I always struggle with finding ways to tell you what I actually DO – in an interesting way. The problem is that the highlights of my work are people. I don’t feel comfortable sharing stories that don’t belong to me alone. Talking about my China life is much easier! But I love what I do, and I want to share it with you.
To that end, I’ve come up with a list of some of the best things, and the hardest things, about my work. There are so many things I love about youth work in general, but I’ve tried to stay TCK specific in these lists.
10 things I really enjoy about working with TCKs:
- Knowing kids from dozens of countries (and native languages) and hearing their stories of life lived all over the world.
- Watching these students build relationships and communities together with little regard for language, country, or colour.
- Discussions about the strange things we’ve eaten…
- Occasional emails or facebook posts from kids somewhere else in the world who thought of me.
- Skype mentoring students (who used to live in Beijing) through times of upheaval or transition.
- My facebook stream never stops – some of my kids are online somewhere in the world 24 hours a day ;)
- Going out for Chinese food with one of my kids back in town for a visit after being away for years.
- Writing references – which I do a LOT. It might not sound like a big “plus” but I love any excuse to brag on my kids :)
- Opportunities to speak to adults about TCKs – to share how wonderful they are and how to reach them effectively.
- That the backdrop to our stories are places like Beijing, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, and Huahin. And that it’s totally normal ;)
10 things I find difficult about working with TCKs:
- Constant farewells, sometimes with no warning.
- Dealing with constant “China problems” beyond my control – and trying to make sure they don’t affect the kids’ experience. (Difficult drivers, venue renovations without warning, constant weather problems, mold, pollution… the list goes on!)
- Finding appropriate resources – generally speaking, high school level materials from the West aren’t aimed high enough intellectually (sound condescending) but too high emotionally (don’t teach the students ways to engage fully with the material). Often we just create our own.
- Learning to be sensitive to many very different cultural backgrounds – and trying to remember this in the moment!
- Trying to get time with kids who are extremely overscheduled.
- Listening to the pain of teens who are hurting from losses beyond their control.
- Seeing cross-cultural issues create distance between parents and kids who genuinely care about each other.
- Realising a big reason I’m asked so often to be a referee on kids’ applications is that there aren’t many adults in their lives who fit the requirements.
- Hugging a kid goodbye and knowing I may never see them again.
- When a kid doesn’t come back from a school break – and none of us get to say goodbye.
I suppose it’s like all jobs – there are good days and bad days. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain why I chose this path – but I’ve never regretted it. I get to work with amazing students, to have a small place in their lives while they’re here – and sometimes after they leave.
There have been people in my life who think I can, or should, do something “more” with my life. I know I could have made more money, gained more prestige, acquired more possessions, doing something else. But to me, the privilege of influencing the lives of hundreds of young people over the years is worth far more. I have a network of people all over the world who care about me and believe in what I do. And that, my friends, is priceless.