Listening Conferences: A Deep Listening Activity

Listening Conferences: A Deep Listening Activity

The words of American spiritual teacher and author Ram Dass encourage us to live FULLY, in the present moment, without judgement. How do you achieve this? What practices do you embrace?

“Be Here Now” for example, calls on mindfulness practice.
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear” invites stillness.
“The heart surrenders everything to the moment. The mind judges and holds back” summons your love.

As individuals on our own unique spiritual journeys, we are always looking for inspiration that may guide our inner work.  Ram Dass’s wisdom offers insight and intention that may aid in cultivating a heightened self-awareness. We know that an elevated self-awareness has the capacity to lead to meaningful and enduring relationships.

RCS is founded on meaningful relationships.

The relationship between the teacher and the learner is the heart of education and a parent is a child’s first teacher. Rainbow honors that and strives to communicate with parents compassionately and empathetically, learn from the parent, see the child from through many lenses, support the child holistically and  bridge home life and school life. One of the many ways these relationships are nurtured is through meaningful and intentional conferencing. Rainbow sets aside a conference time in early September called Listening Conference. During this conference the faculty calls upon self awareness by practicing the skills of deep listening.

Deep Listening is a way of hearing in which we are fully present in the moment without judgement or control. Deep listening asks us to let go of our inner dialogue, pre-formed opinions and assumptions, challenges us to abstain from crafting a response and simply listen in a mindful and respectful way to what is be shared. This is a time to be attentive not reactive, to listening actively not passively, to embrace compassion and empathy, AND to bring a great self-awareness to the act of listening.

To do this effectively requires that our mind takes a backseat to our heart.

Each conference embraces these powerful questions: Can we develop a practice of listening that allows another person to find their next step? Can we become the birthplace of understanding for someone else? Can we learn to carry in our hearts the destinies of others?

Each conference opens with a sacred ritual. Teachers may light a candle, read a reflective quote, hold space for silence, lead a guided mediation and/or offer a prompt with the purpose of inviting the child’s spirit to the conversation.

How can what we do at RCS inspire your own personal or professional work? What if we practiced deep and mindful listening in our everyday lives, what if we always invited spirit in to the conversation?

Turning Routine into Ritual

Turning Routine into Ritual

Fall is here and fall break has likely come and gone for many of us. This season often brings a lot of transition for our students. These transitions are embedded in the rhythms of the natural world, the energy around celebrations and holidays, and within the refection and personal goal setting that emerges from the start of  each school year.

With this in mind, I invite you to stop for a moment and imagine the experience of a child as he transitions from home to school after just one night, a weekend, or a long holiday.

Maybe you imagined the hustle and bustle as he arrvied- the classroom filled with stories, sharing, reconnection and laughter. Or maybe you imagined the groggy, sleepy child, dragging his feet and resisting the weekday routine. Or even the child emerging from a car ride full of screen time. Maybe you witnessed a child arriving hungry without a proper dinner and/or breakfast. Or a child who is sleep deprived due to long working hours from the previous. Or even a child who is managing some sort of trauma in his life. Regardless, the classroom you imagined was likely flooded with 20+ learners holding varying levels of energy, focus, fuel, and general centeredness. As educators, we recognize the importance of holding space for all those varying energies but for also fostering a culture of centeredness so that all pathways to learning are open.

How do we actively support this transition from home to school each day?
How do we invite a level of awareness or mindfulness for our learners?
How do we foster a sacred intention for learning?

At Rainbow we achieve this through a morning ritual called centering. Ritual is simply defined as a ceremonial act. To that end, our centering practices are ceremonial in nature. During these practices, simple routines are turned into rituals through tone, intention and mindfulness.

First, the hustle and bustle of the morning is calmed and quieted with the ring of a chime or bell. It is amazing how a soft sound can silence a room and even more amazing how silence can invite sacredness into a space. This sound is a reminder to the students that they are about to engage in a sacred ceremony.

