis on education in their own formative years. Indeed, many of them wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to go to a decent school when they were growing up, and if they did, they would have been segregated from the ‘normal’ children, and treated so badly.

I have well qualified Eastern European colleagues who have lived this life, not as Roma people, but ‘proper’ nationals of the various countries and they tell us of the persecutions that happen to the Roma communities back home.  They only wish for the best for these children, and their families but they echo our frustrations, as they can see the difficulties of educating children who have no support at home.

When I see the children out and about, out of school hours, {and I’m talking really out of hours,} young children as young as 6-7 with no adults around them, lingering about in town, after dark, it makes me wonder what their parents must be thinking… leaving the kids out, alone, at that time. They tell us, yawning, that they were up until 1am, watching some inappropriate films, or playing the wrong kind of computer games.  so when they show they can throw an impressive punch, or pepper their pigeon English with some ‘colourful’ words, you know it’s not mum and dad’s influence, but some Hollywood action hero. Where were mum and dad?

So you see, it’s not just about education, and educating the kids, somewhere, somehow, we have to educate the parents too, to show them they are worth something, and with support, they can push their own children to greater heights than they thought achievable themselves.

67 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nautilus
    Jul 14, 2017 @ 14:44:35

    I live in Romania. Of course you may know that Romanians (=Wallachians) are not Roma (=Gypsy) and there is no etymological connection between the two words. In fact ”Romanian” was long ago written ”rumîn”, but our scholars thought that the new form ”român” would point out our connection to ancient Rome.

    Yet there are a lot of Roma in my country and their real percentage is still increasing, although they are still a minority. We have the same problems with them here. Those of them who integrate are usually leaving their traditional communities, in fact they are no longer “gypsy”. So, if we want to educate them, but not to destroy their communities, we have to educate the community as a whole. Can we do that? I don’t know.

    And one more thing: they are NOT persecuted here. The common Romanians are the least racist people in Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Ritu
      Jul 14, 2017 @ 18:48:43

      I am so glad to hear that they aren’t persecuted there.
      I have recently had Romanian children coming to school too, as well as the Slovak Roma families.
      I totally understand that they are different cultures, and countries too!
      But you are right, if we try hard to help them integrate, hopefully within a generation or two they will be seen as no different to the rest!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. Gloria
    Jul 14, 2017 @ 10:37:03

    So sad Ritu. We see it here in Ireland too. Heart breaking situations but yes…..also frustrating!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. hotmessmemoir
    Jul 14, 2017 @ 02:56:16

    I feel so bad for the children. This doesn’t exactly help them have a great start. We have similar situations here in the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Ritu
      Jul 14, 2017 @ 06:47:20

      These situations are everywhere that we have immigrants really… for every positive family we get, there will be a whole heap with issues that we have to help iron out!

      Like

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  4. Julie
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 21:00:58

    I felt a lot of the same frustration when I was a social worker in Detroit. I remember a mom who refused to send her son to school for fear that he would become smarter then her. It’s sad to see such a lack of support.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Unbound Roots
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 18:20:54

    Thank you for your heart-felt article. Parents are definitely role models for their children, and sometimes considered the first and foremost teacher. If a child has a poor environment at home, many times the same, undesirable behaviors are brought into schools. I was a public educator before I had my babies. I had many great moments as a school teacher, but also many heartbreaking moments. For instance, an eight-year old girl had been bouncing around from foster home to foster home, and at the end of my teaching time at this particular school (I was moving to another school to teach), this girl asked me if she could come home and live with me. Had I not been a brand-new teacher, fresh out of college, and still living with my parents, I would have seriously considered it. Thank you for teaching! You do make a difference in the lives of all of your students.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Ritu
      Jul 13, 2017 @ 19:29:32

      Thank you so much!
      As an early years practitioner right now I get horrified at some of the home lives of the intakes we get…. but we are there to be a steady base to help them build a good foundation. I just Hope we make a positive difference 😍

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  6. josypheen
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 17:48:02

    Oh Ritu, it can be so frustrating. They are lucky to have someone like you who is trying to help!

