Tag Archives: diversity

Identity and the Third Culture Kid (TCK) experience

TCK Image for blog post

How would you identify yourself if you grew up in several different places? This is the first in a series of posts about the TCK experience. Third Culture Kids spend part of their childhood outside their parent or home culture. In this post, I’ll take a look at how young adults who grew up as TCKs, understand their identity construction.

“I moved to three different schools and in each one I actively changed my identity. Not to fit in, but to make the transition easier.”

 

We identify ourselves in a way that is complex and fluid. We like to take comfort in the security of defining ourselves and others in absolutes; but it’s really not easy to pin down essentialist ideas. We are multifaceted and don’t always fit into confined pigeonholes. We change over time and in different social environments. The way that we now exist as part of a globalised world, adds layers of complexity to identity construction.

“… identities are never unified and, in late modern times, increasingly fragmented and fractured; never singular but multiply across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices and positions.”

Stuart Hall

I interviewed three young adults who have migrated across nations and cultures as children- A Danish national, an Australian and a Dutch citizen of mixed Dutch and Mexican ethnicity. They grew up as Third Culture Kids (TCKs), young people who followed their parents as they worked in different countries. I wondered how these former TCKs, now adults, identity themselves. Did they change themselves as they changed their perception of ‘home’?

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.23.41 PM

Pablo Picasso: Girl before a Mirror

The interviewees made it clear that defining themselves is complicated. “It’s not simple”, a former TCK stated, “I would be a completely different person if I had grown up in one place”. And when asked if it is more difficult to work out your identity as a TCK, the interviewees answered yes, “It’s harder than the average person. I know what I’m not and I know what I am, but it’s not so clear-cut” and “I’ve changed a lot in different countries”. The TCK adults agreed that they created their own identity and this self-construction occurred in different contexts, “I moved to three different schools and in each one I actively changed my identity. Not to fit in, but to make the transition easier.”

 

I was also interested in how their identity relates to nations. In 1916, Dewey stated that the late 19th Century emphasis on nationalism and nation building passed onto education. This tendency has been maintained in education systems, where children are taught to be good national citizens. What about Third Culture Kids who grow up in several nations?

 

“I can still feel Australian but I think a lot of that is just because I held onto it. ”

 

There was an acknowledgement from the interviewees that nation and identity are consciously manipulated, “ Yeah I’m Australian. Not fully Australian… but it is the part of my identity that I wanted to cling onto… I made an effort to make contact with other Australians. I can still feel Australian but I think a lot of that is just because I held onto it”. The Danish TCK adult felt very connected to the nation, attributed to spending a longer significant period of childhood in Denmark, but at the same time questioned the essentialism of national identity, “I still feel like I’m 100% Danish…. I don’t know what it means to be Danish…Are you Danish because you like Danish food? It really depends on where you are from in Denmark”. And when it comes to choosing a passport identity, it’s a pragmatic decision “I have a Dutch passport because it’s easier.”

 

Identity is evidently something that happens discursively, in flux, and can happen in different ways, even while identifying others. We tell stories about ourselves in forming our ever-shifting identity. These narratives are multiple, stitched together and altered in different contexts. For the adult TCKs interviewed, their identities have moved and narratives changed in their many contexts.

References:

Dewey, J. (2004). Democracy and Education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York, N.Y.: Dover Publications.

Hall, S & Du Gay, P. (Eds.). (2015). Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under global citizenship

Shifting the dominant culture paradigm in ESL/EAL- Teaching for a diverse, globalized world.

Look at materials designed to teach English as a second/additional language (ESL/EAL) and you’ll probably see a book or audiovisual texts not just about language but also about a host national culture. ESL teaching materials include cultural lessons through vocabulary and grammar teaching. This is because the traditional paradigm of language learning was to integrate immigrants or the colonized into a dominant culture.

One assigned ESL text that I used in the primary classroom presented a very clear target culture. It was published in England and the content expressed a goal of assimilating non-English speakers into a monocultural United Kingdom. The child characters in the textbook were white with Anglo-Saxon names. Their activities in the text determined the learned vocabulary for each unit- they visited ‘castles’, ate ‘roast beef and mashed potatoes’ and wore ‘tracksuits’ and ‘trainers’. On one page per unit, there was an attempt to internationalize the content, but these pages too often related to ethnic festivals or folk tales in lands far away- the type of oversimplified exploration that does not account for authentic traditions existing in a modern context.

The text did not acknowledge my international school students’ hybrid identities or concepts of national belonging. Nor did the text recognize that the students were not learning the English language in order to live in England. Furthermore, the stereotyped England in the material was far from the diverse multicultural reality.

Essentialized dominant host culture in ESL teaching materials is a nationalist wish for assimilation and not multicultural inclusion. Whether it’s kangaroos or maple leaves, ESL texts force-feed a fixed national identity. There are rarely any references to multiculturalism as a norm, except in a few resources that I have seen published in Singapore to explicitly facilitate multiracial harmony as government policy.

So how can ESL teachers inject a global perspective into teaching and learning? To create some lessons that transcended the stereotypes of national culture, I used the concept of “cosmopolitan citizenship” (Hugh Starkey, Language Education, identities and citizenship: Developing cosmopolitan perspectives, Language and Intercultural Communication 7,1, 2007). Language learning is a good opportunity to teach global responsibility and common humanity.

For this sequence, I integrated material from international development organizations plus some commercial resources. The sequence also included an essential element of active citizenship- concrete action for responsible global citizenship.

 Here is my introduction lesson to a primary ESL learning sequence for Grade 2-3 on the topic of PLAY. The focus of this first lesson is that humans are the same around the world and all children need to play. At the end of this learning sequence, students could donate unwanted toys or even hold a toy swap to encourage environmental sustainability and social justice.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, HMH Books for Young Readers, 1998

  1. Book reading Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  2. Discussion: Humans are all the same. We all need the same things. List the things humans need. Vocabulary and sentence structure will be reinforced.

Photo-stories-page

    3.Show children the UNICEF photo story Play Around the World http://www.unicef.org.au/Discover/Teaching-and-Learning-Resources/Photo-stories.aspx

    4. Use a Y chart graphic organizer (looks like, feels like, sounds like) to explore- what is play? Children will mention specific toys, which is important for ESL vocabulary but they will also think deeply about how play makes us feel and where we play. To scaffold this deeper cognition, language from students’ mother tongue was included. I used the Y chart from the book Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom by Browlett, J.E. & Ashman, G.I., published in 2010 by Carlton Education Services Australia. Alternatively it can be found on the Australian Global Education website http://www.globaleducation.edu.au/resources-gallery/resource-gallery-templates.html

     5. Play or not play? In small groups, students look at photo cards of children playing and other children working. They will divide the cards into two piles- play or not play. Students will learn that not all children have the opportunity to play. Photos of children around the world playing and not playing are available from Browlett & Ashman’s Thinking Globally: Global Perspectives in the early years classroom or the images gallery at http://www.globaleducation.edu.au/resources-gallery/resource-gallery-images.html

     6. Circle time concludes the lesson by looking at the photo cards together and saying “play” or “not play”.

     7. Extension activity: UNICEF Australia children’s rights video 

     8. Extension activity: UNICEF Color-it rights http://teachunicef.org/explore/media/read/color-it-rights-coloring-book

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized