Welcome

Welcome to Globally Grounded, a company and website dedicated to supporting students crossing cultures, their families and those who educate them as they navigate through the triumphs and challenges associated with cross-cultural  domestic and/or international transitions. This may be from one country to another, one state to another, one city to another or from one subculture to another such as indigenous to non-indigenous, rural to urban, family home to boarding school and vice versa. We consult to international and local schools, multi-national corporations, families and students crossing cultures – developing their understanding of the impact of cross-cultural mobility, designing programs and implementing support mechanisms to enhance learning and life.

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Please find out more, read our blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with information about supporting cross cultural students, their families and those who educate with them. If you would like to discuss or book a consultation or speaking engagement, please contact us.

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Building our Nest: FIGT Reflections

Spring has sprung here in The Netherlands. The days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising, the tulips and daffodils are blooming and the birds are singing their celebratory Spring chorus. This morning I was awoken by the busy sounds of a bird outside my bedroom window. Singing away, she was flitting back and forth, busily building her nest – a twig here, a piece of cotton there. As I watched her work, whilst sipping my morning cup of tea, I was reminded of a theme that ran through many of the presentations at this year’s Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference. Home.

The word can send shivers down the spine of a globally mobile individual who often lives between worlds. Many presenters at this year’s FIGT Conference referred to ‘Home’ not being one physical place. Like the bird who designs and builds her nest in a new location every Spring, globally mobile families build their homes in a variety of different ways, and what ‘Home’ means to them varies also.

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As a former professional basketball player and survivor of the Brussels Airport attack of a year ago, Sebastien Bellin had us all on the edge of our seats yet thinking reflectively during his presentation. Focusing on quality and not quantity, it was the thought of his family that quickly became his focus in the moments after the Brussels Terrorist attack. “I had so much quality in my life.” he said, “so much to live for.” ‘Home’ for Sebastien is his family and he was determined to return to them. His comment, “the more quality you have in your life, the more you have to draw on in challenging times,” resonated with me. Building quality relationships with our family members brings a sense of belonging – Home.

Kristin Duncombe, a psychotherapist currently based in Geneva, Switzerland, highlighted to me the responsibility the family plays in building that sense of ‘Home.’ Cross-cultural children “need to understand their cultures of origin,” she said. We as parents have a responsibility to tell the stories of our developmental years, jump at every opportunity to engage our children in dialogue about the cultural disconnect that occurs when moving between cultures and focus on what is working well and build on it. By doing so, we parents create a secure place for our children to call ‘Home’. It may not be bricks and mortar but it is an emotional place in which they can develop their cultural identities in a healthy and authentic way thus giving them a sense of belonging – Home.

The term Third Culture Families (TCF) was introduced to the world, by Marielle de Spa, at #FIGT17NL. These families have moved internationally on a regular basis, usually from the time their children were born or were very young. What distinguishes them from other globally mobile families is that they have no defined plans for returning ‘Home’ usually because there is no home base to return to. Perhaps the parents are from different cultures or the family is unable to return to their passport country, TCFs build their ‘Home’ based around relationships with those around them. “The people give us what we become,” Marielle says, a Global Talent Advisor currently based in Rio de Janiero. They understand what a mindful relationship is, being present with that person in the moment because they never know when one of them will move on. Host country families take the place of extended family and they each fully invest in the relationship for the time. In the words of Katrina Kenison, “home is less a location than a discipline” for TCFs. They build their identity and sense of belonging around relationships rather than locations – Home.

Do you notice a pattern? Relationships. ‘Home’ is centered around relationships for many globally mobile individuals. The nest might keep changing but the relationships are what make a ‘Home’. The FIGT conference is a bit like that too. The words that are spoken, the connections that are made, the friendships that are ignited and re-ignited get under our skin, permeate our thinking and find rest in our hearts and souls. Thank you to the FIGT Board of Directors and Committee Members, the Presenters and the Attendees who each flit here and there, bringing together their own twigs and pieces of cotton, to create a place for each us to belong. For many, FIGT is ‘Home’ – a place where we can be authentic, understood, valued and allowed to grow. It’s where we find our Flock, our Tribe, our Home. 

