Happy Panda Day! (Year two)

A few days from now it will be National Panda Day. Two days ago it was our school’s second ever Happy Panda Day! The day marks two years since our school year was flipped-turned upside down by COVID-19. Last year, Happy Panda Day was created to celebrate all that we had accomplished in the year. A celebration of kindness, generosity, community, and finding joy when it felt most difficult. This year, we marked that anniversary again, another opportunity to find peace and happiness together.

Last year, we all needed a reminder of the work we had accomplished in the face of completely unforeseen circumstances. Although this year’s challenges may have been predictable in some ways, they were equally, if not more stressful. The necessity for a day focused on togetherness and generosity was clear.

Honestly, I have felt disappointed in myself over the last few weeks in particular. It is a feeling that I think many educators have had, and are still having this year. The feeling that I’m not doing my job very well and I’m letting people down. To plan Happy Panda Day on top of this feeling was difficult, but well worth it. I accomplished the tasks I needed to, and gave back to the teachers who have been so incredibly generous throughout the year.

Teachers give and give and give: time, effort, patience, and kindness, even when they know it may not be reciprocated. Happy Panda Day is a practice in generosity. The teachers who have something to give – from leading an activity with a class to picking up pretzels at 7am on the way to school in the morning – give what they can. Others who need a day to recover from all the generosity they given this year receive that kindness from their colleagues. It is in this giving and receiving of generosity that we demonstrate the power and importance of our community.

Of course our students received this generosity from their teachers as well. They learned from teachers they had rarely met before. They met Ivy, a therapy dog who offered her time and kisses to students and teachers. Our students also found ways to be generous. Our third graders created artwork using the sunflower, a symbol of peace in Ukraine. Students donated to UNICEF to help children in Ukraine in need.

How do we change mindsets? By developing habits that lead to that mindset, by practicing that mindset every day. Our community, like all communities, are filled with beautiful people and opportunities. A daily gratitude practice reminds me of the many ways our community supports each other every day. Happy Panda Day is a way to highlight some of those simple ways make our community brighter.

When it feels like we don’t have enough, it is critical to show each other that we are enough and we have enough. We have more than most, and taking time to recognize all that we have, just in each other, is something we need to practice as often as we can. Let’s celebrate the little joys each day. Let’s thank our generous friends and neighbors every chance we get. Let us be generous to others whenever we can.

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