Spring 2017 Update from the Professional Development Center

Since beginning my Public Allies Fellowship with Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center last fall, I have taken note of the many traits that make our professional development team so successful.

As background, the Professional Development Center team is charged with executing on a mission to support schools (we refer to them as “partners”) around the country to increase high school student engagement. What is not well known is that the team provides those services to our partners at no cost to them, and our team consists of just four facilitators who regularly provide our services. This presents an interesting challenge as we cannot increase our headcount despite the ever-increasing demand for our services.

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To meet that challenge, the team has developed a set of practices characterized by working smarter rather than harder. Hallmarks of the team’s practice include organization, efficiency, and constant communication among staffers. Everyone understands what the goals are for each trimester and how their portfolio of partners needs to be shaped for maximum impact.

In normal circumstances, observing such traits among a high-functioning team should be a simple matter. But circumstances here at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center are not normal, with all six members of the professional development team constantly Continue reading…

Spring 2016 Update from the Professional Development Center

“Plan your work, then work your plan.” I’m not sure who said it first or if it really matters. All I know is if you decide in advance precisely how you’re going to get from where you are to where you want to be, you stand a much better chance of getting there.

At the level of the lowest common denominator, that’s the essence of any plan, including Eagle Rock’s strategic plan for 2015-2020, aptly titled Vision 2020. And as I shared just last week here on the Eagle Rock Blog (see: Strategic Plan Update: National Contribution), the Professional Development Center team is hard at work facilitating programs, trainings and other custom offerings that lead the high schools with whom we work to transform themselves into high-functioning centers of engagement and learning.

Eagle Rock Professional Development Center Update June 2016

More than half of Eagle Rock School’s instructional specialists — those educators who work within our own school — are now engaged in supporting this national mission-related work, along with the entire professional development center team. As a reminder, “national contribution” is the fifth domain within our strategic plan, a document that enables us to fulfill our organization’s mission and make significant steps toward realizing our vision. And, of course, that vision is that this country’s high school youth be fully engaged in their education.

The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center staff kicked off the spring by actively participating in a number of seminars, retreats, focus groups, workshops and educational events across the country, including the ones mentioned below. If you would like to know more about our work — or how your school or organization can work with the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center — please contact Dan Condon, our associate director of professional development, by emailing DCondon at EagleRockSchool dot org.

May 2 and 3

The Professional Development staff traveled to the Ryan Banks Academy in Chicago, helping to develop STEM and Humanities curriculum for the academy, which is an urban boarding school scheduled to open in September 2017.

May 2 and 3

Our staff also attended an advisory leader retreat to develop advisory vision and plans at Randolph Union High School in Randolph, Vermont.

May 4 and 5

We conducted asset-based observations and appreciative interviews with the staff of Continue reading…

Winter Classes Range from Musicals and Murals to Soilless Gardening

erslogo2Eagle Rock’s busy student body is already well into the winter trimester, with many among them enjoying a number of class offerings — most of them new — that promise to challenge their intellect and maybe even spark interest in an avocation, adventure or activity that can last an entire lifetime.

Ten-week classes sprinkled among the mix for ER 68 (our 68th semester since our founding of Eagle Rock School in the early 1990s) include:

La Telenovela: In this class, which we first offered in the fall of 2014, students analyze and create their own Spanish-language “soap opera” episodes. By doing so, they are gaining insight into telenovela structure, characters and themes by viewing real telenovelas. (For the uninitiated, a telenovela is a type of limited-run serial drama and popular on European, West Asian, Southeast Asian, Latin American, East Asian, South Asian, Arab World, Brazil, Portuguese and Spanish television networks.) By watching these programs, students are refining their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in Spanish, which is enhanced by working together on their Spanish in the classroom. As a final project, students will be asked to script and film their own telenovelas — themselves portraying the characters as well as completing all of the required behind-the-scenes production work. They will work on acting as well as filming and directing techniques to produce the final episode. (Brighid Scanlon is teaching this class.)

