Kaleidoscope – January 2021

Kaleidoscope – January 2021

Kaleidoscope – January 2021

We are excited to dig into the Pollyanna Racial Literacy Curriculum where every voice counts, particularly those that are least often heard. We are using this curriculum as a supplement to what we already teach and it so naturally fits into our ongoing efforts for a holistic education. We encourage you to review the Pollyanna Parent/Guardian Guide to get a better understanding of what your student will be learning. – Danae Aicher, Equity Director

 

Dear Rainbow Friends and Families,

I hope that 2021 brings many blessings to you and your family. It marks a new beginning. It is one of many new year cycles that lend itself to reflective and visionary thinking. At the school level this is a midway point. It is a natural fulcrum upon which we balance looking back at what we have accomplished and learned, and looking ahead to the possibilities and intentions for the future. 

Looking back, the gravity of 2020 is powerful in both its own right and in the ways it surfaced for some, and reinforced for others, the collective influence of our nation’s history on our modern experience.  Our obligation to analyze Rainbow’s equity efforts, and to reckon with our evolution of impact, became exceedingly clear during a thriving pandemic and racial tensions. This work is never done, but the more we centralize it, the more it will be internalized individually and systemically. 

Naming a commitment to social justice in our mission statement and establishing ourselves as an Affirmative Action school are foundational efforts. These ideas are continually revisited to ensure their integrity. Additionally, the work of building the structures, systems, and culture of an institution that lives these principles is an active role we all play regularly. This Kaleidoscope is dedicated to surfacing several of the elements that comprise our current progress in offering a humane and decolonized educational experience for our families and children. 

Below Danae Aicher, our Equity Director, speaks to the power of embedding our institutional work within the larger context of national events. 

There’s an old saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. The idea is that the universe will always test our commitment to whatever it is we declare we want to do.

Like so many other organizations, we here at Rainbow, have declared our commitment to equity. Equity is trendy. So much is going on in the world around us that lots of people are getting on board, anxious for some way to affect change. The ideological shift to equity is challenging all by itself. Rainbow has done that. For us, the challenge is (and will continue to be)… How do we live our mission?

The last year has really tested us. COVID put a spotlight on the cracks through which too many of our students and families are getting caught. And even as we work overtime to adapt to the changes we have to make in order to provide the best version of a Rainbow education that we can, we know that our models simply don’t work for those who are most vulnerable. Fortunately, we do not believe that pandemic education will last forever. Inherent in this pause is the obligation that we build back our educational programming with a lens on systemic and institutional norms that are in service to all students, families and staff. For further transparency, our Strategic Plan names benchmarks we are working to achieve in the next five years. 

This summer, another series of murders of Black people, The Black Lives Matter protests that swept across the country, and the political rhetoric we witnessed opposing them, shone another spotlight; a spotlight on a deep racial divide of experience in this country. Many of our white parents woke to a calling for new awareness and answered that call by engaging in honest and sometimes painful discussions with each other as well as with some of our parents of color and parents of students of color. Attendance at events like Talking to Kids About Race and White Supremacy and Me Discussion Groups, and participation in Equity Circle  are examples of this work. Out of this, we are watching families develop deeper relationships and bringing us more into community with one another. Furthermore, some of you are asking profound questions of us and pushing us to have greater imagination about what it means to “develop accomplished, confident, and creative learners who are prepared to be compassionate leaders in building a socially just, spiritually connected, and environmentally sustainable world.”  

That mission feels especially important right now. We witnessed a horrifying scene last week. While we are not a political organization, we are one that collectively seeks to honor the whole body. That is what it means to be holistic. We cannot honor the whole without telling the truth. Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Insurrection is defined as “a violent uprising against an authority or government”.  On January 6, we witnessed a terrorist insurrection. While there’s shock and sadness for many of us, let’s keep in mind that for some in our community there was less shock and more expectation- an understanding that this has been part of the duality of our country. And the fear and worry is not esoteric or theoretical or even political; it is an everyday lived experience of having to always be aware of one’s surroundings, who is around, and who can be trusted if they face physical harm. We live in two Americas and none of us wants to continue that. 

