An Independent School • Grades 5-12
November and December in the Middle School
November and December in the Middle School

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director 

This year, I was one of three chaperones on the 8th-grade Global Service Learning trip to Broetje Orchards. As my colleague Charlotte Blessing recently wrote in Inside Lakeside, one way Lakeside helps students develop empathy, resilience, and intercultural competence is through our GSL Program, the goal of which is to nurture an ethos of global citizenship in our students by connecting their lives with the needs and realities of a global society. 

In the Middle School, 8th-grade GSL takes students into six different Pacific Northwest communities. For seven days and six nights, our group of 15 8th graders lived in the tiny town of Vista Hermosa, outside of Pasco, Washington. The students worked primarily in the school, assisting local teachers and running the after-school program. Every person who lives at Vista Hermosa works for Broetje, either in the field directly with the apple trees or in the packing plant, which sorts and boxes apples for distribution across the nation and around the world. Everyone in the community speaks Spanish and has immigrated to the U.S. from Latin America. 

Our group of students also assisted with a photo project. Small teams of students from Lakeside and Vista Hermosa fanned out across the orchard and the neighborhood to take photos that will ultimately result in a giant collage with the "faces of Broetje." One student, Casey M., wrote a blog about this experience that summarizes what is powerful about the GSL Program. "When we did an activity where we went into the orchard and took photos of workers, I realized why it's important not to judge people by stereotypes or what you have previously heard about them. To take photos of the workers, they needed to sign a piece of paper. When I looked at their names on the piece of paper I didn't think of them as just apple-pickers but as unique individuals with unique lives, families, cultures, and stories that haven't been told yet."  

The 8th-grade GSL Program, now in its fourth year, embodies our mission in such significant ways. Through dedicated reflection – before, during, and after their trips – students examine their own biases, explore their own identities, and provide meaningful support to others with their hearts, heads, and hands. For me, as the chaperone on this trip, it was incredible to watch our students grow and learn. They returned to Lakeside with a greater understanding of what service is and why it's important.

Midterm Reports: Comments, grades, and markers for student growth
Early November marks the release of midterm reports, which include comments, grades, and markers for student growth. Students will meet individually with their advisors to go over the reports, and a link to reports will be emailed to parents and guardians on Monday, Nov. 12.

The audience for these reports is you, the parents and guardians. This is our primary mechanism, four times a year, for communicating about your student's progress and achievement. Midterm reports in particular are meant to provide an accurate assessment of how students are doing in each class, including areas in which they are having success and areas in which they could improve. Students have until the end of the term to work on their areas for growth.

The principle that underlies these assessments is developing a growth mindset in students. As described by psychologist Carol Dweck, a person with a growth mindset believes that "abilities and intelligence are malleable and are influenced by the amount of effort we exert," whereas people with fixed mindsets believe "that a person is born with a certain set of abilities and intelligence, and there is not much you can do to change what you've been given." By developing a growth mindset, students start to see challenges as opportunities to grow, not pigeonholing themselves into an identity or belief about their intelligence.

Middle School reports have three components.

  1. Narrative comments are written by teachers about each individual student. They include specific information about how a student is doing, including areas of strength and areas for growth.
  2. Markers for student growth are a list of skills and attributes necessary for success at Lakeside Middle School. These markers underwent a thorough review last spring, and I suggest you read the full article about the change. Briefly, the markers have been refined to be more precise and to connect with our mission and the skills and mindsets we think are needed in the 21st century. How we assess each marker has also changed. Going forward, students will receive either an M (meets expectations) or an AG (area for growth). We no longer include E (Exceeds Expectations) or S (Needs Significant Improvement). Every student will receive at least one AG in every class in every marking period, because there is always room to improve.
  3. In the 7th and 8th grades, students receive a letter grade. Letter grades are a cumulative measure of the student's progress in the course up until that point. Grades give students practice receiving this kind of feedback in advance of high school.

Taken together, all three components provide students and families with important feedback that help students learn and grow.

We encourage all parents and guardians to dedicate time to discuss comments, grades, and markers with their students. Be intentional about the tone you set when discussing the reports. Ask questions, and be curious. Help your student see the reports as opportunities to reflect on what and how they are learning. Reports should never be seen as a measure of a student's worth.

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • What themes and patterns do you see?
  • What are your strengths as a student, strengths you can build on and continue to develop?
  • What would you like to improve on? Where do you have areas for growth?
  • Which teachers will you follow up with? In other words, how will you advocate for yourself and get support so you can move forward?
  • Which class stretches you the most? 
  • What specific changes will you make to move forward on your goals?

Frame your conversation about the feedback positively. Resist the temptation to "fix" something or do things for your student. Ask students what they will do to study more effectively, manage time more efficiently, meet appointments more consistently. Middle School is the time when students learn good habits, when they try things and fail with minimal consequence. It's up to the adults in their lives to be honest with them about areas for improvement, hold them accountable, and coach them on how to move forward on their own. Please look at these as opportunities for growth and resilience, not occasions for disappointment. Students often take their cues from parents and guardians in deciding how to respond to setbacks.

Lakeside holds "taking responsibility for learning" as one of our highest values. In the Middle School, we refer to this as self-advocacy, which is a critical skill for students to learn. If a student is missing work, for example, teachers begin by working directly with that student (often looping in the advisor), helping them and coaching them along the way. If there is a pattern of behavior that falls outside the normal range of Middle School development and expectations, be assured we will proactively communicate with parents or guardians. As you read the comments, look for opportunities for your student to practice self-advocacy.

The reports will be available on the family portal on Veracross by noon on Monday, Nov. 12. To access the reports after they are posted, do the following: 

  1. Log into the portal using your Veracross user name at portals.veracross.com/lakeside.
  2. On the home screen, click on "Classes & Reports" next to your student's picture.
  3. Under "Reports," find the "Progress Report" section and click on "MS Fall Term." 
  4. If you want to print the Report Card, download the file using the "Print to PDF" button on the upper right corner of the report. Open the PDF document in your PDF reader (like Adobe Reader or Preview) and then print.

If you have any questions about accessing the reports, please do not hesitate to contact the main office at 206-368-3630. 

Advisor/Parent-Guardian Conferences, Nov. 12-16
Students' advisors are reaching out to parents and guardians to set up individual conferences during the week of Nov. 12. The goal of the conferences is to share information about how your student is doing at school in all areas: academic, social, and emotional. Working together, we can help students navigate the ups and downs of middle school. 

Please remember, there is no school for Middle School students on Monday, Nov. 12 to facilitate these conferences.

Other notable upcoming events 
The next two months are busy ones at Lakeside. Make sure to review the full calendar for information about arts and PGA events, as well as the athletics calendar. Here's some additional information about some of these events and happenings. 

As always, please let me know if you have questions or want to check in for any reason!

Elaine Christensen '82 is Middle School director and Lakeside's director of professional development. Reach her at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2772.