What does the word ‘Home’ mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Repatriation Reflections: Re-Entry in 5 Words

 I have taken up a challenge thrown down by Blogging Abroad to reflect on my re-entry, in the hope that it will help others along their own re-entry journey or bring understanding to their loved ones watching from the sidelines. It’s not all good and it’s not all bad. It is a journey and one I’m pleased to have worked through. In 5 words, I describe my experience of returning home after living abroad.

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Re-Entry: an opportunity for Re-Launch

Bittersweet

Going home after living abroad is like eating dark chocolate. That first taste is a shock. Bitter. Then the creamy texture kicks in as the chocolate melts and sticks to the roof of your mouth. Sweet. You know dark chocolate is better for you than its full-bodied counterpart. Going home after living abroad is like this – good for you but bittersweet.

 Returning home meant saying goodbye to treasured friends, some of whom became an integral part of our family. It also meant being close to immediate family – 3 nieces and a nephew were born whilst we lived abroad so returning home meant building relationships with them for the first time. Bitter. Sweet.

 Having lived 137km north of the Equator for the last 6 years, returning home to that first Winter was a shock, just like that first taste of dark chocolate. We all suffered from illness and shivered our way through, only to then experience a majestic Spring, filled with birds chirping, blooming flowers and bright blue sky days. Bitter. Sweet.

 In our case, we knew that the education on offer at home was better suited to our boys’ needs but it also meant forfeiting some incredible experiences and opportunities. I mean who goes to another country and snorkels in a pristine World Heritage marine park for their Grade 5 school camp? Good for our family members but bittersweet.

 Rollercoaster

True confessions, I had never been on a roller coaster until I became the Mother of two adventurous sons. The whole up, down, round and around motion sent my stomach into a spin and that was when I was standing on the ground! Re-entry is like being on a roller coaster – up, down, round and around. Good days, bad days and days when you feel both – several time over. There were moments when I wanted to shut my eyes and not look at what was ahead, but there was also a sense of accomplishment (and relief) when the roller coaster feelings subsided. I had survived and felt better for overcoming the challenges associated with returning home after living abroad.

 Challenging

Speaking of challenges, I’m a big believer in the notion that challenges are good. In the right measure and with the right support, they can be springboards for growth. Returning home after living abroad is challenging. It impacted every part of my being – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social – but because I was well informed about the process of re-entry and therefore prepared, I was able to use those challenges as learning opportunities. Being informed didn’t mean I, or we as a family for that matter, avoided the challenges associated with returning home but it did help each of us work through them effectively.

 Soul-searching

We’ve been ‘home’ for two years now and during that time there has been a lot of soul searching. Everything changes because of an overseas assignment. We’ve changed. Our family and friends have changed. Our home country has changed. In many ways, returning home has meant starting again – which provided me with the opportunity to dig deep and determine the person I wanted to be. My faith has been instrumental in this journey. I have found the power of self-reflection and my writing has certainly helped there too. The person I was before we lived abroad no longer exists so returning home has helped me prioritise – people, perspectives, places, possessions, plans, purpose.

Re-launch

All that soul searching has led me to a good place. As a 40 something woman, returning home has given me an opportunity to re-launch myself. All my experiences, knowledge, challenges and triumphs, have provided a launching pad for me to plan and create a new global life. That doesn’t mean I’ll be criss-crossing the globe continually but it does mean using my overseas experience to positively impact others near and far. Yes, it’s true, re-entry is hard (some say it’s the hardest of all international moves) but I have grown so much during the process. By the way, I have borrowed the word ‘Relaunch’ from Dr Cate Brubaker whose Re-Entry Series I found very valuable.

