World Refugee Day: “Never Be Afraid to Advocate for Students”, by Mandy Manning.

Manning was named National Teacher of the Year in the United States. She has taught English and math at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, for seven years, and her refugee students come from countries all over the world, including Syria, Mexico, and Sudan. While her students don’t often feel safe in the current political climate, Manning has helped transform her school by providing a welcoming and supportive environment. Manning is an active member of her local and state union and serves on the executive committee of the Washington Education Association. Here come a few highlights from her conversation with National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García on 11 June 2018 [1].

"I’ve learned how to be fearless from my students. I teach immigrant refugee students. My students have gone through unspeakable circumstances to come to the United States, a nation that gives them hope to be someone. I watch their innate hopefulness and fearlessness in coming into this new community, a community that in many ways has not welcomed them. They come to school everyday; they’re focused, they’re dedicated, they’re committed to their dreams, and becoming productive members of society and citizens. So, all I have to do is look at them, and they teach me how to be fearless.

Our current administration has not been welcoming to my students, and I wanted to ensure my students that I was [meeting Trump at the White House] for them. There was a question: Should I go? And they all said, unanimously, “Yes. Because he needs to know about us.” And so we sat down and we had the students write letters about their journeys to the United States and what it meant to them: their dreams and hopes, and how they want to give back to the United States. There was also advice for our current president on how he can help improve their lives in the United States, like using supportive language that doesn’t diminish them as whole groups of people. (…)

Everytime educators leave the classroom in order to advocate collectively, our love for our students is used against us. Sometimes, we have to leave the classroom to get the things we need for our kids, because at the heart of every teacher is our students. At the heart of every decision is what our students need. It’s very comfortable to be in our classrooms. But, (…) ‘Life happens outside your comfort zone.’ We have to be willing to get uncomfortable and face some of that negative messaging that we might receive in order to really make deep impacts on what we know is best for kids.

If the decisions that are being made are negatively impacting our kids, we cannot sit idly by, even if it means we’re going to face challenges in the community. Because ultimately, if students truly make up the foundation of our arguments about why we are outside the classroom advocating, no one can argue with us."

[1] The full video of the Facebook live is available here.


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Mandy Manning

Mandy Manning, English and Math teacher, was named National Teacher of the Year in the United States in 2018. She has been teaching at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School for seven years where students come from a variety of regions and countries. She is a member of the National Education Asociation (NEA), serving on the executive committee of the Spokane Education Association.

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