Secondly, pausing to take deep breaths together shifts each person’s individual energy into a collective synergy. Then, lighting a candle in silence invites something powerful and even magical into the classroom. This fire also serves as an anchor point for which learners can choose to cast their gaze when reflecting or meditating. Additionally, sending a greeting around the circle or turning to greet a neighbor not only allows each individual to be seen and to be witnessed, but it invites compassion, empathy and mutual respect. Speaking a verse, blessing or word into the circle also supports coherence and connectedness among all class mates. It serves as another reminder that we are on this learning journey together.

These rituals not only help to support the home to school transition, focus each learner, nourish class coherence and synergy, but they remind us that learning is scared.

Rainbow utilizes ritual in other transformative ways; meal blessings, honoring and memorializing people, animals & places, expressions of gratitude and appreciation, blessing ways and other birth and death transitions, rites of passage, communal celebrations all become ceremonial acts.

How can what we do at RCS inspire your own personal or professional work?

Can you replace a daily routine with a ritual by adding a mindful presence to it or by enhancing it with ceremony?

Try creating ritual for your classroom, organization and/or home?

Here is a brief list of simple rituals:

A gratitude exercise, a silent nature walk, quote reflection, a daily song/ verse or blessing, a visualization, read a daily story with a virtue/ moral, draw and/or color a mandala, borrow/adapt a ritual from a particular culture/religion, create nature art, give affirmations to friends and family members, practice mudras, yoga, qigong, or a martial art, and daily journaling.

Kaleidoscope September 2017

Kaleidoscope September 2017

The Many Wonderful Things Going On At Rainbow

Howdy! Welcome to the first Kaleidoscope issue for the 2017-18 school year. For those of you who are new to Rainbow, Kaleidoscope isn’t really a newsletter. While it does provide some news, it’s more of an opportunity to learn the rationale and strategy behind decisions, to get a glimpse into what is ahead for the future, and to read random ramblings of my heart and mind.

It’s a little bit like having a conversation with me. If you have ever asked me out to dinner or hung out with me in any social setting, you might know that I love to “talk shop.” There is nothing that fascinates me more than Rainbow Community School!

 

What fascinates you?

If you had your child(ren) at home all summer, how has your life changed since getting them back into the school routine? Has it opened up any time for you to rekindle your own passions and interests? Sometimes as parents we forget that we have (or had) a life beyond children and work. I hope you are able to keep that spark alive. Your children will love you for it.

 

Step up to PEP!

Wednesday night’s Parent Engagement Program is an important time for us, as parents and caregivers, to nurture ourselves and to learn more about our inner life, our community, and our children.

Thanks to Parent Council and the hard work and vision of West Willmore, our first of three required parent engagement programs (PEP) will be from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesday, September 27 in the auditorium.

These parent programs are required for several reasons – the most important being their potential to improve the quality of your children’s experience, but also out of respect for the hard work and resources required to produce the PEP program.

 

Transition and mourning

Last week was the equinox and Rosh Hashanah — a time of transition. story, ceremony, and the transformation of suffering

For those of us who knew Chris Weaver, these two events brought a whole new meaning. Chris was a beloved teacher at Evergreen Charter School for nine years and North Carolina Charter School Teacher of the Year.

His last year of school teaching was at Rainbow. He taught 3rd grade for the 15-16 school year, so most of this year’s fifth graders had him.

Chris was a magical person – deeply spiritual, wildly creative. As his previous teaching assistant said at his memorial: “Chris Weaver was someone who truly cared.” His relationships with children were more authentic and went deeper than perhaps any teacher I have known.

Chris was a beautiful writer, and he wrote a book about transformation through suffering and loss – particularly loss of loved ones. We followed his “directions” for how to move through loss by holding a fire circle all day on Friday, which ended with Sandra reading a mythical story from his book.

The story began with a sudden torrential rain creating a river that unexpectedly separated loved ones within a small tribe from one another. As people realized that there was no way to cross the river, the loss and grieving was inconsolable.

The story ended with a little bird transforming into a spiritual being that could bring messages to and from people who would never be able to see one another in the flesh again.

Messages such as, “I love you.”  “I wanted to say goodbye.”  And, “I forgive you.” The story was cathartic and healing.

