Editor’s Note: Today’s post details a visit to Eagle Rock School by Nora Houseman, former principal of San Francisco Community School (SFC), and Jessica Fishman, a literary specialist at the school. SFC is a Small School by Design (SSD), meaning the school community selects its leader and the school district cannot under policy remove that person unless the leader is ineffective.
By Jessica Fishman, Literacy Specialist — San Francisco Community School
When Nora Houseman shared our intention to start a lab school and professional development center in San Francisco, a former Eagle Rock employee suggested we bring our vision to Michael Soguero and Dan Condon at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center.
For years, Nora had heard wonderful stories about Eagle Rock, so we arrived with high expectations, eager to see the school and learn from Michael and Dan.
Aside from the stunning beauty of Estes Park and the campus, the first thing we noticed was a poster that read, “What’s Your Legacy?” That query highlights the Eagle Rock tradition of culminating student legacy projects. The second thing we spotted was a comfy communal meeting area full of colorful throw pillows and handpainted signs signaling various student-led clubs and activities.
Everything at Eagle Rock — from the physical spaces to the carefully worded curriculum and the two- to four-student advisories — is intentionally designed to support the school’s mission of engagement and community.
Everyone is encouraged to pitch in and play a role, and that includes visitors. We had the opportunity to participate in a rousing game of Apples to Apples with a teacher and two students during an advisory. We sat in on several classes and later joined a community meeting. In every interaction, students shared and displayed an unparalleled commitment to their learning, the school and each other.
Dan Condon, associate director of professional development, was incredibly helpful to us as we began the early stages of envisioning our future school’s model. Nora and I left thinking we would be so incredibly lucky to achieve “Eagle Rock on a smaller scale,” for our own operation.
While working with Dan, we witnessed a staff meeting and a lesson study cycle. The attention to instructional practice and improvement is evident. In fact, I replicated an abbreviated version of the lesson study protocol with a team of teachers at my own school the very next week, with great results. Dan was generous in providing supporting materials and connecting us to a network of other educators.
Eagle Rock encourages students to think carefully about what their legacy will be. We thank Eagle Rock for its legacy: supporting educators like Nora and myself and inspiring us with a model and vision of excellence.