That is why it is so important that we develop a broader curriculum for our students, one that encourages curiosity, sensitivity, cultural awareness, and critical thinking. Our Omega curriculum, and the required Equity Elective offer students the chance to examine our history and our present, find the inconsistencies in our ideals, and find the moments of great leadership beyond the common “heroes”. What lessons can they take from that and model in their own lives?  

We are excited to dig into the Pollyanna Racial Literacy Curriculum where every voice counts, particularly those that are least often heard. We are using this curriculum as a supplement to what we already teach and it so naturally fits into our ongoing efforts for a holistic education. We encourage you to review the Pollyanna Parent/Guardian Guide to get a better understanding of what your student will be learning. 

As we approach re-enrollment season, it is an opportune time to consider what it means to commit to Affirmative Action as a school community. One aspect is weighted admission, meaning preference is given to children and families of color that would like to join our school community.  Of course, this is just the beginning. We need to ensure that once a family or child of color joins our community, we apply every effort to create a climate of inclusion and belonging. Affirmative Action means we exercise the right to interpret and apply policies differently for children and families of color. As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, explains, “Treating different things the same can generate as much inequality as treating the same things differently.” A commitment to Affirmative Action implies that when we build a culture of equity, instead of equality, we all benefit because our needs are met in compliance with our individualized experiences. 

While not a specific example of Affirmative Action, the 6th grade classroom currently provides a prime example of applying a policy differently to a subset of our population. Grade six has been an anomaly this year because a large number of students enrolled in fully remote education. It has reached a point that we are able to defer the cohort model, and offer fully in person learning for the eleven eligible families, until February 26th when the next round of re-enrollment decisions are made. In addition, we are able to offer fully in person learning to the two siblings of 6th graders that attend Omega ⅞ programming. Unfortunately, we are not able to make this same offer for the siblings at the elementary level, because our resources are different. The 6th grade parents consented to this decision, highlighting a community that understands that we should not prevent optimal learning circumstances for some, simply because we cannot provide them for all. That being said, we all experience indirect benefits of this opportunity that will pave the way for further reintegration to weekly in person learning as it is safe and viable for other parts of our institution. 

Kate Brantley and I are participating in Whiteness At Work. It is a four part training series designed to dismantle norms influenced by white dominant culture that impede the success of building a safe diverse working environment. While the Pollyanna curriculum focuses on a ground up approach to equity through educating our children, this type of analysis ensures the equity lens is utilized with a comprehensive, systemic, and long term vision intact. This includes hiring practices, evaluation systems, daily work conditions, and more. Fortunately, this is not the task of administration alone. Our Dynamic Governance structure provides ample opportunity for systemic change to be fostered through collective community action. We are stronger together.

As we look ahead to the 21-22 school year, there is so much hope. Not simply for a comprehensive response to the pandemic and social unrest of 2020, but for the potential of an inspired reimaging of what is possible within and beyond our community and classrooms. Our conversation about equity is ongoing, and we will always be working to create and maintain a more equitable school community. 

On January 26th, we will be hosting a school wide meeting to offer a look at Rainbow’s future. I look forward to engaging in a hope-filled conversation with you all at that time. More details about this event will be shared in upcoming Rainbow Reminders and classroom Newsletters. 

It is my sincerest pleasure to be entering a new year with each of you. May we continue to build trust, dialogue, and community in the journey ahead.

In Love,

Susie Fahrer

Executive Director

Rainbow Community School and Omega Middle School

Kaleidoscope – January 2021

Kaleidoscope- September 2020

The autumn equinox ushers in the final harvest season and delights with warm hues painting the leaves and landscape.

We watch as the creatures of the natural world busy themselves with preparations for the winter months. I find that the pace of our school community often mirrors this vibrant energy with routines giving way to a lively learning culture. Fall reminds us to surrender to the natural cycle of the seasons knowing that rebirth is just around the corner. As we settle into a rhythm for the school year, acceptance for what needs to be released will help us in birthing something new.