I was so in love with our community, who rallied to help our fifth graders (and all of us who were touched by Chris) through grieving.

Thank you, Chris, for all you gave.

 

What does it all mean?

At Rainbow, we always put purpose at the center of education.

We keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of education is to help humans reach their highest developmental potential, or to thrive so they can create a flourishing society.

We have a lot going on at Rainbow and sometimes it may be hard to see the long- range vision.  The RCS Board of Directors, with input from our community, adopted a Strategic Plan in March 2016 that serves as a guide for the decisions we make.

As executive director, the strategic plan helps me make daily decisions regarding how to work toward our highest purpose using the resources we have, so that we are a sustainable non-profit business. Two of the plan’s most purposeful goals are to become a more equitable organization and to be a positive influence on education at large.  We are a private school with a public purpose.

 

What are we doing to be a more equitable organization?

An important part of that goal is to steadily increase teacher salaries, so they are paid equitably.  Our initial goal was to increase salaries to at least that of Buncombe County public school teachers.  Rainbow salaries have gone up consistently (26% since 2012) and we expect to match Buncombe County within two years.

Did you know that 80% of our annual budget goes toward staff salaries and related expenses?  Of course, your tuition dollars are what directly pays teachers and staff, so we have strategically been increasing salaries steadily, yet moderately enough so that tuition doesn’t suddenly jump too high.

One of the ways you can help right now is to carefully look over the annual campaign letter and packet that you should have recently received.

If you didn’t receive it, please let the office know. Also, if you would like to read my letter again or share it in a digital format, you can access it here. The annual campaign helps to make Rainbow a more equitable place, because it works using the community concept of “give as you are able, receive as needed,” which benefits all of us.

 

Another important aspect of equitability is racial equity.

It has been our goal to ensure families and children of color have the opportunity to attend RCS.  In Asheville, racial inequity is extreme and largely drawn along lines of income, with the majority of families of color living in poverty.

Therefore, increasing financial aid funds has been critical to also increasing racial diversity and equity. We have met our goal for increasing financial aid, and we feel very fortunate to have been able to offer greater access to an RCS education.

We do not expect to be able to expand financial aid much further in the future, but will instead concentrate on improving the program for all families who are already here. Also, we’re clear that not all people of color are under-resourced or need financial aid.

So a question we have to continually ask ourselves is, “Do children and families of color feel fully included here?” And, “How can we – as individuals and as an organization– do better?”

Addressing these issues is hard and complex, but necessary because getting diversity right provides all of our students with the best education. That’s why we’ve hired Danaé Aicher as our Equity Director.

She will not only help our faculty and staff to be mindful and intentional around issues of equity; but she will also keep parents informed about opportunities to educate themselves. I hope you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. We will be a stronger community and our students will have an exceptional educational experience if you do!

 

What do you think would make Rainbow a more equitable and inclusive organization?

With that question in mind, it’s important to remember that we don’t receive government funds to support our programming, and as a non-profit organization, no one makes a profit. The board is made up of volunteers, not investors. The administration, for example, has set salaries that don’t increase through any profit.

Therefore, all revenue collected from tuition, donations, and grants during the year are spent on the program. We are budgeted to bring in 2.5 million dollars this school year and we will spend every penny of it with precision.

As head of the organization, I am constantly working to find the most fair, equitable way to distribute those dollars while providing the highest quality education for our children and ensuring that Rainbow will always be a force of good for Asheville and for the field of education.

 

One of the ways we are a positive force for Asheville is through our facilities.

We rent out our facilities – especially our beautiful auditorium – to organizations year-round.  On Sundays, the Gathering Church has been leasing from us for over two years now.

We have no affiliation with the church, but they have become good neighbors who help us improve the campus.

For other non-profit organizations that cannot afford a space of their own, we lease or donate our space, and thereby help make Asheville a more vibrant place.

 

How can Rainbow influence education at large?

Yes, we have an incredible school – a childhood utopia, in some regards. How can we share that with others beyond financial aid and the few lucky people who get to attend Rainbow?

