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Action Research Report

Adam Duchac
Dr. Tammy Gregersen
TESOL 6286
July 6, 2015

1. Choose a topic/problem concerning TCKs that interests you.


Does talking about home create anxiety among TCKs?
2. Re-read the sections of our TCK text that particularly focus on your chosen topic. Write two
or three paragraphs summarizing what our authors say about it.
The topic of home seems to be a source of anxiety for many TCKs. Pollock and Van Reken
quote the questions Where are you from and Where is home? as a source of dread for many
TCKs (p. 123). The authors see this as such a large problem that they dedicated an entire chapter to
it: Rootlessness and Restlessness. Throughout the text, we find one of the main characters, Erika,
constantly struggling with the idea of home and its application to her life. Pollock talks to a young
man, Ben, in chapter 9 and gets an answer of where my parents are to the question of home (p.
125). A few other TCKs are interviewed, and all of them give varying answers to the question, but all
struggle with the idea of home and what it means to their individual situations.
Another area of contention for many TCKs is the notion of restlessness. The authors state that
...with their (TCKs) chronic rootlessness is a feeling of restlessness (p. 126). This feeling of
restlessness can lead to serious long term effects and the inability to call a place home for the long
term, something that can be detrimental to academic life, career, and family (p. 127). The authors
offer a few solutions (buy a house in the parents home country to give TCKs a sense of
permanence for a few months each year, and work towards creating strong relationships that defy the
boundaries of home), but I would like to go deeper with a survey that addresses the idea of home
and whether or not it evokes a negative response.

3. List the objectives of your action research project.


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Find out if students experience distress when thinking of home.


Identify if home is a geographical place.
Identify if home is a mental place.
Identify if home is a place where family and friends are.

4. Define your problem/Create a hypothesis/State your question.


In the Pollock and Van Reken text, the authors discuss rootlessness and restlessness as being
a major obstacle for TCKs. The problem I would like to broach is the meaning of home and whether
or not it is a source of anxiety for TCKs.
My hypothesis is that the idea of home is a mental construct that varies from individual to
individual, but that it is a source of negativity for many TCKs as they view themselves as not having
an official home, or dont know how to answer the question Where is home? without associating
it with being not normal.
I would like my survey to be based around the following question: Does the word home
make you feel anxious?
5. Gather data by using surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, an experiment, or another
information gathering technique that works for you.
I emailed the statements below to twenty students and friends who would qualify as TCKs or ATCKs.
Instead of using a survey response website (like surveymonkey.com), I directly emailed the students
and asked them to do two things with the statements:
1. Write if they strongly agree (SA), slightly agree (SLA), are neutral (N), slightly
disagree (SLD), or strongly disagree (SD) with each statement.

2. Describe how each statement made them feel, or if they had a reaction to the statement
at all.
As I know all of the students on a personal level, I thought this approach would be more appropriate
than an anonymous survey. This would also help me to distinguish who said what, and perhaps give
me more insight into why students acted a certain way in class.
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When someone asks me where Im from, it makes me feel anxious.


I do not like when someone asks me where I am from.
I consider myself to have a home.
I do not consider myself to have a home.
I consider home to be where my family and friends are.
I consider home to be a geographical place.
After staying in the same place for a few years, I feel the need to move again.
I feel home at school with my teachers and friends.
I feel at home when Im with my family.

6. Show your results.


Of the twenty surveys sent out, I received ten replies. Six of the replies came from students (all six
aged 13-14 and recent graduates of eighth grade) and four of the replies came from adults (aged 29,
33, 37, and 41). The six students parents come from various countries in Africa:
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four from Sudan (both parents are Sudanese and now live in Korea)
one from Angola (the father currently lives in England, but is from Angola, while the

mother is Angolan and lives with her son in Korea)


- one from Egypt (both parents are Egyptian and now live in Korea)
Of those six, five were born and raised in Korea and only visit their home countries in the summer.
These six students have all experienced racial problems living in Korea since I began teaching them

in 2013.
The four ATCKs all come from different backgrounds.
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two currently live in Korea, but grew up in various southeast Asian countries with

parents who were international school teachers from the U.S.


- one lives in England but grew up in Egypt to parents who worked for the U.S. State
Department
- one lives in the U.S. but grew up in Mexico to parents from the U.S. who worked for
the United States Agency of International Development (USAID)
For each statement, I have recorded the percentage of responses. In section seven, I have attached
quotes from the participants.
-

When someone asks me where Im from, it makes me feel anxious.

SA- 30% , SLA- 30% , N- 10% , SLD- 0%, SD- 30%


- I do not like when someone asks me where I am from.
SA- 70% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 10%
-

I consider myself to have a home.

SA- 60% , SLA- 30% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


-

I do not consider myself to have a home.

SA- 0% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 40%, SD- 50%


-

I consider home to be where my family and friends are.

SA- 70% , SLA- 30% , N- 0% , SLD- 0%, SD- 0%

I consider home to be a geographical place.

SA- 0% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 30%, SD- 60%


-

After staying in the same place for a few years, I feel the need to move again.

SA- 80% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


-

I feel (or felt) at home at school with my teachers and friends.

SA- 30% , SLA- 60% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


-

I feel at home when Im with my family.

