Course Preparation Guidelines
When you begin preparing your course, focus on the essential principles of the subject. Try to avoid being too detailed at first. Spend some time developing an outline of the course.
You will want to build flexibility into your course plan. You may find the need to modify the course as it progresses. Those of us who do not have direct experience with refugees, may not fully understand the needs of the students.
We recommended the first assignment be fairly "open", a "pre-task" - to determine the needs of the individuals. For instance, the subject of Business Skills covers a wide spectrum of activity, some of which may not be applicable to certain communities.
There may well be some surprises for you in terms of expectations of what is required. Flexibility and pragmatism are essential. A standardized one-course-suits-all approach will probably not work in schools where refugees have different backgrounds, and different perceived futures.
You will need to ascertain the course expectations from the students, their needs, and their personal aspirations. You may want to ask the students to write informally about themselves, their wishes, expectations and reasons for studying this subject. This will not only give you information to help plan the content of the course, but it will give you information about the students' writing skills.
It will be unusual for English to be the refugees' first language, although the students should have a good knowledge of the language. Anyone who has studied a second language will know people can read better than write in a second language. So the next assignment may be pitched accordingly.
It is important for you to be aware of general political, geographical, and cultural influences on the community where "your" students live. Where possible, it is advisable to use material that is culturally neutral or at least to check whether certain subjects (e.g., dogs as pets, alcoholic drinks, luxury items) may be insensitive. Learn as much as you can about the local community where the refugee students live.
You will need to address students in ways that they can understand, and ways allowing them to be engaged with the information provided. Plain English, basic vocabulary, and simple grammar are important factors in communication between student and tutor.
The United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR) comments that traditionally, refugee students tend to be more respectful of their teachers than across the UK or USA. Learning has been done by rote. It is likely students will not have had the opportunity to debate their opinions with a teacher or "discuss" a subject in writing - and will find such an invitation rather strange or even unacceptable.
Don't Go It Alone
Working as a tutor may appear to be a solitary occupation, especially at first. If you wish to exchange ideas and experiences with other (consenting) tutors, contact RESPECT University Co-ordinator.
If you experience difficulties be sure to share them with the RESPECT University Co-ordinator. We will try to link you to others with relevant experience.
- Back up computer files so they are not lost if your computer crashes.
- Keep photocopies of material sent from students. This is particularly important in case there is a loss in the post. If remarks are hand-written on assignments, these should be photocopied too.
- Encourage students to keep copies of their work too, for the same reason. However, it is unlikely they will have access to photocopying facilities, so you may want to suggest they keep a draft (practice) copy of their assignments.
- Make sure you are subscribed to the RESPECT e-Zine subscriptions.respectrefugees.org. When you successfully complete the Tutor Information Form, you will be automatically be subscribed.
- Take time to visit the RESPECT website frequently.