As an international teacher of color and proud TCK (Third Culture Kid), I often find myself being the only one or part of a minority group of teachers who are not the ‘standard’ international teacher, who fits the profile as ‘native speaker, western, and light-skinned’. The question that often arose in my mind and like-minded people is, “What does native speaker mean?” Does this question often relate to language skill, ethnicity, skin color or background? However, the more I pondered, observed and discovered in my experiences, this means more to the latter; which brings us back to the question of which became the result of skill vs ethnicity. Let’s begin to really unpack and dig deeper into this.
Many researches have shown that diversity in schools are beneficial to our society. With the growing migration and international job opportunities around the world, the demand for international education follows suit which created different schools of thoughts, philosophies, curriculums and practices; all driven to provide a holistic, enriching and global-minded education to children. However, the reality is that educators who are hired to be the ‘instructors’ and ‘role-models’ of these great elements of education are often lacking in diversity. Considering the fact that most international schools have a diverse population of students from all over the world, shouldn’t educators be represented by the same amount of diversity too? Where is the standard of being ‘internationally-minded’ and ‘multicultural’ represented in any given school? How do we rectify this and should we?
From my experiences teaching internationally, I have been blessed and also cursed at the same time. Some experiences really made me feel like I am a contributor and part of something great in education; trying to make a difference in this world by doing small acts and making changes as an educator who believes that education is a right for all children, regardless of wealth, background and geographical location. However, there were some experiences which made me feel small, insignificant, rejected and unwanted because of how I look like, speaking with an accent and my multi-cultural background. It became a chore trying to explain my background, identity and who I am as a person which affected my job as an educator as I felt victimized and paralyzed. I kept questioning myself, “Is this for real? Do all good educators have to be western, white and of certain look or speak a certain accent?” It made me insecure and unsure about my decision to continue pursuing a career as an international educator.
Fortunately, travelling and a passion for education helped me to continue my career as an educator which also sparked a fighting spirit and determination to change the way education should look, sound and feel like. It made me realize that there are many factors contributing to the lack in diversity of educators in international schools. These factors range from cultural expectations, norms, economic prosperity, societal needs, income levels, status and background, and even unfamiliarity with change or others outside the group. All these add to the definition on what makes a good international teacher which often relates back to the specification of ‘native speaker, western and light-skinned’ profile.
A few questions to extend and ask ourselves are, “How can we empower all educators to become the best teachers today?” and “Are we being fair to our children in giving them equal opportunities and knowing their identities through education?” Hence, diversity is KEY to develop global-minded citizens who will lead and run the world as our future. Start embracing, accepting and promoting diversity and equality today if we want a better tomorrow!continue reading