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.
Rainbow Community School and Omega Middle School has been closely monitoring developing information about the new coronavirus, COVID-19. This letter is to share with you the steps we are taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus; and the steps we are preparing to take if there is an outbreak in our community.
Take a moment to read the letter we have sent to our community:
Fourth graders figure out their favorite Greek deity
We headed over to 4th grade recently where our students were immersed in the world of ancient Greece. They learned about mythology and creative arts. Their teacher, Kurt, said they really loved learning about the Greek gods and doing hands-on activities related to their learning.
Because of that, Kurt let them do a special activity that would further their learning with Greek mythology. They investigated their favorite god by reading a story, and created designs using paper shaped like pottery. These designs were based on what they knew about the deity they studied.
Hercules – probably the most famous Greek deity
They started off their lesson with a short video about Hercules. They talked about how the story of Hercules is from long ago when “chaos reigned.” Students realized there were many references to pottery and design, as well as other historical events.
Fourth graders had a chance to look at examples of ancient Greek pottery. They saw references to Achilles, a centaur, minotaur, war and peace, Hercules and more. Once they had a chance to look at different examples, their teacher explained that stories they were about to read would also inform the designs they’d create on their pottery.
Stories about Greek gods
Each student paired up with another and chose their favorite Greek deity to study. They were allowed to read the story to each other, silently, or alternate between silent reading and reading aloud as they liked. Once finished, each student created their paper pottery. Essentially, they created a stencil using one piece of paper, cut it out, and finally glued it onto paper with a brown background.
After students finished gluing their stenciled piece onto the background, they could begin drawing designs. They worked with pencils and black markers. Some designs were quite eloquent and detailed. One requirement was to reference the story they read within their pottery design.
These pottery designs complemented the rest of their unit on Greek mythology. Intricate and detailed, each pottery piece reflected each student’s drawing style. As students concluded the unit, they did further research on their chosen Greek god. This research led to a one-page report, which they later presented to their class.
This one lesson touched on several different domains: the social and emotional, in which students were able to collaborate with one another, and worked together to complete their stories and pottery projects. They engaged in the mental domain in researching more about Greek deities. They were able to use the creative domain with their pottery designs and even touched on the spiritual domain with regard to Greek beliefs and mythology itself. All teachers at Rainbow create units that incorporate the seven different domains at least once.
Preschool and Kindergarten both performed in the morning program.
You can follow along with the lyrics to their songs:
“Family of Feelings” by Lucy MacGregor, Preschool Teacher
I feel something inside me. I feel something in there. It tickles my tummy. It tingles my hair. Oh, hello. Oh, I know. Upset or happy, mad, sad or scared, they are all in there. Feelings… family of feelings… I know how to care for you, deep breath.
“Mariposa Family Song” by Kindergarten students & Sue Ford, Music Teacher CHORUS.
I like to do things with my family, all kinds of things with my family. Snuggling or cuddling with my mama or papa, I feel safe and love in family. I like to go places and have some fun on airplanes or cars, adventure has begun Go see Grandma or friends or travel someplace new with my family where our love is true. CHORUS I love the outdoors when the weather is nice we pack up and go camping or go on hikes We pretend we are animals, wild and free or play with sticks or swim in the sea CHORUS When winter winds blow we have fun in the snow or play games inside or watch movies playing school with my sister, building Lego sets. I love celebrating family.
“Mother Earth” by 1st Grade students, Josie Hoban, 1st grade Associate Teacher, & Sue Ford Chorus
We give thanks that the Earth is our Mother. She loves all of us like no other. Every living, breathing being, plants and animals are family. Ooo Mother Earth…. we are your children
Possum babies sleep in Mama’s deep pouch White tailed deer graze, toads hop and crouch Screech owls fly across the sky Wild turkeys with their babies hear the hawk cry
Bears and wolves, snakes slither together Through brackish ferns, moss, rocks and heather Mother rivers flow, flocks of geese in flight Fox vixens love their kits all through the night.
“Cats and Dogs” by 3rd grade students, Sue Ford & Justin Pilla
Filidae, Canidae, Cat and Dog Families. Warm furry mammals with large teeth and claws They have fuzzy ears and fuzzy tails and cute fuzzy paws. Some say that one –is better than the other In our family they are sisters and brothers.
A Pride of lions work together to hunt Snow leopards are rarest and hard to confront Clever coyotes sing with howls and yelps They hunt in packs with each other’s help Lightening quick cheetahs sprint in the Savannah Leaping, long leopards creep in the jungle Frolicking foxes play with friends in the forest. Wondrous wild wolves howl at the moon in chorus Jumping Jaguars like to swim and fish Stealthy Bobcats wait for prey in the bush Joking jackals will have just one partner Like the wolf, they will babysit their kindergartener Digging Dingos in the dirt wild and free, Powerful panthers prowl land to the sea.