    My niece was attending a tiny primary school in the countryside. There were only 15 children in each year, and in her year there were just 5 girls. The problem is, the Roma children were not allowed to make friends with the non-Roma children. So if my niece tried to chat to her Roma classmates, the older Roma kids would bully them until they stopped talking to her. In the end, that meant there were only 2 other girls she could even talk to, and you know what young girls are like…she became the third wheel. In the end she had to move schools because she just couldn’t socialise. 😦

    The problem is, this was affecting lots of other children too. I have a feeling the primary school will end up closing as they lost sooo many pupils. It is such a shame for everyone involved

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Trackback: Educating the Eastern Europeans… #ThrowbackThursday – The Militant Negro™
  8. Mr. Militant Negro
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 17:03:10

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. ellenbest24
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 15:08:45

    These children have it harder than most not just because they start cack handed behind their peers but invariably they are then teaching the parents to speak and write English, or taking on a role of translator. All before they have learnt themselves. I am glad you joined in #ThrowbackThursday or I could have missed this.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. jeremy@thirstydaddy
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 14:23:12

    Interesting read. My family is originally from Lithuania

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. anhistorianabouttown
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 13:56:37

    I have family members who work for a school division and there are so many children/families who come to Canada to seek a better life but have far more of a struggle against them then they originally consider. Not speaking the primary language of a country will make for daily life being a great slog, and I always try to remember patience when I interact with international students at work. I do sometimes wonder how we are being marketed across the world- people often come to Winnipeg thinking that we are the same as Vancouver, when we are 2300km apart and could not have more different climates haha! Great post, Ritu!!

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. Jennifer
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 12:59:07

    That is quite a problem trying to work with a whole group of people who don’t have a written language. Nothing to refer them back to in their own life. Even harder when the parents have no understanding of how an education would help their child. I guess they only see it as something that would take their child away from them.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. weggieboy
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 10:56:57

    Hang in there, Ritu! You will influence those children in ways teachers alone can.

    You may lose some to ignorance and families who don’t understand the need for education for quality of life (not just money and a good job). Others will kind of “get it” and support your efforts long enough that their children have some benefit, and a rare few may aspire to – and achieve! – significant positions in life, all because you didn’t give up on them when they were your students!

    My mother taught migrant workers’ children in a Federal program designed to deal with the fact that the children otherwise had sporadic schooling because their parents followed the crops as they matured in Texas, then Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, etc. Without the migrant school, these children typically helped in the fields or stayed “home” while their parents worked. (“Home” might be the family pickup with camper on back, shacks provided by farmers, or, with luck, low cost housing ,made available to transient people by town and city authorities….)

    Years after she retired, she started hearing from those children, grown up. Many continued their educations, became degreed, had a quality of life beyond anything their parents imagined for themselves, let alone their children.

    Many returned to places where they’d been migrant workers’ children, started families, became respected members of their adopted communities. And, these were children who usually spoke little or not English who learned English at these migrant schools along the way, built upon those new language skills, and made people like my mother proud they made a difference in the lives of the children they taught.

    For all the frustrations you feel, for all of the limits put on you and the children because of language issues, you are making a difference in their lives, if not immediately, eventually, for the most of them.

    I’ve no idea what limitations (laws) you deal with as far as teacher’s assistants in England, but the migrant school here utilized local Spanish speakers to help the children with the poorest English skills keep up with those who were more proficient. Perhaps there are parents or adults among the Eastern Europeans who could help out this way for you. (The local Spanish speakers were the descendents of other migrant workers who came through to “work the sugar beets” in the earlier part of the last century or who followed those people later once the earlier people were settled in and integrated into the community.)

    I hope this doesn’t come off as too “Pollyanna-ish”. There will be heart-breaking failures among those children, perhaps as a higher percentage than among native English children of all ethnicities, but there will be more you can truly embrace as successes, small and large!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    • Ritu
      Jul 13, 2017 @ 12:35:55

      Wow! That is AMAZING !
      We can only try eh!
      We are lucky to have a couple of assistants with the languages we need… but we dont have the access to all the languages So it can be so hard!