 So there you have it – my re-entry journey in 5 words – bittersweet, rollercoaster, challenging, soul-searching and re-launch. You can see from these words that re-entry is a process not an event. It takes time and requires an engagement in that process. Once I saw that returning home was not the end of the journey but another step along the journey, I progressed much more efficiently. What about you?

This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org‘s After Abroad Blog Challenge. Would you like to join the After Abroad Blog Challenge? It’s a great way to engage in and process your re-entry. Find out more here.

 

In Celebration of Globally Mobile Women

As the world celebrates Women everywhere, I’d like to celebrate the Women who are prepared to move anywhere.

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Today is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is ‘Be Bold for Change’ and, in my opinion, defines Globally Mobile Women across the world. Boldness and Change – two words that are synonymous with living abroad. Globally Mobile Women are bold stepping into change. They are bold working through change. They are bold because of change. They are bold for change. As the world celebrates Women everywhere, I’d like to celebrate the Women who are prepared to move anywhere.

Who are these Globally Mobile Women? They are Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives, Partners and Friends. They are those whose careers take their family abroad and the many others who have put their careers on hold to accompany their partner across the globe. They are those who packed their bags to work or study abroad solo and those who have returned ‘home’. I am proud to be amongst this Tribe of Women.

Many women accept overseas assignments and build their career abroad. According to the 2015 BGRS Global Mobility Trends Survey, however, these women are still in the minority, representing just 19% of the entire international assignee workforce. Double the number of 20 years ago, they are bold and bringing change to what has long been a male-dominated community. Take Cath for example – a 40 something woman, happily married with two teenage children, her job is the reason her family has embarked on the adventure of a lifetime and has taken the risk to live abroad. She took the bold step from her comfortable corner of the globe to be a change agent in a multi-national company based in Asia. Leading change, Cath is embracing the opportunity to develop her cultural competency as she works alongside colleagues representing many nationalities and cultures whilst subtly pushing the boundary towards a more inclusive global workforce.

For all those women whose careers have taken their families abroad, many more have put their careers on hold to accompany their partners to far-flung corners of the world. Possible reasons why this is so include (but are not limited to) visa restrictions or the need for family stability amidst a partner’s grueling travel and work schedules. Known by a variety of often-unsavoury labels, including Expat Women, Trailing Spouses (the most unsavoury of them all) and Accompanying Partners, these women are not wallflowers. “We are the ones negotiating to have the Wifi connected – in a language completely foreign to us, driving to soccer practice – in a car on the wrong side of the road, and catching up on our partner’s day via FaceTime – only after calculating time zone differences to ensure it’s not 2am there,” says Jane, a former PR Manager who has lived abroad for more than 5 years. In most cases, these women boldly take charge of creating a new ‘home’ for their family, help their children understand and navigate the challenges and triumphs of change that is an everyday part of globally mobile life and role model how to step out of their comfort zones to make new friends and say goodbye to old ones. They are raising the next generation of Global Citizens whom our world desperately needs. They are also women who have boldly stepped into change and allowed it to change them. For example, the Veterinarian who became a Life Coach supporting Expatriate Spouses to explore their gifts and reconnect with their passion for life, the Psychologist now known globally as an expert in helping people from different cultures to work effectively together and the Teacher who, after 20 years, returned to study and completed her Masters of Education with Distinction. They certainly do not sound like they are ‘trailing’ their partners do they?

It is bold to move abroad with your family. It is an entirely other level of boldness to move abroad on your own. With no support structure to lean on, age does not define these women. Character does. Gabrielle is a Learning Support Educator. Originally from New Zealand, she has either worked or studied on every continent. Change has emboldened her. Now she goes where she is needed, specialising in supporting students who are trying to navigate a world with their behavioural and emotional difficulties. Arriving in her latest post, Slovakia, Gabrielle knew no one and did not speak Slovak. Boldly stepping into change, she learned a new language, made new lifelong friendships and developed her cultural intelligence to positively impact her students, their families and the world in which they live and learn.

