…It the first day of the school year and I am going back to the same school where I have been for five years now. It is the same building, but to me it is not the same school. My best friend, Ben, moved away and will not be back. Two other friends who I have known since first grade moved away as well. I am supposedly returning to the familiar, and already know exactly who my teacher will be, but I feel so incredibly lonely. At recess I will miss my ‘to go to buddies’. Who will I sit next to at lunch? Maybe I should not have spent so much time with Ben in the last two months of last school year. Maybe I should have spent more time hanging out with Mike, the new friend I made in January after the winter break. However, Mike just told me he will probably leave at the end of this school year…once again I will be left behind.
Being a stayer is not easier than being the leaver or the arriver. At times, it might even be more difficult.
A few years ago, when I showed one of my (international school) friends my newly published book (B at Home), she read the back blurb with interest and then turned to me with a slightly reproachful look.
“Great,” she said, “I love that you wrote a book for all those kids who move around a lot, it must be hard for them…but do you think you could write another one for people like me, who never moved, but always had to say goodbye to at least one good friend at the end of the school year?”
That’s when I realized it never occurred to me what it was like to be a stayer. I had been the leaver and the arriver so many times and had always felt envious of the stayers. I had been so busy thinking about the predicament that international school kids found themselves in when they had to move around a lot that I had never even questioned how the ones felt who were always left behind and expected to welcome each new lot with open arms.
Without even realizing it, I have become the stayer. We have settled in Switzerland, have been working at the same international school for almost eight years and neither of our daughters have ever moved. My best friend came and went. My parents are thinking about moving back to my home country (the Netherlands). My daughters have had to deal with classmates, and other loved ones, moving. And we have stayed. And saying goodbye is just as hard as when I used to leave. Even when we stay, we have to learn to navigate the painful goodbyes and must continue to embrace the hellos.
Interestingly enough, the stayers are often not asked how they feel about the constant transitions that take place around them, and therefore within them. However, research tell us mobility and moving hurts and it affects our students’ learning: the leavers, the arrivers, and the stayers. In this article, we have addressed the leavers, and this article the arrivers. So how can we help our staying students?
1. Comfort instead of encourage
Acknowledge their feelings and the fact that they are staying. While the leavers are recognized and are busy saying their goodbyes, the stayers might feel neglected. They will not only feel sad, but perhaps angry. They might direct those emotions at the same person they are so apprehensive to say goodbye to. I will never forget when, at the age of thirteen, a good friend told me to “just go to your stupid Luxembourg” a few days before moving. Although her words initially hurt me a lot, I later realized this was her way of expressing her sadness as well as her frustration. The stayers need to feel that their feelings are heard as well, and they need to understand that it is okay to feel many different emotions.
Pollock, Pollock and Van Reken encourage anybody in transition to build a RAFT (Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell and Think Destination). Help the stayers ensure that their relationships are intact before leaving. The emotional burden of carrying unresolved conflicts is equally challenging for the stayers as for the leavers (reconciliation). They also need to have time to recognize and thank those that are leaving for being in their lives (affirmation) and they need to be able to say their goodbyes (farewell). When the leavers are thinking about themselves in a new place, the stayers will be thinking of the empty place left behind. The stayers will also have reinvent their social circles and routines. In the new edition of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2017), another acronym is provided to help younger students process the above-mentioned steps, SHIP: Saying Sorry and I forgive you, Heartfelt thanks for each other, It’s time to say goodbye, Plan for the New Place. Alternatively, in the case of the stayers, the P could stand for Plan to Stay.
3. AFT: Move AFT on your RAFT 
Doug Ota, psychologist and author of Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it (2014), encourages all persons facing transitions to question themselves in terms of their Actions (what am I actively doing to be involved?), their Feelings (How am I feeling about seeing friends leave and about making new friends? Do I feel a sense of belonging in my school community?) and Thoughts (Is this home now?). Not only is it important to address these actions, feelings and thoughts in the Leaving and Arriving part of the mobility cycle, but also in the STaying part, to “produce a cumulative change that will LAST”.
