Becoming a TCK Teacher

Parents and Teachers

Both parents and teachers want students to grow up into good members of whatever society they live in.  They want to see change and growth and genuinely desire the best for the kids they interact with.  They want to see children who are happy, healthy, well rounded and deeply rooted in knowledge and understanding of the world, people and God.


Mothers are too many things to describe in the lives of their children. In general, mothers are the ones who listen to all hurts and hurt with their kids.  Who love unconditionally and know all the things their kids like and don’t like and the reasons behind them.  They give extra grace on bad days because they see where their kids are really struggling. They see that in the bigger picture kids sometimes need to be allowed to be stormy for a day more than they need correction in the moment. Moms want to do everything they can to help their kids avoid being hurt and to make their lives as free of difficulties as possible. In general moms do not like other people correcting their children, and take offence for their children. If a mom has homeschooled she has probably carefully researched the different programs and has chosen one for specific reasons and finds those philosophies important.


Teachers, especially those with some experience in classroom teaching, are people whose job it is to instruct students academically and behaviorally (so that the academics can be covered).  In general these are people who enjoy being around kids but have high expectations of respect and responsibility in a school setting.  They care more about students making academic progress and behaving appropriately than they do about how the students feel about what they are doing.  Teachers in general have good relationships with students but are more distant and authoritative with their students than other adults in the kids’ lives. In a classroom of 20-30 students a teacher must be the boss and must be obeyed or chaos will ensue, so most teachers have developed a system to let students know that the teacher is in charge and disobedience or challenges to authority will not be tolerated. Most classroom teachers in public schools are given curriculum to teach and given little freedom to deviate from it, they may have been instructed in how to come up with extra activities or ideas to make lessons more fun/interesting but have most likely been given little practice in doing that. Most public school teachers have likely spent very little time relating with students’ parents outside of scheduled parent-teacher conferences. They have been trained to look for what needs improvement in students and help the student and parents see those things and work on them, to tell the truth about these things in a kind but firm way.

Things for parents to think about:

When requesting a teacher be aware of what you are asking for and what your expectations of this person are.  Communicate those things clearly.

If you are requesting an experienced/trained teacher to come and homeschool your children; be aware that homeschooling is not something that will come naturally to the teacher.  It is a completely different way of approaching school with less formal structure than the teacher is accustomed to.

Be aware that a teacher is not a social worker or counselor.  They are not someone who is trained or adequate to meet a student’s social and emotional needs.  Though they may develop a great relationship with their new students and help as an Auntie or Uncle, this is not the primary role of a teacher and should not be expected unless that is communicated clearly as part of their assignment.

In general it is better for school with a teacher to take place outside the children’s home, especially if one or both of the parents will be home during school time.  This allows for a clearer definition of authority during school time and gives the teacher a stronger footing when dealing with classroom/school discipline issues. It also allows their home to be a place to relate to the teacher more informally outside of school time.

Are there some specific issues you would like to see dealt with in a school setting?  Communicate those things with a teacher.

Are there specific things that a teacher should know before coming into a teaching situation with your children?  Are there academic strengths/weaknesses, behavioral/ social/ emotional issues that will impact the children and teacher in a school setting?  Be as open as possible in your communication even before a teacher arrives so that they can have as much time as possible to plan and prepare things to help your children develop into Godly people. This will not taint the teacher’s view of your children, it will help them be better teachers and not feel caught off guard by these issues.

Remember that many tck teachers, especially ones who would choose to come and help in a homeschool situation, are younger, single and will need support.  They are people who will want and need community to be a part of and will likely have a heart for the nations and so will want some national relationships.  They will need help to get those needs met and will need to know that they are valued for more than what they can do for your children.

School teachers talk educational and behavioral issues over with other teachers to get guidance and suggestions.  This is something that the educational system promotes and is not intended to make anyone think less of the parents or students.  If the teacher is the only one in the area, he/she will likely need someone who is safe to talk with about educational issues that are not involved in the immediate school situation. It would be good to let the teacher know of one or two such trustworthy people.

