An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Rob Blackwell, Middle School assistant director

Each school year brings new promise and the wonderment of what can be. Taking steps to successfully connect students at the outset of a new school year is critical to establishing a strong sense of belonging in a community. Here are a couple of examples of how we foster that sense of belonging at Lakeside.   

Even before students return to campus, we build a strong foundation by reviewing the fundamental tenets of the Statement of Community Expectations: inclusion, integrity, consideration. It sets a positive tone for creating a healthy culture.

Whether a returning student or a student new to the community, the concept of “presenting” oneself to the new year can sometimes be awkward and uncomfortable. Back-to-school activities at Lakeside, like new student orientation and grade level retreats, provide a socially safe and thoughtful space for students to introduce themselves as members of the community. This year, our new student orientation welcomed 86 students (and their parents and guardians) to grades 5 through 8. Students were introduced to their academic schedules, advisors, lockers, and were engaged in grade-level community building activities. Our new friends did a great job getting acquainted with their surroundings while making meaningful connections with their classmates and teachers alike.   

A common activity at middle schools is class trips (daylong or overnight), which frequently occur toward the end of the academic year. This usually translates to an uptick in students bonding, establishing a foundation of trust, and collaboration. Lakeside flips the timing: We hold grade level retreats during the first week of school. This speaks directly to our priority on culture building and emotional and social intelligence for middle-grade students. The Middle School GSL trips currently underway are another great example of class bonding early on. We see the benefits from the trips and retreats play out throughout the year.

A few years ago, I attended a workshop facilitated by Michael Thompson, a clinical psychologist, author, and expert on children and schools. He talked at great length about there being no shortcuts and no exemptions for the challenges every adolescent will meet. Middle school is a hard time in any person’s life! We are committed to helping middle schoolers navigate their journey – both at the peaks and in the valleys. That work begins day one, one child at a time, using the values of integrity, inclusion, and consideration for others – it is the Lakeside Middle School way.

A sense of belonging to the Middle School community extends to parents and guardians as well. There are many opportunities to learn about “hot topics” that can often be the cause for consternation at home – check out this announcement and the list below for some of those opportunities to connect with me and Elaine. Our goal is that at least one parent/guardian will attend one of these events this year.

Hope to see you on campus soon!

Notable October events and happenings

Please check the online calendar for more information, locations, and updates, as well as information about games, PGA events, and other happenings on campus. And don’t forget to RSVP for the Oct. 2 centennial lecture with Bill Gates!

  • Parents and guardians of 6th graders! Please join us on Monday, Oct. 7 for Let's Talk About...Technology and your 6th grader. Middle School Director Elaine Christensen share resources, best practices, and facilitate a conversation about how to manage students' use of phones, tablets, laptops, gaming, and social media in the home. The goal is that at least one parent/guardian will attend from every 6th grade family. A light dinner will be held from 6-7 p.m. with the conversation going from 7-8 p.m.
  • On Tuesday, Oct. 8, we’ll have a Q&A with Middle School administrators. It’s an informal, drop-in meeting during which we talk about what is happening at the school, including upcoming events and trends in the student body, and answer questions from parents and guardians. We’ll be in the Middle School dining room from 8:30-9:30 a.m.
  • There is no school for students on Friday, Oct. 11 and, looking ahead, on Monday Nov. 4. On Oct. 11, teachers will be engaging in professional development. Nov. 4 is a teacher workday that teachers use to prepare quarterly grades and comments.
  • Monday, Oct. 14 and Tuesday, Oct. 15 is the pop-up depot for Middle School performing arts clothing. It’s a great opportunity to pick up free performance attire for students in the performing arts. Find more information in Director of Performing and Visual Arts Andrew Krus's article.
  • On Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m., educator Jackson Katz will be speaking to parents and guardians about teen relationships and preventing sexual violence. Those of you with older Middle School students may want to attend – you can find more information here.
  • The fall tailgate is on Friday, Oct. 25 – come and support our teams, meet new families, and experience Lion pride. Learn more in Director of Athletics Chris Hartley’s article and stay tuned for more information.
  • Our first music concerts of the school year happen the last week of October. Learn about fall arts events in Director of Performing and Visual Arts Andrew Krus’s article.
  • Thursday, Oct. 31 is Halloween. Please make sure costumes abide by community expectations and are respectful to everyone. If you have questions about this, please reach out to your student’s advisor.
  • The first dance of the year is on Friday, Nov. 1, from 7-10 p.m. – it’s for 7th and 8th graders and students will receive information about it in advisory.

Robert Blackwell is Lakeside's Middle School assistant director. You can reach him at 206-440-2721 and