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SEHD hosts UK educators in cross-cultural experience

By : Gail Glover

From left, Tudor Griffiths, head teacher at Wortley High School in Leeds, U.K.; Albert Penna, principal of Binghamton High School; Michael O?Branski, principal of East Middle School; and Patricia Gazda-Grace, associate principal of Binghamton High School
A team of school principals from England visited the Greater Binghamton area last week to meet with their U.S. counterparts in a cross-cultural learning experience, which allowed them to exchange ideas for educating youth in America and the United Kingdom.

The week-long visit, coordinated by University professor of education Judy Kugelmass, partnered the British principals, or head teachers as they are known overseas, with local counterparts in Binghamton area schools.

Jane Lees, head teacher at Hindley Community High School Art College in Wigan, who partnered with Thomas Lally, Johnson City High School principal, said she learned many things from the visit and plans to put to use at her school.

"My main interest has been in learning about alternative educational programs in the United States," Lees said. "But I've also been able to share so much about the leadership aspect in our schools, which is so important in building schools for the future in England."

Plans for the visit began nearly a year ago when Kugelmass visited the United Kingdom during a sabbatical. As an international research associate at the National College for School Leadership in England, Kugelmass focused on understanding leadership in successful inclusive schools in the UK.

"While at the National College, I learned of the initiative to take British head teachers to other countries with the goal of broadening their understanding of leadership," Kugelmass said."Since most American educators have limited opportunities to look beyond our own system to understand what else may be possible, I thought a cross-cultural experience would be a great opportunity to broaden their understanding of educational theory and practice."

Kugelmass said that her own international experiences have provided many new perspectives on teaching, learning and schooling that she now uses to educate other teachers and students.

"The lack of a global perspective among many Americans is especially problematic for educators charged with preparing young people for life in the 21st century," Kugelmass said. "There is a tendency to think we are ahead of other countries when, in fact, we often lag behind in creative ideas and innovative reforms. My hope was to bring these new ideas here, which I see as part of the general goal of internationalizing the curriculum at BU while helping educators already out in the field."

During a wrap-up session before leaving, the U.K. visitors and their Greater Binghamton hosts had an opportunity to recap and summarize their experiences and discussed their learning experiences.

Kugelmass said work is expected to begin soon on bringing American educators to the United Kingdom to reverse the process.

"The U.K. visitors saw many positive things in our schools as well as raising areas of concern for our educators to reflect upon," Kugelmass said. "This sharing of perspectives will be helpful to both groups - Americans and Brits."

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Last Updated: 10/14/08