Communication is central to the success of our community. In collaboration with weekly publications like Rainbow Reminders and regular classroom newsletters, Kaleidoscope captures the bigger picture of what is happening on campus and exciting news for Rainbow’s future.

Our opening weeks have created a foundation worth celebrating.

This first month of school has manifested a community rising to its full potential. Teachers are designing innovative and dynamic programming while engaging in person and remote learners, coordinating outdoor education, and crafting meaningful content. Parents are fostering social gatherings through video platforms, collaborating with carpooling, and sharing resources and ideas for navigating learning at home. Rainbow’s Board is engaged in critical visioning to help ensure a thriving school in and beyond these unprecedented times. Eckhart Tolle said, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Thank you all for continually surfacing the beauty of this Rainbow community. I am ever grateful and empowered to witness a community aligned in service to our children.

Moving beyond our foundation leads us to a new layer in our programming.

This time of year we are typically preparing to formally assess our students in grade 3-8 with the CTP (Comprehensive Testing Program) standardized assessment. This year, our initial focus needs to be on establishing healthy and robust learning environments for our students. Implementing testing now would unnecessarily disrupt this process. As a result, we have moved  the assessments to a more desirable timeframe. Testing is scheduled to take place from November 30th- December 17th to ensure both cohorts have ample time to complete this experience. In addition, we anticipate offering individualized testing sessions for fully remote learners. We will provide more explicit information about testing protocols and processes in the coming weeks.

We have also discovered the need to more explicitly define guidelines for attendance and participation in remote programming. Teachers will begin working on their narrative reports at the end of October, and it will be important for families and students to understand the frame of evaluation for attendance and participation. An addendum to our COVID-19 Mitigation plan will be released within the week detailing these specific expectations.

Finally, we are exploring the potential for our first on campus community-wide event. Halloween has served as a long standing invitation for festive costuming, family engagement, and joyful gathering.  A team of teachers and administrators are working out the details to design an experience that can safely welcome all learners to campus for some aspect of celebration throughout the day. Details will be shared through your classroom newsletters and in collaboration with the parent council, as the specifics are established.

Fostering depth within our mission is a key aspect of our school’s evolution.

In my welcome letter, I introduced our intention to make our curriculum for racial and environmental justice more visible to our families supporting a partnership in learning. Teachers are exploring the Pollyanna Curriculum this year along with the Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework as tools for surfacing a more explicit curriculum and approach. Families are encouraged to be a part of this work in collaboration with the school. An upcoming opportunity to engage in conversation and contemplation with our community is the Talking to Kids About Race event, on October 18th from 3:30-5:30pm. This event will include a panel of parents of color and parents of children of color from Rainbow, along with an exploration of the Racial Identity Benchmarks sourced from the City and Country School in New York. We look forward to the rich discussions that abound at this annual event.

Our environmental efforts are best captured in the multitude of student-led projects on campus. Preschool has created a viewing station for a Hickory Horned Devil caterpillar found on campus. This will metamorphose into a Regal Moth. Preschool has also established a connection with the Roots Foundation to plan for edible gardens on campus. In partnership with Max and Shaun, our facilities team, Fourth grade is working on relocating their garden beds to the hill by Omega. Fifth grade has reworked their compost stations for maximum efficiency and will have school-wide composting underway soon. The Omega sixth graders are creating invitational spaces for squirrel observation and the seventh and eighth graders are in the process of designing and constructing a pathway to their outdoor learning center, and so much more. The campus has clearly become an enriching tool for investment in the natural domain.

Even with all of the energy focused on the present, it remains critical for us to look ahead.

In the short term, this involves looking beyond October 22nd, when families will reevaluate their remote learning status. Administration will be reaching out soon with a simple survey to collect data about our communities’ intention for the winter months. There has been some buzz from families that the opening of the school year has given them a sense of comfort and they look forward to continuing or transitioning to in person learning. Other families may have a reason to consider or continue with the remote model. A look at our community data will help us determine the most effective path that takes diverse family needs into consideration At this time, we do not imagine a big shift in our approach unless the family data suggests this is advantageous. We will be sharing this survey with you all very soon.

