Kensington Elementary Principal Rachel Clarke is mingling with other principals in Brazil this week to learn more about their school system in hopes of helping her students and fellow principals back home.
Clarke is taking on a “reverse role” from last year, when three Brazilian principals traveled to Union County to survey the workings of American public schools, she said. Clarke showed the three principals classrooms of various grade levels and school system divisions so they could learn strategies to bring back to their schools. They also attended Union County Public Schools Board of Education and Union County Board of Commissioners meetings.
Clarke, who worked with the U.S. Department of State and the American Council for International Education to facilitate the partnership and two-week trip, hopes to have a similar experience as her Brazilian counterparts this week.
“While I’m there I’ll be visiting various schools and meeting with secretariats of each state,” said Clarke, who will travel to Brazilia, Rondonia and Alagoas to examine the Brazilian school system. She also will conduct workshops for Brazilian principals and educators featuring information about strengths and strategies for leadership and how to run effective schools.
“I’m going to be talking about American schools’ high level of accountability and that data has to be used,” Clarke said, adding she’ll include information about school improvement plans and the need for school committees within the system to help carry out goals.
Clarke also will bring various items from her school, such as instructional materials, books about North Carolina, photos of Union County schools and school schedules, to give to the students and principals at the campuses she visits. One book she plans to bring to give to the children is “T is for Tar Heel” by Carol Crane, which ties each letter of the alphabet to a North Carolina-specific item.
The principal said her itinerary is “intense,” but she has prepared for the adventure.
“I’ve been trying to learn some Portuguese and increase my familiarity with the states (in Brazil),” Clarke said. “I just want to know what I’m walking into and making sure I’m prepared for the presentations and plot out their potential questions.”
Clarke sees the trip as an opportunity to share ideas. “No school has all students 100 percent at grade level,” so educators across the nation and borders can benefit from the collaboration, Clarke said.
Clarke hopes her experience can help the Kensington students learn about globalization, a district-wide goal. Her students took a strong interest in learning about other cultures during the Brazilian principals’ visit and Clarke hopes to reinforce that interest.
“I’m excited about taking this back to the students,” she said.
Clarke will update her blog, drclarkesinbrazil.blogspot.com, with daily updates of her adventures for her students to follow.