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Safe Passage: How mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it

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Moving is one of life's greatest challenges. The largest study in educational research history demonstrates that moving harms learning. But moving not only challenges students. The experience of lost identity extends across the lifespan, also affecting parents and school staff. Firmly grounded in psychological theory and cutting-edge neuroscience, Safe Passage maps the challenges and charts a course for individuals, schools, and accrediting bodies to navigate them. Although primarily focusing on international schools, the hopeful message within this book reaches into any school, university, or organization where human beings come and go.

362 pages, Paperback

First published October 7, 2014

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Douglas W. Ota

2 books2 followers

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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
2 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2015
When I first received Doug Ota’s book Safe Passage, I was admittedly intimidated by it. Such a well-researched and carefully structure book surely represented a challenging read. I have never been more pleasantly surprised about the content of a book than I was when I finally opened the front cover of Safe Passage.

Doug Ota’s book Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it not only presents well-researched information on how mobility impacts a child’s educational well-being, but does so in easily digestible pieces. Readers feel like they’re in a conversation with Doug as he shares insights and models about transition experiences, brought to life by metaphors.

This book holds wisdom not only for international schools, but for all organizations that assist families with international transitions. Doug’s well-balanced advice and structured guidelines are applicable across countries. I would recommend this book to anyone involved in education or counseling of globally-mobile families, or anyone with children impacted by mobility.
Profile Image for Ana McGinley.
Author 1 book2 followers
April 16, 2015

Doug Ota's new book “Safe Passage – How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About it” begins by considering the psychological stress children face when parents are relocated to a new country. He explains that many students in international schools are suffering, psychologically and academically, due to an absence of available support during the transitional phases of joining and leaving the school environment. These children are grieving the loss of the safe lives they had known, while trying to navigate through an unknown new school system, - which results in negative implications on confidence, self-identity and learning.

“Safe Passage” is based on thorough research conducted by an obviously highly experienced psychologist. The bibliography, notes, and CIS accreditation standards total 32pages indicating this book is more educational psychology textbook rather than a general expat resource guide. Ota utilises Attachment Theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to identify the responses of children and staff members confronted by the ever-changing population of students and staff in international schools.

Further, Ota presents a transitional program model based on ‘Safe Harbour’, the program he designed and introduced at The American School. Over seven chapters, this model is detailed in its design construction, implementation and evaluation phases.

“Safe Passage” is an intense book, yet it should be a mandatory read for all staff of international schools. Helping to ease children through the transitional phase, central in expat lifestyles, is crucial in ensuring these children are happy, confident and able to fully benefit from the academic programs on offer at international schools.
April 15, 2015
“Safe Passage” by Doug W. Ota is a book for anyone- individuals, couples, families, old or young- who are moving from one place to another, not just for the ones who are moving but also, and equally important, for the ones being left behind. It is also a guide for international schools, organizations and anyone who works with transient populations. It speaks to all who want to implement and put into place thoughtful programs and support structures for a population that moves in and out of different cultures and different work and learning environments for the purpose of producing happier and healthier people.

In essence this book has three parts and a personal introduction that sets the stage for making this book successful. The first part of the book is dedicated to anyone who moves from one place to another. Doug has taken the elusive social and emotional aspects of moving, and made them understandable and honorable in such a way that all the hard parts about moving, including leaving and being left behind, make sense. The second and third parts of the book are the hands on pieces that international schools and organizations can use to better the quality of the mobile lives for their staff, students, employees and their families. Doug not only offers options of support but he is a master of explaining why it is so important to have mindful programs put in place. He does this by weaving in his personal stories and experience and by backing up his programs and ideas by using physics, neurology, psychological and social sciences that offer convincing arguments.

This book works as a tool of support and understanding to all of us who have ever been brave enough to move to a different place, whether it be a new country or a new place within a country.
July 15, 2015
Fascinating and captivating, ‘Safe Passage’ is unequivocally the best book to address the subject of mobility since Pollock & Van Reken’s ‘Third Culture Kids.’

