An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

Dear Parents and Guardians of Lakeside Middle School Students,

Welcome to those of you who are new to the Lakeside community and welcome back to those of you who are returning! I hope you are enjoying these extra warm summer months: spending time with family and friends, reading good books, and playing outside. I am looking forward to the start of school with tremendous anticipation. This is a great school, and we are glad you are part of it.

This year, we’ll be focusing on two main areas during the first weeks of school.

  1. Reading. This summer, Middle School English teachers and librarians strongly recommended that students read at least three books over the summer. The program emerged from their concern that reading is on the decline for students above the 7th grade. As many studies have shown – and our experiences as teachers reinforce – reading is key to academic success and underpins student success in many subjects other than English. Reading also builds empathy, the ability to understand and share the emotions of another person. It’s an especially important skill in middle school.

    We have asked every Middle School student to read at least three books this summer and be prepared to talk about them when they return to school. Grade-level reading lists can be found here. We will also implement a regular drop-everything-and-read time this year, during which every person in the Middle School will read quietly for 20-30 minutes. I encourage you to read with your students, to read in front of them, to talk with them about books, and to model the behavior we hope to cultivate.
     
  2. Community expectations. We will also continue to focus on Lakeside’s Statement of Community Expectations, which lays out the school’s philosophy of conduct. Lakeside prides itself on being a school that depends on principles and not an exhaustive set of rules to guide student behavior. As part of the enrollment and re-enrollment process, each family is asked to read and affirm their commitment to these principles. As with so many electronic approvals these days, it is easy to click the box and move on. However, because the Statement of Community Expectations is critical to the health of our community, we are mailing a print copy home to families. The most important passage, in my mind, is written below. Here is your homework that is due before school starts! Please dedicate time to read the full Statement of Community Expectations with your student, discuss the questions below, and report back your student’s answers to questions five and six. I recommend making this time special: have some ice cream or bubble tea or whatever food or drink allows you to sit together for a while. I also recommend making this discussion a family ritual for as long as your student is at Lakeside.

“Each member of the Lakeside community—students, parents/guardians, faculty, and staff—is expected to act in ways that show consideration and respect for others and that enhance an open atmosphere of trust. We deliberately keep rules to a minimum, expecting that action will spring from general principles of consideration, integrity, and inclusion. Learning, we believe, requires a willingness to be open and to contribute to an atmosphere of comfort and encouragement for all community members. Therefore, an atmosphere of support and trust is essential in order to affirm ‘the meaning and value of community’ prescribed in our mission. Such an atmosphere must be created and recreated through individual acts each day. Just as even small acts of academic dishonesty or personal discourtesy erode the conditions that promote learning, so every action that affirms consideration, integrity, and inclusion builds the ‘ethical spirits’ that contribute to the kind of community we seek.”

Community expectations discussion questions
  1. With your student, “translate” and summarize this statement. What are the key points? What does it mean to a 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grader?
  2. What is a specific example of a “small act of academic dishonesty or personal discourtesy” from their life at school? Share one from your own life as well. 
  3. What is a specific “action that affirms consideration, integrity, and inclusion”? Again, share one from your own life as well as talking about examples from theirs.
  4. What will your student do if they witness something that goes against the community expectations? Generate some action steps.
  5. What words does your 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grader use to describe “the community we seek”?
  6. What is one specific thing your student commits to doing that will help build the community we seek at school? This can be small or large. Please write this down, put it on your fridge or in your phone, and check in with your student on a regular basis (perhaps at each marking period when you discuss comments).

Please enter your answers to questions 5 and 6 here.

I am asking you to have these conversations because it matters. It’s important that students and parents/guardians understand the expectations of the school. When I see you this fall, I would love to hear how these conversations went.

Welcome new Middle School Assistant Director Robert Blackwell!

We are excited to welcome Robert Blackwell, Lakeside’s new Middle School assistant director! Robert is an accomplished administrator, a middle school enthusiast, and an all-around great person. We are lucky to have him at our school, working with our students, faculty, staff, and families. You can read more about Robert in this Q&A. Please welcome him to Lakeside when you see him.

As leaders of the Middle School, Robert and I share the goal of providing your student with the best possible education and creating multiple opportunities for student success within the demands of our academic program. We are always available to answer any questions by email, phone, or in person. Our offices are in the “crossroads” of the Middle School building, close to the front entry and beside the dining room.

As Middle School director, I am responsible for hiring, supervising, and evaluating the faculty and staff as well as overseeing the curriculum in the Middle School. As assistant director, Robert is responsible for student affairs, including student conduct; the advising program; and clubs. Additionally, he oversees grade-level activities, academic probation, and student reviews, and is a member of the student support team. We work together to coordinate the Middle School experiential programs, including service learning, outdoor programs, and Global Service Learning.

Resources for families

There are many resources available to students and families at Lakeside Middle School. A primary resource is your student’s advisor. Each Middle School student belongs to a group led by an advisor, who is a faculty or staff member who maintains an overall view of your student’s life at school. The advisor is the main liaison between Lakeside and you. Your student’s advisor can talk with you about your student’s overall academic performance, social interactions, and emotional adjustment. The advisor should be the first person you contact when you have a question or concern.

Students will receive a call from their advisors the week before the school year starts. I encourage you to connect with your student’s advisor in September or October – meet, call, or connect through email. Share what you perceive to be your student’s strengths and areas for growth. Parents/guardians and advisors work as an adult team to help students navigate the challenges of school that inevitably arise, especially for kids between the ages of 10 and 14. All parents and guardians will have conferences with advisors the week of Nov. 11-15.

In addition to the advisor, here are some other resources:

  • The family portal in Veracross is the easiest way to access up-to-date contact information for anyone in the Lakeside community including administrators, teachers, staff, classmates, and parents/guardians. You can expect a response from teachers or administrators within 24 hours.
  • Our family support program exists to support students and families in overcoming all manner of challenges that might adversely impact their academic or social well-being. The program provides advocacy, resources, and community referrals. Jamie Asaka, our director of student and family support, can be reached at 206-440-2901 and Latasia Lanier, assistant family support liaison and LEEP director, can be reached at 206-440-2887. They can both be reached over email at familysupport@lakesideschool.org.
  • Michael Matsumoto, our full-time Middle School counselor, specializes in the developmental, emotional, and psychological needs of students in 5th grade through 8th grade, from clinical concerns to critical and ever-present Middle School concerns like "do I fit in?" Contact Michael at 206-440-2769.
  • Meg Wolfe and Sanni Keskimaki are our learning specialists. They work with students, teachers, advisors, and families when extra academic support or coaching is needed. You can find them in the Brain and Learning Lab, which is a warm and supportive space for students. To make arrangements for consultation or tutoring, please contact Sanni or Meg at 206-440-2782.
  • If you have inquiries about a particular class, we recommend you contact the teacher. Teachers can answer questions about curriculum and suggest strategies for helping your student be successful in the classroom. You can find contact information in the Veracross directory and on the Middle School contacts list.

It is Robert’s and my goal and pleasure to support all areas of growth for your students. It is essential that we establish open lines of communication with you early so that we can work together to support your student in a timely, professional, and effective manner. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

I look forward to meeting you or reconnecting in person during the first days of fall term – when you drop off or pick up your student, at the All-School Picnic on Sept. 3, during a Q&A with administrators (the first is on Sept. 9 for new families), or at Back-to-School Night Thursday, Sept. 19.

Sincerely,

Elaine Christensen
Middle School Director/Director of Professional Development
MSdirector@lakesideschool.org
206-440-2772