An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Activities that lead to great conversations – plus November and December updates!
Activities that lead to great conversations – plus November and December updates!

by Betty Benson, Upper School assistant director

With the close of the fall quarter upon us, now is a great time to reflect back on our first day of school, and the qualities needed to be good members of the Lakeside community: respect, honesty, responsibility, compassion, and courage. Talking about these qualities, and how you can develop them, can lead to rich conversations at home. In this month's Inside Lakeside I wanted to share some activities that members of this year's Judicial Committee did at a training earlier this year, aimed at helping them develop their understanding of these five qualities. We also did some of these activities at the Oct. 4 parent/guardian coffee with Upper School administrators. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for some reminders about events and happenings at the Upper School during November and December! 

Part of my job involves working with the members of the Judicial Committee, or JC. If you're not familiar with the JC, senior Will C. delivered an excellent speech about it during Upper School assembly, which you can read as a blog. This year, the JC came together in August to help its members prepare for their upcoming responsibilities, which they take very seriously. As Will explained to students, the training "allowed us to recognize that we all bring our experiences and backgrounds into the decisions we make. Furthermore, in order to make a recommendation that has both the learning of the individual student and the learning of the community in mind, we need to push ourselves and each other past our preconceived notions to come to a decision that is fair and considerate."

Here are three activities that you can do at home – maybe even with your student! Doing and discussing the activities can lead to some great family conversations. 

Exercise 1
Draw nine dots in a grid (3x3), similar to the grid below. Then draw four straight, continuous lines that pass through each of the nine dots, without lifting your pen or pencil from the paper. If you are interested in solving the puzzle yourself, don't look at the text below the grid because I give it away.

In order to solve the puzzle, you have to go outside the usual way of thinking and draw outside the self-imposed constraints of the grid; you have to literally draw outside the box. This exercise at the JC training led to a discussion of what is required of us when we interact with people who are different from us. We have to look at other ways of "thinking about thinking." I impressed upon the group that drawing outside the lines is difficult because we are so used to our own way of thinking that it can be hard to see others' points of view. To successfully do the work of the committee, every member of the JC must look at the students and situations brought before them from many points of view – including those that are different from their own.

Exercise 2
Look at the following images. What do you see? Are you sure?

The first image creates an optical illusion: when you look at it for a few seconds, you will see gray circles begin to appear in the white space at the corners of each black box. The second image makes the viewer think that the two tabletops were not superimposable, when indeed they are able to be placed over or on each other. This exercise provides examples of how we sometimes see things that do not exist. 

This can happen when we see people too. Many of us have had the wrong first impression of someone – or had someone have the wrong first impression of us! And first impressions can be hard to shake. Knowing the reality of the tabletop shapes or the colors of the squares did not correct the assumptions made in our brains; the tabletops still looked different. If we were to rely on our eyes alone, we would be absolutely wrong in this scenario. 

This exercise highlighted the crux of the Judicial Committee's work: to push past and challenge initial thoughts and feelings about how students present before the committee. We need to make evidence-based decisions that consider growth and learning opportunities, not only for individuals, but also the community at large. 

Exercise 3
We concluded the training by watching an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2009 TED talk: "The Danger of a Single Story." You can watch the full video on the TED website. In her talk, Adichie asserts, "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete." 

This was a fantastic way to emphasize for the committee that, at the end of day, our work is educational. Like all of us, the students that will come before the Judicial Committee are works in progress. No one's story is complete. The mistake that brings a student before the JC could be the spark that ignites a new path of self-development. The danger of a single story is detrimental for us all, and our goal is to work in a manner that helps students continue writing their stories as they learn and grow and become more complete pictures of themselves. 

I want to finish talking about these exercises by coming back to Will's speech. Will shared that, like all the members of the committee, he ran for a position on the Judicial Committee to have opportunities to make positive change to the community, leaving Lakeside a better place than he found it. The most poignant part of his message emphasized that when we each take our roles seriously, be it our shared responsibilities as Lakeside community members or the responsibilities of each member of the Judicial Committee, the result is beneficial to all. Let us all be courageous in doing our part to make positive contributions to our community.

November and December happenings
The next two months are busy ones at Lakeside. Make sure to review the full calendar for information about arts, college counseling, and PGA events, as well as the athletics calendar for evolving news about post-season play. Here's some additional information about some of these events and happenings. 

  • Thursday, Nov. 1 is Lakeside's inaugural Fall Festival. It runs from 3- 7 p.m. and is a special opportunity for students to get together in a fun setting, similar to May Day. Please encourage your student to attend! Learn more in this announcement
  • Lakeside is closed on Friday, Nov. 2. Teachers will be working on comments and college recommendations. 
  • Music and drama students will be in fall performing arts retreats in November. The drama retreat takes place Friday, Nov. 9 on campus, and the music retreat takes place Nov. 9-11 . 
  • Fall midterm grades and comments will be emailed to parents and guardians the week of Nov. 12. 
  • The PGA auction, ROAR, is Saturday, Nov. 17. 
  • Lakeside is closed for Thanksgiving break from Thursday, Nov. 22 through Tuesday, Nov. 27. Make sure to read the article by counselor Meredith Sjoberg about helping students get the most out of breaks, as well as this article from our librarians about encouraging students to read for fun
  • Winter Ball is on Saturday, Dec. 1. This is one of the two formal dances at Lakeside Upper School. Check out the new FAQ about Lakeside dances, if you have questions (including about what students wear, get-togethers beforehand, and tickets). Upper School Director Felicia Wilks also emailed parents and guardians last Friday with some additional information. 
  • Finally, winter break starts on Monday, Dec. 24. Students return to campus on Monday, Jan. 7.

Please reach out if you have questions. Have a great fall!

Betty Benson is Lakeside's Upper School assistant director. You can reach her at USstudentexp@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2968.