Data Analysis: In this class, which first appeared at Eagle Rock School in the spring of 2015, students are beginning to explore data sets, looking for patterns and using statistics to answer student-generated questions. Each student explores one question, researching data that will help answer that question. By analyzing the information, they can communicate their newfound knowledge using infographics, written articles, presentation or blogs. Experts in the field, peers, and Eagle Rock staff will review the work and provide feedback for the inevitable revision. (Becky Poore and Helen Higgins are teaching this class.)

Five-week classes offered this trimester include:

101 Years of Murals: This all-day class presents students with the opportunity to appreciate what murals can teach us, communicate and add vitality to our lives. Students are part of a hard-working team with an emphasis on leadership that is designing and painting a mural in the Rocky Mountain National Park. We are learning how to use different mural techniques to create Part 2 in a series of murals. Students in this class are already capable at drawing — or are teachable — and they’re all willing to take risks. This class promises a lot of hard work, but it also promises to yield a lot of new skills as well as possible connections that may benefit them in the future. (Cindy Elkins and Claire Oliphant are teaching this class.)

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The Wiz” Musical: Ease on down the road with Continue reading…

Eagle Rock School Instructors ‘Bring Home’ Their Experiences

The fact that we operate a year-round residential high school in Estes Park, Colo., in addition to offering professional development services at schools and community sites around the United States, is a distinct advantage for Eagle Rock School instructors and, in turn, our student population.

And since our mission is to implement effective and engaging practices that foster each student’s unique potential — and to support schools nationally to do the same — sending our instructors off on educational forays across the country directly impacts the students they instruct at Eagle Rock.

But how exactly does this national work impact our instructors when they return to our mountainside campus? Often working through the Eagle Rock Professional Development Center, our instructors are tasked with “carrying the message” of educational reform to public schools throughout the nation.

We asked three Eagle Rock School instructors how this national work has improved their work. Here’s what they had to say:

Dan-Hoffman-Eagle-Rock-SchoolDan Hoffman, Literacy And Literature instructional specialist, says working with public schools keeps him grounded. He says that while we often think Eagle Rock is on the front line of education reform, “it’s really our partner schools that are fighting this fight.”

Visiting public schools in Albuquerque and New York and seeing the challenges they face every day and the hard work they are engaged in to serve their students keeps Dan motivated to do the work he does here at Eagle Rock and appreciative of all we have here.

Hoffman says he picks up best practices through small group protocols at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum or in casual conversations with humanities teachers at a high school in the Bronx. “I get to learn a ton about what other professionals are Continue reading…

The Role of Instructional Coaching at Eagle Rock School

They say a shark in the ocean must constantly swim in order to survive, and the same concept holds true for educators. If they’re not consistently exploring new ideas, receiving feedback or learning new teaching techniques, they’re shortchanging the students in their classrooms.

A few years back, some of our staff members did heavy research on continuing teacher education, in addition to studying the findings from other schools concerning the implementation of instructional coaching. The idea was to provide support for our fulltime instructional specialists here at Eagle Rock School as well as our annual group of teaching fellows.

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As a result, we piloted a new instructional coaching position for the 2014/15 school year in advance of welcoming welcome six new fulltime instructors in addition to our annual influx of a dozen new Public Allies fellows.

Janet Johnson, our science instructional specialist, became our first instructional coach, and she performed that fulltime task in impressive fashion for the year, while Sara Benge stayed on for a second year Public Allies fellowship to help with our science instruction.

Janet worked closely with our six new teachers throughout the year and set up coaching cycles, a new teacher Critical Friends Group, and informal supports and check-ins throughout each trimester of the academic year. Since it was our pilot year, Janet had the opportunity to explore new ideas throughout the year, making time to meet with more experienced teachers, and some of our teaching fellows, acting as a resource and a thought partner in their practice.

For the current school year, we’re transitioning into what we believe can be a sustainable way to keep an instructional coach on staff with our current staffing model. Jon Anderson, Eagle Rock’s human performance and outdoor education instructional specialist, is our instructional coach this year, fulfilling the role on a part-time basis. He’ll also continue teaching in the Continue reading…