An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Summer mailing: A message from Middle School Director Elaine Christensen
Summer mailing: A message from Middle School Director Elaine Christensen

Dear parents and guardians of Lakeside Middle School students,

Welcome to those of you who are new to the Lakeside community and welcome back to those of you who are returning! I hope you are enjoying these extra warm summer months: spending time with family and friends, reading good books, and playing outside. I am looking forward to the start of school with tremendous anticipation. This is a great school, and we are glad you are part of it.
 
This summer, I participated in Lakeside's adult version of a Global Service Learning program. I was one of six Lakeside teachers and administrators (along with Middle School teachers Yvette Avila and Jamie Monkkonen) who travelled to the Limpopo district in South Africa to teach at Ridgeway College (a pre-K through high school private school) as part of the Sumbandila Scholarship Trust, an organization that "selects extraordinary children from a background of extreme poverty" and provides them with educational opportunities. You can read more fully about the trip in this blog post.
 
I am deeply committed to global citizenship and global education as critical components of Lakeside's educational program. It's embedded in our mission statement: We aspire "to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society." My experience this summer, though, took that commitment out of the theoretical and into the realm of the heart and soul. It strengthened my already-strong belief in our 8th-grade GSL program, and my commitment to ensuring that the world as a whole is reflected throughout our educational program. In addition, I hope every student participates in the Upper School GSL program at some point in high school.
 
Another core aspect of Lakeside is that students take responsibility for themselves. This is articulated not only in the mission, but it underlies our Statement of Community Expectations, which lays out the school's philosophy of conduct. Lakeside prides itself on being a school that depends on principles and not an exhaustive set of rules to guide student behavior. The Statement of Community Expectations is built to guide all of us – students and adults – in determining our daily actions and considering what it means to be committed to the principles of consideration, integrity, and inclusion. As part of the enrollment and re-enrollment process, each family is asked to read and affirm their commitment to these principles. As with so many electronic approvals these days, it is easy to click the box and move on. However, because the Statement of Community Expectations is critical to the health of our community, we are mailing a print copy home to families. The most important passage, in my mind, is written below. Here is your homework before school starts! Please dedicate time to read the full Statement of Community Expectations with your student and discuss the questions below. I recommend making this time special: have some ice cream or bubble tea or whatever food or drink allows you to sit together for a while. I also recommend making this discussion a family ritual for as long as your student is at Lakeside.
 
"Each member of the Lakeside community – students, parents/guardians, faculty, and staff – is expected to act in ways that show consideration and respect for others and that enhance an open atmosphere of trust. We deliberately keep rules to a minimum, expecting that action will spring from general principles of consideration, integrity, and inclusion. Learning, we believe, requires a willingness to be open and to contribute to an atmosphere of comfort and encouragement for all community members. Therefore, an atmosphere of support and trust is essential in order to affirm "the meaning and value of community" prescribed in our mission. Such an atmosphere must be created and recreated through individual acts each day. Just as even small acts of academic dishonesty or personal discourtesy erode the conditions that promote learning, so every action that affirms consideration, integrity, and inclusion builds the 'ethical spirits' that contribute to the kind of community we seek."
 
Discussion Questions
  1. With your student, "translate" and summarize this statement. What are the key points? What does it mean to a 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grader?
  2. What is a specific example of a "small act of academic dishonesty or personal discourtesy" from their life at school? Share one from your own life as well.
  3. What is a specific "action that affirms consideration, integrity, and inclusion"? Again, share one from your own life as well as talking about examples from theirs.
  4. What will your student do if they witness something that goes against the community expectations? Generate some action steps.
  5. What words does your 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grader use to describe "the community we seek"?
  6. What is one specific thing your student commits to doing that will help build the community we seek at school? This can be small or large. Please write this down, put it on your fridge or in your phone, and check in with your student on a regular basis (perhaps at each marking period when you discuss comments). Consider making a commitment of your own that you share and write down as well.

