An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Arushi M. '20

On Friday, November 30th, there was extended advisory in the morning to give advisories a chance to discuss being vulnerable and open at Lakeside and whether it is something students feel comfortable doing. During this extended advisory, we walked over to the WCC to look at the colorful posters on the wall that said things a handful of students wished their families, peers, and teachers knew about them. After reading these posters, we returned to our advisory space and reflected on what we had learned, and shared our own perspectives on the topic.

One of the main conclusions we drew from this activity is that numerous students feel as if they either cannot be vulnerable or themselves within Lakeside. The data illustrates this. Out of the eight-five students who responded to the question of whether they feel like they can be vulnerable in the Lakeside community, 47% of them answered no. More concerningly, out of the 85 students who responded to the question of whether they often feel judged by their peers at Lakeside, 78% responded yes. Lastly, only 75 responded to the question of whether they feel like they can simply be themselves at this school and nonchalantly show the nuances in their personality, and 36% of them answered no, they do not feel comfortable being themselves. 36 may seem like a low number, especially if it is only 36% of 75 students, but it is necessary to address how exhausting it is for these students to have to conceal certain aspects of their personalities, interests, or their general identity all day. 

Part of the reason why several students feel judged and hesitant to be themselves is because not everybody knows each other on campus and even though the number of students per grade is fairly low in comparison to other high schools, tight friend groups still exist. There are several simple changes students can make in their behavior to create a more open and comfortable environment to be in, besides simply saying hello to someone as she or he walks by them on campus, although that is beneficial as well.

  1. Modify your body language to make it more open. Avoid turning your back to your peers. Avoid exchanging eye contact with your friends when one of your classmates does something that you consider odd or disapprove of. People pick up on the messages of each other’s body language more than most people assume. 
  2. When you agree with a point that one of your classmates is making, look at them and nod encouragingly. This little motion can go a long way; it can empower your classmate who is speaking and give them more confidence in their ability to convey their ideas. 
  3. For Winter Ball and Spring Fling, invite an extra person into your group if they don’t already have one, because they may feel bad about it and feel like they can’t go without a group to the dance even if they want to. This gesture would make someone feel included and appreciated, and like they have more options in deciding what their plans are regarding the dance. 
  4. If you see someone standing in the lunchroom, looking for the table with their friends and realizing that none of their friends are at lunch yet or have already left, invite that person to sit at your lunch table. This gesture may seem like it could cause awkwardness if that person doesn’t really know anybody else at the lunch table, but it doesn’t have to be awkward at all if you make an effort to include that person in the conversation. 
  5. Do not assume you are “too cool” to get to know someone simply because you are from a certain friend group and they are from a very different one. Patronizing tones are easy to pick up on, so don’t be patronizing. Instead, enter conversations with people from different friend groups with an awareness of the truth: chances are, you probably don’t know much about them, the battles they are fighting, their insecurities, the nuances in their personality, or their home life. 

In order to create a more accepting environment and transform each grade into an actual community, students have to take individual actions such as these. Do we really want to hold ourselves to the same standards as students in the Disney high school movies, in which there are exclusive friend groups and less unity? We spend around seven hours of our day, five days a week at school. Let’s try and make each others’ experiences during this time better. Every day, each of us has the opportunity to cheer our peers up or serve as a helpful and supportive figure in their lives, even if we don’t know them that well. Let’s make that minor change in our body language, give someone that encouraging smile, and invite that extra person into our lives. Let’s create a feeling of camaraderie in our a community.