Rami's story – film

Covered in this illustration of practice:

At the time of filming Rami was a Year 11 student from the northern tablelands of NSW. His refugee background motivated him to make the most of the educational opportunities that Australia has offered. Prior to arriving in Australia, Rami taught himself English from reading books. Once enrolled in an Intensive English Centre, his teachers quickly recognised his need for additional challenge and extension. This film describes the adjustments put in place and provides advice for teachers from Rami himself.

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Transcript of Rami’s Story (5 minutes 19 seconds)

Start of transcript

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that this video may contain the images, voices and names of people who have passed away.

Rami’s story

High Potential and Gifted Education

NSW Government logo – Red on blue background of photograph of children in a classroom

Rami – student, Armidale High School

Rami – In 2014 I had to leave my country, which is Iraq. I went to Turkey where I spent about four years in a refugee camp and then last year I came to Australia.

Sarah Mills – Intensive English Centre Teacher, Armidale High School

Sarah – I’ve been teaching Rami for six to eight months. We identified very early on in the piece, that he was a high potential student, and very intrinsically driven.

Rami – When I went to the school the first one was in the Intensive English, but because my English was a bit good, I then went to the mainstream

Sarah – His skills and ability in English alone were just amazing, and he’s self-taught, from books. When I asked him his favourite reading and he threw back a few philosopher’s names, and pulled them out of his bag, we knew we had a high potential student on our hands, and that we had to cater for that.

Rami – When I was in Turkey I was reading books in physics and philosophy and I thought that the information is all in English language, because it’s a primary language, so I thought that it would be a good thing to learn this language, to have more information from different sources.

Sarah – We just gave him that little bit of time to find his feet, then when he was ready we put him into one subject at a time, but what that involved for Rami from a support perspective was just ensuring that his teachers knew how to cater for his needs. So how can they differentiate lessons and the language to ensure that his high potential needs are met. So how we support students like Rami is high challenge, high support. So we offer high challenge work but we also offer a high level of support with that work, so he doesn’t feel like he’s just learning to write the alphabet or just completing busy work – which sometimes does happen when children are just beginning to learn English. So he’s in there with his peers, he’s reading philosophy books at recess time, and the others are still learning how to say pink, yellow, blue, orange, all that sort of thing. So it was about ensuring that the mainstream teachers understood that, and knew when to put scaffolding in place, and when to take it away. So when to give him the support, when to challenge him, and when to take it away. Bearing in mind that he has come from a highly traumatised background.

Rami – I think one of the ways that the teachers can help the student is to ask them what they are interested in, and to see how, what they can do. So in that way they can give them some challenges, and they can work with them to improve their skills, and to develop new skills, and I think in that way the teachers can help the students live new skills. So one way a teacher can help a student is when they ask him a question is to give them some time, because when the students are being asked this question, he might translate that question from a different language to the one that he has asked it.

Sarah – So we encourage mainstream teachers who are teaching these high potential students, especially second language learners, to pull out the key text, the key language in their program, or whatever they’re working with. Pull those words out, identify them, help the children to understand them and then once they’ve got that concept they fly.

Rami – There are some things I’m interested in, but I haven’t yet decided what I want to do. For example I am interested in doing philosophy at the university and also I’m interested in learning new languages and also learning about different cultures. So I speak four languages, they are English, Arabic, Turkish and my own language is Kurdish Kurmanji. I’m also currently doing French at school as a subject. I think learning language is an interesting thing, for aside from being able to speak with people from different backgrounds, you can learn about new cultures and new places. And also learning a new language refreshes your mind so you are able to think critically and more effectively.

So I hope you will all aim high, and in Turkish (repeats in Turkish) and in Arabic (repeats in Arabic) and in Kurmanji (repeats in Kurmanji).


Find the potential

Develop the talent

Make the difference

Copyright 2019 NSW Department of Education

End of transcript

Questions for professional learning

For school leaders:

  • As a refugee and as an EAL/D student with high potential, what wellbeing programs could be put in place to further support Rami? What wellbeing programs could be put in place to further develop students at risk who are also demonstrating high potential in your school?
  • What assessment and data are used to assess students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and identify the needs of those who require extension in your school? What behaviours and characteristics might you be looking for initially?
  • Are all domains (intellectual, creative, social emotional and physical) considered when designing programs for high potential and gifted students from diverse backgrounds? What could your school put in place to ensure that this occurs?

For teachers:

  • Students may experience frustration at feeling ‘slow’ when required to learn in a newly acquired language whilst adapting to a new culture and school system. How might teachers work together to address this when planning, designing and implementing quality learning opportunities?
  • How can teachers ensure that the assessment measures used for their high potential and gifted students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds are accessible, so that students are given equal opportunity to demonstrate their ability?
  • How might current formative assessment strategies be impacted by the various cultural and linguistic groups represented at the school and how might this impact teachers’ understanding of their students?
  • Rami’s teacher talked about ‘high challenge, high support’. What did that look like for Rami? What could it look like for a student in your school?


  • Teaching and learning


  • Assess and identify

Business Unit:

  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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