When the Personal Becomes the Professional: Exploring the Lived Experiences of Syrian Refugee Educators
Teachers play a central role in supporting students whose lives have been disrupted by crisis, yet the teachers providing education to refugee students often are refugees themselves. This article explores how being a teacher influences the experience of being a refugee and, conversely, how the experience of being a refugee influences the teacher’s role. I present portraits of two Syrian educators living as refugees in Lebanon who are working to educate refugee students. I find that that these two educators struggle to balance their teaching obligations with the realities of living as refugees themselves. While global frameworks depict refugee educators as having the power to prepare a new generation of Syrian students, these educators feel powerless to transcend the social, economic, and political barriers constructed around them in Lebanon. In their personal lives, these educators struggle with a loss of hope and psychological exhaustion, yet they are expected, and expect themselves, to project hopefulness and psychological strength in the classroom. While the educators welcome the opportunity to reclaim a professional identity, their work often leaves them with a sense of frustration and loss. These findings support the need to improve the support provided refugee teachers.