Thanks to Katie for her comment on my post “Growing Up Global” and her question about good resources for teachers working with TCKs and want to help them with repatriation. I’ve been giving this some thought and would welcome any suggestions/ideas…
The repatriation issue is a big one. Here is my background on this subject and my thinking right now…
When I was a kid growing up overseas in the 80-90s the idea that I might struggle when heading back to my home country wasn’t even considered. My father liked to say I was a “Wyoming girl” which meant I could return there when I graduated from ISKL. However, what he didn’t consider, was that I hadn’t actually lived in Wyoming since I was eight. Ten years later at 18, I was a different person, we were a different family, and it was still pretty much the same place. (I’m not faulting my parents or beautiful WYO- no one at the time was thinking this through. David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken’s work: Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds was years away.)
Then about 10 years ago, when I first read Pollock’s work, I recognized myself and the struggles I had with repatriating. Most of it was due to my parents and I not recognizing there was even going to be an issue. (The Wyoming experience lasted a year- then I got myself on a plane to warmer weather and a university which held a more diverse population.)
However today, I think the situation has changed again. When I read Pollock’s work now it seems to explain the experience of growing up globally as negative, one that might not be overcome. It makes me think, “Why am I doing this to my own daughter?” But that only lasts a minute, because I also believe that with the right support from international schools, these kids, fostered by this experience, can be leaders in our new flattened world. (Check out Thomas Friedman’s book.) What third-culture kids need, and what teachers and parents who recognize the TCK life as unique and beneficial desire, is information on HOW to foster this experience for their kids.
If the TCK experience is considered an opportunity, then as educators and schools we have a responsibility to teach kids about it. If our students are encouraged to think about their lives as third-culture kids as preparation for a more globally connected world- then repatriation becomes less a worry about returning to a home country and more about bringing skills and knowledge to a home population who might benefit from our ideas and backgrounds.
For my daughter, we hope to convey her repatriation as just another move. (If she does indeed choose to return to her passport country.) As the world flattens and moving becomes more of the norm whether within our countries or abroad, I think we can take some of the emphasis off repatriation. Even if a child returns to a “home country” chances are they will move again- somewhere, whether to college/uni or for work when they are older.
In 2006 when I first started thinking deeply about this issue I gave a presentation at EARCOS in Manila. Below is my powerpoint from that presentation. It is all still a work in progress, but it might give some ideas to those that are interested.
Bottom line for me: We have to teach TCKs how to take advantage of this experience. It is our responsibility as educators. What we teach them, and how we tackle this issue comprehensively in classrooms around the world is still a question. But one I think can be answered.
In my next post, I will showcase some different resources for teachers and families to use with their kids when they do repatriate. If you have ideas please share them.