An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

Dear Middle School parents and guardians,

Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! I am writing this in mid-August and it’s almost too quiet in the Middle School building. I eagerly await the moment when the building is full of joyful noise as students and teachers come to school. The beginning of the year is one of my favorite times—so full of hope and possibility! I send a warm, warm welcome to both new and returning students and families.

There is much to celebrate as we open the year. First of all, let me welcome (again), Robert Blackwell who joins us as Middle School assistant director. Rob brings an authentic love of middle school students and deep experience as a school administrator. Please come in and introduce yourself to him (and read this Q&A if you haven’t already).

Second, we are implementing our new schedule! Last year, the Middle School faculty researched, designed, and piloted a rotating ABC schedule which got rave reviews from students, teachers, and parents/guardians. We can’t wait to use it “for real” this year. Among other things, the ABC schedule reconfigures advisor time, creates more dedicated community gathering time, extends classes from 45 to 50 minutes, and minimizes the number of transitions that students and teachers have every day. Each department has spent time reviewing and revising their curriculum in light of the schedule change. Students will experience the same level of excellence throughout the educational program. If you have questions about the schedule, please reach out to any teacher or administrator.

I apologize in advance for the length of this article; there is much to communicate as we open the year, including calendar information (including Back-to-School Night and service learning), reminders about medications and sickness protocols, information about how to access your student's homework assignments, and guidelines for student gatherings outside of school. If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or call me at 206-440-2772.

Conversations for home and school

Lakeside has several documents that are core to life at our school. As you all know from reading my opening-of-school letter, the Statement of Community Expectations is one of those key documents, and we focus on it each fall. It is critically important that students and families know and understand the community expectations, be able to articulate why they are important, and know how the statement informs and guides behavior for everyone who is a part of our school. In my letter, I asked every family to take time, before school starts, to sit down for a dedicated conversation about the following questions. Your student’s advisors will be asking them about these conversations in September.

  1. With your student, “translate” and summarize the first paragraph of the Statement of Community Expectations. 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 remember to enter your answers to questions 5 and 6 here.

Another question advisors will ask students this fall is “What are you reading?” Lakeside strives to cultivate lifelong learners, people who read books in their downtime. The role of parents and guardians is key – if you want your student to be a reader, they must see you reading, and – as a family – you need to talk about the books that engage you. My reading list this summer includedIn Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High Schoolby Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine, “Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson,  and the Opening of the American West” by Stephen E. Ambrose, “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren. In honor of Toni Morrison’s passing, I just downloaded “Beloved” which I will read for the third or fourth time. What did you read? Have you talked about it with your students?

Notes from the front office

The front office is the heart of Lakeside Middle School. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call Sheila Gatlin, Tammy Quichocho, or Jodi Kennedy. In each edition of Inside Lakeside, Rob or I will include up-to-the-minute reminders and announcements from our wonderful office team.

In September:

  • Medications: Emergency medications should be kept in the main office. Please bring them in a Ziploc bag in their original containers with dosage information and student name. Please include a picture of the student in the bag. This is particularly helpful as we learn the new students' names and faces.
  • Messages for students during the school day: Please do your best to limit messages to emergencies or information about changes in transportation and call or email them in by 2:30 p.m. When the office receives a message for a student, they will write it on the blackboard in the Crossroads (the main hallway right by the office). Students should erase messages after they receive them. Messages not received by 2:30 will be delivered to classrooms by the office staff. We use this system since students are not allowed to use their cell phones during the school day.
  • Required forms: All new families and families with students  who have received a vaccination in the last year must submit an immunization form. If you have already submitted an up-to-date immunization form, you do not need to submit one unless an update has occurred. More information is posted on the website. 
Books and supplies

Remember to purchase books and supplies before the start of the school year. You can find a link to students’ schedules (and what they’ll need) in the summer mailing article “How to buy textbooks through University Book Store.” That article also has information about the required supplies – there are only five! 