The impact of change is perhaps, most profoundly felt upon repatriation and the ensuing re-entry process. Repatriating women quickly discover they have changed, those they left behind have changed and ‘home’ has changed. They are the women who have returned home to access the best possible education for their children, to take care of their ageing parents, to escape an unsafe environment or because the Company said so. Some have returned solo, some with their entire family but others have made the difficult decision to return whilst their partner remains abroad. The Company needed Mandy’s husband in a country where her safety could not be guaranteed and the education options for her senior school children, limited. Unable to stay in their host country due to visa restrictions and no potential job opportunities for her husband locally, she returned ‘home’ so her children could finish their education. Conducting a long distance relationship, being a single parent and working through re-entry – that takes boldness.

All these women are my Tribe. Globally Mobile Women – bold as you step into change, bold as you work through change, bold because of change and bold for change – arise. Today (and every day) I salute you. You are flexible, resilient and risk takers. You are internationally minded, culturally responsive and capable of being a bridge between and among worlds. You are curious, adventurous and open-minded. You embrace both the challenges and the opportunities that living abroad brings – allow them to shape who you are and inform who you will become. Stand tall Globally Mobile Women wherever you are. Our world needs Women like you!

Photo Credit: University of West Florida

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6 Steps Towards Being a Successful Stayer in an International School

Amid the constant departures and arrivals of an international school, let’s consider one group of students that is often forgotten.

The front door flew open, the school bag dropped to the floor, and fast, furious footsteps stormed up the stairs. The bedroom door slammed. Silence. We had been living in Singapore less than four months the first time I witnessed this chain of events unfold. My six-year-old son came home devastated because his new school friend was leaving. It became a familiar scenario.

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In any international school there are three types of students: The Leaver, The Arriver, and The Stayer. The Leaver is the one running around the playground, clutching his or her cultural memento half-filled with signatures and well wishes from staff and students, saying heartbreaking goodbyes to beloved people, places, and possessions. The Arriver is the new kid on the block, who has walked a mile in The Leaver’s shoes just weeks before. This one is wide-eyed, ready to make new friends, and happy to capitalise on the opportunity of living in a new country. Most international schools support The Arriver and a few provide some support for The Leaver. What about The Stayer?

The Stayer is the student who is left behind when The Leaver leaves and the one still in situ when The Arriver arrives. He is thrown into transition, yet his suitcase is still in the closet. For most globally mobile kids “the collection of significant losses and separations before the end of adolescence is often more than most people experience in a lifetime,” according to author Ruth Van Reken. After a few seasons of people going and others coming, it may seem easier and less painful to stop making the hellos because they only lead to goodbyes. But is it really easier?

The answer is no. Avoiding the hellos to minimise the pain of goodbyes is not a healthy way to manage relationships. Too often, it makes staying harder, learning arduous, and developing and maintaining relationships difficult later in life. What can The Stayer do to ensure success?

Six Steps towards being a successful Stayer

  1. Feeling Sad is OK – Winnie the Pooh says it best. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
  2. Talk or Do – tell a trusted adult or friend how you feel. Hearing your own words can help bring clarity and calm. If verbalizing your feelings is hard, try to express them differently. Write in a journal, draw, compose a song, go for a walk.
  3. “Build a RAFT,” says sociologist and author David Pollock:
  • Reconcile any differences you have with The Leavers or The Stayers. Forgive others and ask for forgiveness.
  • Affirm those Leavers and Stayers who are important to you. Write a letter or email, give a gift, say it face-to-face. Create a list of all the things that are still good in your life, even without your friend.
  • Farewell The Leaver appropriately and the places that are meaningful to you both. This takes time.
  • Think ahead about how to maintain contact with The Leaver yet remain open to The Arrivers. Create a Hope Calendar, recording events that you are looking forward to in the coming months.

