My deepest gratitude for the energy, orchestration, donation, and collaboration that went into realizing the successful return of the beloved Harvest Hoedown. The day was filled with joy, laughter, entertainment, and plenty of sweet treats. It was a beautiful representation of our community in action.
Community is not only built through our gatherings and events, but also through our programming and curriculum. There is care and time put into the models of Compassionate and Nonviolent communication in the classrooms. The students are participants in their own learning through self-reflection, and governance through things like class meetings. They are learning the balance of autonomy and personal needs with community and collective consent. They are taught the difference between intent and impact. The teachers model and teach concepts of empathy, active listening, systems thinking, valuing diverse perspectives, and more. All of these are essential elements of a “community mindset” that supports healthy classrooms and fosters strong relationships beyond our doors with family, community organizations, and new schools.
Omega Open House
One of the most powerful ways to explore the impact of our programming is through the experience of our oldest learners and Alumni. Families and students of all ages are encouraged to join us on November 3rd from 4:00-6:00pm for the Omega Open House and Alumni Panel. Learn more, and RSVP for the event here.
At Rainbow, we believe in the power of adult learning and engagement to support a meaningful and transformative community experience for all. Our dynamic governance model provides monthly circle gatherings that are regularly published in Rainbow Reminders. These circles are open, and anyone is welcome. Additionally, your class meetings provide a more intimate classroom connection experience. Two additional upcoming events critical to supporting a shared understanding of our core values include:
Talking to Kids About Race– This is an annual event that surfaces new and relevant learning every time we come together. This year, participants can expect lots of opportunities to share ideas, ask questions, and practice scenarios that further their own and their child’s understanding of race. These conversations foster our efforts to become a more equitable, inclusive, and reflective community for all.
General Circle– This circle meets three times a year to discuss elements of our school and organizational values and programming. It is a “meeting of the minds” where every circle (parent, staff, admin, board, equity, etc.) has representation in the conversation. This year I would love to broaden the scope with more participation. The first General Circle of the year will be held on November 7th from 4:00-6:00pm in sixth grade. The topic will be Community and Family Engagement. This is a time to document celebrations, areas of growth, and strategic and visionary thinking as we plan for a thriving future. Reach out to Susie if you would like to attend.
Partnerships and Community
The word community at Rainbow extends far beyond our doors. We have long term partnerships with many local organizations such as Riverlink, Open Doors, Sunshine Project, ACS, First Step Farms, to name a few. Two community partnerships we love promoting to parents and caregivers include Building Bridges and REI, since we have seen the profound impact of their work on participants from our community. I am also coordinating and participating in a monthly fellowship group with local Heads of School. We met this week, and hope to have a rotating monthly meeting at each participating campus. This will include time for strategic conversations, collaborative thinking, and fellowship.
Children are the heart of our school and the community is the life force. We opened the school year with a theme of Embracing Holism and Connection. We flourish when the whole of our school is engaged in the work of achieving our mission. I hope you have found a place of connection and belonging within your classroom and that you continue to explore the many ways we manifest community at Rainbow.
Yours In Partnership and Gratitude, Susie Fahrer Executive Director
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.
Approaching the final week of the 21-22 school year, we embrace reflection and gratitude. Your children prepare Student Led Conferences and share a portfolio of carefully selected work that speaks to their story of growth. The teachers complete Learner Profiles, comprehensive narratives of your child’s growth and development. Additionally, our graduating 8th graders complete a Domains Walk across the campus moving ever closer to the culminating ritual of graduation. Our Preschool and K-8 Graduation ceremonies center collective celebration, and provide a wonderful send off for the year.
Preschool will gather in the Outdoor Classroom on June 1st at 10:30am for a brief ceremony and fellowship to commemorate their year as Turtles and Dragonflies.
The K-8 graduation will be held on June 2nd beginning at 6:15pm. It has been a few years since we have been able to offer this school-wide ceremony, and it is a sacred experience to hear the highlights from the children and the speeches from the graduates. We will finish the evening with cake served by the Board of Directors. The entire ceremony will take place under a tent on the Omega Athletic Field.
Parking will be available on our campus, and we typically engage with a few local businesses to offer additional parking in the neighborhood. Stay tuned for more details about this in Rainbow Reminders.
Finally, this time of year is opportune to collect feedback from all our stakeholders in support of strategic planning this summer. We are hoping all parents can complete the following SURVEY knowing that your voice and perspective provide critical data for shaping our future. In addition, we ask all of our staff to complete a survey evaluating the leadership and their experience as employees. Finally, we have a student survey for 4th-8th grade that helps frame their perspectives on topics such as educational approach, belonging, and social connection.
We are in a season of hiring as staff retire and transition to new roles within and beyond Rainbow. Below are the most recent updates and hires for the 22-23 school year.