I am asking you to have these conversations because it matters. It's important that you, as parents and guardians, understand Lakeside's expectations when it comes to student behavior, and it's important that students see all the adults in their lives in alignment. As engaged parents and guardians, this is an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your student about right and wrong during critical years of development. These conversations will serve them well when they are in high school, college, and beyond. Regular conversations about consideration, integrity, and inclusion will help them find their own understanding of the meaning and value of community.

When I see you at school, I would love to hear how these conversations went. And I will let you all know how our conversations go with students as we discuss the same topic in advisory groups.

Advising and Reaching Out

For those of you new to Lakeside, I work closely with Middle School Assistant Director Ted Chen. Our goal is to provide your student with the best possible education and create multiple opportunities for student success within the demands of our academic program. Ted and I are always available to answer any questions by email, phone, or in person. Our offices are in the "Crossroads" of the Middle School building, by the front entry and beside the dining room.

As Middle School director, I am responsible for hiring, supervising, and evaluating the faculty and staff as well as overseeing the curriculum. As assistant director, Ted is responsible for student affairs, including student conduct, the advising program, and clubs. Additionally, he oversees grade-level activities, service learning, academic probation, student reviews, and is a member of the student support team.

There are many resources available to students and families at Lakeside Middle School. A primary resource is your student's advisor. Each Middle School student belongs to a group led by an advisor, who is a faculty or staff member who maintains an overall view of your student's life at school. The advisor is the main liaison between Lakeside and you. Your student's advisor can talk with you about your student's overall academic performance, social interactions, and emotional adjustment. The advisor should be the first person you contact when you have a question or concern. Students will receive a call from their advisors the week before the school year starts. I invite and encourage you to make a meaningful connection with your student's advisor in September or October – meet, call, or connect through email. Share what you perceive to be your student's strengths and areas for growth. Parents/guardians and advisors work as an adult team to help students navigate the challenges of school that inevitably arise, especially for kids between the ages of 10 and 14. All parents and guardians will have conferences with advisors the week of Nov. 12-16.

In addition to the advisor, here are some other resources:

  • The family portal in Veracross is the easiest way to access up-to-date contact information for anyone in the Lakeside community including administrators, teachers, staff, classmates, and parents/guardians. You can expect a response from teachers or administrators within 24 hours.
  • Our family support program exists to support students and families in overcoming all manner of challenges that might adversely impact their academic or social well-being. The program provides advocacy, resources, and community referrals. Jamie Asaka, our director of student and family support, can be reached at 206-440-2901 and dei@lakesideschool.org and Latasia Lanier, assistant family support liaison and LEEP director, can be reached at 206-440-2887.
  • Hilary Myerberg, our full-time Middle School counselor, specializes in the developmental, emotional, and psychological needs of students in 5th grade through 8th grade, from clinical concerns to critical and ever-present Middle School concerns like "do I fit in?" Please contact Hilary at 206-440-2769.
  • Meg Wolfe and Sanni Keskimaki are our learning specialists. They work with students, teachers, advisors, and families when extra academic support or coaching is needed. You can find them in the Brain and Learning Lab, which is a warm and supportive space for students. To make arrangements for consultation or tutoring, please contact Sanni or Meg at 206-440-2782.
  • If you have inquiries about a particular class, we recommend you contact the teacher. Teachers can answer questions about curriculum and suggest strategies for helping your student be successful in the classroom. You can find contact information in the Veracross directory, the print directory, and on the Middle School contacts list.

It is Ted's and my goal and our pleasure to support your student academically, socially, and emotionally. It is essential that we establish open lines of communication with you early so that we can work together to support your student in a timely, professional, and effective manner. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

I look forward to meeting you or reconnecting in person during the first days of fall term – when you drop off or pick up your student, at the All-School Picnic on Sept. 4, during a Q&A with administrators (the first is on Sept. 10 for new families), or at Back-to-School Night Thursday, Sept. 27.

 

Sincerely,

 

Elaine Christensen

Middle School Director

MSdirector@lakesideschool.org

206-440-2772