You probably know that music changes lives. It brings people together. For this month’s team highlight, we wanted to share about Sue Ford, our longtime music teacher who is heavily involved in the Asheville community with Village Marimba.
A Brief History About Sue Ford
Sue Ford has been a part of Rainbow Community School as the music teacher since 2003. She left Rainbow for a little while to work at Evergreen Community Charter School in 2006. While there, she started a marimba band. Along her musical journey, she’d spent time studying with folks trained in playing marimba. In fact, she’s dabbled with marimba for a long time, even participating in a band called “Chikomo.”
After leaving Evergreen in 2016, Sue felt that she had the confidence to move ahead with the marimba business she’d started. At Rainbow, as part of that business, she offered to teach marimba after school. In that time, she’s had students from the 5th grade all the way through 12th grade join her marimba classes.
Due to demand, she began an adult marimba class last summer. It proved to be so popular that she added a second class. Many RCS staff have participated in these classes. Those who have taken Sue’s marimba class report that it feels so empowering and that it is a lot of fun.
During her tenure as a teacher, Sue has worked with students ranging in age from preschool through middle school. Mountain Express and the Asheville Community selected Sue Ford as the “Best Music Teacher” for four years in a row.
What Students Learn in Marimba Classes
Students in Village Marimba learn music that interests them, including popular music. They also incorporate multicultural music, work on their general marimba technique, and work in tandem with each other, as well as other musically-minded folks.
Take a look at one of her Village Marimba videos:
Expanding The Marimba Horizons
The historic significance of the marimba is important to Sue. The marimba instrument itself originated in Zimbabwe (a country that used to be known as Rhodesia).
Influenced by the equity work that Rainbow is doing, Sue thought about how the marimba has had such an impact on her life and influenced her music. She began thinking about how she could give back to the people who made the instrument possible.
Last fall, Sue got in touch with Peter Swing, a fellow marimba teacher and friend who lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He had connections with marimba musicians in Zimbabwe. Sue asked him if he knew anyone in Zimbabwe that would benefit from a donation from her company, as a way to give back.
Indeed he did! Peter put her in touch with a teacher in Zimbabwe. Shortly after, Sue launched a campaign to support the work of Barnabas Ngalande by raising over $1000 in two different fundraisers. Barnabas was a “mbira” teacher and with the proceeds from Sue’s campaign, he was able to build several of these instruments. Barnabas also sponsored three orphaned girls to send them to a high school with a music curriculum as a result of this funding.
In the weeks after the most recent benefit fundraiser, Sue received a letter from one of Barnabas’ students:
The three girls are part of Barnabas’ mbira group, “Mbirautare.” The student above, who wrote the thank-you letter to Sue, just enrolled in her school in January 2018.
We are so glad that Sue is part of Rainbow and that she is offering these classes to our community!
We have some pretty amazing staff here at Rainbow Community School.
We have so many folks with myriad talents.
This month’s team highlight is Katie Wilson, our 5th grade teaching assistant. You’ll never guess what Katie was able to do last summer.
It all starts with a story about how she found Rainbow in the first place.
How did Katie become a part of the staff at Rainbow?
Katie’s life has been serendipitous! She temporarily relocated to Boone, NC after living abroad. She’d been teaching English in Mexico and returned to the US to continue her teaching career here.
While up in Boone, she found out about an opening in the after school program at Rainbow and decided to take it. Right then, she was working as a nanny part-time.
She loved Rainbow so much, that when the opportunity came to be able to work with Susie in fourth grade as a full-time employee, she jumped at the chance.
Later, she was able to move up with the same students to fifth grade this year.
Earlier in the year, the director from a summer camp where Katie used to work contacted her.
He was leaving his company to focus on retirement and asked if she would be willing to take on directing the summer camp for international students who wanted to learn English.
Katie’s former director worked the business side of the camp while she worked the educational and development side, including overseeing staff.
Knowing that she always wanted to develop her own educational programs, it was a great opportunity.
This past summer, she developed the entire ESL curriculum for the summer camp, as well as all the programming. She also had the pleasure of locating it at Rainbow!
The Summer Camp: Visions USA
The camp operated by recruiting students from Germany, Spain, and Italy who were interested in learning English. It provided an authentic setting in which to learn English as a Second or Other Language, as well as give students an incredible international cultural experience.
Students stayed with local host families and attended English classes in the morning at Rainbow for four days per week, and then engaged in more fun activities in the afternoons.
