So here's something that's not talked about enough: TCK's and education.
I genuinely believe that being a TCK is one of my life's biggest blessings (though sometimes I can see it as a curse, such as when I lose touch with friends due to the constant distance) and I think that any child who has lived a similar life is so lucky. Through our TCK lifestyle, we gain a unique and wonderful understanding of the world, one that I feel you can't really get otherwise. You understand other cultures in ways that you can only if you experienced them for yourself. That said, sometimes certain things, such as TCK education (ie. the education of a TCK) can be negatively affected by this otherwise extraordinary lifestyle.
This post is directed to parents, teachers, educators, school psychologists, school counselors, and to students themselves, in order for everyone to gain a better understanding of what being a student and a TCK is like (and what some of the struggles are!).
1. I am a TCK and a school psychologist in training, so I would say I am pretty well equipped to write about this.
2. This post is and will always be a work in progress: I will continue to add things to it as they come to me, particularly in the recommendations section, so that it may serve as a recourse.
TCKs (third culture kids - kids who grow up outside their parents' culture and move around a lot, usually from country to country) can face difficulties with school. There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to this. One rather obvious one is curriculum changes.
When a student moves from one school to another, it is likely that he or she will either be ahead or behind in certain areas, depending on the curriculum that was used at the individual schools. Over the next few months, he/she may need to play a catch-up game or need some extra help in order to be at the level of his/her peers. This is totally normal and expected; most teachers and school personnel such as psychologists or counselors understand this. This becomes a more significant issue when the child is a TCK and the curriculum changes aren't just between cities within one country, but rather changes between multiple countries.
An example is if a child went to an international school for 1st to 3rd grade, where he learned "World History" (or maybe European history, or Middle Eastern History, etc. depending on where he/she lived), and then moved to the U.S., then it's very likely this TCK will not have the same amount of knowledge on American history as his or her peers. This does not mean that the child is intellectually lacking, but rather simply that the child learned something different and may not be as familiar with certain topics his peers know well.
Another "problem" or concern with TCK's and their education is that, sometimes, when a student moves around often, he/she might not learn something at all, due to these curriculum changes. I can use myself as an example of this. I moved to the UK from Saudi Arabia in 6th grade, and then to Milan in 7th grade, and then back to Saudi Arabia in 8th grade. Between those two years of me being "abroad", my "local" classmates in Saudi Arabia took a geography class. My classmates in the UK were not going to be taking a geography class until the 7th grade, and my classmates in Italy already took their geography class in 6th grade. So, by the time I returned to Saudi Arabia in 8th grade, all my peers had a really good understanding of world geography, and (even though I physically moved around the world, haha) I was severely lacking in that subject!
Alsooooo, when you move, you have to completely redefine yourself. Personally, this often came as a relief to me, because I got to completely start over. But I remember so clearly the first time I moved (to England from Saudi Arabia) I had the HARDEST time with this, because I didn't know how to prove to my teachers or peers who I am. They saw my quiet, shy nature as being rude or inattentive, when really I was just struggling to fit in. In my old school, I was known as the good kid. The kid who never got into trouble, who was quiet, polite, and worked hard. The teachers knew my family well, as all three of my brothers had studied at this school as well. When I moved to England, no one knew me, and for some reason they thought I was some bad, rebellious kid. I have so many examples of this, but here's one: one day, maybe a month or two into the school year, we had a substitute teacher in our ELA class. There was a girl named Alisha in my class, and because everyone always pronounced my name incorrectly (my name is eye-sha, and most people pronounce it ay-E-sha, which sounds a lot like Alisha!), which is how the trouble began. She read out either my or her name, and both of us raised our hands. When she saw us both raising our hands, instead of assuming maybe one of us heard wrong, or that we both had similar names, she just yelled at us. She thought we were trying to prank her. My classmates all looked at me like I was a freaking devil. I tried to explain but the sub told me to shut up, which made it even worse. I almost burst into tears. I was not used to this at all; in my old school, everyone knew me and knew I wouldn't ever prank a teacher (lolol)! Sixth grade was the worst year of my life, but it taught me that I need to go the extra mile in the beginning of the school year to show my teachers and classmates who I am, before they can brand me as who they think I am. So, what I am trying to say here is that when a student moves to a new school, he/she has to completely redefine themselves and "prove" who they are. They can't rely on the past or their past behavior to dictate who they are. They can't rely on their friends, their teachers, etc. because no one here knows them. It's up to them to show the world what kind of kid they are, and to try twice as hard to prove who they really are, before anyone can brand them, for them.
Education or schooling (or being a student, I suppose) isn't just about what you learn, what curriculum you follow, what your grades are like... A child's social-life (or development of social skills) can be negatively affected by this lifestyle. What I mean by this is, children often make friends and learn social skills at school, through interactions they have with their peers, or at recess, or through projects they work on, etc. When a student moves to a different school, he/she has to rebuild these connections and reform relationships with his peers. Sometimes, it is easy to make new friends and to adjust. Other times, it is extremely difficult to be the new kid and not know anyone.
Currently, I can't think of anything else I would like to add above, but if something else comes to me later on in my life, I will be sure to write about it on this post. I just want everyone to know that being a TCK is already hard enough, and having shitty experience at school can make it even worse. So, please, everyone go out of your way to be kind and helpful to each other, in all walks of life (and especially to new kids at your schools!). Before I end this, I want to give some recommendations to students who are TCKs, to parents of TCK students, and to school-based professionals.
Recommendations for TCK students:
Recommendations for parents of TCK students:
Recommendations for school-based personnel (teachers, counselors, psychologists, principles, etc.):
To finish off, I just want to remind all parents to be advocates for their children, all school-personnel to be advocates for their students, and all students to be advocates for themselves (as difficult as that may be at times). <3