Expats decisions and the turning point (2)

Having talked with many expat parents about their children’s education in Turkey, »»

Having talked with many expat parents about their children’s education in Turkey, I have learned from them that the educational experience varies in different international schools and private Turkish schools. Why is this?

It basically comes down to the administrators and teachers. It makes a world of difference if the expats who are administrators and teachers are feeling good about the place where they live and feel settled and their opinions and recommendations appreciated.

To make a child’s school experience positive, teachers who are truly motivated by really great administrators (and teachers, for that matter) are needed. With regards to administration, we all know any administrator can dictate what curriculum needs to be taught. They can give teachers the books, workbooks and kits to follow. The truth is, parents want their child’s teachers to be creative and excited about teaching. Parents decide to pay more money for education because they expect special treatment. By this I mean that parents want teachers to teach their children according to their individual needs. Successful school administrators achieve this goal. School administrators who know how to motivate and help teachers create this classroom environment do so because they know good teachers can change how our children view the world. Isn’t this what education is all about?

The type of textbooks used and style of teaching in a school reveals a lot about the school’s philosophy of education and how the child is expected to learn. By being the owner of a bookstore which offers book fairs in schools, this allows me the privilege to visit many schools. Education is not just about having the most modern school complex and all the latest technology and equipment. It is about the well-being of staff and students, too.

I am convinced that the education a student receives greatly determines how the child will perform in real life as an adult. M.A., who says he reads Today’s Zaman regularly to improve his English, sent a comment about government schools and the importance of education and the way children are being brought up. “I do not think the Turkish education system will move forward … because of our superiority complex. We always assume that the problems we are dealing with come from outside of Turkey [and are trying] to bring Turkey down. I love my country and want the best for it.”

In my piece, “Expats’ decisions and the turning point” (May 31, 2012), I mentioned that I would share some tips and information from two interviews with individuals who are seasoned experts in the field of education in Turkey. Let’s begin to look at what Ann Wilson, who is currently working as the head of English at a large elite Turkish private school, has to say about life as an expat teacher and administrator abroad.

Ann is a certified life coach and NLP master practitioner and brings a refreshing approach to the subject. Ann is equipped to conduct advanced change processes with individuals and groups, engage in cognitive and behavioral modeling projects and utilize advanced linguistic protocols for influencing change and design. This is a much needed skill anywhere, including Turkey.

Here are some of Ann’s comments to questions which any newcomer or person en route to Turkey will find helpful:

What do you suggest as an experienced expat professional to others to help them build the vital cross-cultural skills needed for working in Turkey?

It is helpful to learn the language to help manage day-to-day interactions. Travel as much as possible to other parts of Turkey as this gives you a broader perspective and understanding of the country. … Also it helps to be patient and not to expect things to work in the same way as in one’s native country. Having a positive attitude and the ability to appreciate differences is important.

Are there any cultural differences that the British/Westerners find difficult?

Driving in Turkey is hard. We are very used to obeying rules in our native countries and that is not so common here. Crowds can be daunting for foreigners. Public transport is challenging as we are not allowed to stand in our home countries, whereas here the buses are packed with people standing. I think in the West safety is something which we pay more attention to, so it can be challenging here. In the West we are used to queuing and here things are not so orderly. It can also be hard to manage one’s time here as people in general don’t have the same ideas about the use of time. It can also be challenging in a group setting as people are not so used to turn-taking or listening to one another. (More to come!)

“We think according to nature. We speak according to rules. We act according to custom.” -- Francis Bacon

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]