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Extending the School Leader Preparation Classroom Across the Pond

I just got back from spending two weeks in London, England. I have yet to get my body adjusted to US time, but that is a small price to pay for such an amazing adventure!

Scott Imig and I were fortunate enough to lead a group of seven University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) Masters of School Administration students on this international trip. This was the first time I led an international cohort and the first time UNCW took school leaders to London. I have to say it went really well and I am eager to start preparing for next year.

So what did we do? The students spent one week in the schools and were given four days to explore individually and/or as a group. Our docket looked like this:

Saturday - Students arrived and toured the local area and took a short trip to Brick Lane. This was the first time many of these students tasted Indian food.
Sunday - Spent day in London seeing the sights.
Monday - Met with the Barking and Dagenham Local Authority to discuss data use, incorporating creativity in the curriculum, strategies used in various key stages to increase achievement, and the role of the Local Authority to improve schools.
Tuesday - Met at the University of Gloucester to learn about the National College of School Leadership, various routes into teaching, and Every Child Matters (this is similar to our No Child Left Behind).
Wednesday - Students paired up and spent the day in local primary schools shadowing school head teachers, classroom teachers, and students.
Thursday - Visited Jo Richardson, a community school that is doing amazing things with regard to the arts as well as private / public school partnerships.
Friday - Visited a secondary school that has dramatically improved in the past few years. Students shadowed teachers, chatted with the head teacher, and engaged in conversations with many international teachers.
Saturday & Sunday - Free time to explore. Students went to shows, took day trips, or simply hung out and explored the great city of London.
Monday - Students returned to North Carolina.

We are conducting research on this group to determine if this short international trip impacts or changes the way these students view diversity, education, leadership, or society and to longitudinally see if this trip has any impact on their professional practice. Even if the results of the study are not earth shattering, we already see that this trip was extremely powerful for each student. However, I am left wondering about the students who were not fortunate enough to come on the trip - how is the university preparing them for the real world? The students we took were exposed to diversity like they have never seen before. The students were able to see and hear how a national curriculum impacts leaders, teachers, and students. The students were able to live in a cosmopolitan city that is far removed from any Southeastern North Carolina community in which these students live. How do we, as university faculty members, prepare school leaders with a global mindset without these international experiences? Is it possible? Is it desired?

As an aside, researchers at the University of Minnesota through the SAGE project are writing up results of a study where they examine "long-term personal, professional, and global engagement outcomes associated with study abroad experiences." Preliminary results were published here.

Jayson W. Richardson
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina Wilmington

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