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Thursday, June 8 • 1:50pm - 2:10pm
Navigating and understanding Arab immigrant parents as the U.S. educational system

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Being an Arab designer, and a researcher, enabled me to look differently and carefully at how are things made. My initiative is fueled by my passion for “critical making”, and by that, I mean being an open investigator within our community. Ya Salaam, situated at the intersection of design, education, and Arab migration, explores how to foster opportunities for Arab immigrant mothers (AIMs) to more fully participate in their children’s public school education.

Living in the United Arab Emirates allowed me to understand what multiculturalism and co-existing mean at a very young age. At a very young age, I learned the beauty of living in a diverse multicultural environment where the exchange of perspectives, culture, language, and experiences happens involuntarily. Having friends from different nationalities enabled my family and me to explore the diversity of the world through our everyday interactions and learn from each other. This diversity required international teachers to learn about each family individually, as well as complete a workshop at the beginning of the year to learn about the Arabic culture and traditions. Being a kid I was not able to understand how effective this is, however, I was able to see how my parents and other parents had very strong communication with the teachers and other parents. This made my parents as well as other parents very comfortable and allowed them to provide the needed support at home.

However, coming to the United States and being part of the Arab Community in Florida opened my eyes to issues that as an Arab immigrant myself worry me a lot. One of the recurring topics that are constantly discussed by the community in our meetings is the inability of Arab mothers to be involved the way they want in their children’s education. My qualitative and quantitative research indicates that AIMs are often othered and less engaged than they hope to be (or other parents are) due to a range of factors. Whether these are cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, stereotyping, or other barriers, the result reflects negatively on their children’s learning experiences and their ability to support their education (Bazzi-Gates, 2015).In order to address this problem, I listened to schoolteachers and Arab immigrant mothers as they spoke about their experiences and aspirations. Being an Arab immigrant mother myself, my research is further reinforced by my position within the community. Given this, I was eager to look closely into methods and solutions to bring mothers and teachers together. A lot of research has been done on immigrant parents and the educational system in the United States. For example, Korean mothers also feel unwelcome in their children’s schools in the United States(Sohn, Soomin & Wang, 2006). However, not much research focused on Arab immigrants, which made me more eager to explore opportunities.

The result of my research is the Ya Salaam initiative, a range of activities and interactions co-designed with Arab immigrant mothers and teachers to build community and understanding for long-term benefit. Ya Salaam creates a sense of familiarity between public school teachers and Arab immigrant mothers, opening the door to many opportunities for parents to more fully engage in their children’s education. The initiative encourages strong communication as an opportunity for growth and helps Arab parents unleash their potential within a multi-vocal, inclusive, diverse, reliable, and courageous environment. After data analysis, I found out that the road to community building with Arab immigrant mothers requires their involvement, thus I decided to base my initiative on the concept of “Manage by participants” this means that the session will be directed, managed, and led by potential participants.


Shaza Jendi

Visiting Assistant professor, University of Florida, United States of America

Thursday June 8, 2023 1:50pm - 2:10pm EDT
Main 210