Spring 2015 Reading Recommendations From Eagle Rock

We’re thinking it was Harry S. Truman who said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers,” and that rhymed remark certainly holds true for educators. The staff here at the Eagle Rock School are avid readers, each knowing full well that in order to be good educators, you have to keep up with trends in education — not to mention culture.

Here then are some books they suggest for your spring perusal:

TheGlobalAchievementGapThe Global Achievement Gap — By: Tony Wagner
Recommended by Sarah Bertucci, Professional Development Center Associate

The premise of this book is that there is a gap between what our schools are teaching and the skills and knowledge students actually need in today’s world. Tony Wagner, who currently serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, shows convincingly that even our “best” schools are not teaching key skills like critical thinking and adaptability. I’ve drawn upon Wagner’s work when helping Eagle Rock’s partner schools articulate their priorities for student learning, and to fuel work, finding better ways to assess what students are learning and how well schools are doing. Wagner recommends the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA) as one of the very few assessments that measure the skills that matter. And that is a key assessment that we have chosen to use at Eagle Rock.

CoveringBookCoverCovering: The Hidden Assault of Our Civil Rights — By: Kenji Yoshino
Recommended by Philbert SmithDirector of Students

This book provides a different lens through which to look at civil rights. The premise is that we all have a tendency to tone down an identity that does not fit the mainstream. In other words “cover.”  I found this book to be insightful. I like the final paragraph, which reads, “We must use the relative freedom of adulthood to integrate the many selves we hold.” This includes uncovering the selves we buried long ago because they were inconvenient, impractical or even hated. Because they must pass the test of survival, most of the selves we hold, like most of our lives, are ordinary. Yet sometimes, what is consequential in us begins to shine.”

WhatKindOfCitizenWhat Kind of Citizen?: Educating Our Children for the Common Good — By: Joel Westheimer
Recommended by Diego Duran-Medina, Societies and Cultures Instructional Specialist

I’ve been reading this book for the last couple of weeks and it’s been instrumental in how I think about my teaching.

I love this book because it argues for placing citizenship as one of the most important goals of education, and argues that critical skills are not only useful for reading, writing and academics, but for shaping the kind of society that our students inherit and work to build. The book has been helpful in thinking about what we do in the Heartivism courses and Societies and Cultures Department here at Eagle Rock. Is should be required reading for anyone who teaches social studies or history. A key takeaway is understanding that education can be a force for conformity instead of intellectual and societal liberation.

BlackFacesWhiteSpacesBookCoverBlack Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors — By: Carolyn Finney
Recommended by Jesse Beightol, Instructional Specialist in Outdoor Education

“Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.”

The above quote is from the back cover of this book. Many Eagle Rock School students arrive here with the perception that outdoor education is not for people of color. There are many institutional barriers to equal participation in outdoor pursuits, and books such as “Black Faces, White Spaces” help to explain why these barriers exist and what we can Continue reading…

Meet The Team: Eagle Rock’s Director of Students, Philbert Smith

For today’s spotlight, we’re going to take a closer look at Philbert Smith, our director of students, a man who arrived at Eagle Rock straight off the streets. To be more specific, Philbert came to us following a stint as the director of Covenant House Texas — a 24-hour shelter for street kids in Houston. He is married and has a pair of daughters and has been a part of Eagle Rock as long as Eagle Rock’s been a part of the larger education community.

Philbert-Smith-Eagle-Rock-SchoolMeet Philbert…

Eagle Rock: What attracted you to Eagle Rock?

Philbert: I think it was the values of Eagle Rock School and Honda — right there at the intersection of public interest and private interest. It was also an opportunity to work with adolescents in both a residential and educational environment.

Eagle Rock: When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Philbert: And when would that be? Actually, I enjoy being around my family, cooking, reading, taking a walk, sometimes watching real trashy television and going to the movies.

Eagle Rock: Speaking of television, what reality TV should you be on and why would you win or be kicked off?

Philbert: I’d be a chef on Chopped. And I think with a little coaching I could win because I enjoy cooking and enjoy combining flavors in food.

Eagle Rock: What’s your all-time favorite Eagle Rock success story?

Philbert: That success story would be Loula Tesfi. Her journey with her family from Continue reading…

Eagle Rock Staffers’ Recommended Reads

Editor’s Note: For this blog post — which we expect to be the first of many to come in a series — we asked a few of our educationally focused staff members to make recommendations on a read or two worth pursuing. Here, we include the reader’s thoughts about the title selection, along with an image of each book cover and link to Amazon to purchase the book or download it to read on a tablet.

How-To-DifferentiateHow to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms

By Carol Ann Tomlinson

Recommended by Jonna Book, Eagle Rock’s World Languages Instructional Specialist

This book guides the reader in finding ways to address the diverse needs of students in a classroom. The author breaks down differentiation and demonstrates how it is feasible both in planning and in the classroom. I have found this information useful when planning and differentiating instruction in my courses.