4th-8th Grade Division Head: Trey Thompson (He/Him)
Trey is an experienced educator and valued administrator at his current and previous schools. He will be leaving his most recent position at Earhart Environmental Magnet School in Wichita as the 4th/5th grade teacher and administrative “Teacher in Charge.” Prior to that, Trey was working in Chicago at The Academy for Global Citizenship as the School Culture and Middle Years Program Coordinator. Spending time with Trey you quickly learn that he embodies the Seven Domains personally and professionally. We are thrilled to have him as part of the leadership team.
Omega 7/8 Language Arts Teacher: Zoe Balaconis (She/Her)
Zoe is an innovative educator with experience bonding groups and crafting engaging, interdisciplinary English and Writing courses at the lower, secondary, and post secondary level. She has been at the Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the past six years and holds a myriad of expertise and experience prior to that school placement. She is sure to bring a wealth of knowledge, energy and heart to Omega Middle School.
First Grade Lead Teacher: Katherine Ayachi (She/Her)
Katherine has taught in elementary school for the past 29 years the majority of which was teaching in the primary years programming at the American Cooperative School of Tunis in Tunisia, Africa. Over her tenure she has developed mastery in several curriculum areas including gaining a certification as a math specialist. She believes in designing instruction through inquiry and child centered programming. We are happy to welcome her back to the states and to her roots in North Carolina.
Counseling: Kriya Lendzoin (She/Her)
Kriya has worked with Rainbow for years as our Addiction Educator in Omega Middle School. Along with continuing this role, she will also be joining our counseling team. She has a rich background in school counseling, substance abuse and wellness programming, and therapy. She has expertise helping families and students navigate adolescence to reinforce healthy and authentic identity development.
Fifth Grade Lead Teacher: Sandra McCassim (She/Her)
Sandra has over 22 years of teaching and administrative experience, and is one of our most tenured staff members at Rainbow. She fosters a classroom community built on student-centered and project based learning. She has a depth of knowledge in supporting the critical needs and opportunities of pre-adolescence, and she cultivates meaningful partnerships with parents and caregivers.
Preschool Green Door: Rose Howley (She/Her)
Rose started working at Rainbow in the Student Support Department, became a full time sub, and most recently helped usher the third grade Tigers through a fabulous year. Starting this summer, our littlest learners will benefit from Rose’s calm demeanor, playful spirit, and ability to foster a supportive environment for all learning styles and needs.
Third Grade Assistant: AJ Jones (She/Her)
AJ began her time with us in preschool and then shifted to a role as a full time substitute. When Jenny announced her maternity leave earlier this year, AJ graciously filled the role of Interim Student Support Advocate for Middle School. AJ’s journey at Rainbow speaks to her diversity of skills and adaptability in applying them with a developmentally appropriate mindset. AJ will be a great support during the bridge year of third grade.
Second Grade Assistant: Evie Jones (They/Them)
Evie has thrived this year in the role of full time substitute for the primary grades. Next year they will be taking their skills to the Second Grade classroom. Evie’s kindness, positive energy, supportive approach, and investment in learning will add to the magical experience of second grade with Eddy.
Lead Art Teacher K-8: Kate Chassner (She/Her)
Kate recently completed her Masters in Art and has been running our Arts Elective program in Omega Middle School this year. Next year she will formally shift from her additional part time role in the office to being the Art teacher for Kindergarten through Eighth Grade. Her passion and creativity are sure to ignite a love of art in our children.
Summer Camp & Rainbow’s End Director: Susan Waddell (She/Her)
Susan has been a part of Rainbow’s growth and evolution over the years, and will be able to bring her full set of experiences as a parent, teacher, summer camp leader, and holistic practitioner to her new role. She is a natural to continue the legacy of adventure, joy, laughter, and memory making in afterschool and summer camp.
Office Manager: Rachel Hagen (She/Her)
For years, Rachel has ushered our first graders through a beautiful journey of learning, growth and discovery. Fortunately, her gifts will be equally valuable as she takes on the role of Office Manager, and becomes a primary resource for staff and families to remain informed and engaged.
P-K Student Support Advocate: Lissadell Greene (She/Her)
Lissadell has been working in preschool this past year as additional support. Fortunately, she will be able to offer her skills more holistically and comprehensively through this new role. She has been working in the educational field for the past 20 years as a music teacher and early childhood teacher. She also has a Masters Degree in Inclusive Education with a focus in Special Education, Infant/Toddler Mental Health, and Constructivism.
Moving on from Rainbow
We are so grateful to each of these staff members for their contributions to our community. We are better because of the time we shared.
Amethyst Buckner (She/Her) Preschool
Desiree Reynolds (She/Her) Preschool
MaryJoyce Wareham (She/Her) Preschool
Jess Alberi (She/Her) Second Grade
Emmaly Rogalski (She/Her) Fifth Grade
Jenn Ryan (She/Her) Sixth Grade
Honoring Their Legacy
We have a few special folks who are retiring from long term roles at Rainbow. We will be honoring each of these folks with a tree and a plaque on campus.
