Working in a refugee kindergarten was an intense experience for me. I’ve wanted to write about it for a long time, but only now did I feel it was the right time.
Children are the same everywhere, curious and playful, and it was no different in this kindergarten. Even though many of them experienced difficult situations while fleeing from their homeland, they did not lose their cheerfulness.
With younger siblings on hand, kids went to kindergarten every day, where we waited with open arms and warmth in our hearts: two teachers and one assistant.
Speech therapists visited the kindergarten almost every day. They helped the children acquire knowledge of the German language to better adapt to the kindergarten environment and to the new life that awaited them.
A Typical Day In Refugee Kindergarten
As soon as the children begin to arrive, the first challenges of the day and week come. It is necessary to explain to parents, who do not speak German, that they need to bring clean bed linen and pajamas for their children every Monday.
Not everyone understands. Not all children have clean linen available. That is why we have a spare set in the nursery, precisely for these cases.
I’m trying to use Google Translate to get along with the mom of five-year-old Vanesa. It doesn’t help. There is already a rush in the kindergarten; it is necessary to go to the other children…
Petra runs towards us and with her broken German, learned in the last few months, explains to her friend’s mother what I am trying to show her with my hands.
I was relieved that we finally understood each other. And the look on Petra’s face as I thanked her for her communication help was priceless. Beautiful.
This is just one of many examples of what morning might look like in a refugee kindergarten. I’m sweaty (from the whole running up and down trying to translate and understand) in the locker room, where I try to communicate with parents about basic things – picking up children for doctor’s appointments, visits from the speech therapists…
In these situations, I learned to work with the children. Those who came to kindergarten a while ago speak the German language at a basic level.
I decided to become a kindergarten teacher just for moments like these. If you are curious about the winding path I took while working my way up to pedagogy, you will find more here>> Also, how I worked for potatoes and sometimes carrots too on a farm in Switzerland :).
The city of Vienna built the kindergarten next to apartments for the refugee families:
It usually worked like this: refugee families receive an apartment from the city and a place for the children in the kindergarten. However, the family’s father needed to immediately find a job, and the mother was obliged to attend a German language course after she accompanied the children to kindergarten.
But most of them were excited about the opportunity and appreciated it.
It was interesting to see how people knew how to get along, spend time together, and help each other.
My turn for a moment. My family (husband and son) and I have been abroad for over eight years, and the biggest downside of living away from home has always been being alone. Together, but alone. We had no one to help us when any of us got sick. We had no one to watch our child when we wanted to go somewhere alone.
It was very inspiring for me to see that, despite the difficult situation these families got into due to the war, they found a way to socialize and help each other.
An Ordinary Day In Kindergarten From Refugee Child's Point Of View
As the boy mentioned in the story, children also have intensive support to develop their language skills. This is especially true for the preschool children.
Preschool attendance at kindergarten is compulsory in Vienna. This assures the children’s abilities are approximately (or as much as possible) equal before they start the first grade of primary school.
For some children, this is initial socialization, learning to eat with cutlery for the first time, getting used to traditional Austrian food, and learning the German language they will need at school…
Working as a teacher in this kind of classroom presented me with many new challenges. But if I could sum it up in one sentence, I really think that children are the same everywhere. Playful, curious, unique!
Seeing children play, laugh, and have a great relationship with their parents means the world to me.
In a closed FB group called Simigarten Group, we will help each other and share our experiences and stories. I would be honored if you would join us.
I will officially open the FB group on April 2022. I look forward to seeing you there.