The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) Fall Forum was held last month at Mission High School in San Francisco, and Eagle Rock was well represented with a total of eight staff members and two students attending this annual event.
The theme of this year’s three-day forum was the 30-year Celebration of Common Principles and Uncommon Schools. CES remains at the forefront of creating and sustaining personalized, equitable and intellectually challenging schools. Essential schools are those where all students have the chance to reach their fullest potential. With a focus on the ten common principles, CES works with educators to support and promote innovative and effective teaching and learning.
The first day of the forum saw our six Professional Development Center team members co-hosting a school visit at MetWest High School, a Big Picture school that we support. MetWest is one of the first “new small autonomous schools” in Oakland, Calif., designed to foster student success through experiential learning and an extensive internship program.
Educators from Southern California and Ohio joined us on the visit and we had the opportunity to sit in on student exhibition presentations. Afterward, we facilitated a two-hour CES Affiliate Center directors meeting where we reconnected with other CES centers and shared what we face at our own locations. Later we broke up into small groups to discuss potential improvements.
In addition, a pair of our Eagle Rock students participated in a student leadership forum held at the Boys and Girls Club in the Mission District, where they met with 20 students from around the country for a discussion about, “What can students teach their teachers about what works when they are teaching them?” Meanwhile, two Eagle Rock School staff members participated at other school visits at Arise High School in Oakland, Calif., and Oceana High School in Pacifica, Calif.
Keynote speaker Pedro Noguera (the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University) kicked off Day 2 of the Forum, speaking to participants from all over the country — as well as some international participants from the Netherlands and South Africa. Noguera spoke to the need of equity in schools and the need for educators to challenge the status quo.
Eagle Rock student Emeila Eller facilitated a workshop around the importance of having a family community in schools, and fellow student Ashalou Harrison led a discussion on the power of language and identities for our youth.
An example of other workshops presented at CES was The Power of the F-Word: Failure lead by Holli Hanson, who directs Abeo School Change in Seattle, Washington. In this workshop, Hanson broke down what it looks like for a student to experience failure and what role that failure plays in learning. Hanson led the audience in a conversation about the difference between students who embrace the F-word and grow from the experience versus those who let it define them and shut them down from their education.
The final day of the Forum began with a community gathering and panel on race, led by Richard Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. In this panel, we heard from a diverse panel and its perspective of how race plays a pivotal role in our education system.
Afterward, we participated in mini-sessions, including one that focused on equity versus equality. During that session an audience member posed a dilemma oriented around the theme or the lesson and then the facilitator supported the group to unpack the content and use a Critical Friends Protocol to provide a solution-oriented outcome.
The CES Fall Forum was the perfect place to immerse us in meaningful conversations around education with representatives full of passion and hopes to enact a positive social change in education.
The next such event takes next year (Nov. 5 through 7) in Portland, Maine, with the theme: Fall Forum 2015: Connecting Conversation.
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About The Author: Kelsey Baun is the 2014/2015 Public Allies Fellow in Professional Development at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. Prior to Eagle Rock, Kelsey worked for City Year in Boston, Mass, and the Student Leadership Involvement and Community Engagement (SLiCE) office at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. Kelsey has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, specializing in organizational and innovation management.