At Eagle Rock School, We’re Practicing RCE Like our ABC’s

Picture this: A student abruptly walks off our school’s Field of Dreams (i.e., our athletic field, where intramurals are played), fists clenched and head down. A staff member catches up and starts to say something. Then she remembers RCE — an acronym for Recognize, Get Curious, Empower, that encourages the practice of an evidence-based mental health modality that all teachers and staff at Eagle Rock School have recently started to take to heart.

Recognize, Get Curious, EmpowerThe staff member realizes she is angry at the student for reacting to an emotional trigger during intramurals and storming off the field. Instead of judging the student or reacting in kind, the staff member checks in with her own mind, body, and emotions, and takes a deep breath. As a result, she makes a nonjudgmental acknowledgement of why she is feeling that way and walks silently alongside the student.

A calm conversation ensues, with the student talking about what happened on the field, the high level of expectations the student has for themselves, and the self-imposed pressure to ‘get it right’ all the time.

The staff member listens attentively, then helps the student go deeper by asking questions, all the while providing a nonprejudicial space for the student to explore what’s actually going on. The student admits to feeling insecure and needing to constantly show off or project a sense of competency to others.

The staff member then empowers the student to identify personal solutions and ideas of what is going to work for them to successfully climb out of the situation. Together they come up with a plan and commit to following through with it.

Recognize, Get Curious, and Empower (RCE)

The above scenario pretty much describes how Eagle Rock staff and instructors are incorporating RCE in the daily lives of our students. What prompted our decision to believe in this modality in our day-to-day interactions?

If you’re at all aware of how we do things here at Eagle Rock, you know that this is a diverse community, and that our individual relationships look very different, based as they are on backgrounds, identity markers, and other situational factors. The idea is to honor those differences while providing reference points in how to best support our students.

Because, let’s face it. life for high schoolers is complex, often emotional, and demanding. Regardless of where it’s located, high school is the perfect scenario for mismatched opinions and misinterpreted relationships — both in and outside the learning environment. RCE draws on several evidence-based models, including Motivational Interviewing, Attachment-Based Based therapy, Solutions Focused Therapy, and Mindfulness. Here at Eagle Rock, we’re buoyed by several staff members who fully understand the complex makeup of our student population and are helping the rest of us use the modality in our daily interactions.

The objective is to offer some additional best practices in education and personal growth to ensure that we are supporting students as best as possible. Put simply, RCE can be used when a teacher or staff member approaches a student with issues that must be dealt with.

Below, we break down how the program becomes successful in a residential high school setting such as that offered to Eagle Rock students. First up, Recognize: Continue reading…

Here’s an Online Library Selection of Our Favorite TED Talks

Most everyone associated with Eagle Rock — and in particular those who work within our School and Professional Development Center (PDC) — have always been big fans of TED talks. Run by a nonprofit organization devoted to what it calls “Ideas Worth Spreading,” TED talks have been delivered at conferences around the globe since 1990.


In fact, PDC staffers and students recently shared a TED connection at TEDxABQ2015 in Albuquerque, N.M. — an event that focused specifically on education (see: Eagle Rock PDC Lends an Experienced Hand at TEDxABQ Education). And while merely attending a TED event may appear on the surface to be a passive act, the listening aspect is huge to our PDC’s theory of action.

That theory begins with the edict that we don’t just drop in on an educational institution and impose our process on that entity. Instead, we begin by listening — embedding ourselves in the context, conducting interviews and most important, observing and hearing from students and educators local alike. We get a better understanding of what’s going on by listening to what local school leaders value and observing those values in the school setting.

Our recent attendance at TEDxABQEducation reflects this first step. We had already been engaged to help Albuquerque schools better document and scale their approach to personalized learning (see: New Metrics Initiative Taking Shape in New Mexico). So we sent our Director of Professional Development, Michael Soguero, along with a PDC Fellow Kelsey Baun and four Eagle Rock students to Albuquerque where they embedded themselves in four local schools to conduct focus group interviews.

As a result, we are currently developing processes that support local wisdom to solve local problems. We take advantage of the best local thinking rather than impose a generic framework that may be completely foreign to the local school district.

So whenever the topic of TED talks surfaces, we’re all in. If you’ve never experienced what TED offers educators, click on one of the videos below — just for a taste. We’re thinking you’ll probably end up watching each of them.

When 13 year-old Logan LaPlante grows up, he wants to be happy and healthy. This talented teen discusses how hacking his own education is helping him achieve this goal. From Feb. 2013:

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures — rather than undermines — the creative process. From Feb. 2006: Continue reading…

Using ‘Lesson Study’ for Instructional Improvement

There are a couple of ways of looking at continuing education for classroom instructors. There’s the Henry Ford method, which suggests, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

And then there’s the Marine Corps way: “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.”

Lesson Study ImageHere at the Eagle Rock School, we subscribe to the above-mentioned automaker’s optimistic view and apply it to our own instructors’ commitment to become lifelong learners who are continually improving their craft. In fact, we believe continuing education to be a critical part of becoming — or remaining — a successful educator.

Our School’s instructional specialists and Public Allies Fellows constantly experience being part of a professional community where they are giving and receiving feedback, as well provided with opportunities to reflect on their practice. You can see this professional learning community in action through our instructional meetings, staff workdays at the start and end of each trimester, and conversations between co-teachers.

One specific structure that we use — primarily with our Public Allies Fellows — is a cycle that we refer to as “lesson study.”  Other schools might call it by a different name such as “educational rounds.” Our lesson study cycle has three distinct sections:

  1. Pre-meeting session
  2. Classroom observation
  3. de-briefing session

The pre-meeting brings together all of the teachers who will participate in the three-part cycle, and employs a couple of different formats. For instance, we could be learning about Continue reading…

For Updates on Progressive Education, Just Read the Tweets

As frequent readers of our blog already know, we’ve occasionally used this space to recommended books to read, organizations to be aware of, and conferences and workshops to attend. Now we’ve got a new reference point to share — people and organizations in and around education whose Twitter feeds you may want to follow.


Here’s our list of 10 people and organizations in education to follow on Twitter:

  • Laura Thomas (@CriticalSkills1) of Antioch University New England (@AntiochNewEng): Laura believes every learning experience should link to the next, and that there’s great value in teaching teachers how to make those connections.
  • Carlos Moreno (@Carlos_Moreno06) and Andrew Frishman (@AndrewFrishmanof Big Picture Learning (@bigpiclearning): These two men lead vital changes in education by generating and sustaining innovative, personalized schools that work in tandem with the greater community.
  • Steve Drummond (@SDrummondNPR) of National Public Radio – Education (@npr_ed): Drummond is the senior education editor with the National Public Radio’s education team and frequently provides coverage of what’s happening in progressive education.