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Third Culture Kid (TCK)

09 Nov 3 Tips to Support Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) in the Classroom

By Blake Frimoth, Rubicon International

What is a Third Culture Kid (TCK) anyways?

Defined by Ruth Van Reken and David Pollock’s book, Third Culture Kids,

“A Third Culture Kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.”

TCK’s interact with the world very differently and they can require additional support in the classroom. Creating a safe and positive classroom culture where these students can explore their identities is beneficial to the entire class. Here are three tips to help you support your Third Culture Kids.

1. Engage in Their Story

Every TCK carries with them a unique experience and worldview. As teachers, it’s important to build out time in the classroom to get to know our TCK’s and listen to their stories. In the beginning of the year, engage your students with questions and make an effort to create an inviting environment. Take a moment for icebreaker activities to give your students the opportunity to share their different perspectives. Some TCK’s will welcome these discussions, and quickly dive into their favorite stories of who they are and where they’ve been. However, other TCK’s will be more reserved, and shy away from opening up in front of the class. For these students, try incorporating open-ended writing assignments that give them the same opportunity to share their experiences with you through a different medium. Remember, however you choose to listen to your students’ stories, the objective is to cultivate a space where your TCK’s can feel comfortable and safe in their new environment.

2. Connect with the Community around You

For many TCK’s, their moves aren’t planned and don’t always have smooth transitions, often they are abrupt and unexpected. These changes can be draining, uncomfortable and isolating. As teachers, it’s our job to ease this process, and ensure that every student’s experiences are valued and appreciated. One way is to invite colleagues, parents, or people from the local community to share their different experiences, cultures, and perspectives with students. By collaborating with others and familiarizing students with individuals that have similar backgrounds, it creates an environment that welcomes different experiences and worldviews.

3. Intentionally Foster Relationships

TCK’s grow up having fluid friendships—if they aren’t the one who’s moving away, there’s a good chance many of their friends are. This endless cycle of building and breaking relationships eventually takes its toll. While there are positives that emerge from these experiences—learning how to make friends and maintain relationships over long distances, there can be negative side effects as well. The endless cycle of hello’s and goodbye’s can be exhausting and confusing. Unfortunately, it may become easier to put up walls and disconnect, rather than be engaged and make friends. As teachers, it’s important to recognize when TCK’s withdraw or disconnect. Look for opportunities to engage your students with peers in small-group and partner activities that include writing and speaking.

TCK’s add life to any classroom, but bring a certain set of experiences that can add challenges to even the most veteran teacher. By being open to these rich life experiences that enter your classroom culture, and seeking ways to incorporate their story, the whole class benefits.

What are some other tips on how to support TCK’s in the classroom? Let us know on Twitter @RubiconAtlas or Facebook!

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