Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the fifth in our series about the Eagle Rock strategic plan — Vision 2020. Below, Philbert Smith, our long-serving director of students, provides us with an update on his team’s efforts related to the Co-Curricular Framework domain. If you’re interested in learning about the overall aim of the plan, please read Head of School Jeff’s Liddle’s post: News From The Rock: Vision 2020.
Eagle Rock School student Kiyah used to describe himself as a problem child. From showing up late to classes and being unprepared, to having a general lack of focus and choosing not to participate in the community, Kiyah was the type of student who consistently got in his own way. “I tried to be “down” and cool,” he says, “but I was all over the place and no place at all — all at the same time.”
Sadly, Kiyah’s prior educational experience isn’t necessarily new or unique. For any number of reasons, high school students like him all across the nation become actively disengaged from their own education. And when that happens in large numbers, students, teachers and school administrators may choose to simply give up or give in to the apathy we so often hear about at the secondary school level.
Here at the Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center, we’re on a mission to implement effective and engaging practices that foster each student’s unique potential in order to help young people like Kiyah use their minds to their top potential. And nowhere is that more evident than on our campus in Estes Park, Colo., where we actively engage our students in their own education.
Guiding our daily work is a strategic plan outlining seven “domains” and associated projects for which we — as administrators, faculty and staff — are accountable. And as our director of students, the fourth domain of that plan — the creation of a Co-Curricular Framework — happily falls in my hands.
As Jeff Liddle (Eagle Rock Head of School) noted when he first wrote about Vision 2020 here on the Eagle Rock blog last December, we’ve been hard at work creating a student leadership framework and curriculum, as well as a process to support multiple pathways for student involvement in helping Eagle Rock carry out its mission. In short, we believe strong, continual engagement among diverse students requires an approach that is holistic in nature. The entire experience needs to be unified and meaningful relative to student achievement and our mission to fully ensure our nation’s youth are engaged in their high school education.
As part of the Eagle Rock experience — and this is ingrained in the leadership framework we’ve created — all of our students are encouraged to increase their capacity to lead. Over the past three trimesters, we have been developing specific learning targets and enduring understandings in an effort to develop a leadership curriculum where students can thrive.
Specifically, we prototyped a leadership model that helped students in five distinct areas:
- Embodied leadership — which encourages deconstructing one’s thinking about the body using key discoveries in neuroscience to demonstrate the uses and benefits of a somatic approach, particularity in the area of emotional intelligence.
- Social skills — especially the ones our students use to communicate and interact with each other (both verbally and non-verbally) through gestures, body language and personal appearance.
- One’s own credibility — particularly as it relates to trust and reliability.
- Understand others — so everyone in the community has the same opportunities when it comes to be treated with fairness and respect.
- Problem solving — being able to resolve complex issues through a four-step process that includes defining the problem, generating alternatives, evaluating and selecting from among the alternatives, and implementing solutions.
Kiyah was exposed to the student leadership framework and curriculum through our leadership class in his fourth trimester here at Eagle Rock. He says he immediately began making incremental improvements. “I began to apply the lesson of centering oneself and other skills learned from class, and each trimester I have improved because I’m recommitting myself to school.” Now in his seventh trimester at Eagle Rock, Kiyah is a focused and a proven leader within his on-campus house.
During the upcoming summer trimester, we plan to take some of the lessons learned from the leadership prototypes and use them with students who are currently gearing up for leadership positions within the Eagle Rock community. We will also make ourselves available to assist staff in coaching students on the many different ways to lead — including by engaging in one’s own education.
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About The Author: Philbert Smith is the director of students at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. There, he is responsible for the development of Eagle Rock School’s residential life curriculum, as well as for supporting the organization’s culture of inclusion and health, wellness and counseling services.
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