Get to know each other's context, environment and education situation through visiting or hosting your partner school. This allows you to place challenges of and opportunities for cooperation in a broader perspective. Keep the planning for your visit realistic. Do not underestimate the many practical and substantive preparations.
A NEW DYNAMIC
A visit to or from your partner school brings a new dynamic to your school link. Meeting each other regularly increases personal commitment and connection, and helps to overcome barriers in the areas of communication, coordination, planning and reflection. Do not underestimate the power of informal contacts: you get to know your colleagues in a different way, and any challenges are suddenly more easy to discuss.
REINFORCE THE PARTNERSHIP
Schedule a visit from or to your partner school as the peak of an intensive collaboration. Do not lose sight of the core of your school link during this visit and keep your focus on education and professional development. Ask your colleagues to bring something from their country and incorporate this as a teaching aid in your class. Attend and/or teach a lesson in your partner school yourself. Above all, develop a broad view of the school’s context and experience the daily realities.
Keep the programme of the visit informal and light and plan enough leisure moments. Staying with a host family is not only a good way to reduce costs, it also gives you a glimpse into the life of your colleagues and strengthens your bond. Take the opportunity to visit local authorities and cultural organisations or to participate in a sports event. These types of informal moments broaden your horizon and make the collaboration run more smoothly.
Determine the schedule of your visit in close consultation with your partner school and clearly communicate your expectations in advance. The objectives of your school link should be central to the visit. Support each other in the preparation of the programme and other practicalities. Involve as many students and colleagues as possible and increase the support for the visit. A successful visit is first of all an enriching experience, where both partners learn from each other before, during and after the exchange.
During your visit, you will not be able to relate everything you see and experience to your own cultural context. Understand that your way of looking at things is just one way. Take your culturally tainted glasses off and take a closer, critical look at your own environment and that of your colleagues in your partner school. Avoid stereotypes and generalisations. Give yourself the time to accept that difference is good, without downplaying yourself or your background.
AFTER THE VISIT
The exchange does not stop when everyone has returned home. What happens after the visit may be even more important for the partnership's growth potential. After recovering from the intense experience, first and foremost check whether the objectives of the exchange have been achieved. Give feedback internally at your own school, to both the involved and less involved students and teachers. Obviously, do not forget to ask your partner school how they experienced the visit. Make full use of the renewed energy.