By Doug Ota, SPAN Founder and Chair
If 2018 marked a milestone for SPAN thanks to our establishment as an official non-profit, 2019 marks another significant milestone: the launch of certification, and a means of recognizing schools around the world that address transitions well.
Over the 2019-2020 school year, SPAN will be pre-piloting a framework and process for a school to become officially recognized as a ‘Certified Safe Passage School’. We are grateful to the three international schools who have agreed to participate, since their collaboration in such an early phase should help shape a certification process that is clear, user-friendly, and therefore effective.
This pre-pilot of the certification process is the logical fruit of a natural growth process at SPAN. Since our landmark first SPAN Pre-Conference at FIGT in The Hague in March 2017, a vast amount of thoughtful energy has gone into three sequential areas:
We at SPAN are intimately familiar with the psychological evidence indicating that people develop and learn best when they feel safe, supported, and seen. Certification should reflect that knowledge. By participating in certification, we want the people and teams working hard to address transitions at schools to feel safe, supported, and seen—and decidedly not policed. Fundamentally, SPAN believes good transitions work should be celebrated.
After the 2019-2020 pre-pilot, an official pilot process for certification will be offered to a broader group of schools in the 2020-2021 school year. Those two school years should see the refinement of an online certification platform that allows schools to upload evidence of their good work for students, parents, and staff, across the arriving, staying, and leaving phases of the year. We foresee that schools will be able to seek three types of certification status, depending on their level of proficiency:
Our aim is to open up the official process to become a ‘Certified Safe Passage School’ in the 2021-2022 school year. If your school or one you know has an interest in participating in the 2020-2021 pilot, please let Claudine Hakim, our Certification Chair, know by completing our Contact form.
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In 2014, Drs. Douglas W. Ota published Safe Passage: What Mobility Does to People and What International Schools Should Do About It. This book provides a rationale and framework for addressing transitions at any school with turnover.
In the process of writing the book, a compelling question developed. Could the experience of transitions—which includes both moving and being moved away from— be eroding students’ ability and willingness to develop deep relationships?
Referred to as “attachment security” in the psychological literature, this ability to develop deep relationships is important because it has been linked to long-term health. Securely-attached people outperform their less-securely attached counterparts in every domain of human functioning across the lifespan.
The SPASIS study will examine the relationship between turnover and attachment security. What happens to attachment security at international or internationally- minded schools whose populations are more stable, versus those where populations are subject to more turnover?
These questions have never been rigorously and empirically examined.
Together with one of the leading attachment researchers in the world, Professor Marinus van IJzendoorn of Cambridge University, Erasmus University, and Emeritus Professor at Leiden University, and with practical support from the Council of International Schools (CIS), the proposed study employs gold-standard measures in the field of psychology to answer the above research question.
The most rigorous empirical studies are characterized by randomization. CIS has provided valuable assistance so that the SPASIS study can apply randomization even at the level of school selection. (Students at schools who agree to participate will also be randomly selected.) The CIS database was augmented with expertise from local heads of school. Through a rigorous process applied to all potential schools, six schools were randomly selected in two countries, Vietnam and the Netherlands.
Data collection is targeted for the fall of the 2019-2020 school year.
A community’s participation in a scientific study is a major consideration. The SPASIS study has been cleared by the Ethics Committee at Erasmus University (EC-DPECS).
For more information, please contact Doug Ota, SPASIS principal investigator, at email@example.com
The largest study in educational research history demonstrates that moving harms learning. But this finding is incomplete. The EARCOS workshop provides a comprehensive overview of the field of transitions at international schools. Moving from the personal to the practical, the Workshop traverses these questions:
In other words, how can the challenges of mobility be harnessed for their transformative, positive potential? And if this is an issue that no single school can address on its own—for the simple reason that students, families, and teachers move around—how should networks of schools be working together?
Doug Ota’s warm, highly personal, and very practical two-day workshop helps you arrive at answers to these questions, so that you can make substantive inroads in improving how mobility is addressed at your schools—and beyond. Doug’s hopeful message is that, by understanding the issues at stake in mobility and how to address them, we can harness the vast potential for growth in a life moving amongst cultures—both for our students and ourselves.
The workshop cycles through four strands for considering work on transitions.
* Important note: for descriptive purposes, these four strands are temporally located in various portions of the two-day workshop. In reality, the workshop will use a great deal of sound, video, and music to cycle continuously through these strands, moving the entire time between stories, neuroscience, attachment, and practice. Doug seeks—metaphorically at least—to deliver one coherent composition that you can take with you, adapt, and play at your own schools. (Don’t worry, though: no singing required.)
Day 1: Why?
Strand 1: “Stories”
Saturday morning, November 10, 9am-12:30pm
We are wired to tell, and remember, stories. Work on transitions is only effective when the stories are personal and real. Because “that which is most personal is most universal,” Doug taps experience from his own life to share his rationale for his own commitment to this field. Throughout the two days, participants reflect upon and share their own investment in this work. Only by creating and fostering a climate where it is safe and normal to struggle with change and loss can we possibly, as educators, do the same for our students and families. Don’t worry, though: Doug understands emotional safety! Participants only share if and when they want to.
