Mentor ME

How can you help your leader get better at his/her job?

Have you ever been asked that question? If you have been, and if you made suggestions, were they used? Did the leader in question actually improve his/her craft? Did you help support or coach that person on the journey?

While recent research points to the importance teacher mentoring has on improving instructional practice, what I feel is less often considered is the need for developing high-quality administrators. How many of our leaders have a mentor, a coach, or another active way to be supported in their growth?

Four years ago, as an instructional coach, it was my job to respond to and help teachers improve their practice. Sometimes my efforts were mandated. However, many, many more times my work with teachers was desired. They wanted to get better, appreciated the support, and were willing to learn.

The funny thing about that time in my life was that there was never a coach for me. I wasn’t getting feedback on my craft. I didn’t receive much training. I wanted it, but there was not a model in my school. I fell into that void where counselors, librarians and sometimes other leaders fall where feedback is often less frequent and hardly ever followed up with coaching.

What I got, I had to go get. So, Mr. Kindle, Mrs. Twitter, and various blogs became my central teachers.

Currently, as an administrator, I still have to find the time to sharpen my own saw. While on-the-job training is part of being an administrator, it shouldn’t be confused with real training. For myself and others, I know, beginning your admin career is more often a “trial by fire” (on a daily basis). Not a learning cycle where you decide what you want to work on, practice it, and get feedback.

Part of the problem is time. Administrators struggle to fit it all in, just like the rest of the folks in our organizations. Believe me, if I had to choose between my own PD and providing it to others through observations, facilitation work or even leading sessions, I feel duty-bound to support rather than receive.

Another is about perception. Although we often say we are schools where everyone is learning, it is another thing entirely for the leaders of a school to be accepted as, not having the skills or answers- but learning them. Many aren’t comfortable saying they don’t know how to do something, because saying it might cause others to wonder about their ability to lead.

The last issue is our lack of a network. I’m one of those people whose career is internationally grounded. I grew up (literally and professionally) over here- in our schools. I have never benefited from a “district office” or a cohort of comrades who I’ve been able to move with, together, through a school system since our early teaching years. The network I do have isn’t necessarily HERE.  My feedback angels are not easy to collect together because they are in different countries and at different schools. I can’t utilize them as a sounding board for a problem I’m facing or to ask them to watch and comment on how I’m running a meeting or communicating with staff or parents.

So, here is what I’m looking for- from you. From us.

Can we use technology to expand our feedback network across schools? Can we make time at regional conferences for case studies of current principal and administrative practice. Can we come together within our buildings, to find ways to gather feedback for our administrators, and then follow it up with active coaching?

Can we find the courage to ask for and receive quality feedback (not simply an anonymous survey at the end of year) and make the time to support every learner- even our leaders-  get better?

Photo Credit:

Opening Doors…

So just over a week ago I stumbled across a video that was both beautiful and inspiring. I hardly ever share a link on my Facebook page, but there was something about this particular story that compelled me to not only share it with all my friends, but to write about it as well. The video (see link below) is about how a bullied high school student took matters into his own hands, and proved how a small and simple act of kindness can make a profound difference in people’s lives. I think it struck such a powerful chord in me because bullying is the one thing that gets me down to my core, and also because we are working extremely hard in our own community to empower students and teachers alike to take a stand against bullying, and to create a culture of kindness for everyone. One of the main components of our new strategic plan revolves around the issue of bullying, and truthfully, it’s the area that I’m most passionate about. I’m a firm believer that big, meaningful change can begin with the very simplest of things…little changes that together over time will make the biggest difference in a school environment. In this poignant video that you absolutely need to watch if you haven’t already, the simple act of opening doors for people brought a community together, and transformed countless lives in remarkable ways. The best part about it though, was that it was just one courageous young man that initiated this transformation…reminding us all that each and every one of us has the power to affect transformational change, simply by being vulnerable and courageous enough to put the best versions of ourselves out there for the world…


Creating a true culture of kindness in a school is not an easy thing to do in my opinion, because it takes time and commitment and courage on everyone’s part. It has to do with what a school actually values…and celebrates…and tolerates…and specifically teaches. It’s not something that just happens by wishing it to life, it has to embody and spill out of everything that you do as an organization…and it needs to be owned by the kids! With all that happens in the run of a day, and all the things that are going on in our individual lives inside and outside of school, it’s easy to let frustration and our own personal agendas take over…it’s hard to be kind all the time, and to slow down enough to empathize, and to listen, and to give of yourself, and to open up your eyes to see that someone might just need your help, even if they’re not asking for it. Creating a culture of kindness is hard work…but there is no better work that a school community could do honestly, and it needs to be the foundation for the rest of the initiatives to splinter off of. Without a culture of kindness, where everyone feels physically and emotionally safe, you’ll be hard pressed to accomplish your lofty goals as a school…