SA- 70% , SLA- 20% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


7. Interpret the data.
Below each statement, I have attached my analysis and quotes from participants. For the sake of
brevity, I have included what I have deemed to be the most intriguing of quotes, and have put
statements into similar categories where applicable. Not all respondents gave a written response with
each statement.
-

When someone asks me where Im from, it makes me feel anxious.

SA- 30% , SLA- 30% , N- 10% , SLD- 0%, SD- 30%


This statement was met with mixed results. All of the eighth graders agreed, while the four adults
answered in the neutral and disagree realms. I wonder if this is due to maturity levels and being more
comfortable in social situations, which usually comes with age. R, a TCK from Angola, responded by

saying, I have so many different ways of answering this question. It even confuses me! While, V, an
ATCK said, As a kid, I used to feel uncomfortable when someone asked me this question, and I was
asked it a lot. But now, as an adult, I feel more confident in my answer even though I dont really
know where my home is.
-

I do not like when someone asks me where I am from.

SA- 70% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 10%


The results of this statement struck me as interesting due to the fact that the numbers are the opposite
of the first statement. I would have thought they would have stayed the same. Just because statement
one did not make participants feel uneasy, it does not mean that they like being asked the question. M,
a TCK from Sudan said, People always ask me this because my skin is so dark. When I tell them I
was born in Korea, sometimes people get angry and say thats not true, how could I be born with such
dark skin in Korea? I wish I wasnt asked this question at all, because it never ends up being an easy
answer or an easy conversation. V, an ATCK from the U.S. said, I dont mind answering the
question, but I still dont like being asked. Its not that it brings up negative emotions, its just a
complicated answer, and something that I dont feel like sharing a lot of the time. These responses
are in line with Pollock and Van Rekens work (2009). Pollock interviewed a number of TCKs, and
many had the same feelings towards being asked where home is (p. 123-126).
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I consider myself to have a home.

SA- 60% , SLA- 30% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


-

I do not consider myself to have a home.

SA- 0% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 40%, SD- 50%


Results of these two statements were very similar. Perhaps the wording I used was too general, or
maybe the participants did not understand the use of the world home. All participants, with the
exception of one, considered themselves to have a home of some sorts. B from Angola considered his
home to be in England, where his father lives, even though he has never lived there himself. He visits
every summer and said that it just feels like home. Its where my dad, brother and sister live. Even
though my mom and dad are divorced, and I live in Korea with my mom, it feels like home. There are
a lot of black people in my neighborhood in Manchester, and I dont get stared at all the time like I do
here. People say things to me a lot, like Im a gangster or something. Bs statement is interesting,
and sad, to me. I am glad that he feels a sense of home somewhere in the world, but it is upsetting that
he is racially profiled just about every day.
-

I consider home to be where my family and friends are.

SA- 70% , SLA- 30% , N- 0% , SLD- 0%, SD- 0%


-

I feel (or felt) at home at school with my teachers and friends.

SA- 30% , SLA- 60% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


-

I feel at home when Im with my family.

SA- 70% , SLA- 20% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 0%


-

I consider home to be a geographical place.

SA- 0% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 30%, SD- 60%

Nearly all of the respondents, with the exception of one, felt that they were most at home around
family and friends. Pollock and Van Reken wrote that home, for many TCKs, is defined by
relationships (p. 125). Three of the four adult responses discussed the idea of home as that of a place
where those closest to you reside. One of the ATCKs said, It doesnt matter what country or city my
parents live in. Wherever I visit them over the holidays is where I call home. While the eighth grade
TCKs were all in the area of agreement on home consisting of family and friends, two of them said
something different in their written response. H from Sudan wrote that I do feel at home around my
family and at school (in Korea), but I also feel at home in Sudan, around my extended family. I really
feel a connection to Sudan even though Ive never lived there. Maybe its because I fit in better there
(I assume he is talking about race). This was the only response that indicated home to be both an
emotional and physical place.
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After staying in the same place for a few years, I feel the need to move again.

SA- 40% , SLA- 10% , N- 0% , SLD- 10%, SD- 50%


This response was interesting as nearly all of the adults mentioned the urge to constantly move, or at
least travel, whereas the eighth graders were all happy to remain stationary, with the exception of a
few wanting to move home. Pollock and Van Reken discuss a migratory instinct that invades the
lives of many TCKs, and how that urge to constantly move can make for a difficult adulthood (p. 126127). An interesting add on to this survey would have been to discuss migratory instincts and they
have shaped the lives of ATCKs.
8. Draw your conclusions.

This short survey with ten responses only scratches the surface of what home means to TCKs and
ATCKs. The idea of home is different to everyone, and can take on an infinite number of meanings.
The responses to this survey reinforce my hypothesis that home is a mental construct, and that with
age, the idea of home changes. It also reinforces the fact that the word home creates anxiety among
TCKs. While the adult responses did not mention anxiety, the younger group all felt anxiety upon
hearing the word. Again, this might relate to the maturity level of the responders. The findings
mirrored much of what Pollock and Van Reken found, but also elaborated on the meaning of home. If
I think of my definition of home, it follows the very ideas mentioned in this project. My wife and I
have moved to five countries together, and have always considered our home to be where and when
we are together. Collecting this information has made me think about what home means to past,
present, and future students, but it has also opened up many more questions.
References
Pollock, D.C., & Van Reken, R.E. (2009). Third culture kids: Growing up among worlds.
Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.