I'm a fifth grade teacher in a racially diverse classroom. This year I have a boy in my class whose family recently emigrated from Russia. He's the only new immigrant out of a class of 22 students. Two of the biggest kids in the class tease him constantly about his accent and because he speaks little English. The other day when he came back from recess, he was crying, but he wouldn't tell me what happened. I'm worried that things are going to get worse. What should I do?
There are actually several things in this scenario that need to be addressed. The first is the emotional, and if left unchecked, perhaps physical, harm to the target of this unfair and bias-motivated behavior. This student needs to know that he hasn't done anything wrong. Helping this child see that there are caring adults who value and appreciate him can go a long way toward helping his self-esteem, which is most likely very fragile. Other adults in the school also need to be alerted to the situation so they can be helpful.
Secondly, there must be intervention with the children who are harassing and bullying this student, which is why a whole-school bullying policy needs to be in place. Perhaps these students would benefit from talking with a counselor or participating in a series of role-playing exercises and related activities that help them learn other methods of interaction besides bullying.