Kaleidoscope August 2021

Kaleidoscope August 2021

kaleidoscope

The first full week of school is here and I find myself filled with gratitude. Already students and families are finding the rhythms of drop off, pick up and everything in between. There is a happy and hopeful energy all around campus as students co-create their classroom culture, mascots, and learning routines.

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.

The opening weeks of school can feel like information overload. While the return to school is often filled with many highlights, it can also feel like we have shifted into high gear. School preparations, paperwork, Covid protocols, and campus procedures start to blend together, and it can be difficult to keep up. Here are a few ways to help you regroup, and make sure you have all the information you need.

Parent Handbooks

Our preschool, K-8, and Covid Handbook can all be found on our website. These documents have lots of information. We respectfully request that you read the handbook aligned with your child’s grade level and the Covid Mitigation Document. All families should submit an acknowledgement form that these documents have been read.

  • Calendar – Our school calendar is located on our website. Upcoming events are also published regularly in Rainbow Reminders and classroom newsletters.
  • Parent Plus Portal – This is our school database. This will be the tool used to share school wide forms, communication, and alerts. It is also the location of your child’s narrative report (P-8) and grades (6-8 only).
  • We are here to help – Please know it is always ok to reach out to administration, or your child’s teacher, if you are in need of support. These resources are great, and sometimes it can be critical to talk things through or speak to someone directly. During the day you can call the main office line and/or text or call Kate B. or Susie directly.

Listening Conferences

Our narrative and conference reporting flow is designed to build a strong story arch to your child’s learning journey. Next Thursday and Friday, September 2 & 3, will be the first step along that path with Listening Conferences. This is a time for families and teachers to build a shared understanding of how best to support each child’s holistic growth this year. The teacher primarily takes on a listening role. The intent is to learn from the expertise of the family in establishing a safe, aligned, and responsive space for each child to develop. Below is a graphic that shares the primary reporting flow between teachers and families.

progress monitoring and reporting flow

Read more about Teaching the Whole Child here.

Feedback

Feedback is one of the many ways we grow to serve you better. One way we gather feedback is through an anonymous end of year survey that is completed by students, staff, and families. One trend that came out of this feedback was a desire to have more clarity with our resources through Student Support and Counseling. These two pages were added to the Preschool and K-8 Handbooks to help with building that transparency.

Another trend framed parent’s desire to learn more about how Rainbow’s holistic approach evolves as students matriculate. Particular interest focused on Omega Middle School and how the 7 domains integrate with a dynamic and rigorous academic experience to build a strong foundation for high school and adolescent development. This topic is truly inspirational, and a point of pride for Rainbow. We will be bringing visibility to the learning trajectory from preschool through 8th grade through highlights in Rainbow Reminders, subsequent in depth explorations in Kaleidoscope, and more.

Safety

Safety is central to a thriving community. Fortunately, one silver lining to pandemic education is that we have built a strong foundation in personal and collective responsibility for our wellness. Moving into this year, I hope we will continue to embrace the motto, “We Are In This Together” recognizing that we each have a role to play in maintaining our community health.

Masks are a primary tool in the fight against Covid-19 transmission and the commitment to keeping kids in school. Current guidance distinguishes the pathway for school exclusion as a result of Covid contact based on masking. Therefore, we would like to request the following compliance with masking protocol. If any family needs help with purchasing masks, please reach out to Love In Action.

  • Use a mask that fits snuggly but comfortably around the nose, jaw and chin.
  • Use a mask that does not require consistent adjustment throughout the day.
  • Gators are used with the addition of a disposable mask or double layered for appropriate fit and thickness.
  • Masks with a ventilator are not used on campus.

Health Checks are now completed at home before school starts. You have likely seen our sandwich boards with the health screening questions. Please be reminded that students should not be on campus if they are not well or if they have contact with someone with Covid or Covid-like symptoms. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the true status of your child’s health. Reach out to Susie, Jessy, or Kate at any time for support in determining your health status. Text is the best way to reach us with important updates on health status so we can attend to this information in a timely manner.

Traffic flow on campus should always move slowly to ensure the safety of our community. The upper and lower campus parking lots are one way driving.

