Tips for Videoconferencing with Professional Learning Communities

School Reform Initiative (SRI) protocols within Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) have more impact when they are facilitated face-to-face by a skilled facilitator.

Being a member of the professional development team here at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, I personally support about 10 school network or district clients nationally, which means there are times when I can’t be with them in person. Such face-to-face meetings are important, and I try to arrange these more personal consultations when possible.

But for those times when that’s not possible, I’ve facilitated such gatherings using Zoom’s video and web conferencing platform — a simple to use online tool that allows me to increase the amount of support I can offer clients sandwiched between in-person consulting visits to their local context.

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If you’re unfamiliar with them, School Reform Initiative protocols offer structured processes to support focused and productive conversations, build collective understanding, and drive school improvement. Thoughtful use of these protocols is an integral part of building resilient professional learning communities.

In recent months, I’ve gathered up and written down a number of tips I believe can greatly increase efficacy of such gatherings online. These tips, which I’ll offer here as suggestions, include: Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Students Embark on Second Batch of Non-traditional Classes

The second half of this trimester at Eagle Rock School is underway this week with students embarking on new classroom experiences ranging from poetry to piano to percussion to prime numbers. This marks the middle of our 73rd trimester since the school was founded in the early 1990s.

The final day of class is Friday, Dec. 8, and Presentations of Learning (POLs) take place on Monday, Dec. 11 and Tuesday, Dec. 12. Ceremonies for those graduating from this trimester will be held on Friday, Dec. 15.

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Below is a rundown of the five-week classes offered now through early-December, along with a 10-week class where students are halfway through an intense Spanish language enterprise:

Sacrificial Poets — In this class, fledgling poets are reading, writing, watching and performing spoken-word poetry — all the while exploring their identities, refining their writing and analytical skills, developing performance and public speaking abilities, and building self-confidence.

Students enrolled in this class are traveling off campus to watch nationally renowned poets from the Denver Youth Poetry Team, Minor Disturbance, and poets from around the United States perform in Continue reading…

Another Successful Explore Week Draws to a Close

Here at Eagle Rock School, we find ourselves halfway through another highly anticipated Explore Week (Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 2017). And even though the regular class schedule has been sidelined for the week, our students aren’t ignoring their regular community chores and responsibilities.

Our student body strives to become a well-oiled machine, and our many and varied campus routines are just part of what keeps us accountable on this small mountainside community that we’ve worked so hard to establish and maintain.

After all, we know dishes aren’t going to wash themselves. Which is why we maintain a strict KP schedule during this “off” week from classes. Same goes for daily exercises, taking meals together, regular Gatherings and evening programs.

Turns out the magic of Explore Week is a full five days of exciting course offerings that fall well outside the realm of reading, writing and arithmetic. Below is a description of some of these unique offerings for Explore Week 73 (the 73rd such event since the founding of Eagle Rock in the early-90s), a little about their instructors, and what the students are getting out of the experience:

Step into the Cipher — In this musical adventure, students who fancy themselves as potential emcees, rappers, poets, or beatboxers, get together to make music, test rhymes, and share their talents.

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The title of the class comes from hip-hop, which describes a “cipher” as a sacred space — a circle of talented musical people where community is firmly established. It’s a laboratory where our students can make music, test rhymes, and share a piece of themselves with all who enter. Students are exploring hip-hop as a tool for community building, and they’re writing verses, poems, and hooks to bring their stories to life with sound.

The instructor for this course is Continue reading…