Strand 2: “Neuroscience”
Saturday afternoon, November 10, 1:30-3pm
The largest study in educational research history (Hattie, Visible Learning, 2009) showed that mobility is associated with decreases in learning. While Hattie’s work provides the best evidence to date in favor of the development of transitions program, this evidence remains indirect. What actually causes the decreases in learning that Hattie documented? The “Neuroscience” portion of the workshop takes you on an integrative tour of recent findings in neuroscience and psychoneuroimmunology, right down to the telomeres at the end of your chromosomes. What do synapses and chemicals have to do with mobility at international schools? Potentially everything! If we’re not careful, we could be placing our clientele—and ourselves—on non-optimal developmental pathways that are literally getting under our skin. This portion of the workshop arms you with the facts you need to persuade decision makers and communities that transitions are worth addressing.
Strand 3: “Attachment”
Saturday afternoon, November 10, 3:15pm – 5pm
While often innovative and exciting, much of the research and programming on transitions at international schools has been only weakly informed by what is arguably the most sweeping development in psychology in the last fifty years, namely attachment theory. This portion of the training provides you with a primer on attachment theory, so that you understand in your bones why it is that those with secure attachment thrive more in life, be that at work, at home, or in one’s physical body.
Day 2: How?
Strand 4: “Practice”
Sunday, November 11, 9am -12:30pm, 1:30pm-3:30pm
So what do you do about all of this? Armed with the educational, neuroscientific, and psychological research you need to persuade decision makers and communities, this portion of the training fills your toolbox. The goal is to send you out the door armed with practical tools to build powerful transitions programs for students, parents, and staff. What do you need to consider in building such a program? What about maintaining such a program, so that mobility doesn’t erode the very Team designed to beat it? What about the fact that people come and go, confronting us with the challenge of what happened at the last school—or what will happen at the next? How can we develop programs that transcend school walls, so that our students’ attachment systems are safe wherever they go, be it Singapore or Santiago? How does SPAN’s vision address that challenge.
Doug Ota and the entire Safe Passage Across Networks (SPAN) Board of Directors—the majority of whom will be present at the workshop—look forward to welcoming you to this workshop. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or new to the journey, in SPAN workshops like this one, we hope and believe you will find a home for your commitment to transitions, and that you will leave with a song in your heart.
About Doug Ota – SPAN Chair, clinical child psychologist, author, speaker and consultant
Doug Ota’s father was Japanese, while his mother traces her ancestry to England. Their divorce showed him and his brother how to operate between worlds. The loss of his stepfather and brother grounded Doug in grief. He has made a career out of wondering where he—and others—belong.
Doug migrated east to study religion at Princeton, then further east to study Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Leiden, going on to become a child psychologist with the Dutch Psychological Association. For many years, he was a counselor at the American School of The Hague. He now works in private practice. Doug is completing his Ph.D in psychology with a professor at Leiden and Cambridge Universities, trying to develop the empirical argument for transitions programs at international schools.
Half of Ota’s professional activities are devoted to counseling adolescents, individuals, couples, and families (www.safepassage.nl). The other half is devoted to building programs and systems that address the challenges and opportunities of mobility at international schools. He is the author of Safe Passage: What Mobility Does to People and What International Schools Should Do About It. In 2016, Doug was the Founding Director of the non-profit organization Safe Passage Across Networks, or SPAN. SPAN’s mission is to refresh, equip, and connect transitions care providers around the globe, and to establish processes to certify schools that deliver excellent transitions care.
As the leaders in supporting and connecting school-based programs addressing mobility, we want to know what’s happening at your school. We are seeking guest posts for our website and newsletter from transition-care providers – administrators, educators, counselors, admissions, human resources, parents and students – that inform, motivate and inspire schools to prioritize healthy student, family and staff mobility within and between schools. This is a great opportunity for you to ‘blow your own trumpet’ and share with us your school’s (or a school you have recently been a part of) best practices for supporting your community as they navigate the triumphs and trials of living and learning between and among cultures.
Article contribution criteria:
Choose one of the following transitions (for either student, family or staff):
You may choose to write from a personal perspective or provide an overview of your program and the outcomes you have observed. Please respect the privacy of others.
You may write more than one submission if your school addresses more than one of the above transitions and/or key stakeholders.
Send your submission, in the text of an email, to firstname.lastname@example.org and attach a high-resolution photograph of your school’s transition program at work. Label your photo with your school’s name in jpg or png format.
Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee we will publish all submissions on our website or newsletter but may use the content as examples in combination with other schools.
Sharpen your pencil and get writing! We look forward to being informed, motivated and inspired by what you are doing at the coalface to provide transition care for your school community and beyond.
SPAN is excited to share that our Chairman, Drs. Doug Ota, will be presenting at the EARCOS Professional Learning Weekend hosted by the Taipei American School on November 10-11, 2018. Should you have interest in attending the weekend, please look at the more detailed information below or click here for the program flyer. Our entire SPAN Steering Committee will be attending the weekend and we look forward to connecting with others who are committed to helping students thrive through their transitions.
Audience: K-12 Counselors, Teachers, Administrators, Admissions Personnel, and Parent Volunteers involved with transitions at their schools.
Registration Deadline: October 30th, 2018
Please click here to complete your registration.