  • Upper campus enters from Haywood Rd. and exits onto State Street.
  • Lower campus traffic enters from State Street and exits on Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Omega pick up can result in a long car rider line. If you are the first to arrive, please pull all the way to the edge of the lot by Pennsylvania Ave. The cottage will be on your right hand side. We will bring your child to you. Additionally, parents can park in the Omega lot and we will walk students to your car. These two steps will help ensure we don’t have a pick up line that backs onto State Street.
  • Traffic directions are also part of our walkway systems. When dropping off or picking up for preschool or afterschool by the butterfly house, please observe the one-way walking patterns and physically distance if there is a line.

Affinity groups are another way that we are supporting safety and wellness within our community. An affinity group is a designated “brave space,” where everyone in that group shares a particular identity. This identity can be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, language, nationality, physical/mental ability, socio-economic class, family structure, religion, etc. Affinity groups can be a place for people in a community to come together to learn more about their identifiers and to feel more connected based on those identifiers. At Rainbow, we collectively reaffirm our commitment to a culture of caring for all by beginning these Affinity spaces for our least represented populations. We will be sharing more with the community about this initiative in the coming weeks.

This is just the beginning and our Dynamic Governance model helps us foster engagement and feedback on behalf of all stakeholders as the year continues. A reminder that today (8/24 at 3:30pm) is our first Equity Circle of the school year and that our first Parent Council meeting is this Friday (8/27 at 9:30am). The Finance Team begins the following week and Pollinators will be up and running soon with tentative meetings scheduled for Tuesday, September 7th from 9:00-10:30 and another meeting on Tuesday, September 14th from 9-11. Look for these and more opportunities to get involved in Rainbow Reminders.

In Gratitude for All That Is and All That Will Be,

Susie Fahrer
Executive Director

Kaleidoscope August 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 August 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

Kaleidoscope – May 2020

Kaleidoscope – May 2020

Time

Time, during isolation, has taken on a new dimension. It seems to have life of its own, sometimes dragging us along on its adventures, other times dragging us down into the abyss. 

April lasted for months, and suddenly, now it is time to graduate! 

Since the beginning of time, humans have marked its passage with ritual. Ritual helps us to set the rest of our life aside and honor the present moment as the most important time. Although we cannot conduct our beloved graduation rituals together this year, my wish is that your family set time aside during graduation day so your child can feel how important this time in their life is. Every child experienced this time of learning in isolation differently. Some resisted, some suffered, some thrived. Your child, in their own special way, accomplished something challenging during this unique time in history, and they will be recognized.

I, too, am ready to graduate. I have been at Rainbow for 13 years, coincidentally, the same amount of time as a K-12 education. Rainbow has been the best education of my life, and it’s time for me to take what I have learned and serve in a new way: I will be a professor of educational leadership at Southern Oregon University.

While it turned out to be an odd time to transition Rainbow’s leadership, I hope you have found the process to be seamless. During these last two months I have been functioning in a consulting/advising role, while Susie Fahrer guides Rainbow through the complex decisions of our time. I am in awe of her ability to attend to every detail, graciously and patiently caring for everyone’s needs, while never losing sight of the larger picture. Susie’s vision is powerful, her intellect supreme, and her integrity is impeccable. She is my hero. The Spirit of Rainbow celebrates her as the new Head of School.

omega graduation

The Spirit of Rainbow

Our Board President, Stewart Stokes, sometimes makes a reference to “The Spirit of Rainbow.” This could mean the personality of Rainbow, or what is special about Rainbow; but Stewart is referring to an actual living entity, a soul. Rainbow is many things. Rainbow is you and me, the teachers, and all the children. It is a holistic philosophy and curriculum. It has a mission and a purpose. It is a physical place with buildings, gardens, and beauty. It is a community. Rainbow is all these things combined into a magical alchemical mixture that is transformed into so much more than the sum of its parts. The Spirit of Rainbow is a living, loving force.

spirit of rainbow

Rainbow’s Heart Beats Strong

A Rainbow education is truly an education of the heart…and certainly not just for the children, but for each of us. Many times, in my tenure as executive director, I have acknowledged that I was learning at least as much as the children. Lessons of the heart. Part of the beauty of Rainbow as a living force, is the reciprocal nature of learning. The more the adults—teachers, parents, staff—are learning, the more the children are learning. We shine a light on one another (sometimes on the places we don’t want anyone to look). We support one another in allowing our hearts and minds to grow.

