The many colorful things happening at Rainbow, from the Executive Director
Dear Rainbow Families,
Even since writing this Kaleidoscope a day ago, the circumstances and community sensibility around COVID-19 are changing rapidly. Please note that although the story below talks about “if” we have to convert to online learning, the current sentiment is more “when” we will convert to online learning. Please look for a letter coming soon on how to prepare for this event that is now seeming imminent.
How do we live in community during a pandemic crisis? With compassion, responsibility, creativity, and equanimity.
I open this Kaleidoscope with a true story that captures all these qualities. Last week I had a moment of deep appreciation for our faculty around how they are dealing with the COVID-19. As you know, we have early release on Wednesdays so that our teachers can meet, plan, collaborate, and engage in various trainings throughout the year in order to continually improve the educational program at Rainbow. Last Wednesday (March 4) was supposed to be a time for teachers to work across grades to plan their Domain Day activities. Domain Day is a treasured day, so of course planning for it is incredibly important.
Instead, I and some of our key administrators announced that all staff and faculty would be meeting about the COVID-19 virus during that time, and planning for Domain Day would be cancelled. In fact, Domain Day could potentially be cancelled. We knew this would be a huge disappointment and we were worried about the effect on staff morale. No cases of COVID-19 had been announced in North Carolina yet, so it may have seemed as if we were being extreme.
But the faculty showed up on time and formed a circle in the auditorium. I opened with a centering where we envisioned health, wellness and resilience for ourselves, our community, and all living beings.
Then I announced that we will be using our imaginations to think about what could happen in the future with COVID-19 and how we want to respond. I pointed out that part of what is so difficult about this time is the ambiguity of it. No one knows what will happen, but our spiritual training at Rainbow has prepared us to be able to live with ambiguity gracefully.
As a faculty and staff we spent three hours understanding the facts about the disease and agreeing on our short-term protocols at Rainbow. Teachers are the most safety-conscious people I know. Therefore, I was not surprised at their diligence in making sure they understood everything. There were many questions and ideas on how to improve our safety, and we efficiently agreed on new policies and procedures.
Then, West led a training on Google Classroom, an online learning platform that might be useful if we switch to teaching remotely, and the teachers broke into teams to experiment with Google Classroom and to begin making plans for how they could deliver online learning.
After about an hour, we reconvened in a large circle to reflect, share, and ask final questions. This was a magical moment. Instead of a faculty who was downtrodden, overly-anxious, and negative about the whole situation, our faculty came back to the circle with energy and incredibly creative ideas about how they can deliver alternative education during this time. Some even commented that they see this as an opportunity to use Google Classroom and some other technological learning tools whether we have close or not. Many expressed gratitude for our community and for the forethinking we are putting into responding to COVID-19. We closed our scared circle with blessings for wellness.
I left that meeting in awe of our faculty – their emotional and spiritual maturity, their resilience and equanimity in the face of hardship, their willingness to do almost anything necessary to serve our children, and their genius. I couldn’t believe the great ideas they came up with. It’s hard to imagine any other school or organization having a 3-hour meeting about COVID-19 and walking out energized and hopeful, while still soberly recognizing the seriousness of this situation. These are the people whom your children are looking up to as role models.
I just had a parent ask if there is such a thing as being smart and being calm at the same time. I replied, “Yes, it’s called ‘equanimity.’” That is exactly what our teachers have, and that is what your children are learning. Equanimity is the secret to a good life and a strong community.
If nothing else, when we are faced with a crisis, we can see it as change. Change can be challenging, but especially when it happens quickly and has dire consequences. However, when we have compassion, responsibility, creativity, and equanimity we can survive with our morals intact and with our community stronger, knowing that no matter what happens, we will treat one another with love and respect. I hope we can all look back on this knowing that each of us as individuals were unselfish and cared for one another and the public at large as best as we could.
Like the teachers who decided to approach the idea of remote learning with “higher” ideals, I keep thinking about ways this whole crisis might have some positive outcomes. For example, I was wondering if, ironically, this whole crisis might bring some families closer together. If it turns out that families are quarantined or in semi-isolation at home together, how can families make the most of that time?
I have also been thinking about equity, which involves compassion for all people and our responsibility to think about everyone’s needs. For example, if our school has to close the campus and do learning at home, some families will have a parent who can stay home with their child, while others will not have that privilege. How will we all help care for people in that situation?
Let’s think about greeting one another. As mentioned above, we are all having to adapt to change at lightning speed, and changing social norms is extremely challenging and awkward. In my Rainbow biography it says that it’s impossible to get through a day at Rainbow without a hug. Well, that’s changing. But I would like to bring back an old tradition of greeting one another with a “prayer hands” a namaste motion. It’s a beautiful greeting. I have also witnessed some other unique forms of greetings that involve creativity and cooperation – like making a spiral shape in the air together. Let’s get creative. They say laughter is the best medicine, and we need a lot of good medicine right now.
Thinking about The WHOLE and SLOWING DOWN. Jessy Tickle just shared an article with me explaining public health strategy that would save lives in a way I hadn’t fully comprehended. It takes a mathematical, systems approach to the pandemic spread. The article acknowledges that mathematically this virus is going to spread and a huge percentage of the population will inevitably contract it.
It explains why systemically, it is critical we do everything possible to keep it from spreading too quickly. Why? Because if too many people contract it at one time it will overwhelm our societal systems and medical facilities, and when medical facilities are overwhelmed people die who otherwise could have gotten help. Plus, the slower it spreads, the more time our scientists, government, and other experts and public officials have time to develop cures and strategies to contain and treat the spread. Thinking about the WHOLE is one way to exercise compassion and responsibility.
Compassion, responsibility, creativity, and equanimity: That’s what your children learn every day at Rainbow. Let’s model it for them.
In closing, I want to add a somber note. Yesterday the faculty met again, and we had a moment where we honored the deep sorrow that we as teachers and parents may experience in watching our children process the realities of the world, especially now. We continue to have faith that no matter what the circumstances, we will guide ourselves and our children toward a perspective of love. Through love, we can remember that we are rooted in resilience.