That-Workshop-BookThat Workshop Book

By Samantha Bennett

Recommended by Beth Ellis, Eagle Rock’s Learning Resource Center Instructional Specialist

The workshop model for teaching and learning is useful for any educational setting — from a small Eagle Rock classroom to a large public school. This book profiles real classrooms using the workshop model with systems, structures, and rituals in place to create learner-centered experiences. The workshop model is particularly useful for managing a classroom of students of different ability levels. I use some part of the workshop model in every class I teach.

In-The-Middle-BookIn The Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning

By Nancie Atwell

Recommended by Holly Takashima, Eagle Rock’s Language Arts & Literacy Instructional Specialist

This book contains a wealth of knowledge on how to teach reading and writing through the workshop model. It taught me the importance of structure, routine, and deep reflection on organization, which an effective workshop model requires. Through Atwell’s anecdotes and examples, I was pushed to think more deeply about Continue reading…

Reflections on the Past Academic Year — A River Runs Through It

Imagine peering over the edge of a cliff and staring down on millions of gallons of raging water the color of chocolate milk and knowing you’re going to be in the midst of that turmoil in just a few moments. Thirty years of white water paddling experience suddenly feels inconsequential.

Lava Falls is the largest rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Sure, there are a couple safe routes, but finding them is certainly not easy. It demands a team effort and even then there are no guarantees. Even though you might pick what appears to be a solid route from shore, there’s much to be done once you enter the chaos.

A few years back — in 2009 — I found myself in just such a spot. Many questions ran through my head. Will the route I choose work? Will I have the skills to adjust to changing circumstances? Will I have the presence of mind to stay calm when a misplaced oar stroke could flip my raft — or worse?  Is risking my life a good idea?

DSCN2174

I remember looking at my 18-year old son Max sitting at the front of my raft. What would I say to his mom if things went wrong? I can’t explain the attraction to living life on the edge, but I know I’m drawn to that activity like a moth to flame. It’s a life where the course is unclear, where a lifetime of experience is called into question, where I must rely on others for safe passage. It’s a life where the spoils of defeat are not inconsequential, and where the victories are addicting. I always want more.

On Sept. 3, 2012 — the day I stepped into the role of Eagle Rock’s head of school — I remember experiencing the same feelings I did back at Lava Falls three years before. Truth is, just as I can’t run a river by myself, I require plenty of expert help to run a complex and meaningful organization like Eagle Rock.

Reflecting back on this past year, the biggest lesson I think I’ve learned is the vital importance of teamwork. I’ve worked here for 13 years and I understand the “path of the river” well. But it’s one thing to stand on the shore and talk about the right path, and quite another to be “at the oars” in the current.

DSC_4593

I have a great executive team in the form of Philbert Smith, Michael Soguero, Susan Luna, and Jen Frickey, as well as an amazingly dedicated and talented staff that keep this ship afloat and  on course. Our aspiration this past academic year was to “become more responsive to student needs, both locally and nationally.” We charted our course for the year by creating four overarching objectives to focus our work, which I shared in an earlier blog post, and in a moment I’ll share the results of that work.

But first, I want to acknowledge that we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount of work on campus and around the country that has been covered in previous posts and isn’t captured in our focused objectives. In addition to doing the “work” of Eagle Rock, we’ve also experienced the passing of two very dear on-campus members of the Eagle Rock community — Mary Strate and Rick Gaukel — and one graduate, Casey Whirl. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Mary, Rick, and Casey’s families. You will always be remembered.

I won’t drag you through volumes of reflections from my year, but I do want to report out on how we’ve done with our four big objectives. Here’s a quick look at the highlights:

Objective No. 1: The Professional Development Center (PDC) /School relationship at Eagle Rock is inextricably interdependent.

  • Students are traveling with PDC staff externally and being used more intently on campus. In addition our staff has become more involved on campus and around the country, either traveling to work with networks of schools around the country or working much more intensively with schools visiting our campus. We’re connecting visiting educators in much more intentional ways to the experience of visiting Eagle Rock and we’re sharing more of our experience nationally.
  • Our two key PDC staffers, Michael Soguero and Dan Condon, have worked tirelessly this year to increase our professional development reach and have nearly maxed out their ability to work with other networks of schools. This capacity limitation was recognized by our board of directors and resulted in additional resources to add a new PDC position and some early brainstorming to increase our virtual support to schools via increasing Internet resources.
  • Our primary strategy — or “hedgehog” as Michael fondly calls it — is helping other progressive schools get better within their own context instead of exporting practices. This year we’ve found a hybrid where we integrate the goals of the organization with the knowledge and expertise we’ve gleaned from our own school experience. For example, if a school wants to implement proficiency-based graduation requirements, improve their internship program, or design curriculum to support teaching for understanding, we not only do an asset-based assessment in their context and help them carve out an agenda based on their desires, we also bring expertise in those particular areas of reform to the table. As a result, we’re able to listen attentively to specific needs of the networks in which we work, facilitate change process for them AND bring our own expertise from working on similar initiatives in our own school. We believe professional development should be forged in real schools with real students and this year we’ve made some good progress connecting the efforts of our school with the PDC and visa versa.