An Independent School • Grades 5-12
April at the Middle School: Students and the digital world
April at the Middle School: Students and the digital world

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

Welcome to spring!

As we move into the final months of the year, I want to return to a theme that I've written about before: the way that social media infuses our students' lives (and our own lives) for better or for worse. 

There are many positive attributes to our newfound connectedness. However, a dark side is that hurtful behavior can often happen electronically—through texting, Instagram, Snapchat, email, and other electronic platforms. The impact of these hurtful behaviors is magnified because the victim experiences the information alone and because a single posting can be viewed by so many people. To a middle schooler whose brain is wired for connection, this can be devastating. 

At the Middle School, we work hard to combat this in a couple of ways. When we teach about friendship, inclusion, and exclusion in Personal Development classes, we dedicate time to talk about social media. We also have school-wide programming. Recently, we invited Taproot Theater to perform their play Cyberzoo: It's Nothing Personal, about the way an online posting that was meant as a joke escalated and caused real damage. 

In Lakeside's computer-user agreement, which all students sign each year, we stress that Lakeside students should use the school's electronic resources with integrity. We also make it clear the school is allowed to examine student's use of our email system and our network. We don't go fishing for information in those spaces, but we reserve the right to look.  Discuss this with your student! It is a reminder that nothing is private online. 

As Jamie Asaka writes in her article this month, a partnership between the school and parents and guardians strengthens the web of support for our students. We'll be most successful if we work together. We encourage you to know what social media platforms your students participate in and look at them from time to time. We also encourage you to talk with your students about social media, both the good and the bad. The more we talk with students about it, the better equipped they are to use it for good and to keep themselves safe. We hope you will let us know if you see something online – or offline – that is hurtful toward any member of our community. You can call me, Ted Chen, counselor Hilary Myerberg, your student's advisor – or any adult to whom you feel comfortable reaching out. You can be confident we will follow up and that if we find behavior or language that does not model our community expectations of inclusion, consideration, and integrity, there will be consequences. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me.  

Looking ahead to late April, I wanted to cover some details about two events. Monday, April 23 is Welcome to 6th-Grade Night for all parents and guardians of students who will be entering 6th grade. The following Monday, April 30 is Welcome to 7th-Grade Night for all parents and guardians of students who will be entering 7th grade. These events are for new and returning families: If you are a returning family, only the parents and guardians should attend; if you are a new family, students should come as well. Each evening starts with an optional reception starting at 6 p.m. with sandwiches and dessert. Come any time before 7 – it's a great time to connect with other families! The program and activities go from 7-8 p.m. These events and others are listed on the web calendar. April is a busy month, so please make time to go over everything with your student. 

Finally, spring break is rapidly approaching. I want to put a plug in for making sure your student, and your whole family, makes dedicated time for leisure reading. In a 2014 report by the National Council of Teachers of English, the author writes: "Research shows that leisure reading enhances students' reading comprehension, language, vocabulary development, general knowledge, and empathy for others, as well as their self-confidence as readers, motivation to read throughout their lives, and positive attitudes toward reading." One thing the article makes clear: If you want your student to read, it makes a big difference that they see you reading as well. So pick up a book, any book, and sit down with your student over spring break. 

Thank you, as always, for sharing your students with us. It's our honor and privilege to spend every day with them. Please don't hesitate to call if you have any questions or concerns!

Elaine Christensen is Middle School director as well as Lakeside's director of professional development. You can reach her at MSDirector@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2772. You can reach Middle School Assistant Director Ted Chen at MSAssistantDirector@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2856.