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British Teachers Visit American Counterparts

About 20 teachers and two administrators from Oldham and North Lincolnshire in Great Britain are visiting Culbreth Middle School, Ephesus Elementary School and Glenwood Elementary School in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District. The group arrived April 17 and will depart April 27.

Ian McPhail, school development adviser for Oldham, said the British advisers were most interested in taking back information to advance existing programs.

"We've seen programs centered around thinking skills that we will be interested in taking back," he said. "There are lots of other programs where they sorted out groups of students and tried to accelerate their learning."

Ann Collins, enrichment specialist at Culbreth Middle School, said the group's trip was funded by a British teacher organizations.

"They are here for a group called The Teacher's International Professional Development Programme," she said.

Collins said Culbreth made preparations for the teachers' visit. "Once we knew their areas of interest, we tried to get teachers to pair up (with them)," she said.

In addition to pairing up teachers that teach similar subjects, some of the British teachers shadowed students through their daily schedules.

But Collins did say Culbreth administrators had some trouble with the terminology used by the British teachers. They accidentally paired up a British religion teacher with a Culbreth special education teacher, she said.

Despite the cultural confusion, Shawn Stover, assistant principal of Glenwood Elementary School, said he felt the visit was a success. "Anytime you can get a cross-pollination of ideas it always helps out," he said. "We're having that professional exchange."

Collins said she was surprised by the lack of planning time their counterparts were given. "They have an hour of duty-free planning during lunch," she said. "That is the only planning time they have."

Depending on the subject and grade-level American teachers teach, Collins said they have at least two or three planning periods a day.

The school counselor position is also a bit different in Great Britain, she said.

"We're very lucky because we provide full-time counselors for each grade level," Collins said. "They have a parallel position; however, 70 percent to 80 percent of their time is committed to teaching."

While McPhail said he found the high level of resources available to students exceptional, he said the students themselves were the most inspirational.

"I was most impressed with how confident and ready to speak out the American children are and that comes from a positive climate," he said.

Both Collins and Stover said they knew of no formal plans for Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers to visit Great Britain.

She said many teachers would be interested in helping their British counterparts set up a Paideia program. The Paideia program is a combination of the English and social studies classes.

Stover said Glenwood Elementary has not yet considered the possibility of sending teachers to Britain.

"We haven't really thought that far in advance," he said. "I think we've laid the seeds for that to happen."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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