Next week I’m heading off on a ten-day recruiting trip, where I’ll be looking to bring outstanding educators to our community…educators who will be eager to join us on our transformational journey. Of course I’ll be looking for qualified and experienced master teachers, with degrees and know-how and air-tight content knowledge, but honestly, more than fantastic teachers I’ll be looking for fantastic people. People who will inspire, and lead, and love life, and who will be kind. It’s who you are as a person that will get a quality school’s attention, so when you’re waxing poetic about curriculum and assessment and the latest innovative teaching strategies, make sure to let your inner beauty shine…and don’t forget to laugh and to smile and to be passionate about why you truly love being an educator. You see, to bring a culture of kindness to life at a school, you first need kind and beautiful people on your team…it’s one thing to say that you’ll celebrate random acts of kindness at every turn, and set up pay it forward initiatives in every division, and roll out anti-bullying projects each and every year, but without kind, searchlight soul change agent adults at the helm, the students will never internalize the message…and your culture of kindness, no matter how desperately you want it to take root, will never truly blossom. Oh, by the way…here at Academia Cotopaxi, we have these kind and inspiring adults everywhere you look, which is why our culture of kindness is beginning to flower…we’re definitely “opening doors” for our students, our community, and each other! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be kind to our students and kind to each other.

Quote of the Week…..

I’d rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and right.

― Albert Einstein

Opening Doors Video:

Other Inspiring videos about kindness:

Culture of Kindness Websites Articles:



Social Media: A Dog’s Story

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” ~Isaac Newton

A friend of mine from Brasilia is known for habitually reposting to Facebook, on behalf of desperate dog owners, photos of missing dogs. Gisela’s hope is that neighborhood residents will recognize the dogs in the photos and reunite these beloved, missing canines with their owners.

As a fellow dog owner, I quietly grieve for owners each time I see one of these missing dog announcements. This feeling of grief was no different when a posting of a cute, elderly dog with a broken ear and a lazy eye appeared in my newsfeed. What was different about this posting, however, was that my name was linked to this posting with the following message: “The dog has a tag that appears to be from the United States. Barry, with your connection to the international community, could you reach out to your contacts?” I would of course reach out, but, as a busy workday was about to begin, I made a mental note to send messages in the early evening.

While the day did turn out to be very busy and productive, it was about to end on a high note as I made my way to visit the after-school chess activity. While watching two five-year-old students discover the nuances associated with the beautiful game of chess, I noticed one of the students was in a lackluster, almost despondent mood. When I asked the student if anything was wrong, he turned to me and lamented that his dog Crawford was missing and not been home for nearly a week.

It was then that I recalled the Facebook posting from the morning. While it seemed highly unlikely for there to be such a coincidence of circumstances, I went ahead and showed the student the Facebook posting of the missing dog with a broken ear and lazy eye. Upon seeing the photo, the student beamed an enormous smile and shouted, Crawford!!!”

After a series of phone calls and messages, Crawford was finally reunited with his owners later that evening.

The events of the day served as an important reminder of the inherent power associated with social networks, particularly when used in an ethical, meaningful, and purposeful manner. It is clear that the way we communicate, connect, problem solve, and learn has been forever changed. While we need to continue addressing the challenges of social media, the potential for creative and positive change derived from the harnessing and application of seemingly endless resources offers a unique set of tools to solve problems and ensure a better future.

Isaac Newton’s iconic quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” refers to Newton’s gratitude for the contributions of those who have preceded him. In today’s context, I wonder if Newton would have considered the “shoulders of giants” to also include the learning and understanding resulting from the use of technology to exponentially increase levels of collaboration, networking, and sharing?

If social networks can be used to rally a community’s resources towards reuniting Crawford with his family, it is exciting to imagine how these same networks and associated resources will continue to redefine not only our daily lives but the paradigm of traditional education and learning. It is the challenge of educators to determine how these new technologies will be employed to improve the learning process.

There is no doubt we are living through a fascinating inflection point in the history of educational development in addition to our understanding of how we learn. Nevertheless, through all of this change, we must never lose sight of the “why?” and “to what end?” questions. I am confident that Crawford would approve of this guiding principle as he again basks in the warmth of his home and loving family.


Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at


Featured image: cc licensed ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ) flickr photo by Tarek Harbi:

Serendipitous Connections

We all experience those days when our schedules seem to demand more of our time than hours are available in the day. It is often these same days when we feel most focused, effective, and efficient, especially in terms of completing our “to do” lists. It is also common during these times to engage in seemingly countless brief conversations with friends, families, colleagues, and strangers. While these ephemeral conversations may be lost and forgotten in the shuffle of a frenetic day, it is these same conversations that may represent, for example, a critically important moment for an individual, the idea for a transformative project, or a fundamental change in personal circumstances. While it is easy to dismiss these brief conversations while in the process of fulfilling a busy agenda, these same conversations may result in being the most important outcome of our day.

In his book, Triumph of the City, Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh refers to the brief meetings with others that lead to significant outcomes as “serendipitous encounters.” Hsieh extends this idea with the statement:

Research has shown that most innovation actually happens from something outside your industry being applied to your own. And those are the results of random conversations at …coffee shops or just when you have collisions with other people.

Hsieh’s thoughts were not on my mind during a typical busy day when I was quickly introduced to the conductor of the National Theater Symphonic Orchestra. While this chance encounter lasted no more than forty-five seconds, it would lead to one of the most memorable evenings in our community’s recent history. Through the work of our leadership team, it was only a few weeks later when one of Brazil’s top orchestras spent a full day at our school educating and rehearsing with students. The evening performance took place in our auditorium in front of a capacity audience that was fully representative of our diverse community. The performance was moving and inspirational. Brazil’s Rede Globo network covered the performance and shared the following video clip during the station’s news broadcast.

On another occasion, a member of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) briefly shared, in passing, the idea to host at our school a public display of one of Brasilia’s most famous artists. This brief encounter led to a very special community evening vernissage to celebrate the work of Athos Bulcão, which included several original works displayed at our school for several weeks (Link to Virtual GalleryLink to Virtual Gallery).


Artista eu era. Pioneiro eu fiz-me. Devo a Brasília esse sofrido privilégio. Realmente um privilégio: ser pioneiro. Dureza que gera espírito. Um prêmio moral“.
~ Athos Bulcão

A third brief encounter led to the University of Brasilia’s Opera Studio presenting at our school an outstanding performance of Gaetano Donizetti ‘s opera Don Pasquale. Two EAB students were invited to perform with the orchestra, representing a special and unique experience for our student musicians.


These serendipitous encounters led to innovative enhancements associated with the appreciation of the arts and a better understanding of Brasilia’s cultural heritage. Reflecting on key events and the innovative changes implemented at our school in recent years, many of these outcomes can be traced back to a serendipitous encounter that could have easily been missed if those involved were not paying attention or took the time to genuinely listen to others.

As educators, we tend to fiercely protect our schools and domains as teachers and school leaders. However, we may be guilty, at times, of responding in a seemingly defensive manner to different ideas and perspectives offered by those not associated with education. There is much to learn from others, especially those who see schools through a different lens, and it is our responsibility to not only embrace and explore new ideas, but to model for our students the ideals related to the process of continuous growth and development.

Serendipitous encounters are not limited to institutional events but also include those daily encounters with friends, family, colleagues and students. While a thirty-second encounter with a student, for example, may seem to carry little weight from an adult’s perspective, to the student, the encounter may represent a significant moment that will be internalized for years to come.

Whether our brief meetings with others lead to the innovative institutional changes highlighted by Tony Hsieh or make a real difference in the life of a student, we have a responsibility to remind ourselves of the importance of our interactions with others and the possible far-reaching implications that may result from these brief encounters.


Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NA 2.0) flickr photo by Marcos Molina – Tocando el violín

The Fabric of a School…

So I’ve been at Academia Cotopaxi for a little over five months now, and each and every day I’m learning more and more about the rich history and the embedded traditions of this fantastic organization. Coming into a new school as a school leader is not only exciting and brimming with opportunity for change, but challenging as well, because it’s a delicate balance of looking and learning and listening to find out what it is that makes a particular school unique…staying true to the “who we are” piece of your new school is something that needs careful attention, and there’s a danger of going too fast and wanting to change too much before you really understand what is truly a part of the fabric of the organization. With a school like ours, which has been around for over 50 years, there is an identity and a prevailing purpose that affects and inspires not only our school community but our surrounding city as well, and it’s taken me some time to figure this all out. The beautiful thing about moving a school forward with an ambitious strategic plan like ours, is that we’re able to build up on a solid foundation…a rock steady base that will support the initiatives, and allow for some necessary change that is in many ways uncharted territory for us. The trick is to keep one eye firmly focused on what already makes us who we are, and use that as a jumping off point for growth and sustainable change…we’re in a wonderful position honestly, which is why we’ve already started to see some positive and forward movement in the areas that need our attention…let me give you an example of a solid foundation that has been in place here for over three decades…


