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Inspirational International Response

By Shane R. Jimerson

Shane R. Jimerson Yayoi Watanabe

Jimerson and Watanabe

Within days after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northern parts of Japan in March 2011, I, along with one of my graduate students and a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), became part of an international network of school psychologists working to support the crisis response efforts of educational psychologists in Japan. My involvement stemmed from my crisis experience domestically and abroad and my work with NASP and the International School Psychology Association (ISPA). I approached the situation with an awareness of our many shared struggles following such events, and also immense respect for the importance of contextual considerations that have implications for response efforts. The magnitude of the natural disasters made clear that immediate, short-term, and long-term efforts of a vast number of professionals would be essential to support the children, families, staff, and communities impacted by these tragic events.

In this instance, the immediate, coordinated, and ongoing communication among leaders of the Japanese Association of School Psychologists (JASP), NASP, ISPA, and a number of colleagues from the United States (most notably from San Diego State University), was inspiring and reassuring. It was evident that there was an immediate need for easily disseminated information about how to respond to the needs of children, families, and schools during a crisis, so we set about translating some of the handouts previously developed by NASP for use in Japan. The NASP office coordinated the division of work between the teams at SDSU and UCSB (both of which involved Japanese or Japanese American school psychologists) and the final production of the resources.

Serendipitously, Ms. Elina Saeki, a school psychology doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with whom I had collaborated during the past 2 years, was enthusiastic to contribute both her bilingual (Japanese and English) and bicultural (Japanese and American) skills and knowledge. In addition, I had previously established communication with and was set for the arrival of Dr. Yayoi Watanabe, an educational psychology professor at Hosei University in Japan. She was scheduled to spend a year collaborating with me at UCSB beginning in mid-March 2011. Following immediate communications with Dr. Watanabe, she confirmed that she was also enthusiastic to do all that she could to contribute to the response efforts in Japan, most immediately as a cultural broker and translator. She worked with Elina and myself to ensure that the translated materials would be appropriate for the local context. Dr. Ishikuma also agreed to serve as a cultural broker to help ensure the integrity of the translated materials. It is one thing to complete a literal translation of a document from English to Japanese; it is quite another to successfully translate and revise the documents attending to the key crisis response information and guidance, while also attending to the contextual considerations (e.g., terminology and structure of schools, cultural norms, and traditions of the country) so that the materials could be used effectively by professionals in schools and communities throughout Japan.

We worked to ensure that our translations maintained this integrity. The process included preliminary discussions about each of the documents attending to the key elements and necessary modifications to address cultural and contextual considerations. Next, a Japanese translation was developed by Elina, and I helped to clarify possible interpretations or intended emphases. Each of the documents was then back-translated to check the content. Upon developing a solid translation of the document, the next phase was to share the translated documents with Dr. Watanabe and Dr. Ishikuma to provide a local lens and review them with more intimate knowledge of the contextual considerations. Final versions were posted on the NASP website and made available via the JASP website for professionals in Japan to access and distribute. This is similar to the process followed by the team at SDSU. The use of the Internet made it possible to generate highly valuable and informative documents within several days.

Also, related to the ongoing worldwide effort to support children, families, and communities impacted by crises around the globe I am chairing a workgroup that is presently engaged in developing a version of the PREPaRE curriculum appropriate for use internationally. Indeed, Dr. Toshinori Ishikuma, Dr. Yayoi Watanabe, and colleagues in Japan have been active in this international PREPaRE workgroup, as have colleagues from other countries around the world. Having presented on topics related to school crisis prevention and intervention in many countries around the world (e.g., China, Bangladesh, Denmark, England, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and Malta), it is clear to me that there is tremendous need and opportunity to support children and families through the schools that serve these communities. In the aftermath of a crisis, when schools remain, they may become the epicenter of support for children and families. It is an honor to be part of the professional network working to ensure that meeting these needs is possible, and most specifically to see this work have such meaningful purpose for those in Japan.

Shane R. Jimerson, PhD, is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Jimerson is a coauthor of the PREPaRE book and curriculum and Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention, published by NASP, and he continues to serve as a member of the PREPaRE workgroup.