Triumphs and Trials: A Teacher-Mother’s Journey with an International School Student

Triumphs and Trials. Photo taken by Shwetangna Chakrabarty in Tanzania

The moment was heart-stopping: my son, the captain of his school’s varsity football team, leaped to save a critical goal in the tournament final, only to land with a head injury. The impact was severe, a head injury just four days before his final International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma exams. As a mother and his teacher at an international school, the fear and uncertainty of that moment were overwhelming. Yet, what followed was a testament to resilience, dedication, and the transformative power of education within a diverse and supportive environment.

Balancing the dual roles of teacher and mother to a graduating IB student is a journey fraught with unique triumphs and trials. Witnessing my son’s journey through the rigorous IB Diploma Programme, I’ve seen firsthand the sacrifices required and the competencies honed—critical thinking, time management, and a positive mindset, to name a few. His achievement of an almost perfect IB score of 44 out of 45 is a beacon of his hard work and the high-quality education provided by our international school setting.

Upon reflecting on my son’s journey, I have learned to be a better teacher. I have learned that learning happens when students are supported emotionally and cognitively. Another learning is the positive impact of diversity in international schools on student achievement. Students from varied cultural backgrounds come together, to teach each other the life skills that extend beyond academics. For my son, it wasn’t just about mastering the subjects to secure those 7s in all his subjects (Mathematics AA, Physics, Chemistry, English L&L all at higher level and French LA, Business Management at standard level); it was about learning to navigate and thrive in a dynamic, multicultural world. This environment, underpinned by the right expectations, personal ambition, and guidance, fosters empathy, adaptability, and a broadened perspective—qualities that are as crucial in the classroom, on the sports field, and in life.

Speaking of sports, my son’s role as the captain of the football, basketball, and volleyball teams—each clinching major championships—further amplifies the invaluable life lessons he learned and I witnessed from team sports: leadership, collaboration, resilience, and the spirit of fair play. These experiences prepared him for unforeseen challenges that he had not imagined.

He earned the International Major Entrance Scholarship (IMES) from the University of British Columbia (UBC) Canada recognizing not just his academic prowess but his all-around excellence in sports, community service, and music. As a mother and a teacher, I experienced the joy of success for a student who never gave up and believed in the good of academic pursuits and team spirit.

However, this journey was not without its sacrifices. The head injury before his final exams was a stark reminder of the thin line between success and setback. The days that followed were tense, filled with doctors’ visits, rest, and uncertainty. Yet, the resilience my son demonstrated, fueled by his dedication and the competencies developed through the IB program, saw him through. He not only sat for his exams but excelled, a testament to his strength and determination.

Even after earning offers from many universities and scholarship offers from top universities in the world, my son could not get to his university on time. He had to miss an entire term waiting for his Canadian study permit to be approved. This was probably more painful than the stitches he had to endure during his head injury. He applied for the visa in April 2023 and only got it in November 2023. Missing the first term of his Engineering course. He had declined all the other offers as he was confident he would continue at UBC as the place that valued his talents. I witnessed his breakdown and frustration due to uncertainty and missing out on important life events: first day at uni; course selection day; activities sign-up day; varsity tryouts; scholarship recognition awards day and much more. The teacher in me would counsel him and motivate him to remain hopeful but the mother in me cried in pain to see him suffer. My son and I reflected on our situation multiple times to come out of it stronger due to the wonderful friendships that we had experienced. The support he got from teachers, friends, and family was the strength that kept us going and helped us understand that true joy comes from genuine relationships and friendships. That is our true success!

This experience has been enlightening for me, both professionally and personally. As a teacher, it has reinforced the value of fostering a supportive, diverse, and challenging learning environment. As a mother, it has been a journey of pride, worry, and ultimately, immense joy in seeing my son overcome obstacles and strengthen his trust in friendships and people. This trust helped him to settle into university all by himself when he went to UBC in December 2023!

In reflecting on this journey, it’s clear that the challenges we face, whether in the classroom, on the sports field, or in life, are growth opportunities. The diverse and rich atmosphere of an international school, coupled with the right intention and guidance, can transform these challenges into stepping stones for success. As my son steps into the next chapter of his life, I am confident that the lessons learned and the qualities honed during his time in an international school moving many times across continents will serve him well.

As for me, I am grateful for the dual perspective this journey has afforded me, enriching my understanding of the profound impact of teaching, guiding, supporting, caring, and educating to shape young minds and futures.

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