by Bernie Noe, head of school
Dear Lakeside parents and guardians,
I hope this has been a great summer for you and your families, one with plenty of relaxation, fun, and time to be together. Seattle is one of the most beautiful places on the planet during the summer months and I hope you all had a chance to get out and enjoy the area. I spent much of my summer in Seattle, running at Green Lake and along Lake Washington and just hanging out in the city. After a full year at school, I love having time to just be, without meetings to make and appointments to keep. It doesn’t matter so much where I am, so long as my time is unstructured.
At the end of each school year, I try to step back for a while and then reflect on what I think was the zeitgeist of the year and what deeper work we need to be doing going forward with our students. I have no doubt that Lakeside’s students are learning a lot from their teachers, coaches, advisors, staff members, and fellow students. I literally see that growth from year to year as students become more proficient in their classes, on their teams, and in their performances. Most important, I also see our students growing in wisdom and maturity as they move from grade to grade, demonstrating care for their classmates and concern about larger issues facing their country and the world. It is heartening to observe.
As we launch our centennial year, I have been thinking about the generations of students who have graduated from Lakeside and gone on to become great citizens and professionals in their fields. I’ve also thought about the inevitable stress in their lives and the need to manage that stress successfully to find fulfillment in life, to be able to make a difference in the lives of others. I imagine that life in 1919, when Lakeside School was founded, must have been less stressful, but then maybe not. World War I had just ended, with all the social dislocation that engendered, and our oldest students would have been reading about the Treaty of Versailles negotiations underway in Paris and wondering about the future of their world! There was no social media, but those newfangled cars meant that students could now be far away from their parents, unsupervised, and who knew what they were up to!
With the healthy lives of today’s students in mind, what is the deeper work of the coming year at Lakeside?
At the end of last year, in May, I asked my six head’s advisory councils (I have one group of students per grade, grades 7-12) to share the highlight of their school year. The majority, by far, said it was their Global Service Learning (GSL) or outdoor trip experience, regardless of whether they had that experience last year. When I asked them why, they told me these trips were one of the few times during the year when they could live fully in the present moment, without stress or distraction. A student who went on a GSL trip told us about stopping to give himself fully – not thinking about something else he had to do or somewhere else he had to be – to a conversation with a village resident who had asked him how his day was going. Another student recounted how, when she was stressed out during the school year, she would return in her mind to the village she lived in while on a GSL trip and remember how she felt when she was there. And students returning from rafting on the Deschutes River or backpacking in Canyonlands in Utah always speak of the centeredness they find on those trips.
I asked these same students whether during the school year they find some of those same moments of being fully present and they said, “No, never.”
I realize that life is busy for all of us, both adults and students, and the world seems to be speeding up. But something profound is lost if we are raising a generation of students who know how to accomplish, to achieve, and to excel, but have little ability to be present in the moment to what is going on around them. It is in the moment that we have profound insights into our lives, into what matters to us and guides our important choices. It is in the moment that we all find inner peace and contentment. It is in the moment that we are genuinely kind and caring toward another person, setting aside our own agenda. It is in the moment that we find meaning in life!
I do believe we all understand this as adults, even if we are not living our lives accordingly.
So, good parents and guardians, how do we help our students with this? I have a few suggestions.
- Model being frequently in the moment yourselves, being fully present to others with no agenda. Everyone will love this, including you!
- Talk less at home about achievement, success, excelling. Students get enough of that from the air they breathe at school and the world in general.
- Pay more attention to your student’s schedule and pace of life, slowing them down when necessary and talking to them about the value of being engaged in the moment.
- Reduce technology use at home and maybe elsewhere. A significant reason that students can be in the moment on GSL and outdoor trips is that use of personal technology is not allowed. After an initial detox period, they love this!!
Let’s work together this year to help our motivated and ambitious students develop and refine their ability to live life more in the moment, with all that that will mean for them.
I will see you all in September and throughout the year at events celebrating the Lakeside centennial.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!
Head of School