4. Give them the CCK/TCK language
The famous words of wisdom from Winnie the Pooh ring so true (“How lucky are we to have something so good that makes saying goodbye so hard”) for those who leave, but also for those who stay. Help your students understand what it means to be a Cross Cultural Kid (CCK) and Third Culture Kid (TCK) and how that influences their identity. Apart from celebrating the positives, they also need a language to express the challenges and grief that goes along with saying goodbyes, time after time again. Your students are never too young to understand the CCK/TCK language. These days, there is a list of TCK literature available to children. Stories about the TCK experience, especially fiction, will give them characters and situations that they can identify with. It is often easier to connect to how someone else’s feelings than to adequately express your own emotions. Children should know that they are not alone and that the CCK/TCK definition is rooted in the idea that TCK children find that “the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar backgrounds”.
5. Help them take ownership of their school
The stayers play a vital role in the well-being of those who are arriving to the school. If they feel a sense of pride and ownership of their school community this positive energy will likely transfer to those who are new. In his book, Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it (Summertime Publishing, 2014), Doug Ota mentions the importance of providing the stayers the opportunity to be an instrumental part of a transition program. Not only will offering leadership positions help students develop and gain experiences that can help them in their future endeavors, but it will also help them feel valued as a staying member of the community. When stayers might be busy tending to the arrivers and leavers at certain times of the year, it is important for the admin and staff to recognize and support the student leaders who are helping their peers.
6. Set up a mentor/ buddy system
Help stayers become buddies for the new students. Depending on what your school already offers in terms of transitions, there is a variety of possibilities for stayers to become buddies or mentors. Stayers could show the new students around on orientation day before school starts (consider giving them a t-shirt or something else to distinguish them from the other students). Alternatively, with older students they could become ‘mentors’ to the new students and already get in touch with arriving students a few weeks or months before their actual arrival. Either way, by allowing the stayers to have an essential role in the well-being of new students, the stayers could also benefit from the experience of reaching out to others while saying goodbye to their friends.
7. Find ways to create stay in touch
Help your students think of ways to stay in touch. Teenagers have obvious access to numerous social media platforms. You might want to remind them that there is a thin line between living your friendships mostly on social media rather than in real life, and help them find ways to establish a healthy balance. For younger students and with their parents’ permission of course, you could have Skype conversations with the leaver(s) and the stayers in your classroom. I recently had a delightful conversation with a student that left in the middle of the school year and his classmates.
8. Throw a goodbye party
A goodbye party is not just for the ones who are leaving. Give the students who are staying the opportunity to give letters, keepsakes, or little gifts to those departing, but also think of ways for the stayers to receive something similar. The leavers often take the signed t-shirt (or something similar) with them and the stayers often having nothing tangible to hold onto. When one of my daughters’ best friends left, her friend gave her a beautiful frame with pictures of their time together that my daughter still has on her wall.
9. Throw a welcome to the new kids party
The students who are leaving will be in the midst of settling into their new destination. During this time, the stayers can open their doors and lives to the students who arrive. Help you students understand that they can still miss their old friends but should need feel any guilt about forming new friendships. Encourage them to reach out to new people, especially if these stayers are the ones feeling just as lonely at the beginning of the year. Devote some special time and attention to helping students to get to know the new people in their lives. Ensure that you not only keep an eye on those that are new, but also those who feel left behind. Although they might become more apprehensive about saying hello, help them understand that relationship fatigue is part of being a TCK, but remind them that each goodbye did initially start with a hello, and that the moments in between are often very much worth it.
10. Remind yourself, as a teacher, that no learning will take place until your students feel safe and secure in their new surroundings
Even if those surroundings may appear familiar to those who stay, the student who stays may feel like they are entering a whole new universe in which they will have to redefine who they are every single time they say goodbye. Remind yourself, as a human being, transitions affect all of us in our international schools. We must support each other, our students, and their families in order for all of us to thrive through them.