Dr. Arrien is an indigenous anthropologist who describes the heart as having four chambers: full, open, clear, and strong. Below I use the four-chambered heart as a metaphor to describe the most important lessons I have learned at Rainbow, and what I believe every child learns when they receive a Rainbow education.

heart

Full-heartedness

This first chamber of the heart concerns “fullness.” When my heart is full, I am giving all of myself to the task at hand. I am present to whomever I am with—fully listening and caring for those who need me. Energetically, I am not holding back, or meting out what I have to give, for there is an abundance, a well-spring of brilliance, labor, and care that flows through me when I give fully. At Rainbow, I learned to recognize when I am being half-hearted, the opposite of full-hearted, a sign that I need to change or refuel until the spirit can freely flow through me again. 

Thank you, Rainbow. My heart is full.

Open-heartedness

When I am closed-hearted, either my heart has shrunken, being too focused on the material world and all of its distractions and demands. Or, I am defensive, hoping no one sees my shadow. Thich Nhat Hahn calls it the illusion of separation: when I am closed-hearted I forget that I am intricately interconnected with all of nature and all beings—and what is good for all is also good for me. Rainbow has taught me that when I am most fearful, most striving, most worried about me—that is when I most need to open my heart—to be love and to allow myself to be loved. 

Thank you, Rainbow. My heart is open.

Clear-heartedness

Sometimes life is overwhelming and chaotic. When I forget about the magic and magnificence of life, I try to control it. I think I have the power to accomplish all of my goals as if life is a big machine that needs me, its master, to run it. But it goes faster and faster, and soon it becomes impossible to keep up; fear tells me I can’t let go. However, when I listen to my heart, I have faith that when I let go, my true direction will become clear, creative solutions will arise, and I will move forward with ease. When life is uncertain (like these current times) and when I am confused, I have learned to be patient. Dr. Dan Siegel says that “a synonym for uncertainty is possibility.” Therefore, I wait for clear direction. 

Thank you, Rainbow. My heart is clear.

Strong-heartedness

The final lesson of the heart is the most important. I believe that each of us is born with the capacity to be in harmony with the world around us. When we are strong-hearted what we are experiencing on the inside—our values, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions—is in alignment with what we say and how we behave on the outside. But from the day we are born, our physical needs and our social conditioning leads us away from our strong heart. When we are weak-hearted, we say one thing, but mean another. We make commitments that we don’t agree with—sometimes taking our life down a path that is further and further from the sacred. But when we are strong-hearted we have the courage to be our authentic selves. We speak Truth. We act with Integrity. The theme of Omega Middle School is, “Know thyself.” Indeed, your courageous, heart-centered Omega adolescents have often shown me what it means to be real.

Thank you, Rainbow. My heart is strong.

owl graduation

To our parents:

In a world that has gone wrong in so many ways, your children are blessed to be in a learning community where the lessons of the heart are taught—where love is the central component of their education, where they learn to pay attention to what their heart is saying so they “know themselves” before going out into the world. My parting advice is to do everything you can to make sure they complete that journey. As I often point out, heart, whole, and to heal all have the same root meaning. An education of the heart makes the human whole. It is an education of wellbeing. Teach your children well. Give them an education of the heart.

June 5 is my last day as Executive Director at Rainbow Community School, but my connection to the Spirit of Rainbow, like all things of the heart, is timeless and beyond the limitations of physical space. I believe that any spark I have added to Rainbow will continue to be kindled and kept alive after I am gone. Reciprocally, Rainbow, and the lessons I have learned here, will live on in my heart.

I love you.

Kaleidoscope: COVID-19 Special Edition

Kaleidoscope: COVID-19 Special Edition

The many colorful things happening at Rainbow, from the Executive Director

March 2020

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.