Sometimes when I sit down to write for our monthly newsletter, I am in my office where I can hear the sounds of the daily business happening in the main office. Phones will be ringing, ice packs will be asked for, family members are arriving for lunch, volunteers are signing in and teachers are busy planning and preparing. Sometimes when I sit down to write for our monthly newsletter, I might be at school alone because I have stayed late, arrived early, winter break is happening or we are having a snow day. NEVER have I sat down to write for our monthly newsletter from home, in my newly crafted home office, because the governor of our state has declared that home is the safest place for us all to be as we try to “flatten the curve” of a virus. Honestly, I am not sure I had ever used the phrase “flatten the curve” prior to mid-March. While home is where I physically sit, my heart and mind are everywhere but at home with me. I am, just as the rest of our staff is, missing our students. I am missing the hugs, the laughter, the sound of a class going to specials, the sound of morning meetings, and read alouds. I am missing the sound of the bell indicating that the day is about to begin, or that recess has come to an end. I am missing serving lunch and the polite ways that students say “No, thank you” without hurting my feelings. We miss your kids but we are working hard to stay connected with them and with you. Whether through snail mail or virtual means, we will continue to maintain relationships, learning and support with your children. While the last few weeks and the next few will look different, the heart, compassion and commitment for our students are the same if not stronger. Take care. Be safe. We are here.
If you haven’t checked your calendar, you may not be aware that this February is a Leap Year. If your birthday happens to be February 29th, you are most likely very aware of each year we get that extra day so that you do not have to choose which month you will celebrate. Leap Year came to be as a way to sync calendars with the length of the natural year and to make up for lost time.
Have you ever found money out on the street or in an old coat pocket? This unexpected windfall (even if it’s only a few dollars) activates in me fantastical thoughts of what to spend it on; should I be responsible and save or spend it on a bill (need) or do I swing into the book store for a new book (want)? I challenge us to think about how we use this this year’s Leap Year day to make up for “lost time.”
Time: it flies, it drags, it’s precious and it is never enough. How will you use the extra day to make-up for lost time? Will you devote it to family? Will you spend it volunteering? Will it go toward some self-care? Will you stay at your job longer? Will you reconnect with an old friend? Will you tend to that never ending To-Do List? Will you sleep through it? Which of these are wants and which are needs?
As I look at my own calendar I see that Saturday, February 29th is wide open for me to devote to making up for lost time. So many options with nothing but time.
For the past seven years at the PTO’s Holiday Fair, I have auctioned off the opportunity for someone to spend a day being the principal of Southern Bluffs. Prior to the start of the silent auction, I get a little nervous with the thought that no one will put a bid down. Fortunately, we have some students who are either intrigued by what must go on in the office or maybe they are interested in the prospect of a day free of “work” from their classroom teachers. Whatever the motivation, the item has sold with a winning bidder ready to step in and spend some time with me.
On January 10th, I will have the honor of spending the day with this year’s winner, Jacob, a fifth grader who has a very bright future in front of him. As is the case each year, I strive to create an experience that will not disappoint. My hope is to plan a day filled with unique and fun opportunities and perhaps plant a seed that my partner might one day enter the field of education – it’s never too early to plan for a future career.
Jacob’s day will be filled with: media interviews, being a part of our all-school morning meeting, visiting classrooms, lunch supervision, meetings with the superintendent, Director of Elementary Education and other administrative leaders, and an insider’s tour of the building with our Buildings and Grounds supervisors. I don’t know about Jacob, but it will certainly be one of my favorite days at school. It will be a treat to spend the day together and see our school through his eyes.
If you follow the Southern Bluffs page on Facebook, you might have seen pictures of the numerous experiences staff put in the silent auction for students to bid on. Some involved fishing, lunch or breakfast together, visiting the Rotary Lights or the Children’s Museum, etc., but really what they all were about was time. Time to connect, time to talk, time to laugh together, time to build a relationship between a staff member and a student, time to learn about one another beyond the curriculum…time to hopefully build a lifelong memory.
With the holiday season behind us, I would like to encourage us all to continue to give the gift of time to one another. Time to have dinner together at the table. Time to talk about the day. Time to laugh, giggle, play, and occasionally snuggle. Time to help others. Time to read a good story. Time to power down from our devices. Time to be quiet and reflective.
Just like our auction items, everyone would be a winner!
When award season rolls around, I find myself settling in to watch who will walk away with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar or VMA that evening. It is inevitable, as the winner stands at the podium giving their acceptance speech, that they begin to recite a list of those who got them to that moment in time. They make good use of their limited time to publicly say, “Thank you.” As I turn my calendar to December, it is a reminder for me to take a moment to pause and express my gratitude to those who do so much for Southern Bluffs.
Thank you to the PTO for finding so many ways to support the students and staff through conference meals for teachers, field trip funding, assisting in picture day, screenings, and the upcoming Holiday Fair.
Thank you to our building engineer and custodians: Mr. Fisher, Mr. Skiles and Ms. Larson for keeping our learning spaces safe and clean.
