Happy Holidays to everyone! One of my favorite Fairfax community members always greets me with the phrase, “Peace and Joy.” I find this simple message to be profound and timeless, especially in the midst of these past months that have continued to force us to navigate unprecedented pandemic-related challenges.

Regardless of this upside down and unpredictable world, I consider myself one of the luckiest people around to have the opportunity each day to be a public school educator. There are so many reasons to be pessimistic and jaded. There have been many times since March 2020 that I have experienced these emotions. I recently read an article that resonated with me. The premise of the article is that no one else is going to fix the professional challenges and personal struggles we encounter. The author asserts that we alone are responsible for our outlook and must identify and seek out those things that bring us joy to counteract the challenges.

Each day I try to focus on being present, attempt to recognize when situations are out of my control and do my best to minimize the energy I devote to worrying about the outcome and reactions of others. Instead, I focus on connecting with people who are optimistic and make me laugh. Throughout the pandemic I have refocused my attention to appreciating the simple things I used to take for granted, and cherishing those experiences that bring me joy. 

Life is not all sunshine and rainbows, but the more I focus on positives the more peace I experience. Here are some of the things that bring me joy:

  • The simple beauty of a sunrise.
  • Students writing cards of appreciation to Military Service members, First Responders, and BFA Fairfax Educators.
  • A record number of Mitten Tree requests filled.
  • An outpouring of donations to BFA Fairfax Food Drive.
  • Students dancing to a Grateful Dead song last week in their classroom.
  • Exchanging a greeting and fist bump with students every morning.
  • Connecting with students at recess, watching them play and be kids.
  • Experiencing kind and supportive conversations with families in the hallways, through emails, and when I call to share about a COVID-19 situation in a classroom. (Let’s be clear, no one wants to hear from me about COVID!)
  • Collaborating with my amazing team of educators to create a supportive and responsive learning environment. 
  • Reading a story with students.

I remain grateful for everyone in our learning community and the joy I experience being part of something bigger than myself. I hope you all have a fantastic Holiday break. Stay kind, safe, and well. Keep focused on the positives because there is goodness and joy all around! “Peace and Joy!”

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

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