Expand hours of instruction. Double-session (also known as double shift or bisessional) education could have substantial, radical impact on access to quality, effective education. Since entering the popular lexicon as nations contemplate how to operate facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, families, educators, and administrators are counting the advantages of having one AM shift and one PM shift at schools.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the U.S. educational system I had the pleasure to interview Cindy Chanin.
National education expert and founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring, Cindy Chanin, created the company with the intention of transforming lives through the power of personalized education, customized homeschooling, as well as impactful mentoring and enrichment. Internationally sought after by ambitious parents, Cindy and her team of the nation’s top educators not only help their children prepare for and gain entrance into the most prestigious academic schools in the country, but also help students discover their personal ambitions, desires, goals, and ultimately, their ‘why’ in the world. From working with elementary, middle, and high school students, to counseling with empty-nester parents, Rainbow EDU provides various services that are tailored to each individual and their personal path — no story is the same.
Cindy, thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
I always had a propensity for numbers, coupled with a deep connection to the imagination. I always joke that I practically emerged from the womb fluent in mathematics, despite the fact that I could barely put together a coherent sentence in English. I spoke my own vivid language quite fluently, yet it wasn’t one that made much sense to those around me. My peers — and even some of my earliest teachers — were quick to label me as “slow” and “learning disabled.” Subsequently, I was taken out of my mainstream classroom to attend “resource” and work with a speech therapist. I felt a great deal of shame and isolation being limited to the lowest level “cat, hat, bat, sat” reading group in my second-grade classroom. Furthermore, it baffled me that my supposed language barrier would somehow negate my demonstrated aptitude for math, with the teacher outright denying me participating in the accelerated math group.
After a year of senseless charade games and haphazard attempts at securing an in-roads to my education, I ultimately found myself in a different classroom with a new kind of teacher… a teacher who changed everything. She had us learn about history through reenactments and monologues, explore scientific principles through song and dance, memorize formulas through mnemonics and clever raps and rhymes. I eagerly took to this expressive, performative, kinesthetic, outside-the-box learning style — and with that — something within me “clicked.” I was no longer limited in fluency to just numbers and Cindy gibberish. I found my way into learning through an innovative approach, and with the help of a teacher who saw something in me — who mentored me and believed in me — I transformed from a delayed learner to an honors student.
I went on to excel both in school and in the arts. Come 5th-grade, I would go home after school with friends and we would work on assignments together…everything from word problems and creative writing journals, to book reports. Next thing I knew, their parents were contacting my parents and offering to compensate me for studying with and “teaching” my friends. Hence, at 10-years-old, I began my very own mama-papa tutoring service.
Who knew that my early childhood learning difference, fun creative analogies, and background in the performing arts would pave the way for a unique and impactful career in education? I discovered that I had this gift for taking convoluted concepts and tailoring them to an individual’s distinct learning style and interests. After working for years as a tutor, shadowing under different educational therapists, working in college admissions, developing a standardized test prep curriculum, and doing entrepreneurial coaching with teens, I went from being a one-stop-shop educator wearing multiple hats to the Founder and Director of Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring.
With Rainbow EDU, I have curated a dynamic team of talented, passionate, and engaging academic mentors and consultants who work with students from the inside-out. People come to Rainbow EDU seeking-out an independent school admissions consultant, a college counselor, an AP World/French/Chemistry/Calculus tutor, and/or standardized test prep coach. Yet, they end up getting those things and their WHY out of it. Rainbow EDU = EQ + IQ…every shade and hue of possibility…blending the holistic and the pragmatic…and transforming lives.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have a myriad of interesting stories I could share! My career has certainly been replete with moments of synchronicity, triumph, and celebration. Just before COVID, I returned to my old high school stomping grounds for the first time in 18 years and ran into one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Coffer, still head of the chemistry department! Mr. C had made stoichiometry and entropy come to life with his iconic Grateful Dead analogies and the way in which he likened The Periodic Table to an amphitheater seating chart for a rock concert! This tie-dyed lab-coat donning genius made me fall in love with science! Yet to see him after all these years and share with him how I, too, work in education, and how his captivating music analogies and unique teaching style influenced and embolden the ways in which I teach my students — I barely have words for that. And then a few weeks later, for him to catch me on a TV news segment and take the time to search for me online and then send me a personal message through Rainbow EDU’s website about how inspired he is by the work that I’m doing…WOW. That certainly moved me to the core.