“Family Team” Lyrics by 2nd Grade students & Eddy Webb, 2nd Grade Teacher. Carolyn Zeigler, Rainbow Tutor, on flute. Tune based on Donnybrook Fair, an Irish Jig
Wake me up, I make the bed Cat, gerbils, and dog are fed Wash the dishes, do my chores If you ask, I’ll do some more
Clean my room and rub your feet In the yard I rake the leaves. All the things I do for you, It’s so clear, I love you
Family, we are like a team All for one, a family team! You know I always got your back, Count on me, that’s a fact!
Some are big and some are small That’s okay, we love them all Laugh and cry and try together Family love goes on forever!
Care for me, shelter, food Always kind, and never rude Drive to soccer, cheer me on Call me in when dinner’s done
Hand-me-downs or buy me clothes Make me wear a coat—it’s cold! All the things you do for me, It’s so clear, you love me!
Family, we are like a team All for one, a family team! You know I always got your back, Count on me, that’s a fact!
Some are big and some are small That’s okay, we love them all Laugh and cry and try together Family love goes on forever!
“Moments With My Family” by 4th Grade students & teachers – Kurt Campbell & Sarah Callahan
CHORUS: Special moments with my family They are part of my history Looking back on my memories In my mind they’re a treasury
Traveling to Scandanavia Staying up til 4am Hanging out with my sisters Laughing about where we’ve been. Spending Christmas in Ohio Hanging out with my cousins. Traveling to England 8 hour plane ride
Going camping with my family The dog ate my marshmallow Hanging out with siblings Laughing and having fun Watching TV with my parents All day long Picking out Midnight in late winter Fluffy baby bunnies everywhere
Going on a boat with mom and dad We saw whales and it started to rain. Traveling on a plane to Norway Flying through the sky Going on a trip to Carowinds Rollercoasters flying through the sky Going on a trip saying are we there yet Not yet! 5 minutes later ask again
Flying to California with my mom and brother Meeting friends and eating Mexican food Watching a movie in a pool While swimming with my dad. Bringing home a new dog I was so happy that I cried Jumping off a rock Landing in the water
Having fun with my dad in Hawaii Snorkeling in the coral reef Picking out our puppy Phoenix A new member of our family. Playing with my dogs Taking them to the lake. Driving from California to Asheville With my mom and 3 cats Flying and driving to Michigan To get my new dog Ray. Going on a cross country road trip Going almost everywhere.
“Rivers and Roads” by the Head and the Heart, words adapted by Emmaly Rogalski, 5th grade teacher, instrumental parts by Sue Ford, Dance choreographed by Julie Chapman, 5th grade parent.
A year from now we’ll all be gone. All our friends will move away. And they’re going to better places. But our friends will be gone away.
Nothing is as it has been as we cross the ocean’s swell And I guess it’s just as well as we cross the ocean’s swell
Been talking ‘bout the way things change. And my family lives in a different state And if you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate So if you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate
Rivers and roads, Oceans and roads, rivers till I reach you Rivers and roads, Oceans and roads, rivers till I reach you.
Marimba Omega Elective
“New Hope” by Sue Ford & Walt Hampton ”Carol of the Bells” based on a traditional folksong from Ukraine called “Schedryk” “Mojo” by Walt Hampton
We headed to second grade recently to find students doing classification of…shoes! There is a very interesting reason why.
As students started out this lesson, they began with some silent reading time. These quiet moments helped get them ready for what was next.
It was so quiet you could hear their minds “thinking.” Little did they know, they would need their sharp minds and their shoes for the subsequent portion of their lesson.
Their teacher, Eddy, had them take their paired shoes and separate them. They put one on the checkered green rug in their main classroom, and the other on the green rug in the library/centering room.
Classification of shoes in different ways
The kiddos separated into two groups with the following instruction: to group or separate the shoes according to a system they would create. In other words, students could separate shoes by color, brand, size, or some other determining factor. They brainstormed different ideas of how they might classify their shoes within their groups.
Each group chatted and came up with a plan that all could agree with and implement.
Neither group had any idea how the other was classifying their shoes. However, they each came up with very different ways of grouping and organizing their shoes.
In the library room, students grouped shoes by their overall color. In the main room, students grouped them by how they “closed” or secured to the foot, such as with velcro, slip-on, shoestrings, etc.
Once they did that, their teacher asked them to reclassify their shoes and come up with a second way to group them all. Students in the library decided to group by the “purpose of the shoe,” such as hiking or running. The other group classified all the different shoes by size.
Why classify shoes?
Why would students do this?