One of our pillars of growth that is clearly identified in our new mission has to do with community…and service…and giving back to the city that has given us so much. We’re excited to make service learning even more a part of who we currently are over the next few years, and luckily I arrived to an already existing tradition of giving back, which is rich and healthy and inspiring. Last month I was witness to one of the most beautiful and profound community service programs that I have ever seen, and when I saw it unfold on that special day in December I was moved to tears. The project is called Zambiza, and it’s currently being led by two outstanding educators named Gabriel Cadenas and Debbie Faidutti…here’s a brief description (talk about affecting meaningful and lasting change…over 30 years of transforming lives, and giving back to a community that needs our support). In 1984 a group of Academia Cotopaxi (AC) teachers visited the Zambiza Dump, where local workers pick through the refuse looking for recyclable items. These workers had no place to leave their children while they worked, and were therefore required to bring them along, so the City of Quito created a small house as a daycare nursery for them.  The Academia Cotopaxi teachers were amazed at the incredibly poor conditions of the daycare…the children had no beds, hygiene was beyond bad, and the quality of the food they were being given was extremely poor. The school staff and administration saw this as a great opportunity to contribute in a very meaningful and direct way to a group of people in extreme need, so they collected money from the teachers, purchased mattresses, and donated funds along with unused furniture from the school. The project was started and is now funded through ongoing monthly donations from the teachers and staff of Academia Cotopaxi.


The program essentially has three parts…a scholarship program, which this year alone has allowed over 170 local students to enter elementary and High School in our surrounding community…a holiday gift drive which delivers cloths, toys, educational materials, and so much more to over 200 local families (these donations come directly from the students and families of our school, and are organized and distributed by our 11th grade students as part of their CAS requirement)…and a child development program where local children come to our school to work directly with our students, and to learn strategies that will greatly enhance their access to learning. Like I said, watching the holiday gift drive distribution event this year was incredibly moving, and the smiles and gratitude on the faces of these underprivileged families was emotionally overwhelming. It opened up my eyes to the amazing commitment that we have as a school to the idea of giving back, and it made me super confident that I arrived at a place that was focused on doing the right things. Our foundation is strong here at AC, and because of that I know in my heart that our fairy tale will eventually come true. I guess my message with all of this is that before you look to make changes in your school, particularly if you’re new and eager to move quickly, make sure that you take the time to look critically at the amazing things that are already part of the fabric of who you are. Don’t just keep the traditions and initiatives that are working successfully, but build upon them…expand them into other areas of the school, and use their success to fuel even greater success. After five months  of looking, listening, and learning, I’m still eager to make profound changes in certain areas of our school community and culture, but I have a much better sense of where our foundation lies…and it’s this foundation that will ensure that we’ll soon reach our lofty goals. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 Quote of the Week…..

Sustainable change, after all, depends not upon compliance with external mandates or blind adherence to regulation, but rather upon the pursuit of the greater good.
― Douglas B. Reeves

 Articles on Culture and Sustainable Initiatives/Change in Schools:

Inspiring videos:


Sim City: My Failure at Global Competence


I’m taking a gap year. At first, it was really hard to step off the career treadmill, but it has turned into one of the best decisions of my life. It has allowed me to bond with my children (my daughter turned eight today and I picked her up at school), finish a manuscript I’ve been working on for a decade, network with some amazing people, get back in shape, teach a course on leadership across cultures at a local university, and support my wife as she provides outstanding leadership at work in her own right.

It also exposed me to that scourge of social media; the mobile app. What else am I supposed to do when I’m waiting for the music lesson or soccer practice to end? Can you blame me?

It got really bad the other night when I was updating my Sim City called “Paradisio” at my daughter’s flute recital. (I still shudder when I think of my wife’s stare when she caught me). I actually used Sim City when I taught in the 1990s (it was only in CD format) as a tool for my AP Political Science class. It made for some amazing conversations around civic mindfulness, progress and society. That in way justified my actions at the recital.