Another part of visioning is ensuring that we are always taking into account the larger, longer term  goals of the school. During the 18-19 school year, Rainbow hosted a community-wide summit using the process of Appreciative Inquiry to gather data from our critical stakeholders about the direction of the institution. This led to our most recent Strategic Plan. This document guides the administration in evaluating decisions with a long-term lens on impact and alignment with our community values and vision. I look forward to advancing our progress on these strategic goals in the coming months and years.

May the beauty of fall surround you. May the crisp air refresh you. May the season of harvest be a reminder of the great abundance we share when community is ignited and fellowship is at the heart of our experience.

In Love,
Susie Fahrer

Kaleidoscope – July 2020

Kaleidoscope – July 2020

campus sophias garden

The Many Wonderful Things Happening at Rainbow

The Kaleidoscope Communication

As I sit to write my very first Kaleidoscope to you all, I can’t help but pause to reflect on the very nature and context evoked by the name of this publication. The etymology of the word Kaleidoscope comes from the Greek kalos, meaning beauty; eidos, meaning that which is seen in form or shape; and skepeo meaning to examine. So through my words today and into the future, I hope this communication will serve to explore the evolutionary shape of Rainbow. May it surface the potential and realized beauty that exists within, between, and beyond us all.

Our Reopening Plan

Our Reopening Plan has been shared widely and your feedback has been greatly appreciated. We intend to revise the hybrid model proposed for remote learning. Several families shared that this model would create a burden on transportation, and thus become significantly less viable for them. We are working on a revision and will share this with families soon, along with any additional details to the plan. Of course, it was disappointing that the Governor was not yet able to share more specific direction for schools; however, we are feeling confident that we will respond accordingly when guidance is released.

What will school and campus look like?

In the observance of transparency, many families have been wondering about Rainbow’s decision making process as we define what school and campus will look like in 20-21. Specifically, there is curiosity regarding our obligation to follow governmental guidance. While we do have some liberties as a private institution, all of our decisions are being weighed against best practices, health and safety (both physical and emotional), and the ability to achieve our mission. For example, we contextualize how these recommendations will be experienced by Rainbow’s students, families, and staff.  Furthermore, we are a small institution with over 5 acres on our campus. This affords us opportunities to realize physical distancing protocols that can be implemented with developmentally appropriate expectations still intact. In fact, we are building covered outdoor classrooms and by creating these spaces we are advancing the health benefits of being outdoors. In addition, we are supporting our teacher’s capacity to engage inquiry-based discovery and experiential learning.  This is a point of grace that we are grateful for as we continue to develop creative and student-centered approaches to our return.

Spiritual Grounding

Calling in our spiritual grounding and resilience, is possibly our most important work right now. We are being required to process radical shifts in societal “norms” as conversations are centered around public health and racial trauma, and in response to both, the transformation of community systems and agencies. At the root of it all is the question: What does it mean to be in community?  The depth and breadth of processing necessary to reimagine our world is visceral, powerful, and personal. Rainbow has been criticized in the past for being political in the ways we interpret our mission, and yet as a school we are a central element in offering expertise, safety, and leadership to our children and families who deserve support in unpacking these complexities. Our world continues to offer polarizing narratives that our children need to be able to analyze and think critically about. Rainbow seeks to offer this guidance to our students so that they can engage in healthy identity development and citizenship that embraces their family values, personal perspectives, and empathy for others. As a school, we cannot ignore these realities, but rather we must teach them through developmentally appropriate means.

In Partnership

In order for this type of education to thrive, we must be in partnership with you, and each other, to ensure that every family system is honored and valued. A community education takes into account the fact that we will not all agree, but that we will be able to communicate with compassion, listen with intent to understand, and work together in harmony.  I can not overstate the value of being in authentic relationships with one another, that allow us to be vulnerable without fear, so that we may truly realize the power of a united community. Please let this stand as an open invitation to speak with me at any time should you feel tension about Rainbow’s plans moving forward.

May we begin this year, with building connections among us that will realize the beauty that comes from each turn of the Kaleidoscope, adapting and reshaping to find the magic in every moment. 

In Love,
Susie Fahrer