They brainstormed about labeling and classifying things to make sense of the world and understand it better. Eddy asked them, “aren’t there lots of different kinds of trees?” All students agreed that there were. He asked them about animals, plants, and seeds. Everyone agreed that, yes, there are many different varieties of each of these. It is in classifying and grouping plants, animals, and seeds, humans can identify what they are and understand what they do and their role in the world ecosystem.
Learning about the animal kingdom
After everyone got their shoes back, they began talking about the scientific system of classification. They learned about the five main kingdoms of living things: plants, animals, fungi, bacteria (monera), and one-celled organisms (protists). Later, they went more in-depth with the animal kingdom. Eddy gave each student a piece of paper with the name of an animal on it. Each student had to determine if the animal they had was a mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, or a type of bird. Some of them were tricky! Did you know that a whale is a mammal? Or that a skink is a type of reptile?
Students walked away with a broader understanding of why people classify the world around them. They explored a number of ways in which it’s possible to do so. What a fun way to use methods of scientific thinking to reason, deduce, classify, as well as integrate other skills such as collaboration, discussion and reaching a consensus.
We love how Eddy integrated elements of the 7 Domains. Students were able to move around the classroom. They worked together to complete their tasks which reinforced the social domain. This process of reasoning and classification touched on the mental domain. Talking about organisms in nature brought in the natural domain. One lesson with multiple approaches. That is a day in the life of a Rainbow student.
It’s only the beginning of November, yet we have already completed several cycles and symbolic events at Rainbow this school year. We have welcomed new families and new students, who by now are hopefully feeling a sense of community. We completed our student testing cycle for students in third through eighth grade. At this point, most classes have held their first of three parent class meetings. We have welcomed autumn, the harvest, and the coming days of darkness with the Halloween Harvest Hoedown, the Halloween Day celebration, Día de los Muertos, and a fire circle. Some of these events and transitions are marked with ritual and highlighted in this November Kaleidoscope.
Ritual – Being Present
Why ritual? When I am leading a ritual, I sometimes like to explain the reason for having a ritual by asking, “Your body is here, but where is your mind? Your heart?” Even the simplest of rituals, such as taking three breaths together, helps us to become fully present in mind, body, and spirit.
A second purpose of ritual is to help us connect as humans and to recognize our interconnectivity with all of humanity and nature. For example, in addition to centering, almost every meeting at Rainbow begins with a brief opening round where each person in a circle is invited to share a word, a phrase, or a short anecdote about how they are doing or something significant in their life. This simple ritual helps every person to name what is going on in their life so that they can be more present with the group. Often in opening round we learn that someone is in mourning or they are in physical pain, helping others to be more empathetic. Most of all, ritual helps to connect us, reminding us of our common humanity and creating a spirit of togetherness, which is especially important when we are about to engage in making decisions together.
A third reason for ritual is to honor and aid in transitions. Ritual helps humans to move through change with dignity – giving up and letting go of the past, and moving bravely into the future. For growing children, rites of passage can help children move into adolescence and then into adulthood. In ancient and indigenous societies, rites of passage were/are central to the culture. In America’s current mass culture, the lack of rites of passage often leaves adolescents feeling empty and confused about growing up. Saying goodbye to childhood isn’t easy for adolescents, yet they also desire the trappings of adulthood. When we don’t provide a rite of passage, teens find other rites, that can be risky or unhealthy, such as drinking or sexual activity. Meaningful ritual can help our children and teens to develop a deep sense of connection and purpose in their lives.
Rites of Passage in Omega Middle School
This is partly why the Omega Middle School program is structured to be a multi-year rite of passage. From the ritual around the beginning-of-the-year Omega honor code to the final rituals of eighth grade, Omega students see themselves as important members of their community. They are honored for what they contribute to their community and for who they are and will become. Embracing one’s purpose is the heart of Omega.
I invite you to attend our Omega Middle School Open house coming up on Thursday, November 21. Even if your children are much younger, the Open House will help you understand the whole arc of development at Rainbow and why Omega Middle School students have such a healthy self-image and the confidence and character to succeed in high school and beyond.
The White Pine Tree
The Mourning Ritual
You may have noticed that our large white pine tree in the middle of the playground died over the summer as a result of a native pine beetle infestation. This is a sad loss. When the faculty discussed it, we knew ritual would help our children to say goodbye to the white pine and find meaning in its death. Sue Ford and Susie Fahrer composed a song for the tree, and for one of our Tuesday song circles, we all gathered around it and sang:
Bless this tree for giving us life Bless this tree morning noon and night Bless this tree flower fruit and cone Bless this tree oh see how we’ve grown.
You are a sacred sight You are nature’s light Rest you, return to the Earth Rest you, and bring rebirth.
