To help create "a culture of hope, a culture of possibility, and a culture of excellence" at Eagle Rock high school, Robert Burkhardt developed an equation: 8+5=10. It may be bad math, but the head of the school says it's also shorthand for Eagle Rock's value system and serves as the foundation for the curriculum.
The equation, which students learn by heart, stands for the eight themes, five expectations, and 10 commitments that members of the community agree to live by. It covers the more standard criteria - intellectual discipline, effective communication, being an engaged global citizen - as well as a few that are less traditional, such as cross-cultural understanding, spiritual development, aesthetic expression, and environmental stewardship. Students commit to service and to making healthy life choices.
"I knew that I wanted to have students struggle with the big questions," says Mr. Burkhardt of his decision not to shy away from sensitive topics like spirituality. "Every school has values. Telling kids to 'Sit down and shut up' shows certain values. The issue is how explicit are you going to be about your values."
A Princeton graduate, Burkhardt's rsum includes stints as a plumber, circus performer, Peace Corps volunteer in Iran, and newspaper reporter. He also spent 15 years with the San Francisco and California Conservation Corps before coming to Eagle Rock.
He says it's important to show kids "the different ways we embrace life." So Burkhardt plays on the Pion house team during Wednesday intramurals, sings in the choir, and plays trumpet in the band. In working to be a role model for the students, he describes himself as "the No. 1 learner at Eagle Rock."
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