We believe that the purpose of education is to create a thriving society. What would our society look like if more schools and educators adopted the Rainbow Seven Domains and other Rainbow practices?

 

The Vision for Rainbow Institute.

RI logo

We founded Rainbow Institute with the goal of inspiring a holistic education revolution.

The upcoming More Than Mindfulness Conference, October 6 and 7, is intended to train and inspire educators, therapists, and leaders to use holistic and mindfulness practices in their classrooms, workplaces, and homes.

We also encourage parents to come to the conference. You can purchase a ticket here.

We are hopeful that Rainbow Institute will provide innovative ways for teachers to supplement their salaries. The vision is for teachers to be able to do consulting work through Rainbow Institute (such as training teachers at other schools, etc.).

Eventually, I predict that we will be hired to open other Rainbow Seven Domains Schools. I like to envision Rainbow Community schools all around the world, with children of every demographic having the opportunity for a humane, high quality, engaging, holistic education.

With that in mind, I am excited to announce that our expertise is already being sought out.

Lisa Miller, author of the fantastic book The Spiritual Child and head of clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College, is starting a new Collaborative for Spiritual Development.

She has asked 12 leaders from schools that embed spirituality in their teaching practice to work together over 18 months to compose a set of resources and best practices to share with educators.  I will be traveling to Teachers College in mid-October to begin work on the Collaborative.

 

Special People on Campus!

On Friday, October 6, the evening of the More Than Mindfulness Conference, we are hosting our first Rainbow alumni reunion. Alumni parent, Jenny Hatcher, has been contacting as many alumni students and parents as possible to invite them.

Three of our four founders are planning to attend and one of them, Nura (formerly Ashrita) Laird, will be the keynote speaker at the conference during the day.

The event will be an opportunity to begin collecting stories from our alumni. If you are an alumni family or you know one, please help us spread the word by sharing this invitation link with them.

 

Here comes the sun!

Thanks to an incredible private foundation donation, we will soon be installing solar panels on the auditorium, which are expected to almost fully power that building!

We are currently waiting on an approval from Duke Energy, but have been told they often stall on such approvals for as long as possible, as it doesn’t benefit their business.

We hope to get the go-ahead in the next couple of months so we can start generating energy from the sun. Not only will this reduce our reliance on dirty coal-power, but it will also save a lot of money on our utility bills. The auditorium uses more energy than all the other buildings combined.

Thank you, anonymous, generous, and visionary donor!  We are so blessed.

 

Here comes the rain!

Have you seen our new wetlands area?  It is in the northeast corner of the lower campus – at the edge of the parking loop for the auditorium.

The Blue Ridge Printers parking lot above us was creating a lot of water pollution.  Every time it rained, sheets of water were dumping from their lot onto our campus and then eventually pouring into the French Broad River.

The biggest water pollution threat for the FBR is this type of water pollution because of the heat gain from surface water and the dirt in the water.

Buncombe County Soil and Water worked with us to engineer a series of pools to collect and filter runoff from Blue Ridge’s parking lot. The “wetlands” may be one of the nicest places on campus when the newly installed native plants mature.

 

There is so much going on!

I have only conveyed a small portion of all that is happening on campus. What is the common theme of all this activity? We are a positive force in the world – a beacon of light that is meant to spread.

 

Do we expect to solve all the world’s problems?

No… and yes. Someone has to, for the sake of our children. Recently, I moved further away from the school and I drive more often (whereas I used to ride my bicycle most days). Therefore, I hear the news more than I used to. Every day, the news brings tears to my eyes. It’s all so overwhelming! But then I arrive on campus and see your children.

I see they are completely focused on the present moment and I instantly forget about everything going on “out there.” It makes me wonder how people who don’t work with children maintain any sanity.  Our children are everything!  Thank you for sharing your children with us.  They give meaning to life.

