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Home, sweet, home? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 21 November 2017

November 22, 2017
Home Sweet Home Ballard

Home, sweet, home?

My wife and I have recently visited friends in the West Country who have returned to the UK after teaching overseas for 10 years. They are settling into new school posts in a part of the country where they grew up as youngsters and yet are still asking themselves the question,

‘Where is Home?’

This sense of isolation and lack of belonging is not unusual when moving to one part of this country to another, let alone overseas and back. I remember when we moved from Scotland after twelve years, where our three children were born and went to primary school, to England. There was a tangible feeling of grief and homesickness even though we were still living in the UK. Scottish accents were lost quickly so that our children could more easily settle into their new school and we worked hard to make new friends, to get involved in a local church and to familiarise ourselves with the locality.

On being a Third Culture Kid

Our time overseas following five years in England brought its own challenges as we adapted to life in India. Some nine years later we returned to live here in Hampshire and the question posed by our friends in the South West was on our lips, too:

‘Where is Home?’

In India we had become familiar with the TCK (third culture kid) syndrome: children and adults born in one country, bearing a passport to another and then schooled in a third (and perhaps any number of other countries in between). It meant that friendships overseas were intense for a time (and traditions from the ‘old country’ practiced strongly) until families moved on and the grief settled in meaning that the next time we would perhaps ensure our friendships were held more lightly so as to dull the pain of the inevitable time of separation to come.

The solution for this feeling?

There is no easy solution to this sense of not being at home anywhere. Time does help to ‘heal’, of course, and it’s very important to hang on to valuable experiences and training in other cultures and settings. Parochialism in the UK, strange for a nation which has over centuries populated and reached so much of the world, needs challenging. Our West Country friends told us about a Northern Irish colleague who had taught with them overseas for six years. When she went ‘home’ to NI and visited the local Job Centre she was asked where she had been for the past few years. ‘Teaching in India for six years’, she said. The Job Centre official said,

‘Ok, I’ll write here on your form that you’ve done some part-time volunteering previously.’

Such ignorance – even cheek – and just as well that this hard working teacher from an Indian boarding school setting and almost 24/7 commitment has a sense of humour!

Home Sweet Home Ballard

Home IS where the heart is

I suppose what I want to suggest is that it’s very true that ‘home is where the heart is’. For those who have moved countries or counties do indeed leave something of themselves in their previous locality and it’s natural to yearn after those places. There will be a period of feeling lost, even adrift (like on a rowing boat between banks of a river), before landfall is made and, to mix my metaphors, firmer roots established. Be gentle with yourselves if this is what you are going through and, for those receiving the bereft in the new location, also be gentle, accepting and patient of the incomers. Value their experiences – they may need to talk about them repeatedly for a while – whilst directing your new colleagues or neighbours to begin to see what is good, valuable and trustworthy in their new locality. Home is indeed where the heart is – but sometimes the heart needs to catch up with the body and this can take months, even years!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster and TCK)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Katy hand permalink
    November 22, 2017 8:03 am

    Very interesting and thoughtful post, food for thought, thank you

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