In writing job descriptions, be very clear about what you want the teacher to do. Here are some clarifying questions:

1. Do you want someone to come in and provide assistance to the mother as a home school helper?  Someone to follow a curriculum and plan entirely chosen by the parents in a specific way? If so, someone with less training or experience might be better than a trained teacher with ideas of his/her own.  [Note: even a less trained person will have their own ideas, personality, gifting, and while he/she may be more flexible at following a plan laid out by the parent, he/she needs to be free to operate out of their SHAPE (spirit, heart, ability, personality, and experiences).  Also, even a helper needs to receive respect from the students at all times, and parents need to support this helper/teacher by providing a united front when the children are present.  Any disagreements need to be worked out with the teacher and parent apart from the children.  Just as moms and dads need to love and support one another to their children—not siding with the children against one of the parents–parents need to show this kind of support to and belief in their helper/teacher.]

2. Do you want someone to come in and take over the children’s education completely and free up the parents to pursue ministry?  If so, are the parents ready to give up control of the school setting and environment and allow the teacher to run school in the best way he/she sees fit?

3. Do you want some one to come and be a big brother/big sister to the children and help meet some of their more social needs?  This would be something to include in a job description and is not necessarily something that a teacher would do within school time. [Note:  If this is the goal, then a TCK teacher is not really what needs to be requested.  Kids need to have their social needs met within the local and expat community.]

Things for teachers to think about:

Are you ready to take on a challenge that is completely different than any teaching experience you have had thus far?

You likely have a heart for the nations and will want national relationships of your own.  Realize that your teaching job is important, it is a ministry in itself, it is valuable and deserves your time and full attention.  It will be difficult to get time outside of your “foreign bubble” to develop those friendships, but worth any effort you will spend doing it.  Ask others for help in finding some local people to start relating to. [Note: College students in your area who have some English language abilities can be excellent friends.]

How do you plan to communicate with the parents of your new students?  Remember that you will have much more interaction with the parents than you have likely had with any student’s parents in your experience.  You will need to maintain a relationship with them and allow them to be part of the education process while yourself being in charge of it.

Have you asked specific questions of the parents to find out what it is they expect of you?

You will likely have some educational or behavioral issues that you will need to discuss with someone who is not the children’s parents.  Ask the parents who is someone they would trust to give you solid advice, but is not immediately involved with the situation. [Note: It is good to find an objective third party (not a team member or close friend) who can speak truth into the situation.  Sometimes the teacher needs to make changes she is not accustomed to, however, most often the parents need to allow the teacher more control and support her more.  Parents do not want their kids to suffer and DO feel their pain. The reality is that even the best of children will whine and complain when they have to do something they don’t like.  Everyone needs to experience some pain and frustration in life, it is part of growing up and becoming a person of gratitude instead of a person of entitlement.  By sparing our children of the pain, we prevent needed things from happening in their lives.]

In public school teaching a prevalent attitude for teachers to have is “I’m the boss in this room, we do things my way in my classroom, your feelings about that aren’t of great consequence.” While this may be true, parents of tck’s tend to see it as harsh. Are you prepared to stand firmly but gently in your authority as a teacher while listening to more advice from parents than you ever have before?  [Note:  You do need to be willing to listen to the advice of the parents.  They have been on the field longer, they have been teaching their children, and they have a lot of great insights that you may have never thought about or experienced before.  On the other hand, MOMS, please recognize that your kids’ teacher has a lot of new and fresh ideas that you may have never thought about.  Please realize and respect them by allowing them to have final say in the classroom.  Please require your kids to obey and respect them.]

Parents of tck’s can tend to be somewhat overprotective.  They see all the complications of having their children grow up overseas and often feel that their choice to move their children to challenging places made their children’s lives more difficult.  They want to do everything they can to protect and shelter them from extra difficulties.  You may have many differences of opinion with the parents on how classroom discipline and work issues should be handled.  How do you plan to handle those differences of opinion? Have you communicated that with the parents?

It would be good to set up parent-teacher conferences every month or two at first, possibly less frequently as time goes on, with both parents present and a mediator if you think this is necessary.  Outside of these scheduled meetings do your best to develop a relationship with the parents that isn’t based on you being their child’s teacher.  [Note:  Teachers—spend time with other families, local friends, church friends, etc.  Parents—please don’t talk to teachers about school or discipline issues other than at scheduled school time.  For example, if your teacher comes to dinner or movie night make a commitment to only have fun and not talk shop!  And please do include your teacher in fun outings or home experiences so she can relate to you and your kids as friend.  It is not your teacher’s job to be your kids’ friend inside or outside the classroom; however, it could be a very positive thing for outside of the classroom.  A parent who is enforcing limits and boundaries in raising their children know that there will be times in which their children will be mad at them or hate them.  A parent needs to be strong enough not to cave in to their children, but rather uphold the limits and boundaries for the end goal.  Likewise, children will get mad at and maybe even “hate” their teacher from time to time.  Parents and teachers SHOULD bring about such frustration from time to time in a child’s growing up years.  This is what helps children understand that they are not God.]

