As the staff at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center know all too well, teachers often feel frustrated by the obstacles they face in building sustainable and effective educational relationships with their students. More frequent testing, district policies, or tight financial circumstances can all work against a committed teacher’s desire to put his or her students first. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of perspective to see the way past these obstacles, but that can be hard to do when one professional development consultant comes to a school, or district.
The new perspective is often seen as yet another obstacle: something added on to all we have to do. However, when you bring 4-5 different teams together, each with their own obstacles and each with their own perspectives–and when you add to that a fabulous mountain retreat setting that literally elevates their thinking–very interesting things can happen.
This June, I had the opportunity to do just that at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center. Director of Professional Development, Michael Soguero, invited me up from my home in the foothills to work, specifically, with Chad Williamson from Noble Impact, a promising Arkansas start-up. Chad’s looking to help high school students blend entrepreneurship and public service with the help of the Clinton School of Public Service and the Walton School of Business. That alone would have been a fascinating experience. Chad’s wrestling with two highly successful visions of opportunity for America’s youth, and trying to identify the threads that unite them at the individual, group and team level of service. The different levels of this challenge are at the heart of his model and, working with Chad and Eagle Rock staff Dan Condon (Associate Director of Professional Development) and Collin Packard (Public Allies Teaching Fellow in Professional Development), we were able to hammer out two weeks’ worth of curriculum that we’re confident will lead to action, first in Arkansas and then, hopefully, around the country.
A lot of what happened, however, was rooted in the other perspectives that were in and out of our work sessions, community gatherings, and evening activities. Eagle Rock’s recent decision to mix perspectives by hosting multiple site visits simultaneously worked wonders. Staff from Valemont Secondary School in the heart of BC’s controversial tar sands “patch” could empathize with the challenge of motivating students to see the value of working for the public good, locally. Scholars and field workers from the University of Colorado at Denver’s Working Together Project community public health education initiative had a language to describe that work, but needed more solid ideas about individual and team responsibilities, and they got some of that from Noble Impact. This in turn resonated with a representative from Beach Cities working on Individualized Education Plans for the LA Charter Alliance, while the late arrival of a team fromMile High Youth Corps Denver added a new perspective to a dialogue in process.
As you might guess, there was a lot of “noise,” both literal and figurative surrounding these conversations. It was, however, the kind of noise that drew Eagle Rock students into the mix as well, adding yet another perspective—arguably the most important one. Because they themselves come from schools around the country, there is perhaps no more critical student perspective than that you get from the students at Eagle Rock. An idea that builds sustainable and effective relationships at Eagle Rock, is sure to be a winner back home. I look forward to the opportunity to join future sessions like these at Eagle Rock, and hope to see YOU there some time soon.
What obstacles could you overcome by exchanging perspectives at Eagle Rock?