4.“Move AFT on your RAFT,” says Doug Ota, psychologist and author, by answering the following questions:

  • Actions – What am I actively doing to say goodbye, connect with others, and get involved?
  • Feelings – Why do I feel sad to see my friends leave? Do I feel OK about making new friends? How do I feel about my life here?
  • Thoughts – Am I preparing to see my friends go? Am I ready to make new friends? Do I belong here now? Refer to Step 2 if necessary.
  1. Extend Grace – to those leaving, arriving, and staying (including yourself). The process of transition is different for everyone.
  2. Open the Gate to your friendship circle – it is possible to make new friends without being disloyal to your old ones.

As international schools prepare for the hellos and bid farewell, they must also care for those left behind. Successful Stayers bring stability to our international school communities. What can your school do to support your Stayers?

Jane Barron is an educator with 24 years of experience in international and local schools and a Youth Intercultural Transition Specialist at Globally Grounded. Jane consults to international and local schools, families and globally mobile students – developing their understanding of the impact of cross-cultural mobility, creating programs and implementing support mechanisms to enhance learning and life. 

 References:

Pollock, D.C. and Van Reken, R. E. 2009. Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Ota, D. W. 2014. Safe Passage: How mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it. UK: Summertime Publishing.

Originally published in Vol. 31 No. 3 February 2017 The International Educator

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What I Wish My (International School) Teacher Knew About Me

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This is a positive way to start the year – an article published in International School Magazine. Through the eyes of a globally mobile student, I investigate mobility’s impact on learning – and what schools can offer in support.

As a domestically mobile child, I have been this student. As a Mum to two globally mobile kids, I parent this student. As a teacher in both international and local schools, I have taught this student. As an intercultural transition specialist, I come alongside this student, their family and the people who educate her/him to ensure that mobility is not an inhibitor to learning but an activator and enhancer of learning and life.

Educators, parents and students in an international school community, please read this article and forward it onto your colleagues, your children’s teachers and your teachers respectively. Let’s partner together to place globally mobile students in a position to succeed both inside and outside the classroom.

 Dear Teacher,

Like most of the students in your classroom, I am a globally mobile kid. I have spent a significant portion of my developmental years living in at least one culture that is different from my passport culture. By the time I finish my international school education, I will have experienced more meaningful losses and separations than most people experience in a lifetime. Did you know that whilst living a globally mobile life comes with many benefits, it can also impact my learning? Please let me tell you about it and what you can do to support me, so that mobility does not inhibit my learning but enhance it.

Moving is hard. I’m not the only one who thinks this. I’ve heard grown-ups say that moving is as stressful as death and divorce, and the hardest of all moves is repatriating. I’m not looking forward to that one! Researchers have recently confirmed my thoughts too: here are some examples.

A 2016 Danish study led by Dr Robert T Webb found that, regardless of socioeconomic background, links between childhood residential mobility and negative outcomes in later life were widespread, particularly if frequent mobility occurred in early/mid adolescence. Between 2009 and 2015, in three studies, Professor John Hattie identified that the single factor most detrimental to learning was unmanaged mobility. In March 2016, Australia’s NSW Department of Education concluded that students who change schools several times do worse in literacy and numeracy than their peers. This research has brought me comfort. I’m not crazy. All the weird things going on inside me are because I live a globally mobile life.

How does Mobility Impact My Learning? 

“At any school with a high degree of turnover, transitions affect everyone – staff, parent or student – and regardless of whether a person is moving or being moved away from” say SPAN (Safe Passage Across Networks), leaders in supporting and connecting school-based programs that address international mobility. For me (and other globally mobile students), mobility impacts my academic, social, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing and causes me to ask questions about my identity. Let me explain.

Academically, there are gaps in my learning because each school I go to has a different curriculum. It worries me. Will I ever catch up? Will my current knowledge be valued?

Socially, leaving old friends and making new friends is stressful, not to mention dissecting new social norms. Working through the grief and loss of saying goodbye, suppressing the feeling of disloyalty to my old friends whilst trying to make new friends are just some of the challenges I face.