      Like

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  14. MarinaSofia
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 09:33:30

    I agree with you so much that the support of parents is vital – just to know that you are all ‘on the same side’ when it comes to improving the child’s chances in life.

    I can tell you from personal experience though that, growing up in Romania, our class teacher would see Roma children missing school for weeks and months at a time, go to their houses and beg and plead with them to send their children to school, but would be laughed at or harassed. Very often they preferred to send their children out on the streets to beg. And then the school inspectorate would fine the teachers or schools for absences. This is a deeper ideological problem: that many (not all Romani) don’t believe in gadjo society and education, they intend for their children to live outside it when they grow up, so they don’t see the need to integrate.

    Then again, I remember meeting the daughter of one of the Romani leaders in Romania and she was highly educated, a poet, who spoke fluent French. Most impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Ritu
      Jul 13, 2017 @ 12:31:09

      There are so many barriers and misconceptions about the Roma culture and about how we as outsiders view them…
      We can only try to show parents the benefits of education…

      Like

      Reply

  15. Forrest Harter
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 09:01:15

    Very similar here in Texas. And yes positive parental involvement is key.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  16. Gabe Burkhardt
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 08:46:23

    Sadly, your points about the Roma people being persecuted and treated as “third class citizens” is all to familiar here in Romania. And I suspect these cultural perceptions create an even wider gulf.

    I can appreciate the hard work that the influx of disenfranchised must represent for educators such as yourself, and I applaud your efforts. Cheers Ritu!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    • Ritu
      Jul 13, 2017 @ 12:29:17

      Thank you so much Gabe! I love what I do. It makes it tougher but the feeling you get when a child ‘gets It’ or when a parent comes on board is indescribable!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  17. TanGental
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 08:19:21

    it is a toughie this; how to get by with this additional pressure and just do the basic teaching

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  18. fancypaperblog
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 08:04:44

    I feel it must be so hard for children these days. We were all from the same village in our school and any visitors were very exciting. We all wanted to sit next to the newbie!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  19. OIKOS™-Redaktion
    Jul 13, 2017 @ 07:09:36

    Reply

  20. amommasview
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 08:23:39

    I often think the parents are in desperate need of some education…

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  21. Alka Girdhar
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 06:55:56

    Ritu, there’s truth in your experiences as a teacher and also in whatever you mentioned about families in India. People over there cannot relate to our life.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  22. Silver Threading
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 00:42:39

    Most Americans have no concept of this, Ritu. How sad. Thank goodness you are there to help them on their way!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  23. Erika Kind
    Nov 22, 2015 @ 22:35:38

    I think it is often… very often the parents who have to be talked too. That is why it is so important that parents and teachers are pulling on one string for the benefit of the child… of course that depends… but basically!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  24. Elusive Trope
    Nov 22, 2015 @ 21:33:23

    Working in the non-profit sector focusing both on education and poverty here in the U.S., I have found the same dynamics in the low-income neighborhoods. One principal bemoaned his first priority was just to get the parents to care whether the kid shows up or not. So much of this from my experience was due to as you said the parents not having the education to help their kids with homework, and personally I feel, they had themselves a bad experience with the educational system. School was a place of frustration and failure, a place where they were told they were less than the ones getting A’s and B’s. This attitude toward “school” and “education” is passed down as a truism to their children, sadly enough.

    Thanks for bringing this dynamic to forefront with this wonderfully expressed post.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  25. The Mad Hooligan Chronicles
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 15:03:36

    My extended U.S. family had relatives in Communist Europe. It was interesting – the relatives thought we lived the life of Riley. I’m sure we had many things they didn’t, but these relatives would send lists of what they wanted from us – things like full-length leather coats, mink coats, motorcycle, etc. I have talked with others with relatives in Communist Europe, and it was the same with them – relatives wanting things that we might like ourselves! So I do understand. Ellie

    Liked by 2 people

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