Thursday, May 20, 2010


Third Culture Parent

Went to a very relevant and well-done PD session today on Third Culture Kids. I have complete notes on my laptop. Four comments I want to record here:

First, I keep a list of courses that I would teach in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. One of these is an American culture course for graduating seniors. This is similar to what the speaker mentioned today about having a transition program for arriving/departing TCKs, except her idea was broader and more ambitious. I really liked that idea. But I have no time.

Second, one untapped resource at our school (and this made it a shame that the PD session was one-way) is the large population of grown TCK teachers at SMIC, including myself. It really shouldn't be hard to get a dialog going about the needs and potentials of TCKs, and the different options available to TCKs as they go through life.

IMG_3878 (by Micah Sittig)

Third, it's fun being a TCK father of TCKs. A lot of literature about these kids treat them like an other, to be observed, studied and treated. For our family, being third culture will be part of a natural continuum. One thing I observe already is that strangers who comment on Charlotte and Maryann focus only on the benefits of being a TCK ("oh, they are so lucky to grow up speaking two languages", "they can span both eastern and western cultures"), while blissfully and sadly unaware of and non-conversant in the downsides ("so, what's it like having to change friends every few years", "how do you cope with being an outsider in both of 'your' cultures"). So it's going to be especially important that we have a running dialog about the latter in our household.

Fourth, during the PD presentation the speaker interpreted an episode on the Expo field trip where English-speaking Asian SMIC students refused to answer questions in Chinese from curious bystanders, as evidence of the Screamer mentality. Screamer is one of the three identity coping strategies, where a TCK tends to take on the identity of the other culture in order to differentiate and define themself. I see the episode a different way — so many people are curious about TCKs and yet can't understand them, that it gets tiring trying to explain yourself all the time. Add a bit of Taiwanese-mainlander attitude, a pinch of adolescent reticence, and you have a recipe for the situation described above.


At May 24, 2010, 4:15:00 PM, Blogger lokate said:

If you'd like a guest teacher to fill graduating seniors in on the plots of gossip girl episodes, I'm kind of an expert!

At May 25, 2010, 1:59:00 AM, Blogger GLO said:

Interesting thoughts on TCK's. Do you think there are more advantages than disadvantages? How do you feel as a grown up TCK? I spent the last few minutes in your flickr. Love all the cute kid pics. It was fun to get a glimpse of the Expo. What was in the U.S. building? Took me back to when our small family visited the World's Fair in NYC. We rode in Small World for the first time. It was then shipped to Disneyland where it remains to this day. Your Mom was 12, Lu 9, Mark 8, Brad 4. Long time ago, but the memories are still with us. Sending Love, GLO


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