So, on her 8th birthday today, Zoe caught me updating a few fire stations, schools and parks while she ate lunch. She put down her sandwich, walked over to me huddled over my I-Phone, and said, “Dad, what are you doing?” I told her that I was putting stuff into my city so that it could get bigger. “Why do you want it to get bigger?” she asked. “Don’t you like a village, like the one we live in? Why can’t you just leave it like that?” Without thinking, of course, because I was too busy upgrading my sewer system, I responded, “Because the point of it is to make it a city.” To which she responded. “I like our village.” Yes, that’s when I put the game down. She completely schooled me.

As I turned a village into a metropolis, making sure there was a fine balance between factories, skyscrapers, schools and the such, she calmly munched on her sandwich and asked, “Why?”

Why indeed. I stared at my densely packed “Paridisio” on the screen and turned it off. She was so right. When I used Sim City for my political science students, I wanted them to think about the decisions that a civic manager has to make, balancing all the important elements of organizing a society and its needs. And there I was, twenty years later, falling completely into the trap of a game whose objectives were to get bigger, denser, more populated, and industrialized than anyone else.

It takes a village?

We all know that the population of the world has exponentially increased more over the last hundred years than it has in the previous thousand. We also know that global competency implies a lot around understanding differences and cultures but says little about the realities of competition over resources, degradation of the environment, immigration and national security. They say that the next major war will be over fresh water.

When my daughter commented that she liked the village just the way it was, I remember reacting to her, as many parents do, with a ‘you’re so naive comment’ to the effect that “it’s not the way the world works. Everything gets bigger and more crowded, you just have to manage it.”

Which got me to thinking…Her level of global competence had surpassed mine. While I was busy building factories and supporting a growing population, she pointed out in her own way that I was heading for armageddon. No, I don’t think the world can sustain itself as a bunch of villages living in harmony. But what she made me realize was that I was completely missing the point; that while we move faster and bigger, that the true value in competency on a global scale is being able to ask, “Why?”

There’s only one 80s video that could play this one out…


Climbing Mountains…

IMG_5905So a few weeks ago during our holiday vacation I climbed a really, really big mountain. Since I now live in a region that allows me plenty of opportunity and choice to do so, I figured I’d tackle one of the most beautiful and picturesque mountains in the world…Cotopaxi, here in Ecuador…and what an experience! It was easily one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done both physically and mentally, and looking back on it I’m glad that I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I agreed. My great friend and leadership mentor, Scott Miller from Action Learning Associates ( convinced me to give it a try with him and I figured why not…I’m always up for a challenge and I like to push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. Well, after hiking straight up in the middle of the night for what seemed like an endless amount of time, in a complete whiteout and 90 mile an hour winds, the doubts started to creep in and interestingly enough, my mind started to make some metaphorical connections to many of the things that we’re trying to accomplish in our school with our new strategic plan.


I know that climbing a mountain is a well-used metaphor for taking on challenging things in your life, and it’s super easy to find parallels with the struggles that you go through on the road to accomplishing something difficult and worthwhile…but at 19,000 feet praying for the wind to die down, with the summit still 1,000 feet or so away, I just couldn’t help thinking about the work that we’ve undertaken as a faculty. In many ways, the five year transformational plan that we’ve rolled out is ambitious and idealistic, and it’s easy to wonder how we’re ever going to get there with so much to do. The trick is to understand that the changes and the vision will not come to life overnight…it will be a long road with steep climbs and difficult decisions, with belief and trust as the one thing that will keep us moving forward. We’re going up a mountain that we’ve never gone up before as a team, and it can be scary to try things that are unfamiliar to us. Our plan will certainly push us as educators and professionals out of our comfort zones, and we have to learn to chunk the work out, and to take it one step at a time. We also have to remember to take the time to stop and look around, and to reflect on the small accomplishments along the way, and to celebrate the distance (however short) that we’ve already covered together. Walking up Cotopaxi was a lot like that honestly, and I’m glad that I started the climb at midnight in the dark. It would have been so daunting in the broad daylight with the peak so, so far away and honestly, if I had only focused on how far I had to go then I might have been overcome with doubt. In many ways that’s what we’re doing here at school too…unsure of where the road might lead us on the way to our goal, but at some point you just need to take that first step, and keep on going with a belief and a trust that you’ll get there. Like another friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Tim Stuart from Singapore American School often says, sometimes you just have to use the ready, fire, aim approach…knowing that the belief in what you’re doing as a school will see you through.


