Saturday, 10 November 2012


If I had to pick one word to best describe my responsibilities as an international school counsellor it would have to be, transitions.  I work with a very transient community and spend so much of my time every single day working with families through their transitions.  Students are constantly coming and going.  At the start of this school year I welcomed 100 new families starting pre-k to grade 5!  Throughout the school year many more students will join us and many will leave us.  

When I spoke to the pervious school counsellor at my school she suggested I purchase a book to read before my arrival.  The book she recommended was, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken.  Here is an image of the book cover:

I immediately began reading and I am so glad that I did.  The term Third Culture Kids started being used over ten years ago but was something I didn't know anything about.  So many of my students were born in one place and moved to another or several other places.  The combination of the cultures of all of these places is where the idea of a third culture comes from.  So many children are growing up among multiple worlds and there is lots to learn about how we can work together to support them.

After attending last years ECIS annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal I connected with other international school counsellors and learned how they were working with their TCK's.  I loved this trailer for the TCK film and can't wait for it to be released.  Have a look!

I went to a workshop presented by Laura Cowan, Middle School Counsellor at Shanghai American School and loved her documentary on Third Culture Kids.  Laura asked some of her TCK students some basic questions about both the challenges and rewards of being a TCK.  She also asked students how educators and parents can best support them through their transitions.  What they shared was so insightful.  We can learn so much about TCK's if we just take the time to listen to them.  Take a few minutes to listen to her student's perspectives on things!

Laura let me borrow her video to share with the parents at my school.  I used this prezi at a PIM (parent information meeting) on TCK's.  Last year I filmed my students that were moving on to new schools and other TCK's to create my own documentary about their experiences living among different cultures.  I am still working on piecing everything together (it is my first documentary) and look forward to sharing the final product with you soon!  

Every time there is a new student I am amazed at how helpful our students are.  They do everything they can to make the new student feel welcome and they are so great at helping them to fit right in.  New students get paired with a buddy and lots of times they will email with their buddy before they even arrive!   I always meet the student on their first day at school and usually have a student that already knows me well introduce me to them by explaining what I do at our school.   After they have had a few days to settle in I have a welcome lunch bunch group.  Students invite a few friends to join them and in a relaxed setting we get to know one another a little better.  I have a large map in my room that we use to share with one another where we were born and where else we have lived.  I just wrote a grant for a large velcro world map and a magnetic one, we would definitely put them to use.  Lots of times students feel relieved when they find out that other students in the group have also lived in a few different places.  They will naturally start to ask one another questions about their old friends and previous schools and they offer one another advice.   This year new students received a 'new student survival kit' with lots of symbolic items in it.  They have been a hit!  Lots of parents have called or stopped me  to let me know how much their child appreciated it and how cute they thought it was.  I will attach the letters that go in the survival kit as well as the objects and their meaning as soon as I get on my work computer.

Students that are getting ready to move on to a new school are always invited to a goodbye lunch bunch.  Each classroom teacher also has a special tradition for saying goodbye.  Last year I invited students that were leaving to help me create a special book.  They had the opportunity to leave something behind that would be helpful for new students joining us in the years to come.  The cover of the book says, "While you are at ACS Hillingdon be sure to..." and each student decorated a page.   Each page was unique and my new students this year have LOVED reading the advice that was left for them.  I plan to continue this tradition and make a new book each year.  When a new family comes to visit I'd love to be able to send a book home for them to borrow.  I like the idea of the family reading it together before they actually start at our school.  Some advice left was to make as many friends as you can, try the cookies in the cafeteria, go to the London Eye and Big Ben, travel as much as you can, eat at Pizza Express and Wagamama, keep calm and carry on, be yourself, if you have a problem talk to Mrs. Seaberg, keep in touch with your friends and family that you left and go to Legoland.  I give lots of advice to students but there is just something special about students helping other students!

In general, when I meet someone for the first time we often get to know one another better by asking some basic questions; What's your name?  Where are you from?  What do you do for work?  I quickly learned not to ask anyone I meet where they are from.  I learned that lots of people can't answer that question because they have lived in several different countries or they were born in one place and only lived there for a short time and have lived in several other places since.  Lots of my students don't have a place they call home. 

So, if you are thinking about working as a school counsellor in an international school my advice is to do some research on Third Culture Kids and don't ask your students where they are from.  Just ask where they were born and where else they have lived!  I hope to pick up some new ideas on ways I can support my families and students that are transitioning at the upcoming ECIS conference.  If there is anything you do to help your TCK's please comment below and share!


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