“I Have a New Life. Everything is New.”: Exploring the Experiences of Newcomer Children in School Through Counterstories

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Ewing-Nagy, Emma
newcomers , acculturation , immigration , child immigrant , resilience , school , supports
Canadian schools have seen dramatic increases in the number of newcomer students with even greater growth projected in the coming decades (People for Education, 2019). Statistics Canada (2019) projects newcomer children could represent between 39% and 49% of the total population of children by 2036. Considering the rise of this student population within Canadian schools, there has been increased interest among educational researchers to learn more about their acculturation experiences and to examine the factors that affect inclusion. However, the voice of newcomer students has largely remained absent in the research literature. Research surrounding newcomers has tended to emphasize the challenges that these students face, perpetuating a deficit-oriented narrative that views these students in problem-oriented ways. Additionally, this emphasis on barriers is thought to be indicative of the lack of in-school supports (Oikonomidoy et al., 2019), and critics agree that Canadian schools continue to fail in meeting the needs of these students (Dei, 2015; Khalifa et al., 2016). As such, the purpose of this research was twofold in which this study sought to understand (1) what the experience of acculturation is like for newcomer children attending school in Canada and (2) the factors that hinder and support their resiliency. Grounded in Critical Race Theory, counterstories are a tool for challenging and unravelling the myths of dominant discourses by putting forth a more accurate depiction of one’s lived reality (Delgado, 1989). The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain insight into the lived experiences of newcomer students adapting to school in Canada. Using a multiple perspective case study approach, five participants aged 7-13 participated in semi-structured interviews. Findings from this study provided unique first-hand insight into the experiences of newcomer children in Canadian public schools. Additionally, the data illuminated the resilience of these students and the ways in which they persevered to adapt positively within their new environments, despite the looming presence of risk factors that threatened their adaptation.
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