Sunday, 26 April 2015

Providing children with tools to tell their stories

My inspiration today is an amazing post by Eric Spreng, an international school teacher at the International School of Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso). I wish there were more international school teachers like him. I wish I had teachers like him when I grew up in Africa.

He teaches to promote student voice, he provides the students with tools they need to articulate themselves and their stories, especially when these stories challenge the dominate narratives that would marginalize them. I think this is what all children need but especiallt third culture kids. They need tools to articulate themselves. They need tools to be able to tell their story in what ever environment or situation they are.

Recently I came across this quote and I believe it is so true.

"All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them" these are words by Karen Blixen, the author of the book "Out of Africa".

Third culture kids grow up often moving from country to country with their parents. It can be very exciting and adventerous but the other side of the coin is that they often have to depart and leave friends and familiar places. They often have to say goodbyes. These moments can be painful and sad. If they are equipped with tools to tell their stories it could be great help for them in life. It will make them more resilient and more able to thrive in this global world.

Not only teachers can teach kids the importance of their stories, but we as parents can teach our
Photo by DrieCulturen, taken at Schiphol
children too. Decades of research has shown that most happy families communicate effectively. It means that as a family you tell a positive story about yourselves. If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family's positive moments and your ability to bounce back from difficult ones. Read more on this topic in the article The Stories that Bind Us.

So back to Eric Spreng's post. He says: "From the beginning of the year, I make it clear that student voice is one of our great resources, that students' diverse experiences and cultures are assests to us as a community of learners. He gives examples of students that develop their own voice, do read his post called "Why I teach: Voice, Discourse and Empathy."

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  1. Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves. This line from the article The Stories that Bind Us did stand out for me. A sense of community can be lacking in a TCK's upbringing. It certainly was for me. Parents can build a strong base by communicating who they are to their children, why they work where they do etc. They can build links with the TCK's passport country during home leave but social media/technology is key today to strengthen that bond. For example, having consistent Skype chats with extended family or through a school exchange. A school can make the curriculum TCK friendly. A TCK can find their voice through reading, writing, listening, speaking or art projects. If studying literature, a poem from the country they are living in can be related to a poem from passport country with a similar theme. A TCK can them respond to it from their perspective. I also believe ATCKs can act as mentors, going into schools to interact with TCKs. Drawing attention to ATCKs in the public eye is also vital.

    1. Thanks Eleanor for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. It's so true what you write that parents can create a sense of community. What I noticed was that the moment I transitioned to university (on my own) in the Netherlands I was no longer part of the "community" and that was the most challenging. I like your suggestion about the Skype chats. I have a guest post by Libby Stephens on grandparenting across the seas
      Yes ATCKs can act as mentors, but some times these ATCKs are "hidden", so how do we know who the ATCKs are? Any suggestions?

  2. You and I are not 'hidden'. I am very active on social media but I suppose parents and schools don't engage as they are not aware? But unlikely in this day and age. Perhaps we as ATCKs should be more active and tweet directly and use more hashtags, this will attract interested parties. I applied for this project in The Hague but got no response. I still think it's an excellent idea though and easily adaptable for TCKs.

    1. True Eleanor we are not "hidden"! Thanks for sharing the website, I just checked it out. It looks very interesting. Did you participate as a guest lecturer? A shame you did not get any response, maybe we need to follow up on it? Good to hear you are active on social media, I was very active but have been a little quiet recently. Do think we as ATCKs need to be more visible....