With love,
Renee Owen

Gratitude Jars

Gratitude Jars

The beginning of an RCS school year serves as a rite of passage for every student and their classroom community. This time is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, a new beginning- a fresh start. RCS teachers begin by creating a sacred and safe foundation in which the students can explore their role as integral community members. Teachers strive to foster shared ritual and ceremony and aim to nurture a culture that embraces the spiritual virtues such as mutual respect, deep connection, appreciation and gratitude.

Daily centering practices aid the teacher in establishing this culture through themes that are inspired by the various spiritual virtues. For example, fourth graders begin their year by building Gratitude Jars. The purpose of this centering activity is to meditate on the power of gratitude and serve as a model for giving and receiving appreciations. These jars also serve as grounding resources to return to on days that are particularly hard or challenging and/or when a child may need to refocus on a positive energy. “The struggle ends when gratitude begins” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Our teachers are well aware of the many benefits of cultivating gratitude in their personal lives and in the lives of their students.

Click here for a great article on The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life. 

This activity is launched by an email to families requesting a personalized gratitude for their child. This can be as simple or complex as a family would like it to be. Once the gratitudes have been collected by the teacher, the students participate in a centering practice in which they create their jars.

The opening of this centering focuses on the power of gratitude and the sacred practice of slowing down and appreciating the special people and experiences in our lives.- maybe by reflecting on a quote about gratitude.

The teacher then explains that the jars will serve as year long collection vessels for various gratitudes and appreciations.The students are then guided to use tissue paper to personalize their jar (It works best if pieces of tissue paper are no bigger than a square inch and applied to the outside of the glass jar with the glue solution) and this introductory centering concludes as they jars are left to dry overnight.

The next day, during a follow up centering, students are again encouraged to meditate on the power of gratitude and are prompted to share in a partnership the following considerations…

Why might gratitude be considered contagious?
What type of energy does gratitude spread?
If gratitude were a color what color would it be and why? 

The students regroup and the teacher hands each child their jar (at this point the teacher has secretly placed the family written gratitudes inside each jar). The teacher sets the tone for exploring the jar and encourages the children to use it as a sacred time to personally digest the gift of gratitude from their family. This is not a time when sharing is necessary…instead encourage the students to place the notes back in the jar when finished reading them.

These jars are reintroduced throughout the year with notes from teachers and others students as deemed necessary and appropriate by the teacher.

How can what we do at RCS inspire your own personal or professional work? 

Consider these questions…
Why might gratitude be considered contagious?
What type of energy does gratitude spread?
If gratitude were a color what color would it be and why? 

Rainbow Community School: 40th Anniversary Announcement

Rainbow Community School: 40th Anniversary Announcement

Our Executive Director, Renee, has created a video inviting all students, staff, alumni and families of Rainbow Community School to join us in celebrating 40 years of holistic education.

Below is a summary of the video, with invitations to the 40th Anniversary Celebration and the More Than Mindfulness Conference.

Celebrating 40 Years of Love!

Rainbow is 40 years old. We invite you to celebrate with us!

Some great leaders and healers gathered together in 1977 to found Rainbow Mountain Children’s School. Now known as Rainbow Community School, it was founded on love.

The world becomes what you teach.Zoe Weil

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.

RSVP for the Alumni Event

Looking For Volunteers

To that end, we are looking for volunteers for a 40th Anniversary Committee.

If you’re interested, please contact Kate in the office at info@rainbowlearning.org.

You can also contact Renee directly at 258-9264 ext. 111 or you can email her at renee.owen@rainbowlearning.org.

The More Than Mindfulness Conference

mindfulness

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.

Register for the MTM Conference Here

Thank you for celebrating 40 years of love with us. We know it’s a great education for your child and a great education for the world.

Education in the Postmodern Era

Education in the Postmodern Era

Education in the Postmodern Era

From a historical perspective, transitions from one era to the next seem like they happened overnight. But in reality, each transition took lifetimes, and the people who lived through those transitions didn’t fully understand what was happening.

It is becoming clear that we are currently living in such a time of transition. The Modern Era is behind us, and a new era—the Postmodern Era—is ahead. What are the values and skills our students will need to thrive in the Postmodern Era?

Read more of Renee’s article over at the National Association of Independent Schools website by clicking the button below.