When on a school campus you have the authority to correct any child who does wrong in front of you, be careful about doing this when you are around your students and it is not school time.  [Note:  Teachers, when you are over for family fun night or dinner, or when you see your students at church or some other setting, please take off your teacher authority hat.  This would be time to let their behavior slide and leave the reproof to the parent.  And, even if the parent doesn’t do anything, you need to remain quiet—or talk to the parent about it at another time.  However, if the family comes to your home, though you will leave discipline to the parents, it is okay to tell the parents and the child that jumping on the furniture in your home is not okay with you…or some other such situation.]

Look for people you can be around in your off time who you can just have some fun with that has nothing to do with school.

Things to clarify while you are getting started:

  1. Where will school be held? What furniture or other things are in the room?  Is there freedom to rearrange/add to/ remove things from the room? Does the place serve another purpose when not being used for school?  [Note:  Parents, please if possible, give your teacher as much freedom to set up the classroom in a way that suits her.]
  2. How will students know to come to school?  What signal will be used and who will give the signal? If breaks are taken, how long will they be and who will call the children back to school after the break?  [Note:  I recommend that parents and teacher work together on developing a schedule with regular appointed times for starting, stopping, and taking breaks.  Even if school is done in the family’s home, I still recommend that the teacher release the children at break times and not be interrupted by the parents, even if the teacher goes over a few minutes.  I think the use of a kitchen timer set by the teacher is an appropriate way to signal the children back from break.  Students need to learn to watch the time and be responsible.  A teacher can tell them what time to be back and in their seats, and the students should comply.  Rewards or consequences can be established up front for timeliness/tardiness.]
  3. How will students come to school (transportation, appearance, general readiness)
  4. Are the philosophies behind the chosen curriculum important to the parents?  Is the teacher expected to read and buy into these philosophies?
  5. What are the goals of the school year?
  6. How important is sticking to the curriculum to the parents?  To the teacher?
  7. Are extracurricular activities desired? By whom?  What will these be?  Who will provide supervision or funding for them?
  8. What will school hours be?  If more or less time is needed to cover all the material for the day is the schedule flexible?
  9. Will homework be given? How often and how much? What will the consequences of incomplete homework be?
  10. Will grades be given?  How often? In what subjects?
  11. What are the standards of behavior in the classroom?
  12. If/when discipline issues arise in the classroom, is the teacher free to correct the behavior as he/she sees fit?  What will be the consequences for specific misbehaviors, unfinished tasks, tardiness…[Note:  Parents, please give your teacher power and authority in the classroom to establish appropriate rules, rewards and consequences.  Teachers, please do not use corporal punishment or shame.  Parents, when a child comes to you sad about facing what seems to them as an unfair consequence, please side with the teacher.  Empathize with your child…tell them you are sad with them.  Ask them to express to you how they feel about it.  Often, kids just need to know that Mom cares and loves them.  Though they may hope you will take away the consequences, ultimately they are testing the boundaries and need you to uphold those boundaries.]
  13. If a discipline problem occurs during a break time and a parent is present, who will correct the child/children?  [Note:  Let me suggest that if a parent is in charge of the break providing snack and spending time with the kids, that the parents handle the discipline problem.  If the teacher is in charge of the break and a parent just happens to walk in or be around, then the teacher should be in charge of the discipline issue…with one exception.  If the discipline issue is the student disobeying or disrespecting the parent during that break, then that is a parent/child issue, not a teacher/student issue.]


Also See:

Hiring, Training, and Supervising a Local to Homeschool


2 thoughts on “Becoming a TCK Teacher

  1. Pingback: Third Culture Kids « The Education Cafe

  2. Pingback: Lessons Learned from Training a Local to Homeschool « The Education Cafe

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