Grade 3 students and Upper School French-language students were given an insight into the first-hand experiences of an asylum seeker when Justin, a Congolese refugee, visited ISAthe school to share his story.
Brett Preiss, ISA Lower School English as an Additional Language teacher, invited Justin to come and speak with his grade 3 students as part of their recent unit of inquiry, Believe it or Not. The unit explores students’ understanding of beliefs and belief systems and challenges them to see how this affects their own lives and the broader world in which they live.
“We wanted to invite Justin to share his experiences and how his similar or different his beliefs and values are to those of the children.” noted Preiss.
Justin left the Republic of the Congo five years ago, and arrived in the Netherlands without a home, his family, or any local knowledge of the Dutch culture or language. In the years that followed, he was able to teach himself English and Dutch, and took advantage of social opportunities opportunities to integrate himself in the community, including joining acting classes where he met that are also attended by Preiss.
Applying the PYP to Real Life
The PYP curriculum has a strong focus on the 10 IB Learner Profile Attributes—inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. Preiss chose to use these attributes as a tool for guiding the discussion with his young students.
“We focused on the IB Learner Profile attributes and asked Justin to share how he has been a risk-taker by leaving his family and country, and moving to a totally new land.” explained Preiss.
Being an international school, this concept of relocation was familiar to the students. However, the circumstances in which Justin had to move gave them new insight into how his journey to Holland differed from theirs and allowed them to reflect on the plight of refugees and the sacrifices they must make to start life over again in a new home.
“Justin also emphasised another attribute by discussing how caring he wants to be by improving himself and his life so that he could one day be in a position to care for his family back in the Republic of the Congo.”
To that end, the school also connected Justin with the ISA IT team, after learning of his interest in video editing and development. He was shown some of the latest editing tools and software used in an ISA student’s daily life to guide him on the technologies that are shaping the future.
Preiss hopes that Justin’s connection with both his students and the Upper School French classes made a lasting impression and that both he and ISA can continue to help Justin and other refugees to get their stories out there to discover new connections in the Netherlands as they build their lives.
Justin also showed a keen interest in video editing and development, so during his visit to ISA, he was able to connect with one of the IT Station staff who showed him some of the editing tools and software used at the school.
Mr Preiss said that he invited Justin to present to students in Grade 3 who have been learning about different beliefs through a unit of inquiry called, ‘Believe It or Not’.
“We wanted to invite Justin to share his experiences and how his similar or different his beliefs and values are to the children. We also focus on the Learner Profile attributes and we wanted Justin to share how he has been a risk-taker by leaving his family and country, and moving to a totally new land. Justin also emphasised how caring he wants to be by improving himself and his life so that he could one day be in a position to care for his family back in the Republic of the Congo.”
Students and staff all relished the opportunity to listen to and learn something new from Justin, and while his story was at times challenging and confronting, there was opportunity to be inspired by his incredible story of perseverance through adversity.
“For Justin, this visit was a really memorable and rewarding experience, because he truly believes his story should be shared and that by doing so he is able to help our students and others appreciate what they have” noted Preiss.
“He wants to inspire others to help each other and I think he has done that. I know I’ve been inspired by the fact that he has been able to remain true to himself and his beliefs and values, despite having everything taken away from him. He’s overcome obstacles and really taught the children that once you achieve something you really should give back to help make things better in this world.”