To children who successfully navigate a lifetime of change, the world is a garden of exotic gifts, a house of treasure to explore and take in. Transferred from place to place, young and porous, global nomad children collect and absorb experiences. Their personalities become amalgams of those cultures they internalize and claim as their own. Perched for a while in a new environment, they experience each move as an occasion for growth, a chance to blossom in new ways.
From – Unrooted Childhoods -“ Memories of Growing Up Global
Out of the Vault
Not Wanting to be at the International School
It all started 16 months ago. Izzat walked into my international school. He did not want to be here. He had moved to a strange country. He did not speak English, and he wanted to be safe at home with his Mommy. He was five years old. This was his first school experience, and he was 5,000 miles away from what he had called home.
Izzat’s parents were eager to fit into their new location, and they wanted their son to fit into school. Izzat was scared he didn’t want to be here.
We spent the first ten days of the school year joined at the hip. Or I should say, as long as Izzat could hold my hand or my leg as we walked around the campus trying to do my counseling job. Many of the other students asked if he was my son.
I could get Izzat to go to recess because he liked to play with the balls. I could get him to go to lunch because he was hungry. As far as going to class, he had not bought into the fact that school meant ‘learning.’ He didn’t understand that school meant doing what the teacher wanted and being with a whole bunch of other kids his age.
Finally, he decided to like the smaller English as a Second Language class, and I was able to have periods of time in my office without Izzat. His parents were wonderful, but they did not know how to help him. His teachers were excellent, but they could not get him to stop coming to my office whenever he got stressed or confused. They were wonderful, but he just was not comfortable in their environment. His peers wanted to support him and help him, but he often would run away from them and seek me out.
It was a very long time to get Izzat comfortable enough to stay with his peers. We gradually went from mastering the comfortable zone of one activity towards another one. We were blessed that the Physical Education teacher asked Izzat to stay longer and help with the other classes where there were other five years old peers. This free time allowed me actually to see some of the other kids I was serving. Slowly the need to be by my side was replaced to be near the other adults in his school day. Gradually his ability to communicate in English became stronger.
When it was time for Izzat to start school his next September at our school, he acted like a real pro. He only stopped by once in a while to chat.
But That First Week of December was a Sad Time for Me.
Izzat ran across the playground, yelling in English for his friend to stop. Izzat said, “Wait for me!”
He grabbed my hand and squeezed it and then it quickly it became a full body hug. It was quick but intense.
He said, “Ms. Julia, I am moving to a new school.”
I replied, “I will miss you, when will you leave?”
Izzat proudly stated, “Before Christmas.”
Then he ran away to play with his friend as I turned to go into my office. He ran back. “I will really miss you.”
He was a child that has mastered making friends, learning a new language, being a risk taker and being bold. At our school, he had many houses of treasure to explore and take in. As he moved to his new school, I hope he took the lessons he had learned here. He had successfully navigated a lifetime of change in just 16 short months.
Christmas is always an interesting to time to reconnect with family and friends. Sometimes, when I least expect it, I get a note from parents I have worked with or from their children. Today as I was searching for a unique Christmas decoration, I ran into the letter I got from Izzat when he was going to get ready for his last semester in High School. I remember his small hand tightly clutching mine, and I wonder how big and strong his hands are today.
Sometimes Christmas memories make me cry.