Emotions run high when ten and eleven year old children go on camp. Especially when there are 130 Year 6 children going together. There is excitement and apprehension, and everything in between. On camp there are tears and laughter. Some children seem barely consolable one minute- tearful and homesick – and excited and involved the next.
The year 6 camp involved 4 days away, with 3 nights in a hotel near Kanchanaburi. Activities included hiking, and a swim below a waterfall. There were adventure activities such as a flying fox and a swing bridge. There was also a group challenge activity. Children could also choose biking, cooking, archery and rock climbing from a range of options.
Camp gives opportunities to all kids. It gives them opportunities to bond with their peers and make new friends. It also gives them opportunities to challenge themselves. For some this may be overcoming the fear of being away from family in a new and unfamiliar place. For others it may be trying new activities. A swing bridge is a cause of great excitement for many, for others it’s a source of fear and trepidation. For one child success is running across as fast as possible, for another it is finally getting across after twice falling in.
As a teacher who supports children who sometimes struggle the change is palpable. The tears of night two – when tiredness after two long days gets the better of many – gives way to the excitement of an action filled day three. The children who were sobbing and needed someone to talk through their fears last night, barely notice adults today. They are having too much fun, and they are making new friends.
These small steps towards independence make the (teacher’s) 18 hour days worthwhile. Once children have achieved something, they don’t look back, and hopefully the next challenge that they face will feel less daunting.
We had tears, laughter, scraped knees and a lot of fried chicken and rice! We got wet on kayaks and rafts we built, sore on mountain bikes and ropes. We put up tents and put them down again, but didn’t sleep in them. Instead we slept on marble tiles with a mattress thrown over. We kept our water bottles full and hats on. We visited a market and bought local sweets. We sang round a campfire and cooked marshmallows wearing long sleeves and mosquito repellent. We shouted and chatted and chatted and eventually slept. We did things we had done before and things that were new. We missed our mum and dad and our comfy bed. We had no phones, no iPad, TV or XBox.
We packed up and left, reunited with our parents. Back to our home comforts and love. But the memories we made and the challenges we overcame will be with us in our memories forever!
Within an international school community people are always on the move. Globally mobile families with children may stay in one place for a number of years or may need to move after a couple of years. People working for international businesses and the self employed may find that they have to move as market conditions dictate. And these moves can be sudden. Diplomats, military and NGO employees may have a fixed term posting. Teachers in international schools typically work on renewable contracts of one or two years and have to decide early in the school year if they want to renew them. As families move they need to find a new school for their children. These highly mobile people are sometimes called ‘global nomads’ and their children are sometimes called ‘third culture kids’ or TCKs.
There are many advantages for children as they move from one international school to another, or in and out of a national education system. They get to experience different cultures and may be exposed to an international perspective that may be lacking at ‘home’. They are likely to have friends from many countries, and get to visit amazing places. For many children it is also an opportunity to add another language to their mother tongue, with some children becoming proficient in two or more languages. These children often become resilient and independent as they adapt to new circumstances and make new friends.
But not all children are the same and some may find this flexible lifestyle does not suit them. Some children may find the transition to a new school difficult. Others may find an unfamiliar curriculum and new language demands too much to handle. Some children will have learning challenges, for example dyslexia, and others may have social or emotional differences. The greater the barriers to learning, the greater the challenge. Many international schools may not have the level of support that is available in the national systems of higher income countries. There may also be a stigma attached to learning differences in some countries that is not usual at ‘home’.
It is true that more and more international schools are able to meet a greater range of individual children’s needs and very many children will gain a lot from an international education. Parents need to be aware of their child’s needs and make sure that the school that they choose is able to support all of these needs. This support must continue to be available as the child moves through her schooling.
In a small number of instances an international education may not be the best fit for a child. They may be happier and more successful with the support networks that are available at ‘home’. These networks may include family and friends, as well as educational support. If this is the case parents should not be afraid to put the interests of their child first. Their choice may be between going to a city with a suitable school, or staying at home.
Join us at STEPS with Theera Cafe to find out more about this new vocational training centre which offers work based learning experiences alongside an accredited life skills programme with further education options available. Suitable for ages 14+ and with teaching in English and Thai, they offer full or part time enrolment. Please join us to learn more about what might be an option for your child now or in the future.
Theeta Hotrakitya & Max Simpson are the brains behind this new initiative. They both have extensive experience working with kids with special needs. In their words,
Steps with Theera is a cafe and vocational training centre for teens & young adults with special needs and for those who benefit from an alternative pathway. Our focus is sustainable and fulfilling employment opportunities, life skills and independence. We work towards a community of acceptance and equality with a strong ethos in giving our trainees the chance to show the able in disabled.
We have just got back from Year 4 camp at the Wild Lodge, Khao Yai. We were there for 2 days and one night, during that time we did a lot of activities including boldering, low ropes, climbing and abseiling, a river walk and bug hunting. In the evening we had a campfire, sang songs and roasted marshmallows.