Rainbow’s End Director and LIA Coordinator: Denisa Rullmoss (She/Her)
Lead Art Teacher: Tracy Hildebrand (She/Her)
Tenured RCS Board Member: Stewart Stokes (He/Him)
While the school year is coming to a close, summer is a time of great activity at Rainbow. Preschool and camps will be running all summer and the main office remains open with staff available between 8:00am-3:00pm. In addition, opportunities for equity discussions continue with a parent discussion circle about Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th. You can express your interest here: 13th Interest Form
Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are, and not be questioned.” I hope that you and your children have found a safe place in Rainbow this year where you have felt celebrated for all that you are. Whether you plan to continue your Rainbow journey next year, or you are moving on to something new, may you find “home” in the people and places that surround you.
Many Blessings To You All.
Rainbow Community School/Omega Middle School
The return to school in 2022 unfolded at a brisk pace reinforced by pandemic stress, student narratives and conferences, re-enrollment planning, and more. My recent conversations with staff, parents, and students have shared a theme of “emotional erosion” describing the continued mental health impacts of pandemic living. This fragility reminds us all to tread gently, offering ourselves and others grace as we strive for coherence and harmony in our daily experience. Additionally, there seems to be a collective anticipation of spring gifting renewal and new life. In this moment, I invite you to focus on the return of light spiritually and emotionally for ourselves, our children, and our school.
This month’s Kaleidoscope focuses on time where we look back at our past, pause for our present, and vision our future. Intentionally contemplating our time together can help us slow down and counterbalance the urge to simply “push ahead,” reminding us that we always have the power to reframe our perspective from a mindset of doing to being.
Looking Back At Our Past:
It is hard to believe I am nearing the end of a second year as the Executive Director of Rainbow Community School. While the pandemic has certainly impacted our shared experience over the past 2 years, I am so proud of the many accomplishments we have achieved together within and beyond COVID. Our 2020-21 Annual Report is a capstone document that highlights several of these celebrations. I hope you will take the time to read it and recognize the collaborative efforts it showcases. This document is a testament to our holistic approach and community mindset that is at the very heart of our mission and vision.
Pausing For Our Present:
As noted above this present moment has many of us feeling full. I can’t help but return to our theme for this year; Collective Enrichment and Continual Evolution, for an opportune frame. Recently, the teachers completed Learner Profiles, offering a beautiful and holistic view of each child’s educational journey. This artifact is a great example of the rich curriculum and individualized approach at Rainbow, and it is also a tool for capturing a child’s evolution over time. Hopefully, the conferences provided ample time for each family to digest these narratives and look ahead to goals for your child in the remaining months of school.
Similarly, our institution has been designing opportunities for enriched conversation and collective wisdom to source our individual and organizational evolution. Our Primary Division continues to implement Fundations, and recently gathered for a formal training and reflection opportunity. Upper grades teachers took this time to dive deep into the data provided by our standardized testing. Additionally, teachers gathered earlier this month for a fire circle with feedback and fellowship. This listening session resulted in adapting our Wednesday training schedule to offer more breath and space for organic and relevant meetings to take place, bringing a little of spring’s renewal to our professional development calendar.
If we truly center ourselves in this present moment, it feels critical to also discuss COVID. Governor Cooper recently endorsed returning to a more typical school experience. The school toolkit is evolving, and the Safety team will be meeting this Friday (2/25/22) to outline Rainbow’s next steps in alignment with this updated guidance. Throughout this journey, we have been asked by many families how they can support community wellness. It is clear that everyone continues to take steps to monitor physical health and keep students home when ill. We are grateful for this partnership. It feels equally important to commit to a healthy dialogue around COVID. Vaccination status, infection level, and mask choices, are just a few of the potentially divisive topics surrounding this pandemic. We are all susceptible, including our children, to the polarizing impacts of debate versus dialogue. At Rainbow, we have the power and ability to center our humanness and model conscious communication. The teachers and staff are committed to this practice daily, as we facilitate healthy processing of pandemic impacts with our children.
Visioning Our Future:
Visioning further ahead brings a sense of joy and play as we consider all the possibilities yet to manifest. Rainbow Summer Camps are soon to be released to the public, and the line up is exciting! From crafting to adventuring to ESL, there is sure to be a week of exploration your child can’t resist. Reach out to our Camp Director, Susan Waddell with questions.
The much awaited 2022-23 School Calendar outlines our instructional flow for next year. This calendar has been reviewed by the administration, faculty, parent council, and board in an effort to create a rhythm that supports optimal learning for our children and a balanced experience for our stakeholders.
Looking forward, there is so much to be inspired by. I am hopeful that we will find time to commune together and be nurtured by the beauty and breath of spring.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.