EARCOS Professional Learning Weekend Overview


Two-day EARCOS Weekend Workshop, November 10 & 11, 2018

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:

  • What impact has working at international schools with a high degree of turnover had on you personally?
  • What does mobility do to the human brain?
  • How does this impact relate to current findings in psychology, neuroscience, and even medicine?
  • What frameworks exist for how schools can and should be addressing mobility?

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.

Provisional Schedule

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.

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