Emotionally, we students arrive at a new school feeling sad and anxious. Sad, because we have lost the familiar old life. Anxious, because everything is new and unknown. Add in anger at our parents who made us move here and we have a jumble of emotions that makes focusing on schoolwork incredibly difficult. I can’t even begin to discuss what happens when I stay and my friends leave.

Physically, all of this takes a toll on my body. Sometimes, the strain of mobility causes me to have stomach cramps and headaches, physical hyper-sensitivity and cultural fatigue that’s exhausting. Memory loss is also common in mobile children who have so much going on in their world before, during and after The Moving Season. It’s reassuring to know why I’m a bit forgetful right now.

Spiritually, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about a Higher Power and myself. Some days I feel strong in my faith and that gives me a peaceful feeling, but on other days I feel abandoned and get angry, which just adds to my stress.

With all this upheaval, I think it’s quite natural to ask ‘Who am I?’. When people ask that dreaded question, ‘Where are you from?’, I feel confused. My passport says one thing but my heart says another based on the cultures in which I have lived. I’m not sure who I am. I don’t feel confident. It’s not surprising that research shows that students like me can struggle in the classroom. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help me.

Steps for Supporting Me

I don’t want these challenges to be traumatic for my fellow international school students or me. I want to overcome these challenges. Douglas Ota is a transition expert, psychologist and author who has spent the majority of his professional life working with globally mobile kids like me, and international schools who educate us, to help address the challenges associated with mobility. He suggests the following steps will help you to help me make these challenges levers for growth.

  1. Actively manage your own grief

It’s tiring working in an environment of regular goodbyes isn’t it? It can seem easier to avoid goodbyes altogether. That’s not true. I need to learn how to “maintain emotional health and (develop my) ability to tighten and loosen relationship bonds”, says Ota. Please show me how to grieve the loss of my friends and teachers. I know you can only do this if you’re comfortable in dealing with grief yourself. If I can get this right in my school years, it will help me in all my relationships ahead.

  1. Develop and implement a comprehensive school- based transition program

This looks different at each school, but transition programs significantly reduce the negative impact of mobility upon students’ learning. By supporting the Leaver, the Arriver and the Stayer, staff, parents and students can learn to think about transitions as a process, a life experience that can be purposefully managed … and that is the key. Unmanaged mobility is what causes trauma; managed mobility can be full of positives. Please put a Transition Team together to look at what we already do, what we can do better and how we can learn from others so that, as Ota says, “parents can parent well, teachers can teach well and all in the ultimate service of achieving a goal common to all schools, namely that students can learn well”.

  1. Collaborate with other international schools

It’s likely I will soon be moving on to a new school. “The emotional processes generated by transitions transcend school walls and ignore academic calendars.” Douglas Ota is right. Please can you work together with the other international schools to help me transition from here to there, and others transition from there to here? We can then build on a solid foundation and make the most of this incredible opportunity to live a globally mobile life.

It is predicted that my current generation, Gen Z, will have seventeen different jobs, five different careers and live in fifteen different homes. Change will be our constant companion. I need to learn to engage in the process of change to succeed in this 21st century. By providing focused attention and nurturing, you and our school can help all of our staff, families and students to engage effectively in every transition in life, whatever the context. Please, help our school to support everyone in our international school community so that mobility is not traumatic but is a springboard for growth, not an inhibitor to learning but an activator of learning. Thank you for caring and placing me in a position to succeed, both inside and outside the classroom.

Sincerely,

Your student

 References

Hattie, J. (2015) Hattie Ranking: 195 Influences and Effect Sizes Related to Student Achievement, Available from: visible-learning.org/hattie- ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

NSW Government Centre for Education, Statistics & Evaluation (2016) Mobility of Students in NSW Government Schools, Available from: www.cese.nsw.gov.au/publications-filter/report-mobility-of-students- in-nsw-government-schools

Ota, D. (2015) Safe Passage: How mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it. Norwich: Summertime Publishing

Safe Passage Across Networks (SPAN): Leaders in supporting & connecting school-based programs that address international mobility, Available from: www.facebook.com/SafePassageAcrossNetworks/ or http://figt.org/SPANPreconference

Webb, R.T., Pederson, C.B., Mok, P.L.H. (2016) Adverse Outcomes to Early Middle Age Linked With Childhood Residential Mobility, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 51, 3, 291–300, Available from: www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(16)30118-0/fulltext 

Want to read the published version? You’ll find the complete article here – Page 61 of International School Magazine, Summer|Autumn, Volume 19, Issue 2, 2017. May it trigger dialogue and action in yourself, your family and your school.

