On Friday 18 March I flew to Sydney for the MKPFO training being held at the WEC headquarters in Strathfield. This was the first time a course was run in Australia, although a pilot programme had been run a couple of years earlier. A similar but much longer course is frequently held in the USA and the UK. It was organised by Missions Interlink which is “a network of Australian mission agencies, Bible colleges, churches, support services, and individuals serving Christ and engaging in cross-cultural and global mission.”
I have to admit I wondered what I could learn from a course like this, having taught for 17 years, and having already done the Missions Interlink Short Term Training (MIST) course last year. However I have decided to take advantage of any training offered to me, going with the attitude that it is arrogant of me to assume I know everything. Even if there is not much new, it is valuable to be confirmed in what I already know. As it turned out, it was really useful, and while there were things I already knew, there was plenty of new information, and a wonderful opportunity to meet others who were planning to do very similar work to what I was planning.
There were nine other people who were participating, from a variety of mission organisations, including Interserve, WEC, CMS and OMF. Most were teachers but some were going to be working as house parents. Destinations included Thailand, India and Ethiopia (and not just me!) . There were some who were yet to decide on a destination. The course was run by John and Janine Barclay from Interserve who have lived and worked overseas for many years in Nepal and India, including at Hebron School, a missionary kid (MK) school in India.
Topics covered included:
- crossing cultural boundaries and transitioning into new cultures
- understanding Third Culture Kids (TCKs)
- working and living in multinational teams
- Christian and International Education
- educational options for missionary kids (homeschooling and boarding)
- English as a foreign language (EFL), multilingualism and special needs
- living in restrictive societies and security issues
- child protection
- boarding and dorm parenting
Of particular interest was the discussion of the needs of Third Culture Kids, or TCKs. A TCK is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside of the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. Third culture kids can include the children of missionaries, aid workers, media representatives, foreign services workers, corporate workers, military personnel, and educators, a very diverse groups. Similarly, children of immigrants and refugees, and those growing up in bi/mulitracial families can have similar experiences.
Some characterisitics of TCKs can include:
- being highly mobile (becoming “global nomads”)
- bcoming bi/multilingual
- being aware of and sensitive to other cultures
- being flexible and adaptable
- being observant to cultural cues and clues
- having a broad world view
- being rootless and restless…
They are certainly kids with unique needs and it was really helpful to discuss their strengths, challenges and how we can best support them as teachers in the context of an MK school in another culture. Teenagers are complex beings at the best of times!
One of the amusing slides John and Janine showed us was one titled “You Know You are an MK when…”
- You don’t have a driver’s licence at 18, but you’re on your third passport
- You speak to your siblings in a foreign language when you don’t want others to understand what you are saying
- You can travel around the world without staying in a hotel
- Most food tastes better when eaten with your fingers
- You know how many timezones you are from GMT
- You have memorized your parents’ deputation speech
- You want to take your shoes of at the door
So all those MKs and TCKs out there: let me know how true this is, and maybe add to the list! I need to learn what makes you guys tick!