This article was written by International School Community member Valérie Besanceney. Over the past eleven years, Valérie has been a primary school teacher at five different international schools on four different continents. Valérie is also the author of the children’s book B at Home: Emma Moves Again (Summertime Publishing, 2014). It is a fictional memoir about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move yet again. During the different stages of another relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason. My Moving Booklet (Summertime Publishing, 2015) is workbook that can be used with or without the chapter book and intended to help children to welcome the new challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them, together with their parents and teachers. It is available in English and French. For more information on her books and the topic of Third Culture Kids, please visit her website: www.valeriebesanceney.com.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth. P. 240.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth. P. 347.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing. P. 182.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing. Pp 182-186.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth (chapter 2 and 3).
 Definition of TCK by David C. Pollock in the TCK Profile seminar material, Interaction, Inc., 1989, 1.
Barron, Jane (www.globallygrounded.com). “6 Steps Towards Being a Successful Stayer in an International School”. Found on: https://globallygrounded.com/2017/02/28/6-steps-towards-being-a-successful-stayer-in-an-international-school/. Originally published in Vol. 31 No. 3 February 2017 The International Educator
Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.
Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth.
Photo credit: free images from Pixabay.com
During this time of year many of our students are faced with a move. For some it is yet another move of many. Teachers and administrators of international schools can help students say goodbye in meaningful ways that help them truly fare well during a transition. The ten points outlined below will hopefully serve as gentle reminders of what many of you already do and might inspire some of you who are less familiar with the transition process of international school students.
1. Comfort rather than encourage
One of your students tells you that he or she will be moving. “Oh, how exciting!” It is such a natural instinct for us to encourage our students before comforting them. In our attempt to protect them from any possible pain that could be caused by the transition, we are quick to ‘help’ them look at the bright side of things. By not allowing them to accept and work through their own emotions, whatever they may be, we are actually helping them prepare a perfect recipe for unresolved grief. Encouragement can trigger shame and frustration rather than true comfort (Pollock & Van Reken, 2009, pp.82-83). Instead, ask them how they feel and truly listen. They will not necessarily need you to cheer them up about the move, but they do need to feel heard. Also, if appropriate, let your students know that you will miss them. And rather than assuring them that everything will be all right at their next destination, you can tell them that you hope to help them make their last few weeks or months as enjoyable as possible. That is a promise you can at least try to keep.
2. Reflect with the student
Ask the student what they will miss, and what they look forward to. It will help them understand why they might find it difficult to leave. Encourage them write up a pros and cons list. They might even be happy to leave some things behind. They might need affirmation that those emotions are also okay. If they are quick to mention the tangible losses, encourage them to explore the losses that affect the senses (Bushong, 2013, pp. 74). What are the smells, sounds, and feelings that might be lost when moving? By helping them identify the depth of their potential hidden losses, they will have a better understanding of the process of saying goodbye.
3. Connect with the parents
Reach out to the parents and, time permitting, try to meet with them. They may have questions regarding the move and transition to a new school. Often these are of an academic nature, but do not hesitate to point out how mobility affects their child’s identity, sense of belonging, and ultimately their learning. More importantly, explain that it does not need to hurt their child. “Mobility across cultures can be one of the richest sources of learning and personal growth that life has to offer. But these benefits are only likely to occur when mobility’s challenges are managed well (Ota, 2014, pp.XL).” Ideally, it is in their child’s best interest to find a school that is not only academically suitable, but that will also address and assist them in terms of transitioning. Luckily, there are also various independent services that can help parents and their children during transitions.
4. Give them the TCK language
Students are never too young to understand the TCK language. These days, there is a list of TCK literature available to children. Stories about the TCK experience, especially fiction, will give them characters and situations that they can identify with. Often it is much easier to connect to how someone else is feeling than to adequately express your own emotions. Children should know that they are not alone and that the Third Culture Kid definition is rooted in the idea that TCK children find that “the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar backgrounds”.
5. Help them build a RAFT
In the book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by Ruth E. Van Reken and David C. Pollock, parents and educators are encouraged to help students build a RAFT (Reconciliation-Affirmation-Farewell-Think destination) to leave well in order to enter well, and ultimately accumulate the least amount of unresolved grief through their transitions. To be able to say hello, one must have closure. And reconciliation, to forgive and be forgiven, is a vital part of closure. At school, this means making sure there are no loose ends such as disagreements with a friend or teacher left unresolved.