Still, even in recounting this coming-full-circle moment with regards to reuniting with my high school chemistry teacher, I have to acknowledge that getting to where I am in my career now was by no means an easy feat. In order to fully appreciate and actualize the wins, I have had to learn to value and embrace the losses, too. The path to fulfillment or prosperity is rarely linear; it is marked by obstacles…i.e., opportunities for growth. That which has challenged me has led to the most invaluable epiphanies and prolonged success.
As an educator and entrepreneur, I have learned the value of failing upwards, gleaning insight, and emerging wiser and more determined than ever before. Experience has taught me the importance of surrounding myself with passionate, savvy people who believe what I believe as well as those who excel in areas in which I do not. Delegating is key, and while we can achieve amazing feats on our own, teamwork brings out everyone’s best selves. Collaboration is the stuff of growth and I’m grateful for those early guides like Mr. Coffer who helped me pave the way toward the most impactful education — both inside and outside the classroom.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I founded Rainbow EDU Consulting & Tutoring with the belief that celebrating individuality and developing clarity of purpose is essential for young people to thrive emotionally, socially, and academically. Getting an education should be an exciting, active pursuit, as opposed to a dreary, passive obligation. The key to unlocking that excitement is holding space for each young person, as they are and where they are. We listen first, develop a plan and goals, and collaboratively execute. I believe educators need to adjust standards of excellence to each student, to set educational goals in relationship to a student’s particular learning style, and teach from the perspective of a student’s genuine interests.
Currently, in light of the realities of COVID-19, Rainbow EDU is building out our homeschooling options based on our principles. With intensive family/educator collaboration, we are launching in-person and virtual individualized education and collective learning pods. The advantage of our approach is that students and family have a generative stake in how learning outcomes and curriculum are developed, as opposed to taking what they are handed from an institution. We are also creating an exciting, affordable online enrichment program with experts in creative fields driven by what fascinates our educators or puts their current research to practical use. Much of this will be project-based, like collective filmmaking, music production, and/or experiential science projects.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are authority in the education field?
While working toward multiple degrees at Yale University and the University of Southern California (USC), I studied Psychology, Theatre, Mathematics, and Comparative Literature. Additionally, I worked in college admissions and read thousands of applications from prospective students at these top tier universities. I am also a Phi Beta Kappa as well as an Irlen Syndrome Certified screener for students who have learning differences, visual processing, and/or ADD.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve personally and extensively tutored virtually every subject. I’ve been blessed with a breadth of tutoring and mentoring abilities ranging from honors chemistry to trigonometry, pre-calculus, American/European history, literature analysis, creative writing, and Spanish to college application preparation and college admissions exam preparation. Not only have I had the honor to coach a number of students to perfect 1600’s on their SAT’s, but I’ve also helped many students gain admission to top universities including Stanford, Yale, Brown, Northwestern, USC, UCLA, Harvard, Pomona, Oxford, Juilliard, and NYU, among others.
Teaching comes very intuitively to me. Drawing upon my background in theatre and psychology, along with years of analytical and creative writing, fluency in mathematics, and an in-depth understanding of individual learning styles, I possess a myriad of resources to help guide my approach. I hone-in on how a student is wired, what will resonate, and the different ways I can go about explaining a concept to have it meaningfully and authentically sink-in. Educational mentoring is my gift and my passion.
The word passion can be broken down into Pass I On. I have a passion for activating a spark in those whom I get to mentor, and then encouraging them to grow that spark into something that ignites their curiosity and creativity both inside and outside the classroom. Education serves as the vehicle for me to “pass along my passion” while encouraging others to do the same.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
This very question warrants a few more questions of my own. What kind of metric is useful to rate the results of a national system that only exists in theory? What metric is big enough, or specific enough, or accurate enough? Like standardized academic testing, I don’t think there is a fair metric to rate the results. Would we measure positive results? Negative results? Attempts to standardize education for all students across geographic, social, and economic divides have largely failed. Common Core — with all of its belly flops — is a good example. To presume students from one region or community have educational needs common to all others is reductionist and minimizes difference — an ideological problem and a political puzzle, not a strategy. In short, if the problem is to rate a system, let’s just say there are no useful, tangible, or relevant results upon which to base a judgement. As it is, the emotional and social wellbeing of our students has often taken a backseat to testing and academics. From my perspective, this isn’t working.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?