They spent time volunteering one day per week as part of the program. Volunteer work is an important component of camp programming.
This gave international students a chance to see what the Asheville community was all about, the struggles people faced and provided visiting students with opportunities to give back to the community in which they were living and learning.
Similar to what Rainbow students do during the school year, campers went to Manna, Black Mountain Home for Kids to help with events, volunteered at local high schools, helped to paint a mural, and more.
Fridays were reserved as field days where they would go rafting, to Carrowinds, go on an overnight to see the Atlanta Braves, or other similar activities.
The camp also offered language courses for the host families’ siblings, as well.
What were some things Katie learned about running a summer camp?
The summer camp session of 2017 was incredibly successful.
Students from different countries experienced US culture, and experienced each others’ culture in a supportive environment.
In only three weeks, they became best friends and formed deep friendships that will last well beyond their time at camp.
Katie loved the fact that she was affiliated with Rainbow and how she was able to share the attitudes that Rainbow cultivates, including its teaching styles, with all the international students.
Activities included centering, teaching to the domains, and incorporating positive discipline techniques to students who hadn’t experienced that before.
We at Rainbow make it a habit to practice gratitude – not just around Thanksgiving – but all during the school year.
It happens in centerings, and teachers work to instill the two words, “thank you” into every student.
As Renee mentioned in her November Kaleidoscope, the practice of gratitude can boost happiness, optimism, overall life satisfaction, and more. So much more.
Around Rainbow, we speak a lot about the 7 Domains and how each teacher carefully plans lessons that integrate each one. Like a puzzle piece, gratitude fits beautifully into each domain, making it easy for students to become mindful of the power of gratitude.
In the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving break, students engaged in centerings and activities to help drive home the idea of a solid practice of giving thanks.
All over campus, students participated in centerings, song circles, and wrote things they were thankful for on leaves to create a gratitude tree.
Indeed, students have a powerful sense of appreciation. We went to the After School to ask students what they were thankful for. They all instantly came up with life’s most precious and priceless gifts: family, friends, animals, nature.
Take a look for yourself:
Activities Around Campus
Gratitude is about connection.
In Preschool (Blue Door), they asked “What are you connected to?” This led to a discussion about how we’re all connected to the elements of the earth, how we feel love, and that gratitude is part of that.
The first grade Cheetahs made turkeys with feathers of gratitude. Fourth grade culminated their archaeology unit with a centering that incorporated appreciation for studying archeological discoveries.
Song circle this week incorporated songs about family, spending time in the woods, and the “Best Day of My Life.”
We invite all students to lead their families in a centering with a focus on gratitude over break. They will know what to do.
However, if you would like some ideas, here are some ways to incorporate a centering with your child.
Gather in a circle. Take three deep breaths. You can optionally light a candle.
Have everyone in your circle write down something for which they are thankful and put it into a jar. When everyone’s finished, each person can randomly take out a slip of paper and read it aloud. Younger students who are learning to write will need help with this activity.
A variation of this could be to go outside, or to write down thoughts of gratitude on a ball and have people in the circle catch it and read off a line of gratitude nearest their right or left thumb. This activity can have so many variations!
Have your child say a blessing over your food.
Close with three more deep breaths.
For more ideas, a quick check on a search engine will give you many to choose from.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. — Melody Beattie
In closing, we hope that all Rainbow families, friends, staff, and students have a wonderful holiday break!
We are grateful for all the love you give, the hope, the inspiration, the peace, mindfulness, and how you give back to the earth.
The school’s founders envisioned a curriculum that taught love and mindfulness, so that the world would become more of these things.
40 years later, we’re doing a two year celebration.
This is because school leaders began shaping their vision for the school in 1977 through parent meetings, gathering ideas, and research. The school opened its doors for the first time in 1978.
This year, in 2017, you’ll begin to see a lot more information about the history of the school, interviews with alumni, and more. In the fall of 2018, we would like to put together a celebration involving all members of our community, both past and present.
Rainbow alumni are invited to the first annual alumni gathering on Friday, Oct. 6th, 2017 from 7-10pm at Rainbow Community School.
We believe that getting the word out about love and mindfulness is so incredibly important. Because of that, we also want to invite you to the More Than Mindfulness Conference.
RCS has an adult education component where we train parents, teachers, and other adults in using holistic education practices, and mindfulness practices. It’s a great opportunity for folks to deeply understand what we are about here at Rainbow, and the larger purpose behind what we are doing.