Thank you to our school nutrition staff for ensuring that students have healthy and nutritious meals on time each day.
Thank you to the most wonderful administrative assistants, Mrs. Stacey Blegen and Mrs. Amy Dale for being everything to everyone.
Thank you to all of the parents who work to support their child’s education by volunteering at school, reading with their child, attending conferences, and making sure they come to school ready to learn.
Thank you to our students who not only are working hard to achieve the high academic standards expected, but also showing respectful, responsible and safe behaviors. They have already earned over 2600 Bobcat Bucks this school year alone! We recently celebrated that goal with some pie…ask your kids about that fun moment.
And finally, a huge THANK YOU to the teachers, teacher assistants, health assistant, nurse, counselors and LLC Director for the countless hours they put in each day, night and weekend on behalf of our students.
When one decides to begin a list of thanks they run the risk of unintentionally forgetting someone. So please accept this universal “THANK YOU” to all who have contributed to making Southern Bluffs a fabulous place for learning. (Uh oh…I hear the orchestra beginning to play, that’s my cue to wrap it up.)
Football jerseys, crisp mornings, multicolored leaves, camouflage clothing, shorter days and weekly fests are all signs that fall, my favorite season, is upon us once again. Fall…happily tucked between the lazy days of summer, which are really not so lazy considering all of the activities our children are involved in, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Fall…a time that provides so many opportunities for family and friends to gather together for food, fellowship, football and still a little baseball. Fall…a time for us to prepare for the reality of winter in Wisconsin. Fall…the season of change.
Southern Bluffs has seen its share of change this fall. We have welcomed new staff members including teachers, teacher assistants, therapists, school nutrition staff and a building engineer. In a time when families can choose to attend any school, we are fortunate many of you have chosen Southern Bluffs for the first time this year…Welcome!! The playground for our Early Childhood students has a colorful, soft surface and fencing that will insure their play will be safe. Change allows us to recommit to what we value and create excitement for new adventures and opportunities.
While many things may change with the start of a new season or school year, one thing that will remain constant is the sense of family and community at Southern Bluffs. Thank you for entrusting your children to us each and every day and
please know that every person in our school is committed to meeting ALL students where they are at in order to guide them in their academic and social/emotional learning.
This year our theme was “Get into the Game.” Every morning I ended our announcements reminding students that wherever they found themselves at Southern Bluffs, they were encouraged to get into the game academically, socially, emotionally, behaviorally and physically. I never used those “adult” words but instead would try to highlight the ways in which the opportunities to do so were presented. Now as we quickly approach the end of another school year, I pause for a moment to see if we had lived up to the expectation of our theme.
Academically: we got into the game through math and reading nights, geography bees, vocabulary showdowns, archaeological digs, Battle of the Books, math workshops, excursions to the fish hatchery, a visit to the state capitol, tours around our community, and showing our very best learning.
Socially: we held all-school morning meetings and had “family time” each month, picnicked on the playground with our PTO, played games and had hot cocoa with some Cool CATS, made ornaments and shopped at the annual Holiday Fair, dined with veterans, connected with buddy classes and rocked each spirit day.
Emotionally: we were led by student leaders to collect items for those in need, learned to make healthy life decisions through DARE and GREAT, started talking about the Zones we were in and tools we can use to help us, and we hugged, laughed, cried, cared for and celebrated all things big and small!
Behaviorally: we steadily earned Bobcat Bucks for showing respectful, responsible and safe behaviors. We took a moment to recognize multiple milestones with BINGO, popcorn, dance parties, pajamas, stuffed animals and an upcoming performance of Baby Shark to be performed by yours truly.
Physically: we jumped rope for healthy hearts, walked a marathon in May, met up in the neighborhood in order to walk to school together, increased our stamina with the PACER test, danced the night away on Valentine’s Day and are currently anticipating a PE Fun Day.
When establishing a theme, we run the risk of it just being a cliché unless we make an effort to live it with intention and purpose. Upon reflection, I would say that not only did we “Get into the Game”…we won it!
There have been different times in life when I thought it would be great to be able to fast forward in time. Sometimes this desire would come when I just wanted to see that things would be OK and other times it was out of plain, old curiosity regarding the end of a book or movie. I have lived most of my life without social media but now, and most likely forever, it is a part of my work and personal life. I think that it is safe to think that this may be true for most of our Southern Bluffs’ families.
One feature that seems to appear multiple times a week on Facebook is Time Hop. A past post appears for me to see and then I have the option to re-share the memory. While I love the randomness of what appears and the emotional reaction I get from the memory, it has made me rethink my desire to fast forward in life.
Whether my “time hop” was from one, three or seven years ago, so much has happened between then and now that I would have missed out on had I hit fast forward. The tiny moments that filled the hours and days from yesterday to today or from today to tomorrow are truly what it’s all about. I love to read but if I only read the first and last pages of a book I would lose the drama, humor, sadness, meaningful details, as well as the mysterious and sometimes unresolved moments in between.
