Special Friends-Giving

As we approach the holidays at Parker, we like to pause and reflect on our gratitude for all that we have, both in school and beyond. Last week, we asked our students what they were thankful for. Their answers were heart-warming, clever, and inspiring: “I’m thankful for happiness, home, and my class. I am grateful for my family, blueberries, doctors, nature, and myself. I am grateful for everything this world has to give.”
Our Parker community always gives in abundance, and last week that giving showed up in the form of our Special Friends. Whether our Special Friends gave of their time by showing up in person to visit, or gave of their talents to send a decorated postcard, it was abundantly clear that our Parker students are beloved.
Special Friends Day is an exciting tradition as it allows us to widen our umbrella of community and welcome loved ones who may not otherwise have reason to visit our students in school. The enthusiasm and warmth our Special Friends exude is moving, and everyone leaves for the Thanksgiving holiday sated with feelings of love, joy, and community.
This year, our Special Friends Day celebration reflected our school values of service learning and reaching out to others with kindness, both collectively and in individual classrooms. Together, our community teamed up to collect donations for the Shalom Food Pantry in support of our “Kids Can Build!” program. Our Special Friends showed incredible generosity in bringing both canned and dry goods to contribute to our boxes here at school.
In the classrooms, acknowledgements of service, kindness, and gratitude were differentiated to meet the developmental needs and interests of our students. Preschoolers created together, shared a snack of pumpkin muffins which the students made lovingly by hand, and crafted bird feeders. Our Kindergarten class brought individual vegetables and worked to cook a meal of Stone Soup, which they shared together. 1st and 2nd graders in Suzi’s class wrote and shared poems for their loved ones; Debbie’s class of 1-2’s created smile rocks to spread joy and connection from Parker to the community at large. 3rd and 4th graders in Nari’s class teamed up with their Special Friends to make snuffle mats for the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, and they assembled hygiene kits for people in need. Middle school students decorated a gratitude tree, hosted a paper airplane competition, and shared an 8th grade assembly.
Practicing gratitude leads us to focus on things outside of ourselves. It helps us build social relationships, form friendships, appreciate our families, and connect with teachers. This is the work our students do each day. This “other-focused” quality of gratitude allows children to acknowledge another person’s gift to them. Looking outside of oneself and recognizing the power of connection leads children to want to help others as they have been helped. This ultimately creates a web of humanity connected by good deeds, kindness, and appreciation.
We are so grateful to our Special Friends for the outpouring of love and support that you shared last week. We are profoundly thankful for our community and the ways in which you show up again and again for our children.