An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

I am a believer in the power of rituals. The best rituals anchor a community in moments of transition, creating opportunities for people to pause, see, think, and feel the moment to which the ritual connects. There are three that are powerfully on my mind right now.

The first ritual is happening right outside my office window at the Middle School. Each year, in the penultimate week of school, we set out posters in the Crossroads on which people write notes to the faculty and staff who are leaving. All day long, students of all ages, staff, and faculty from all departments pause to write short notes to these people they care about. The notes vary from simple thank yous to longer statements which contain favorite memories or moments of impact. By the end of the week, the posters are absolutely full. The notes are wonderful, but what I love is the ritual—the time and space for Lakeside Middle School to say goodbye in a way that is meaningful for individuals and for the community as a whole.

The second ritual is Upper School graduation. This is on my mind because my youngest daughter is a senior and will be leaving Lakeside — a transition for her and for our entire family.

The third ritual is taking place in 8th-grade life skills seminars (one of which I teach). All year, the students have been considering who they are and how they fit into the communities to which they belong. Now, at the end of the year, the 8th graders have each written a credo, a personal statement of something they believe or stand for. Over the course of two weeks, they read these credos aloud to each other. This takes courage. I have been brought to tears multiple times by the words they have shared. Students spoke about family, friends, birth order, gratitude, faith, isolation, race, bias, introversion, divorce, and the list goes on. This ritual — the credo — comes at a time when 8th graders viscerally feel that they are on the cusp of a gigantic change. The opportunity to say what they believe — at this moment — to a group of people who believe in them is powerful and good and right.