Grade-level retreats on Sept. 6 

On Friday, Sept. 6, students will participate in grade-level retreats. These are opportunities for students to bond as a class and get to know each other. The focus of the 8th grade retreat will be preparation for students’ Global Service Learning trips in late September. Each grade will go to a different Seattle park with classmates and their adult advisors and return to Lakeside by 3 p.m. In order for your student to attend, you must sign the online permission slip form. You can find this form, and other important documents throughout the year, on Lakeside’s parents and guardians webpage, under “Important Documents.” If you have any questions please contact your student’s grade level coordinator or Rob.

Back-to School-Night on Thursday, Sept. 19

Please make sure that Middle School Back-to-School Night is on your calendar. This is your opportunity to meet your student's advisor and teachers. Watch for more information in September and check out this FAQ

Homework assignments

A big part of being a middle school student is learning how to keep track of assignments and manage time. All teachers maintain a class webpage, which lists homework assignments. At the Middle School, parents and guardians have access to homework pages so they can assist students as they learn to stay organized. Soon after school starts, you will receive an email from Bonnie Brodd, our technology integration specialist, with instructions about how to access homework. Please look out for this email. We will also place a link on the parents and guardians webpage. All students also receive an assignment notebook to use in conjunction with the homework listed on the class webpage. Using it consistently (every night!) helps students learn to coordinate tasks and assignments over time. Please reach out to your student's advisor, teachers, me, or Rob if you have any questions or concerns.

Sept. 22-28: Service learning and GSL

On Sunday, Sept. 22, the 8th grade departs for their six-day/five-night Global Service Learning (GSL) trip, a required and integral part of our Middle School program. That same week, the 5th, 6th, and 7th grades will have their first and second service-learning days (Thursday, Sept. 26 and Friday, Sept. 27). You will get more information about each of these events shortly. These days serve as an opportunity to solidify new friendships, build a cohesive community at each grade level, take a break from the school routine, and actively engage in one of our goals: to serve the greater community.

No school Oct. 11 and Nov. 4

Looking ahead, there is no school for students on Friday, Oct. 11 or Monday, Nov. 4. Teachers will be engaged in professional development and working on midterm grades and comments. Please review the 2019-2020 overview calendar to find other days when school is not in session.

Inclusive practices: Parties at home—small or all

Inclusivity and feeling like you belong is a significant concern during middle school. As students get to know each other, they often get together outside of school. But off-campus parties and social gatherings can also create a challenge.

Our guidelines regarding gatherings outside of school, which we hope all parents and guardians will support, are articulated below. Helping your student gracefully and respectfully navigate the challenge of who gets invited and who doesn't is important. While we cannot mandate what families do on their own time, we hope that you respect the knowledge about middle schoolers that we've gained in our years of experience.

Please read this carefully and talk it over with your student in advance of organizing any activities. We believe that having transparent expectations helps students learn to navigate this tricky social territory.

  • If your student is having a party, please keep all references to it, including invitations and pick-up, away from the Lakeside Middle School campus. 
  • In addition, we ask that you either include all members of the class (all the girls, all the boys, or all the students) or that you keep the party small. The guideline regarding small parties is to invite five students if you are in 5th grade, six students if you are in 6th grade, seven students if you are in 7th grade, or eight students if you are in 8th grade. 

Having worked in middle schools for some time, we know the most difficult group for this guideline is girls in 6th and 7th grades, especially around the time of the dance in May. We also want to acknowledge that following this guideline can be difficult and that, no matter where you cut off the invitations, some students may feel left out.

Related to this, please talk with your student and encourage them not to post pictures of these smaller gatherings on social media. These postings can be as hurtful as the events themselves. Learning to navigate this territory – discerning what is appropriate to post when and where – is an important part of students' growth.

Please do not hesitate to consult with advisors, counselor Michael Matsumoto, Rob Blackwell, or me if you have questions or concerns.

As always, please let me know if you have questions or want to check in for any reason. I hope your back-to-school preparations are going well, and I look forward to working with you this year.

Elaine Christensen '82 is Middle School director and Lakeside’s director of professional development. Reach her at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2772.