4 ways to make the best of a Christmas abroad

For a teacher overseas, Christmas may feel strange – but little mindset changes can help to make it more magical
12th December 2020, 10:00am
Chris Barnes

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4 ways to make the best of a Christmas abroad

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/4-ways-make-best-christmas-abroad
Coronavirus: How International School Teachers Can Make The Most Of Christmas

As this term comes to an end, international teachers would usually be preparing to go on a few weeks' holiday: either a complete change of scene or returning to see family and friends for Christmas.

This year, travel will be minimised and the majority of those teaching overseas will be staying where they are due to restrictions in their current locations.

While Christmas is important to many of us - maybe for a reason of faith or simply because it provides a break and the opportunity to see family and friends - this year we have to accept that things are different.

Coronavirus: How international school teachers can make the most of Christmas

And while being "confined to quarters" may feel disappointing, there are still ways to make the most of this situation, wherever we are in the world.  

1. Embrace a different Christmas

Childhood forms our image of what this time of year "should" look like, and those views are hard to change. 

But many of us will have spent time with our classes finding out about how Christmas is celebrated in countries around the world.

If you have to stay where you are, this is an opportunity to mark Christmas in a completely different way - and perhaps find some new traditions.

Any of us with young children know that they love the novel as well as the familiar, whether that is introducing a new Christmas character or a story from another culture. 

Who knows, you might adopt a new custom that stays with you for years to come.

2. Get to know your colleagues better

We are all in this together. Take the opportunity to get to know your colleagues better during the holiday period. 

They will appreciate times to gather together and enjoy food and company (and perhaps some of your traditions!).  

Such occasions help to remove feelings of isolation and instead bring the "family feel" that international school communities do so well, as well as reducing the impact of the pandemic on mental health. 

We teach our students about the importance of being a community and looking after each other; now we can demonstrate this to each other.

3. Explore your local area properly

Holidays often become the time we go elsewhere: either back to our passport country or visiting a different country altogether.  The town or city where we work can go unexplored, no matter how long we are there. 

These current travel restrictions, therefore, give us the opportunity to explore our host town or region and discover the hidden gems - the ones that our local colleagues know and tell us about, but that we always put off seeing because we're busy during the week and are then travelling during the holidays. 

Now we have the opportunity and no excuses.

4. Keep it in perspective

The chances are that our current location is a safer place than the one to which we would be travelling.

While travel may be preferable, we can be grateful for our own health and safety and the fact that technology allows almost instantaneous connection with family and friends. Restrictions in our passport country mean that we wouldn't be able to see many of those that we usually see...so the tech provides greater protection and certainty for now.

The new year brings new hope and better prospects. Here's to the promise of 2021.

Chris Barnes is head of Year 6 at Crescendo-HELP International School, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He tweets as @MrBarnesTweets

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