As a TCK who has attended international schools all over the world, it was wonderful to have my mobility struggles and experiences validated in these pages. I must admit, however, I was at first skeptical that any one program could be so all encompassing as to address all the major challenges associated with moving, but I was very impressed.

Steeped in attachment theory, neuroscience, human history and experience as an international school counselor, Ota takes the reader on a personal journey with captivating metaphors and innovative solutions to helping people cope with mobility. Ota’s infectious optimism that perceives every challenge as an opportunity thumps like a steady heartbeat through each of his arguments.

I wish there had been Safe Passage-inspired programs in place at my old international schools – not only would it have helped me (as a new kid) integrate into a new cultural and academic community, but it would have helped me feel safer to learn and explore – both in school and in life.

I cannot recommend ‘Safe Passage’ highly enough. Especially to fellow TCKs, even if they have long graduated from international schools: it helps us to better understand ourselves, and how to manage the turmoil of an international nomadic identity. The book's most powerful and comforting message lies in its humanity: is that it is not only possible to reduce the pain and suffering associated with a mobile lifestyle, but it’s something that unites us and makes us human.
Profile Image for Mdmaurer.
9 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2015
If you are working or about to work in a school that educates TCKs, then you need to read this book. If you are a parent raising children overseas, you need to read this book. Why? This book is based on an actual well-functioning program to help students, staff, and parents in the transitions of those known as global nomads. It is a hands-on resource for any international school looking to implement ways to make the transitions in and out of schools smoother - and makes takes note that those left behind are also in transition. And to top it off, Mr. Ota uses a voice that isn't textbook language. You really feel like he is sitting across the table drinking a cup of coffee with you explaining the need to rally together to help our kids transition no matter if they are the ones leaving or not. Really can't say enough about this book.
Profile Image for Jo Parfitt.
6 reviews3 followers
March 12, 2015
Ota has so much authority to write on this important topic. He lives abroad, has three TCKs of his own and has run the Transitions Team at an international school. Further, he speaks and trains other schools to do the same and works as a psychotherapist,specialising on helping young people. As an academic, he has read every book, paper and study on this subject and added what he has learned to his own experience and insight. This book not only tells you why you need to help your children with overseas transition but tells you how to do it too. Ground-breaking.
Profile Image for Trixi Kuballa.
1 review1 follower
January 22, 2019
I believe that every international educator should read this book. It explains the transition process and covers all stake holders. It made me realize how important it is to be aware of what phase one is in related to the transition process to be able to help the students in class.
Profile Image for Catalina Gardescu.
161 reviews1 follower
July 27, 2022
This book is a result of lived experiences as a third culture kid but does not remain in the realm of emotion and reminiscing. It presents efficient and well structured solutions, rooted in science and practice. A must read for any international school or family who wants to live away from home,
Profile Image for Dawn.
18 reviews
August 6, 2017
Very good book with lots of great ideas! Yes, International schools could do more with parent community/administration support.
April 20, 2015
Safe Passage is one of these rare seminal books which compels us to become more human as we recognize ourselves and others with new understanding. Clarity and rigor of analysis, evocative metaphors, strong supporting authors and recent research all complement Ota’s elegant language, succeeding in profoundly touching the reader. Rooted in solid professional experience, practice, and reflection, Ota’s call for understanding offers a plan of action one step at a time, structured and addressed to every international school. The power of Ota’s book resides in its confidence that challenges can lead to growth, that understanding will elicit genuine care, and that the quest to find safe passage is part of our common humanity.

– Beatrice Caston
Director of Development, International School of Düsseldorf
September 1, 2015
Only when you have experienced a great Transitions Program do you realize the importance it can make in a person’s life. A good Transitions Program can make the difference between a great experience abroad and a rough one. Ota’s book makes it possible for one person to start the wheels turning anywhere in the world. Working on Ota’s team in the Netherlands allowed me the opportunity to learn a tremendous amount, and I was able to bring his ideas to Santiago, Chile. We invited Ota to come and share his energy with us in October, 2013. We were left wanting more information, anecdotes, and strategies from this very experienced and learned source. His book provides just that.
– Chica Strauszer, Parent, Founder of Transitions Program International School Nido de Aguilas, Santiago, Chile
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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