An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Reem Abu Rahmeh, Middle School director 

I am frequently asked how Lakeside can teach middle-school-aged students what an ethical mindset is. How do we teach values of integrity? More importantly, how do students learn to live with integrity? 

Going back to our ethical mindset description, you will see multiple ways that we hope that Lakeside students would demonstrate this mindset in their lives. Some are very openly talked about and discussed, while others are more subtle and a product of multiple interactions. One of the most talked-about is our Statement of Community Expectations. Another is the responsible and ethical use of technology. We teach and explain, we have discussions about these very public and outward-facing statements within the community, and students get to understand them and the impact that individual choices and actions may have when any of these expectations are not met. In some ways, this is where it may be easy to see the ethical mindset reveal itself in a student’s life. 

However, living an ethical mindset is more important in situations that are not performative and not public. Our students navigate numerous small interactions and multiple spaces in their daily lives. In each of these, they have to make choices for their own actions for which they alone are responsible. That is where integrity is put to the test. Earlier in the year, a Middle School student chose to give their own self a “kindness shoutout.” Kindness shoutouts are meant to be a way for the community to acknowledge acts of kindness that have been received from others — which meant that sharing a self-promoting shoutout was not in keeping with the spirit of this specific forum. After speaking to their advisor about the incident, the student realized why their contribution was not the right judgment and how their action may have impacted the rest of the community. This student was not satisfied with just understanding what they did wrong, but took the extra step to stand up in front of the whole community to apologize and explain their new understanding. That is a student living integrity in an uncomfortable situation to repair harm that was done. An ethical mindset is to have students drive their own decisions to repair harm when it is caused. 

Every day, we give students opportunities to practice working out situations without adult intervention. We walk by them in recess as they are playing four square, soccer, or ping-pong, and they don’t think we hear their conversations resolving misunderstandings or making decisions on various issues that come up as they play. An ethical mindset is when students are not seeking unfair or dishonest advantage for themselves, but instead rising above the situation and doing the right thing. 

Last month, we had the opportunity to work with civic leader and social justice advocate Greg Taylor on examining our understanding of our own biases through a discussion about stereotypes and microaggressions. Students in the various assemblies were able to share their experiences with each other and think about ways to be upstanders: They were able to reflect on their ability and willingness to speak up and defend the rights and safety of themselves and others. To learn to resist and take action to stop language or behavior that denigrates the identity and character of themselves or others. This is the practical side of the ethical mindset that we see our students developing every day.

At school, we want to create an environment that allows students to take ownership over their choices, a place that allows them to grow, not by being perfect but by engaging each other as members of a larger community and realizing the impact that their choices and decisions have on others. To live a life of integrity is a lifetime commitment to examining, reflecting, and practicing all of these principles regardless of who is watching!

Family education

While educating students is the reason for Lakeside’s existence, the school also offers opportunities for parent and guardian education, with the goal of fostering a community where all our students can thrive. There are three upcoming educational opportunities for parents and guardians to which we want to draw your attention.

On Jan. 13, the Equity & Inclusion Virtual Speaker Series will host a webinar with author and clinical psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum. The ongoing senseless killing of Black individuals has prompted much-needed and long-overdue conversations about race and racism. Many wonder, “How do we talk about this with our kids? How do we teach them about racial identity and equality?” Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College, an award-winning clinical psychologist, a national authority on racial issues in America, and a thought leader in higher education, will look at why these conversations are so difficult and share her insights on how to talk with kids and each other about race and racism, and how to be actively anti-racist. Tatum's book, "Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" is a national bestseller. Learn more about the webinar in this article and RSVP here for the webinar

Another educational webinar is the first in the series “Intersections of Identity and Wellbeing,” hosted by Lakeside’s personal development and wellness department. The series will offer parents and guardians opportunities to explore how identity affects people’s understanding of what it means to be healthy and well. Identity and Mental Health, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, will explore questions such as: What does it mean to be mentally healthy? How do various identity groups define, express, and address mental illness? What options or resources are available for coping with and/or treating mental illness in ways that align with families’ culture and values? What practices or behaviors can parents and guardians model at home to promote mental wellbeing in their students? Learn more about the series in this article, and save the date for the next webinar, Identity and Body Image, on Thursday, Feb. 3.

Finally, the PGA — in collaboration with Lakeside’s DEI team — is offering an educational webinar about bias featuring presenter Greg Taylor, which takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. In late November, Mr. Taylor worked with faculty and staff during a professional development day, and he’ll be presenting to Upper School students in January. This is a great opportunity for members of our community to increase their understanding of what harmful bias looks like in an educational setting, and the impact it can have on students.  

As with all webinars for parents and guardians, registration links will be emailed to families, and webinars will be recorded and posted on the parents and guardians webpage. If you are looking for more opportunities for learning, we highly recommend the video series and educational resources, We Are Lakeside, created by Lakeside’s Parents and Guardians Association.

Important dates and events for January

Make sure to review the Inside Lakeside email for Middle School highlights, the athletics calendar for sports, and the full calendar for information about PGA and other school events. 

  • Monday, Jan. 3: Classes resume
  • Thursday, Jan. 13, 5:30-6:30: Equity & Inclusion Virtual Speaker Series with Beverly Daniel Tatum in conversation about race and racism. Learn more.
  • Friday, Jan. 14: Fall semester ends.
  • Monday, Jan. 17: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Lakeside closed.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 18: No school. Professional development day for faculty and staff.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 19: Spring semester begins.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 19, 8:30-9:30 a.m.: Middle School parent/guardian webinar with administrators.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 19, 7-8:30 p.m.: “Intersections of Identity and Wellbeing Parent/Guardian Webinar: Identity and Mental Health” hosted by Lakeside’s personal development and wellness department. Parents and guardians will receive an email with a link to register. A recording of the webinar will be posted the following day on the parents and guardians webpage. See above for more info.

Reem Abu Rahmeh is the Middle School director. Reach her at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2772.