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Decentering the State: Refugees, Migration, and Displacement: A Professional Development Course for Teachers


Decentering the State: Refugees, Migration, and Displacement

A Professional Development Course for Teachers

June 29 – June 30, 2018

9 AM – 4 PM

co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute, Columbia University 

As the Syrian Civil War enters its eighth year, images of refugees continue to flood the media. While diaspora, displacement and migration increasingly define the human experience they remain difficult subjects to engage with and teach. President Trump’s initiatives - to cancel DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Migrants), build a wall on the US/Mexico border, limit refugee resettlement programs, and ban travel from Muslim majority countries - make discussions about displacement and migration in the classroom imperative. In addition to a lack of comprehensive and accessible instructional materials on these subjects, there is also the need to advise educators on how they can hold space for discussions that might be difficult for students.

This intensive two-day course will cover: historical and contemporary cases of displacement and migration and how to create space in classrooms for difficult conversations and divergent opinions. The first day offers an examination of legal categories such as 'citizen,' 'displaced person,' and 'refugee,' the movement of people around the world and the related geopolitical conflicts and social concerns that charge these topics. The second day focuses on the tools needed to plan and execute lessons based on the content from day one. Led by specialists from Teachers College at Columbia University, participants will learn how to translate content and implement strategies to create open, welcoming and supportive learning environments for students in order to discuss topics that may be highly emotional and politically charged. 

The course is organized by the Middle East Institute at Columbia University and has been approved by the NYC Department of Education After School Professional Development Program for professional development credit. If you are a teacher and would like to take the course for PD credit, please register directly on the NYC DOE After School Professional Development Program website and also on the Middle East Institute website through this Google Form.

Further details about registration is provided below. 


Columbia University

Knox Hall

606 West 122ndStreet between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Room 208

New York, NY 10027


Day 1: Content Issues and Historical Overview 

9-10:00 AM: Introduction to Teaching about Refugees, Migration and Displacement

Dahlia El Zein and Simone Rutkowitz, Columbia University  

10:00-11:30 AM: The Arabian Peninsula as a Global Crossroads

Neha Vora, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Lafayette College

11:30-11:45 AM: Break

11:45-1:15 PM: Ethical Dilemmas and Human Rights in the Refugee Context

Darryl Li, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago 

1:15-2:00 PM: Lunch

2:00-3:30 PM: Know Their Rights: How to support Dreamers, Refugees and Migrants in your Classroom

Tarek Ismail, Senior Staff Attorney, Clear Project, CUNY School of Law 

3:30-4:00 PM: Reflection

Day 2: Lesson Planning from Content to Classroom, Creating a Supportive Environment and Making Space for Difficult Conversations in the Classroom

Led by Education specialists: 

Maria Hantzopoulos, Associate Professor of Education, Vassar College,

Sandra Schmidt, Associate Professor of Social Studies and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University and 

Hanadi Shatara, Instructor and PhD Student, Social Studies Education program, Teachers College, Columbia University 

 9-10:30 AM: Sharing Lesson Plans: Translating Content to Lessons

10:30-12 PM: Creating a Supportive Space to have Difficult Conversations in the Classroom

12-12:45 PM: Lunch

12:45-2:15 PM: Part 2: Creating a Supportive Space to have Difficult Conversations in the Classroom

2:15-2:30 PM: Break

2:30-4:00 PM: Revisiting Lesson Planning: Integrating and Using Resources


Participants must be K-12 teachers, two- or four-year college instructors or students enrolled in graduate education degree programs. 

To register, please complete this Google form. Registration is free. 

For those interested in receiving professional development credit for the course, the NYC Department of Education After School Professional Development Program requires teachers to register on their site and to pay a registration fee directly to the NYC DOE. To register with the NYC DOE click here to redirected

Readings in preparation for the course will be sent to participants upon registration or three weeks in advance. 

If you have any questions, please contact Dahlia El Zein