I think that I’ll continue to smile and reminisce briefly when a Time Hop appears (a year ago our playground was covered in snow) for I know that our leap ahead to June 5th (our last day of the school year) will happen too quickly. My plan is to pause and be grateful for each and every moment in the present.
When my two boys were younger, I often heard the cliché about how fast time will fly and that I should savor each moment because in the blink of an eye they will move from babies to boys to men. During that eyeblink, we went to many school concerts, traveled to every gym and ballfield around the area, carpooled, held our breath during the middle school years, waited for the results of driver’s tests, anxiously looked for college acceptance letters and watched with tears in our eyes as our gowned sons marched into graduation ceremonies while Pomp and Circumstance played in the background. We left them at their respective post-secondary institutions and were thrilled and relieved when the job offers were accepted. Phew! We made it.
When my husband and I were in the thick of raising our children, try as we might, it was hard to slow down, reflect and wonder if we did that parenting thing “right.” Now we have the benefit of hindsight, experience, age and perspective to look back and learn from. Perhaps one day we will be grandparents and can, if asked, share our wisdom with our boys for them to consider. If that is what life has in store, here is what I would share:
-Be a parent, not a friend.
-Be a guide, not a director.
-Love enough to say no and mean it.
-Be involved, but not overly involved.
-Do not rob your children of the learning opportunities that come from the inevitable mistakes that they will make.
-Let your children own their successes and their failures.
-Don’t own their grades but lay a foundation for the importance of learning.
-How important will the moment/decision be in 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 months or 5 years?
The time is approaching when I will be creating class lists for next year. We look at so many universal factors and take great care and time when trying to create balanced classrooms. Inevitably, teacher requests will also come from parents (these should be done in writing and submitted by April 15th) which will be given thoughtful consideration but not always granted.
In the faster than the speed-of-light time that it took for my boys to grow from babies to men, they have had many different teachers, coaches, teammates, bosses, and colleagues, requested or not, and each one of them provided an opportunity for them to learn and grow. So my final piece of parenting wisdom should they ever ask, would be, “It will be ok.”
Over the last few weeks, we have certainly had our fill of extreme Wisconsin weather. A polar vortex, weather warnings and yes, snow AND rain have all been a part of our daily conversations and Facebook posts. Even as I sit and write this morning 8-10 inches of snow are predicted to fall within the next 36 hours; perhaps the excitement (students), or nightmare (principals), of another school closing is currently dancing in your head. Embedded in the midst of this vortex of weather is a week that will surely create a warm-up from the inside out, Random Acts of Kindness Week.
The wonderful thing about a random act of kindness is that is can be big or small and anyone can perform one. On an icy, cold and snowy day last week, I left work after 5:00pm to find that my car had been scraped and brushed off. I have no idea who did it but sent out an email to all of the staff in order to acknowledge and express my gratitude to the anonymous snow remover and to let them know that I will be sure to pay it forward. As I arrived home that night, my gratitude extended to my neighbor who had taken the time to snow blow my driveway. What a gift!
Random acts of kindness are the one “virus” we should willingly and happily spread to one another all year long. The person doing the act is generally not looking for recognition or even acknowledgement as the reward is totally internal. When someone does something good for another, they are actually doing good for themselves. So this month don’t get caught up in the pink & red hearts, chocolates and roses but instead find a dozen ways to randomly spread kindness to friends, family or even a stranger. Your Facebook page could warm everyone up with pictures from a Kindness Vortex.
Over the past several years, as a district we have taken significant steps to enhance the physical safety and security of our school building. During the school year, the students and staff practice a number of drills, including monthly fire drills, a several weather drill, and a lockdown drill. The U.S. Department of Education has recommended that school districts implement a protocol that provides more options than traditional “hide and hope” lockdown to student and staff when facing threat or harm from a violent intruder. With the assistance of the La Crosse Police Department, our Southern Bluffs Staff has been trained in a protocol called ALICE.
The acronym ALICE is a non-sequential acronym to help staff and students remember options that stands for:
Alert: Get the word out using clear concise language and describe the location of the event.
Lockdown: Lockdown students in secure areas if evacuation is not an option. Enhance traditional lockdown by barricading.
Inform: Keeping the staff and students informed continually allows for good decision making.
Counter: As a last resort if the intruder enters the room, distract, confuse, and gain control.
Evacuate: Reduce the number of potential targets for the intruder by evacuating the building to predetermined rally points off of school grounds.
We will be discussing some of these options with students in an age appropriate manner, and classroom teachers will be reading and discussing a book with students entitled, I’m Not Scared, I‘m Prepared! Because I Know All About ALICE. On Tuesday, January 22nd, we will practice a “soft” lockdown drill where we will be having developmentally appropriate conversations with students about the importance of listening to the adult in any kind of emergency situation.
School safety is ever-present on our minds and we work hard to ensure students are as safe as possible. Please talk with your child about safety at home, to and from school, and in your neighborhoods. Thank you for your cooperation in assisting us with our efforts to help all children feel prepared and safe.