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.
H is for the multitude of hands that worked to assemble auction baskets, set-up Friday night, wrapped presents to be placed under the tree and assisted putting the school back together.
O is for the over the top bids that were generously made for a purse, a walk through the lights of Riverside Park, juggling lessons or a fishing trip out on an icy river.
L is for the laughter that filled the building on a Saturday morning.
I is for the icy rain that fell from the skies but did not deter people from coming.
D is for the delicious cake pops, caramel corn, cookies, banana bread and other sweet treats that were available to nibble on while little ones shopped in Kidland.
A is for all of the smiles on the faces of the young and old as Santa listened to holiday wishes.
Y is for the yellow tickets that that were placed in buckets to increase the chances of winning The Claw, a yard of bubble gum, Shopkins or a gigantic teddy bear.
F is for the families, extended and immediate, who showed up to support our students and staff.
A is for the 128 auction items that went home with the highest bidders.
I is for the infinite memories that were made by the creation of a keepsake ornament.
R is for the realization that while this year’s Holiday Fair was a great success, the planning and buying for next year has already begun…mark your calendars for December 7, 2019.
As calendars are flipped from October to November you can feel an immediate shift from thoughts of trick-or-treating to thanks and giving. This year our fifth-grade students may not have been as preoccupied with the excitement of candy and costumes as they were with the satisfaction that comes from performing community service work. Students, along with their teachers, organized a food drive in conjunction with the iFeed event put on by local high school Interact groups (a high school branch of the Rotary).
To gain an understanding of the “why” for the event, the students were able to make and sample one of the vitamin-packed meals that get packaged and sent to feed hungry school children in Nicaragua. In addition, they learned that along with serving people globally, they could also make a difference locally by collecting food for the Hunger Task Force in La Crosse.
As a result of our compassionate and generous school community, our fifth graders gathered, weighed, displayed, boxed and delivered 510 pounds of non-perishable food items to Logan High School on November 3rd. Mrs. Koll, Mrs. Lenz and some of the students also volunteered in packing some of the 101,088 meals and were able to see what 34,600+ non-perishable food items look like! Rumor has it that they even won the best cheer award.
On November 8th, our fifth graders again played an important role in honoring and giving thanks to the many men and women who have served our country. The annual Veterans Day concert was an opportunity for students to perform for and receive a living definition about what it means to sacrifice, have honor and what truly makes someone a hero. There is not a book in our classrooms that could truly teach our history like the many guests, who shared their stories with our children, could do.
As you plan for your own day of thanks and giving, perhaps cleaning up at a community dinner, driving a warm meal to someone not able to access one, or ringing a bell by a red kettle will be on your menu along with the turkey, mashed potatoes and pie. Think about how full and filling everyone’s day will be.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a team as, “a group of people working or playing together.” As we hold parent/teacher conferences this week, and again in March, it provides us time as “teammates” to meet with one another to discuss and develop the best game plan that will set up our students, your children, for a championship season, I mean, school year…together.
Throughout the year as we all continue to get into the game, there will be the inevitable fumble or strike-out but goals will also be achieved. Whatever happens, we are committed to working together as teammates to make the necessary adjustments and move forward as a team. This will take hard work, effort, constant communication, adjustments, encouragement, and support but together as teammates, we will be there for one another.
As family members on Team Bobcats, we encourage you to get into the game by attending conferences, concerts, family nights, PTO meetings, volunteering at school, coming in for lunch, reading with your child or joining our walking school bus. The opportunities are endless.
As Team Bobcats staff we are committed to welcoming you into the school house, communicating with you regularly, listening to any questions or concerns, meeting students where they are at in their learning, guiding their growth and celebrating successes—big or small.
l conclude as I do with the daily announcements, “Wherever you find yourself at Southern Bluffs—the classroom, lunchroom, the playground—be sure to get into the game!” Team Bobcats…together.
I know it is a cliché to say that time flies but how can it already be the middle of May? The rest of the saying attributes the quick passage of time to fun, so it makes sense that this school year has flown by at rapid pace. Just like all of the preceding months, May is jam-packed with: picnics, field trips, an environmental day, walking school buses, an author visit, PBIS celebrations, the vocabulary showdown, luncheons, DARE graduation, PE Fun Day, 5th grade recognition…whew, I could go on and on. I’m not trying to wish time away but June 5th will be here in the blink of an eye.
Before we say, “That’s a wrap,” we would be remiss if we did not wish happy trails to the staff members who will be retiring and moving on to greener pastures:
Mrs. Schwalbe-5thGrade, 26 years at Southern Bluffs
Mrs. Vach-Orchestra teacher, 22 years at Southern Bluffs
Mrs. Kartman-Early Childhood/Special Education, 20 years at Southern Bluffs
Mrs. Semke-Health Assistant, 19 years at Southern Bluffs
Mrs. Slama-ELL Teacher, 8 years at Southern Bluffs
This illustrious group has dedicated a combined total of 146 years to education and 95 of those have been here serving the students and families of Southern Bluffs. While their years of service is measurable, the impact that they have had is not. In hindsight, their time may feel like it flew by, but I know that they would undoubtedly say that it was filled with more than fun. Laughter, learning, some heartache, friendship, frustration, celebration, changing styles, technological advances, good books, loss, love and other unforgettable moments filled their days, months and years in and out of the school house. While it’s not over ‘til it’s over, there is no time like the present to extend a note or word of gratitude and appreciation to our Retiring Class of 2018.
As I wrap up my final newsletter article for the 2017-18 school year, I’ll leave you something to chew on. In the shake of a lamb’s tail, it will be September 4th and your family will have made it through the dog days of summer and be talking about how the time you had together as a family flew by and we will all be back in the saddle ready for a new school year…you can take that to the bank.