This beautiful ritual helped us to reverently grieve with one another and to remember the beautiful cycle of death and rebirth. In the coming weeks, Tim Slatton (partner of West Wilmore) will be taking down the white pine with the help of our facilities keepers, Max Mraz and Shawn Fain. We trust they will respectfully put it to rest. Niki Gilbert, Omega Middle School science teacher, is creating a team of staff and students to make a thoughtful plan for the planting several new trees on campus. Rest ye and bring rebirth.
Video credit: Tracy Hildebrand
Authenticity and Wholeness Training
Teachers who love…themselves
Over the past few weeks, the teachers and I have continued our series of training on developing authenticity and wholeness in students through teacher development. For one of our Wednesday afternoon trainings I led a training on Mindfulness. Our theme for the day-long training on November 1, was Openness. In this training we acknowledge that teaching is a challenging profession. Teachers have to make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions a day, knowing that every decision they make could have profound effects on the lives of the children they love and for whom they are responsible. Teachers have to perform with empathy, creativity, and dynamism while under tremendous stress and without being thrown off by their own emotional triggers. Teaching is a messy, complex job that is impossible to do perfectly. Teachers are often very hard on themselves. Yet, if teachers are going to be compassionate toward students they also need to be compassionate with themselves.
Invoking the Sages
The Buddha, said “I have two things to teach. Suffering and the relief of suffering.” Deep within the Puritan roots of American society, there is a tacit belief that self-compassion is the same as selfishness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Through the new field of positive psychology and with advances in neuroscience research, we now understand that self-compassion, or empathy for ourselves, is the key to empathizing with others. It doesn’t mean we give up or let ourselves off the hook for changes we need to make. It simply means we acknowledge that we are only human. Part of being human is sharing the suffering all of humanity has experienced since the beginning of time.
In addition to learning the science behind self-compassion, I engaged teachers in a simple 3-step exercise that I highly recommend for parents and children, too.
Step 1: When experiencing a challenging moment or being critical of yourself, acknowledge your situation and pain. You may simply say to yourself something like, “Ouch. That hurts.” Or, “this is stress.”
Step 2: Have compassion for yourself by recognizing that suffering is part of life. All of humanity shares a similar experience. You may say to yourself, “I am not alone.”
Step 3: Place your hands over your heart. Say to yourself, “May I be kind to myself,” and offer yourself a gift. It may be patience. It may be strength, or forgiveness.
A few days ago you received an email from Sandra McCassim, P-3 Division Head, that after 20 years at Rainbow, she is leaving at the end of this school year. I cannot possibly convey what this means to me personally. Sandra lifts up others in love as teacher, administrator, and friend. Her gentle wisdom has helped shape the loving culture here at Rainbow. Sandra was here many years before I came to Rainbow, and we have been through so much together. I am going to soak up every minute I have with her for the rest of this year.
Sandra will be instrumental in helping with the hiring of her replacement. Sandra and I have worked together to hire most of the excellent faculty we have on campus, and she reminds me that every time someone leaves the faculty, a new magical person brings new gifts. We are beginning our search for a new Division Head – a process which we are still defining, a process in which faculty will also be involved. Please feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts about the search. If you know a talented educational leader who is interested in joining the Rainbow team in the coming years, you can refer them to the employment page on our website where there will soon be information on how to apply.
Bringing Light to the Spirit of Education
I write this Kaleidoscope while sitting in the library at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. West Willmore, Eddy Webb, and I presented at the Spirituality in Education Conference there.
Since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002, our nation has moved in the direction of “teaching to the test,” or only teaching what can be quantifiably measured. Of course what can be measured is only the smallest aspect of education – the most material aspect. Our politicians, most of whom were not educators, did not understand that such an emphasis on the material would gut our schools of the spiritual – that which is immeasurable and unseen in the literal sense of the word. Nor did they realize that when you gut the spiritual aspects of education, nothing can thrive, certainly not academics, because without spirit there is no life and no motivation to learn. Not surprisingly, 19 years after NCLB, academic achievement is lower than ever and the opportunity gap wider. Furthermore, as a nation, both children and adults are in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Spirituality in Education
The good news is that the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction. When one of the highest ranked educational schools in the country hosts a Spirituality in Education conference, it legitimizes a movement. Even the President of Teachers College spoke at the conference, stating that the conference represented the direction education needs to go. As Timothy Shriver (nephew of John Kennedy and an influential educational leader) said at the conference, “It isn’t a fad, it’s a field.”
In this now blossoming field of spirituality in education, Rainbow is a beacon for the world. Let our line shine. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” There is no greater light that the pure light of children. Thank you for sharing the bright light of your child with the world.