Public and private schools could both be identified as part of U.S. Education, but the discussion about a system requires we limit the question to public education, as a system indicates regulation. Here is what I feel the public system does better than private education, though not uniformly or exclusively.
- Cost. Public K-12 schools are free to attend.
- Public schools are governed by local districts. While that doesn’t assure representation in a community, it does keep oversight local and family participation in governance possible.
- Access is granted to those who want it. The system is broadly available.
- Amazing teachers. Public education continues to attract empathetic, community oriented, tuned-in, smart educators. Preparation and training for public education outpaces private education.
- Diversity. Not to be confused with equality, which is a ferocious struggle in all educational platforms, diversity in every and any category is the number one factor to celebrate public education in America. Kids crave a diverse social experience, and public schools almost unanimously attract the most multifaceted student populations.
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?
Access is a keyword. What can be done to improve access to high-level instruction for those who are disenfranchised, segregated, or otherwise marginalized by the way schools operate now? And what about those who are isolated as a result of how they best learn? Connect with others? Experience their world?
1.) Expand hours of instruction. Double-session (also known as double shift or bisessional) education could have substantial, radical impact on access to quality, effective education. Since entering the popular lexicon as nations contemplate how to operate facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, families, educators, and administrators are counting the advantages of having one AM shift and one PM shift at schools.
Double-session education has been successfully implemented in both affluent and poor nations, though often for the same reason: to maximize financial resources. Botswana, Singapore, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Philippines all have models of double-session education that accommodate needs such as equipment sharing, minimizing class size, mitigating the effects of real estate and transportation crises, increasing teacher salary, and allowing for personalized instruction.
The immediate gain in the US during COVID times would be a reduction in class size, allowing for the possibility of social distancing. The long-term gain would be a reduction in the student to teacher ratio. Reduced ratios lead to more personalized instruction, thereby allowing for an expansion of teaching and learning styles in the classroom. Reduced ratios improve access to resources and instruction by all students across the board, including those with learning differences.
The dream of universal education may also be realized for students with adult responsibilities — such as caregiving or necessary employment — as they won’t have to sacrifice their education in addition to taking on excessive family responsibility. Night owls could finally thrive. The list goes on and on…
2.) Integrate creative disciplines into everyday learning, as opposed to relegating them to the margins. Studying the arts promotes rigorous sensorial and contextual analysis, the development of creative discipline, and the active production of culture and ideas. Art also expresses the variety of forms civic participation can take, encouraging students to creatively contribute to political and social life. It helps students to translate complicated ideas into simple terms. Art leaves room for the possibility that there may not be a right or wrong answer, allowing students to accept ambiguity. These are valuable tools for artists and non-artists alike.
3.) Classroom diversity needs to be a pedagogical mandate, not a far-off, imaginary goal to which we give lip service. This kind of active change can and should start immediately. For example, incorporate historical examples and traditions of your students’ cultural, ethnic, and racial experience with each lesson taught. Developing a relatable classroom experience for everyone by including relatable content improves student engagement on every level. More importantly, it disrupts grand narratives and traditional trajectories of history by not just including but driving history through the territory of under-represented voices and practices.
4.) Update teaching methodologies. Personalized learning, game-based learning, flipped classroom, differentiated instruction, and kinesthetic learning are all teaching styles to experiment with in the path to unlocking a student’s potential. Flipped classroom, for example, is all the rage in COVID times. Instead of standing in front of a classroom (or educational pod, or zoom) giving a lecture, with students completing assignments to support a lecture, the educator records a lecture (or assigns a TedTalk, movie, podcast, etc.) in advance, and students watch it as their homework. Then, when educators and students convene, they discuss/debate the pre-recorded material, complete a tactile or immersive project collaboratively, play a game, etc. Flipped classrooms encourage students to formulate their own thinking about a topic as opposed to regurgitating what came from on-high.
