It’s time for us to say good-bye – and to thank you for everything you did for us over the past four years: for educating our three boys, for making them feel confident and happy at school, for teaching them Turkish (and all other subjects) and transforming them into proper ‘Turkish’ boys.
You welcomed us four years ago without hesitation, and you have borne with us throughout these four years. Perhaps it was equal curiosity on either side. Taking three boys who didn’t speak any Turkish must have been a challenge for you just as it has been for them. Perhaps dealing with parents that didn’t speak any Turkish was even worse for you. And yet: not a single time did we feel unwelcomed, or treated like a ‘yabancı’ – quite the opposite!
Açı was a wonderful experience for our boys (and us) and we are glad we made the right choice. The boys now all speak Turkish – Alban has gone native anyway, closely followed by Leandre. It’s a pity for Basile that we are leaving now, as at least one more year would have been good for him to solidify his command of Turkish. We saw with what dedication to you talked to Alban, we saw with what passion you taught Leandre, we saw how Basile cuddled with his teachers (his blond hair might have helped) – and it was this warmth in you as educators that all our boys cherished. It was the same with all teachers, from Turkish and English over Arts (they loved it) and Music (thanks for the concerts) to Sports.
Without limiting our gratitude to the others, we would like to send some special thanks to those of you that were there from the very first days – like Ms Katie who helped Alban in year 1 and Leander now in year 2 get rid of their English accent. Or Ms Julia who helped with translation, cross-cultural support and just everything we need to deal with. But also all the others who helped with translating and supporting in all directions.
The service bus worked well, apart from some initial hiccup (and no, we still don’t use Turkish swear words at home, so they cannot have gotten those from us), and accommodated stoically almost all our requests (often last minute) for taking them to different playdates all over town. In fact, it was very cute to see all three take the bus together this past year.
It was this flawless organization of the school in all aspects of the education that was highly impressive, and you, Ms Berrin, should be very proud of this fine school leadership. In a way our boys felt at home; loved the facilities from the library to ICT, from the sports grounds to the classrooms. Just take a small example: that our boys were greeted by name at the front door by the güvenlik from the second week onwards, was just impressive.
We parents didn’t speak any Turkish, making it difficult to communicate with us. But you have never given us a hard time because of this. Actually, very much the opposite: at each meeting, you drew in the translation skills of another teacher, thus doubling your effort to communicate properly with us. You were patient with us when we got upset, and understanding when we didn’t understand. Believe us that the fact that we didn’t go to many parents-teachers meetings was not because of a disinterest. It was simply because we felt we had sufficient positive information from you to realize that our kids were actually in good hands with you.
Alban developed over time a rich set of friendships that he would now love to maintain going forward. The same for Leander and even Basile. Thank you particularly for assisting Basile in orientating himself at school, and allowing him to draw on the emotional support of his bigger brother Leandre during garden times. Actually, from Leander we heard the least from school – but we interpreted this in the positive sense – the less we hear, the better it must be going.
From an educational approach, In general, we were impressed how you have embraced 21st century skills in education – certainly Açı is the most advanced school we know in Turkey in this respect – and I think this has permeated throughout the school. Alban has become socially and emotionally a much more confident boy, thanks to you. We are not sure why not more fully international people like us chose Açı, as we believe it has been a rewarding experience for us.
If we may make some critical observations, we would like to point out three: at times it seemed to us that there was too much standardization at the school in terms of how rules are set and pursued. We also think there was at times not the full appreciation of our family situation at home, when our boys (especially Alban) complained that they had literally no time left (after school, homework, football team) to spend with his two brothers at home. At that moments we had the impression the school policy catered more to single-child families, at best two-children families with years apart, and not to a family where three boys are just three years apart. And we still think something didn’t go right with his passion for maths which he has somewhat lost. It is a very tricky path in education to find the right balance between academic excellence and social & emotional well-being – I guess in particular if a child draws strength from his intellectual side. However, please believe is that all this criticism is meant in a positive and entirely constructive way. We hope you understand this.
Our school holidays in Russia will be different – such as a break in October and over New Year’s. We will certainly come back to Istanbul at these occasions. It would then be absolutely wonderful if the boys could go for a week or two back to school, back to their beloved Açı, back to their dear friends, back to Turkish. It would activate their friendships, their appreciation of Açı, and their Turkish anyway. We very much look forward to staying in touch with all of you – we might even move back!
With gratitude, and from the depths of our heart,
Daniel & Marie-Anne, with Alban, Leandre and Basile