Eric Brooks is a Senior Consultant for educational professional learning group Learning Forward where he also serves as the President of the state affiliate Learning Forward Arizona. For the last 8 years he has served in a variety of capacities at the Arizona Department of Education, his last being the Director of professional learning. Throughout his tenure he played an integral role in the Professional Development Leadership Academy, in providing technical support to the 15 county educational service agencies, and in working with schools and districts around their work with the Standards Assessment Inventory (SAI). Prior to his departure his work directed his unit’s energy and focus around creating and facilitating an agency wide interactive learning course, expanding the agency’s work with local education agencies in sustaining instructional rounds networks, and supporting members of the Highly Effective Teachers and Leaders Division as they worked toward ensuring equitable distribution of effective educators.
In his new role as an Educational Consultant he provides technical assistance to several district level systems across the country including Riverside Unified School District in California and Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. He provides leadership training for school Principals, and strives to help school teams to carry their mission forward.
Eric took some time to talk with us briefly as part of our ongoing series of profiles on ToP practitioners.
1. How did you first become exposed to facilitation and ToP methods?
My mentor and former supervisor Donna Campbell introduced me to the ToP methods about 8 years ago. She had been a long time collaborator with Marilyn Oyler and other members of Partners in Participation and a member of the Arizona Facilitators group. She encouraged me to become a member and develop my skills with facilitation.
2. When have you seen a need for facilitation?
I utilize facilitation daily in my work, from focused conversations in staff meetings to consensus workshops and environmental scans, like the wave, as I both work with and participate with groups. These moments include but are not limited to: one on one conversations with staff, developing new collaborative programs, problem solving internal issues and working with various groups to help them navigate decisions.
3. Can you share a story of a time when facilitation or ToP methods really aided in moving a group?
I serve on the board of 9 people. The board is going through a rebranding process. 4 of the board members have more than 8 years’ history with the board. Another 4 have less than one year. The last and final member hails somewhere in between those two groups. We needed something to bring all 9 of us together and to get us on the same page. We participated in and environmental scan called “The Wave.” This really allowed us to focus more on what we have in common than those things that separate us. Those with longer tenures got rejuvenated about staying on the board, and those new members got excited about the possibilities of what we could accomplish.
4. What do you see as unique contribution or niche you have as a facilitator?
One of the things I pride myself in as a facilitator is my ability to genuinely connect with my participants. I never take myself too seriously and all our work should allow us the opportunity to celebrate and have some fun. Whether it be the ideal connector or finding the right moment to provide some levity to an intense situation, I enjoy working in and among groups so that their best results are achieved.
5. What are you most excited about when you think about what is happening with facilitation here in Arizona? What would you like others to know about?
I get excited about concepts like Ignite nights where individual groups are allowed 15 slides in 5 minutes to tell their story. I am excited the unconference ideas that are out there. Members of a shared community get together and discuss current events relevant to their field. These are great opportunities for facilitators to develop different skill sets to navigate in those arenas.
6. What would you like to see advance in the field of facilitation and / or in the Arizona ToP network locally?
We had the good fortune of hosting the 2016 annual ToP Gathering. This brought our local group closer together as we all worked hard to make sure we represented Arizona well. It was the 25th anniversary celebration. I would like to capitalize on that energy as our group continues to learn and grow together. I would also enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with some of the members of the ToP group. There is amazing talent in the group, and being able to learn and work alongside them would be phenomenal.
Reach out to Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.