The other connection that was impossible to ignore was the fact that I didn’t do this climb alone…I was with a team that I trusted, and who encouraged me and picked me up along the way. I made mistakes up there for sure, and there were a few times that our guide, and Scott saw that I needed a boost of confidence and an encouraging word…I was with experienced climbers who had done the research, chosen the best route, and been up similar mountains before…just like our leadership team here at school. We’re going up our own metaphorical mountain with experienced climbers and guides (other quality international schools), who will help lead the way and get us all to the summit. Finally, the one thing that I didn’t count on or think about was how hard it was going to be to get down! I was so focused on reaching the peak that I didn’t give much thought to the dangers and hard work of descending. To me that’s a lot like the sustainability of quality initiatives that schools constantly roll out…they get them off the ground, or reach the summit, but they forget about the work that it takes to truly make them part of the fabric and culture of the school. It’s one thing to roll something out effectively (reach the summit) but another thing altogether to complete the journey and make the initiatives sustainable (getting down). Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that we have a big mountain to climb and so much to work left to do…but, if we take it one step at a time, and stop to reflect and celebrate along the way, then we’ll truly enjoy the experience and become all the better for it. Like my Dad always says, if it was easy…it would be easy! Taking on difficult work, and work that is truly transformational is what all schools need to be doing. If you’re not out there climbing mountains and pushing the limits of what’s possible in education, then what’s best for your students and their learning will soon be out of reach. Happy New year everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Make 2015 the year of climbing mountains!

Quote of the Week……

Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way! Dr. Seuss

Interesting Articles on Perseverance and doing hard work –,-Real-and-Metaphorical.aspx

TED Talk – Carol Dweck

Humans are Awesome – 2015

Moving On

1780098_10203659579434229_1635069963_o As happens around this time of year, my family has been taking stock, looking around, and reflecting on where we are, where we are heading and what’s next. It is the typical response we all have when the year turns. What is different for us this year, is that most of our discussions revolve around leaving and moving.

Closing down and opening up.

My husband and I have moved many times, several internationally. That said, I don’t feel like an expert or even good at it. It’s a little like getting on a long flight. You know, it’s coming. You know, landing at the destination is ultimately going to be worth it. But the next 24+ hours is going to be l-o-n-g.

Moving is hard work.

But that’s what we do, right? As international educators, we chase the job, transition into new and different situations, and bring our own kids on the ride.

When my daughter was two, we moved to China. My worries about her focused just about solely on potty training. (As would the mom of any toddler!) When we got there though, the biggest challenge was around leaving her with a non-English speaker while we began our jobs. It was a leap of faith on our part, and I’m sure on the part of our Chinese ayi when we walked out the door that first morning of work.

Next, when my girl was seven, we moved to the Middle East. My focus then was mainly around how she would transition into a new academic situation. She had just become a reader and loved school. While it didn’t exactly go as we’d hoped, (she didn’t gel with her teacher and took a very long time to make friends that year) she continued along developmentally appropriate lines. That first year turned into a second, a third and now a seventh.

This time, I find myself with a teenager, moving to Eastern Europe. I find I’m doing less worrying and more listening with this transition. (It is so different moving with someone who has an opinion on the process and can share it.) As you might expect, my daughter’s fears center on not fitting in and not finding friends. Typical of kids her age and yet a real and significant concern for her, and for us.

When I think about all that she is saying, what I hear is she wants to feel “moved in”, “like we live there”, and as if “we are home.” My girl talks about permanence.  Which is a concept I have always struggled with as a third-culture kid myself.

Although she is happy right now, she’s ready to pack up and go. She’s ready for the next adventure and with it, the next life. I hear her. I feel the same way. However, having done this a few times, and trying to get better at it, I’m hoping this final move will help her see what I sometimes still struggle with understanding. That is that life, happiness, and even permanence isn’t a place, but a state of mind.

Writing this reminds me of a poem I’ve used in past presentations about Third Culture Kids:

where we are by Gerald Locklin

i envy those
who live in two places:
new york, say, and london;
wales and spain;
l.a. and paris;
hawaii and switzerland.

there is always the anticipation
of the change, the chance that what is wrong
is the result of where you are. i have
always loved both the freshness of
arriving and the relief of leaving. with
two homes every move would be a homecoming.
i am not even considering the weather, hot
or cold, dry or wet: i am talking about hope.

I hope those of you, like us, who are leaning forward, thinking about your next place, can enjoy where you are even as you plan for what is to come.