5.) Guide each and every student on the road to self-discovery. School isn’t just about doing what has to be done, or fulfilling assignments, or even executing an academic career. It’s about building a life brimming with curiosity, passion, and commitment. Without purpose, it’s tough to find success, much less lead a fulfilling life. Educators can mentor students to discover, cultivate, and articulate their unique qualities, garnering a better understanding of their authentic selves, and tapping into their personal style. Helping students identify their likes and dislikes will inform their research, exploration, and decision-making process. Pinpointing strengths as well as areas for potential growth will help students grow both academically and personally as well as guide them toward their purpose. Every educational experience will ideally model this wholly invested level of educator engagement.
How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?
Most schools I work with share a mainstream focus on STEM. It’s not novel or sidelined or floundering. It’s the centerpiece of education. What I am more curious and concerned about is how other facets of education might be integrated into STEM education. There is a familiar phrase sometimes credited to comedian Martin Mull, sometimes musician Frank Zappa, and occasionally a host of others. “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” It’s a funny, derisive, yet generative phrase. Well, I’d like to encounter architecture about dancing, or music about writing. So — I’d love to see increased engagement by integrating STEM in other facets of education, more interdisciplinary play, and critical thinking about how STEM methods of inquiry might make art, or how art might make STEM.
Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?
28% of STEM jobs are held by women. That statistic alone should tell the story. Yet, I defer to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to address this question, because they have been advocating for women in education since before my grandparents were born, and have been dedicated to educating about The STEM Gap. Their resources are rich and well researched.
“As soon as girls start school, they encounter attitudes and expectations about what they ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do. This continues throughout their schooling, steering them toward certain career paths and away from others…
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields will account for some of the fastest growing — and highest paying — jobs of the future. Yet girls and women are still not on par with boys and men in preparing for these fields.
Gender bias in school remains a significant barrier to girls’ progress in STEM. Starting in early childhood, teachers and parents provide explicit and implicit messages that boys and men are “better” at math and science — although there is no evidence for that. Black girls and women and Latinas are even more likely to be dissuaded from pursuing math and science, because they face discrimination and have less access to critical resources, opportunities and role models.
Research shows that there is no inherent difference in math and science capability between girls and boys.”
How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?
The US is doing no better engaging girls and women in STEM subjects than any nation. The suggestions I have to increase engagement would apply to any field. I don’t think the answers are approachable on a structural level. They have to be addressed one student at a time. Scigirlsconnect.com has a terrific resource on how to engage girls in STEM for educators and families that I highly recommend. Their top three researched recommendations:
“Connect STEM experiences to girls’ lives.
Make STEM real and meaningful by engaging girls in activities that draw on their interests, knowledge, skills, culture, and lived experiences. This helps girls develop a STEM identity and increases their sense of belonging in STEM.
Support girls as they investigate questions and solve problems using STEM practices.
Engage girls in hands-on, inquiry-based STEM experiences that incorporate practices used by STEM professionals. Let girls take ownership of their own STEM learning and engage in meaningful STEM work to positively impact their identities and re-define how they see STEM.
Empower girls to embrace struggle, overcome challenges, and increase self-confidence in STEM.
Help girls focus on and value the process of learning by supporting their strategies for problem solving and letting them know their skills can improve through practice. Support girls to develop a growth mindset — the belief that intelligence can develop with effort and learning.”
As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?
It is my belief that elevating the arts in the educational field is an important pedagogical technique that is often under-utilized by mentors and faculty. In fact, performing arts is what grounded, informed, and propelled my work and trajectory as an educator and college consultant for teens. Strategies like Meisner-based “listening” exercises, memoir-style monologue writing exercises, and creative visualization can all be leveraged to help students find their WHY, write award-winning essays, create authentic, compelling portfolios, find great schools and enrichment opportunities while helping them actualize their own versions of success. Combining improv, theatre, and the idea of “ensemble” work to coach and engage students, performance-oriented mentoring illustrates the powerful intersection of education and artistic endeavor.
With quite a few young artists as clients, including Broadway performers, an Emmy Award-winning actress, and creative-inventors, I’m constantly drawing upon and “elevating the arts” into the educational space. Using my personal experience to inform and inspire the experiences of others, I work to mentor students through their high school trajectories and college preparatory process.
