An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Ted Chen, Middle School assistant director

The following is from an email Ted Chen sent to Middle School students shortly before the first day of school.

With the start of the year just days away, I want to share a story about a rag-tag group of people who banded together to conquer a 130-mile running race. This past July, I had the opportunity to check off a bucket-list item by participating in a running race at Lake Tahoe, called a Ragnar Relay. The race took place in a 24-hour period where eight team members took turns running the course. This course had teams running 130 miles and climbing 23,440 feet during the heat of the day and the dark of the night through trails, mountains, and animal-filled forests (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!). 

Our team was composed of close friends and we spoke frequently about our excitement to have this opportunity together. Yet even with extensive planning and preparation, things can happen that are outside of one’s control. Before the race had even begun, the injury bug hit our team: one torn patellar tendon, one case of plantar fasciitis, two knee injuries. With one month until the race, our eight-person team was down to one other team member and myself, and we would each have to run 65 miles and climb 11,720 feet to complete the competition. My excitement had turned to trepidation and anxiousness.

I recruited friends to join and asked if they knew anyone else who wanted to join the team. With a few weeks to spare, we had rebuilt the team. It was a team of strangers, cobbled together through different connections and multiple degrees of separation. I was left wondering how everyone would get along. Would there be conflict between team members? What if the dynamics of the team were so bad that the team implodes? Would people be supportive of each other? What if this is going to be a disaster?

From what I knew, everyone was quite different from each other. There was an 11-year difference between the oldest team member and the youngest. We ranged from four feet eleven inches tall to six feet two inches tall. We had both male and female team members. We came from different professions, from teaching to marketing to finance to designing airplanes. We had different beliefs and opinions on many topics, from politics to religion to lifestyle. We had a wide variety of running experience, from one person who had never run on a trail to a very experienced runner who won conference titles in college. We truly were a rag-tag group of uniquely different people thrown together at the last minute. Yet we were all united by our goal of the race. 

As we got to know each other on a deeper level, the team gelled. We soon found out that our differences made our team stronger. Each person brought different skills, characteristics, and experiences that helped our team run like a well-oiled machine. We were camping and those with camping experience made it feel like a home away from home, a place to relax after a tough run and get ready for the next leg of the race. Those with more running experience coached others about how to best run the course, how to safely navigate steep terrain, and how to run the trails in the darkness of night. Those with more mathematical prowess (not me) kept track of the times and figured out what pace each person needed to run to accomplish our goal of finishing in under 24 hours. Those who were quick with a witty comment helped create a light atmosphere and buoyed the spirits of others when it felt hard and challenging. And soon this team of strangers was working together, selflessly giving up individual resources to help each other, and cheering together as every teammate crossed the finish line. 

This type of camaraderie happened because of two things: We were united in a common goal and we built relationships and connections with each other. Our common goal was finishing the race as a team. And to do this, we took the time to connect with each other. We showed interest in each other as individuals and had open minds as we learned about what made us similar and different as human beings. The team was successful because we built relationships that went beyond simply learning each other’s names. Our group of eight strong individuals became an even stronger team unit. As someone once said, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. 

I share this story because Lakeside Middle School is like the Ragnar team. We are a collection of diverse individuals who are similar in some ways and different in others. We all bring incredible strengths to the school. As a student body, we come from 29 different zip codes and 102 different sending schools. We represent different genders, races, ethnicities, religions, and opinions. We bring diverse thinking, ideas, and experiences to school. Yet we are all united by the commonality of being a Lakesider and making this community the best place for everyone. We are part of a community that values diversity and all of our varied experiences. We are united by our belief in inclusion, integrity, and consideration of others. We are strong as individuals, and we are stronger as a whole.

Lakeside is also like the Ragnar team because you have the amazing opportunity to form relationships and connect with others in a meaningful way. Each year we have new faculty/staff and students join our community. I encourage you to get to know each other and build relationships. Maintain old relationships, but strive to make your friend circle bigger. Branch out and meet new people and all of the exciting aspects of who they are. Make the effort to get to know them on a deeper level, support and cheer others along, and have the grace to give people another chance if things don’t go smoothly at some point. If you do this, you’ll find that the relationships you build will enrich your life and you’ll be enriching someone else’s life as well.

I’m excited for the school year to start and I hope that you are as well. Bring your authentic self to school, share what makes you unique and different, and strive to connect and build relationships with others. 

Go Lions!

Mr. Chen