6. Help the leavers (and the stayers) say farewell
Children who often move, or children who are surrounded by others that move, can become fatigued by saying goodbye. Eventually, they may become reluctant to welcome new friendships. Therefore, especially children in international schools need reminders that every relationship you build is important and matters. In order to affirm relationships, help them take the time to let those they care about (friends, teachers, administrative staff, lunch ladies, janitors, etc.) know how they feel about them. Teachers can provide them with time and support to write notes. For example, instead of journal writing, they can be encouraged to write some letters during the last few weeks of school. There are many creative, yet simple and not too time-consuming ways, to encourage students to write notes of appreciation.
7. Help the leavers (and the stayers) say farewell
Help all of your students say a final farewell. While many efforts go out to help the ‘leavers’, the ‘stayers’ are sometimes neglected. The students that are staying need to have a chance to truly say farewell as well, and take the time to reconcile and affirm. Within a smaller class setting, allow your students to have a goodbye party. Let them celebrate the time they had together.
8. Give them a tangible gift / let them leave a tangible handprint
Schools often hand out a certificate at an end of year school assembly on the last day of school. On a more personal note, a class can create a pillow case, a t-shirt, a cap, or a national token of the host country that is signed by all. Do buy special markers that can be washed, otherwise all the kind messages can sadly be erased after its first trip to the washing machine. In return, let them leave something tangible behind, to leave their mark. It could be a handprint in a tile, a wall to send a postcard to, or a board that allows the leavers to leave a message and their signature. Finally, you could consider providing your students with My Moving Booklet, a workbook which allows them to write down their ‘moving’ story while guiding them through the transition process.
9. Think destination
Even though it is logical to focus much of the attention on leaving, encourage your students to share information about their new destination. They might want to do a little show and tell about their future home. Ideally, the next school has already reached out to these students. Some might have helped them connect to other families and students who can serve as mentors. Most likely, their new school contacted you earlier in the year for a recommendation. You may want to offer the possibility to touch base with you again at the end of the school year. Should the next school offer some kind of transition program, extra feedback on the student at the end of the year might be helpful and appreciated.
10. Reach out
Once September rolls around, take five to ten minutes to reach out to your ‘departed’ students and their families. Ask them how they are settling in and let them know they are missed. When it’s their birthday, you could get their old class together for a picture and attach it in a birthday email. Students, let alone their parents, usually will not expect you to care about them when they are not ‘your’ student any more. Especially when they are not in ‘your’ school any more. Let them know you do care, that they are remembered, and that they matter. You are likely to make a much bigger difference than you imagine.
• Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken (2009). Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth.
• Safe Passage: How mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it, by Douglas W. Ota (2014) Great Britain: Summertime Publishing
• Everywhere & Nowhere: Insights into Counselling the Globally Mobile, by Lois J. Bushong (2013). Indianpolis: Mango Tree Intercultural Services.
 Definition of TCK by David C. Pollock in the TCK Profile seminar material, Interaction, Inc., 1989, 1.
Clip art credit: (bon voyage image by Ewe Degiampietro from Fotolia.com)/ Tim/Winnie the Pooh
This article was written by International School Community member Valérie Besanceney. Over the past ten years, Valérie has been a primary school teacher at five different international schools on four different continents. Valérie is also the author of the children’s book B at Home: Emma Moves Again (Summertime Publishing, 2014). It is a fictional memoir about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move yet again. During the different stages of another relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason. My Moving Booklet (Summertime Publishing, 2015) is workbook that can be used with or without the chapter book and intended to help children to welcome the new challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them, together with their parents and teachers. For more information on her book and the topic of Third Culture Kids, please visit her website: www.valeriebesanceney.com.
PARTICIPATE IN OUR NEWEST PHOTO/IDEA CONTEST! Topic: “Something special that you do as a teacher to help your students leave well.” Top 3 photos/ideas will win free premium membership and either copy or a kindle version of Valerie’s book “B at Home: Emma Moves Again” Read the contest details and enter here.continue reading