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Unplug and Connect

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 It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! That means the holiday season is just around the corner. Traditionally it’s a time when we get together with those we love…or those we have to love. Many will take time off work. Some will holiday at home. Others will holiday far away. Several will remain in their host country. Wherever in the world you are this holiday season, I encourage you to Unplug and Connect – really connect.

You’ve heard it before – we are more connected than ever. In fact, I take my hat off to all those who lived abroad pre-1990s. Technology has made moving to the other side of the world so much easier because we can maintain relationships with friends and family in real time. Our reliance on technology, however, can take us away from what it right in front of us. People. Places. Perspectives. Life.

I see this upcoming holiday season as an opportunity to unplug from technology and take time to connect, really connect with our surrounding environment – wherever in the world that may be.

If you’re on your own this holiday season, connecting with people can be confronting. It’s not too late to find a local charity that could use your help. Serve meals, wash dishes, be a friendly face. You are bound to meet new people, some of whom will open your eyes to a new perspective and others who are in the same boat as you. Join organisations such as Internations who have communities all over the world made up of members just like you – people living outside their passport country.

Spending the holiday season with you immediate family unit? Lucky you! Put down that screen and get out there. Go for a walk, eat out, explore a new part of town – together. Really live in the moment and enjoy it. This is a great opportunity to create wonderful memories together. Do you really want those memories to involve posing at every turn, in search for that perfect photo to post? Look into your partner’s eyes. Look into your children’s eyes. Watch them as they sleep. Listen to them laugh.

Taking ‘Home Leave’ over the holiday season is great…and exhausting. Surrounded by family and friends, you have the golden opportunity to unplug and connect. Strike up a conversation with that uncle in the questionable shirt across the table. Discover a new perspective. It’s ok to agree to disagree. Connect with old friends (and your children’s friends too) over a meal, whilst enjoying a hike or seeing the latest art exhibition. Show your children where you went to school, visit a local landmark, lie on your backs and stare at the stars. This is life. Make the most of it. These conversations and experiences may never repeat themselves.

I’m making a commitment to leave my laptop behind this holiday season. I’m looking forward to connecting with my family as we travel, explore and recreate together. Sure, I’ll be taking photos along the way but I’m going to enjoy the moment with those actually in it, not necessarily those with access to my social media feed. In a world where loneliness and isolation are rife, we need to connect, really connect. After all, we humans are designed to interact. Please join me to unplug and connect this holiday season.

May you be blessed with love, laughter, peace and hope throughout this Holiday Season and the year ahead. Thank you for your support, encouragement, dialogue. I look forward to continuing the journey, wherever in the world that may be, with you in 2017.

Image Credit: Edward Cozza

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International Mobility and Learning

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Today I am sharing with you my first published article. Written for International Teacher Magazine, I investigate the impact of international mobility on learning and what can be done to support students through the challenges of transition from country to country.

It’s a fact that international mobility impacts learning.

Some teachers in International Schools know it. Psychologists such as Douglas Ota and Lois Bushong know it. Researchers including Professor John Hattie and Australia’s NSW Department of Education know it too. On the surface, the news looks bad for students who move schools out-of-synch with normal transitions (such as beginning high school). The first step to addressing any problem is to identify it. From there, we can work towards a solution . . . . and the good news is, there is a solution.

Click here to read the rest of International Mobility and Learning . If you are part of an international school community, I encourage you to share it with your Principal and/or Director of Student Welfare.

Feature Image: Pixabay

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