Educator Acculturation while Living and Working Overseas: Stories from Seventeen Sojourning Teachers and School Leaders at International Schools
Stroud Stasel, Rebecca
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The demand for teachers overseas far outweighs the supply. International school teachers, counselors, and leaders—collectively referred to as educators—become sojourners, living between home and host cultures, which brings both opportunities and challenges, but how do they manage to thrive once in their host country? Policyscapes, metaphorical pools of diverse policies and pedagogies, and culture shock present ubiquitous challenges for sojourning educators. This study explored factors that affect educator thriving overseas in the context of acculturation. To date, the body of research on educators’ acculturation experiences overseas is scarce. Psychological acculturation theories have covered many sojourner groups, but not educators, which is significant because educators are responsible for students, many of whom are also acculturating while attending international schools. This narrative qualitative study followed seventeen participants who were Anglo-Western-certified teachers and educational leaders, working at international schools. The seventeen sojourning educators were living and working in Macau, mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, and did not identify as belonging to that host culture. The study used the following instruments: field logs, interviews, reflex journals, photovoice, and memory box. Findings provided data about the lived experiences of sojourning educators, namely: sojourning experiences linked with one’s personal identity exploration; effective self-leadership strategies used by participants; effective onboarding/induction practices at one school that could be replicated in other international schools; acculturative stress linked with organizational and host cultures, policyscapes, leadership supports as well as being a leader, and the Covid-19 pandemic; and a comparative analysis of the findings with culture shock theory. Implications for theory lay a foundation for an educator acculturation framework. Implications for practice include propositions for educators, for professional learning, and teacher training. Implications for international school policy include the need for multiple stakeholder engagement to better understand and address policyscapes. Reflections on implications for methodology are provided. Finally, the study concludes with implications for further research.