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Educators Across Borders: Principals Who Study Abroad

October 26, 2011

Did you know that high school principals in Brazil are elected to their positions? Neither did I. And neither did Susan Wistrand, principal at Kingston Middle School in Kitsap, Washington.

Susan is participating in a study abroad program like no other, in which principals from Brazil tour schools throughout the U.S. as part of an international education administrator exchange program organized with the U.S. State Department. Poulsbo Middle School Principal Matthew Vandeleur, who will travel to Brazil next summer, states in this article, “A big piece is looking at not just how instructors teach, but looking at what are the commonalities that we share and recognize, and the challenges, and see how we address those.”

The ability for educators to share best practices across international borders, and learn about each others’ administrative customs could prove to be an invaluable tool in shaping a more integrated global curriculum. Not to say that one system is better than the other, but a major difference is that when students in Brazil turn 14, they choose which track their studies will take — either college preparation or vocational. In the U.S., students tend not to decide on any particular track until they are already in college.  Another interesting difference, and luckily one that we do not have to deal with for economic reasons (for now), is that some high schools in Sao Paulo are “open morning, afternoon and evening to allow students with either full-time or part-time jobs to attend the required five hours of classes per day.”

While our educators may not face all of the same challenges on a daily basis, it is essential that they collaborate like the ones in this program. Even if it doesn’t reap benefits in the immediate future, the key is that it promotes innovation. Or in the words of Principal Vandeleur, “it really deepens my thinking about the profession.”
What else can you ask for.
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