Considering the recent trend in minimizing arts exposure in education, it’s important to discuss how the convergence of performing arts and education is vital and transformative, as it fosters critical inquiry, shapes identity, and spurs communication.
If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Like virtually everything else, the 2019–2020 NBA season has been disrupted by COVID-19. As I write this, players have recently received clearance to return to the court and finish out the season, with the option of championing a NBPA/NBA approved social justice message on the back of their jerseys. “Education Reform” is one of thirty approved messages. Discussions about education reform are about to have their moment — especially given the ongoing school closures, the hit-or-miss implementation of remote learning, and surge in popularity of learning pods and other schooling-at-home alternatives. COVID-19, in effect, is shedding an even clearer light on the deeply entrenched inequities that mar the US education system, along with the unsettling reality that the gap continues to widen. In addressing this particular question on educational reform, I want to highlight several vital areas that come from a long list of urgent social and political debates.
Admittedly, it’s challenging for me to decouple the ideas I shared about areas of improvement from actions I would implement to reform the public educational infrastructure. Those areas of improvement are systemic. The following are right up there with expanding hours of instruction to include a double-session structure, integrating creative disciplines into everyday learning as opposed to relegating them to the margins, mandating pedagogical diversity, updating teaching methodologies, and guiding each and every student on the road to self-discovery.
1. End Common Core. Common Core was created so that students, no matter where they lived in the US, would uniformly possess the education they need to be good college students and good workers. The metrics used to determine that value include yearly testing that our public institutions have dumped valuable resources into in an effort to meet test score standards. The effect has closed out resources for the arts, academic enrichment, and physical education. It has made education a means to an end, as opposed to a journey of discovery. Kids are curious. When they grow up disillusioned, bored, overwhelmed, and shut down because of school we can’t blame them. We have to blame a system that refuses to hold space for them.
2. Veer away from an overreliance on standardized testing and standardized curriculum. Standardized testing most reliably measures one thing: economic disparity. The single biggest indicator of a successful score is either poverty or wealth. Wealthier kids have access to what they need to do their best, such as fewer responsibilities so they can focus on their studies, as well as the resources needed for one-on-one preparation. Standardized curriculum is designed to resist divergent thinking, creative ingenuity, and unique learning styles.
3. Curriculum needs to reflect the actual students in the classroom. A centralized image of what that means is futile. Diversity is different in each and every person, classroom, subject, municipality, and state. Teachers need to have the flexibility assess student success based on the unique histories, experiences, passions, and learning styles of their students.
4. On that note, we need much higher compensation for educators. Significant value needs to be placed on the responsibility of shaping the emerging innovators, leaders, producers, influencers, and citizens of tomorrow.
5. Don’t give homework. Flip the classroom. Lectures or instruction should be provided for students to take home and digest. This alleviates the social pressure of having to “get it” in front of their peers, but also opens up classroom time for experiential, collaborative learning, where students put instruction to the test without fear of getting it wrong.
In short, students need the opportunity to be wrong, to fail, and to struggle without fear of their life falling apart or their future being cut short. To paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, kindergarteners should not be prepping for college. They should be experiencing the joys of kindergarten.
 Approved messages include: Education Reform, Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can’t Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, and Mentor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world” (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed).
To me, education, in essence, EITHER serves as an instrument that holds us in the bondage of complacency — hence, we allow our unique perspectives and objectives merely to remain dormant — OR it awakens and liberates us to the whole spectrum of possibilities — both within ourselves and out in the world. I, for one, choose the latter. Because, as students of life school, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” (Anais Nin).
At Rainbow EDU, we want to simplify this dichotomy and get right to the heart of the solution. As educators, mentors, and academic coaches, we seek to empower students to find their own answers while tapping into the optimal expression of their own brilliance. Education no longer need be about “measuring up,” as in, “am I smart enough?” — but more about “how am I smart?” and in what ways can I share my unique gifts to impact the greater good of society?
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Both Sir Ken Robinson and Simon Sinek epitomize the heart and soul of almost everything I believe about an impactful education. Let’s all meet for lunch, and know that it’s on me!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Personal LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/cindy-chanin-5175873b/
Thank you so much for these insights!