An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Rob Blackwell, Middle School assistant director

A few times each week I have the privilege of dropping my 3rd grader off at school. He’s my youngest child, and I’ve learned to take advantage of these precious moments. Most mornings he sits in the back seat of the car, mulling over his day (after putting on his seatbelt, of course) before beginning a series of questions: Am I staying after school? Who is picking me up, mommy or you? After he receives the answers to his deposition, there is a brief radio silence. Then I volley a series of questions his way. Each question I ask is rooted in decision-making and usually follows a scenario. For example, what does it mean to be a friend? How do you help two friends who are not being kind to each other? I’m engaging him in a practice: honing decision-making skills while the stakes are low.

Learning to be an effective decision maker is a lifelong skill. We are presented with choices in almost every moment of every day and we are expected to make good decisions each time. And, like with most skills that we introduce to our kids, their ability to grasp the consequences and take ownership of their decisions requires practice, lots of it.

The question at the core of Lakeside’s re-envisioning — how do we teach students to make good decisions and act on them — is one that we, as educators, ask ourselves constantly. At the Middle School, students can practice decision-making in many spaces. For example, let us explore the process students go through when electing to join a club, sport, or both. Factors they must consider before making a decision are plentiful and are far from trivial. The after-school time commitment, longer days at school, completing homework on time, and social time with family and friends are just a few things that must be considered. During the decision-making process, most students realize they must weigh the risks and rewards both in the short and long term. Fortunately, many students understand the benefits in staying connected with school through co-curricular activities and choose to play a sport or join a club.

As parents and guardians, how can you help your student become better at making decisions?

  • Provide a model of how you go through the decision-making process by thinking out loud.
  • Give your student the opportunity to make their own decisions in low-stakes situations — even if you might disagree with what they choose to do. Let them experience the consequences of their decision. 
  • Support and acknowledge good choices they make, at home and at school.  

The decisions that our students make today help develop the paths that their lives take tomorrow.

March events and milestones

It’s a busy month ahead. Make sure to review the Inside Lakeside email for Middle School highlights; the arts and athletics calendar; and the online calendar for information about PGA and other school events.

  • The Music in the City concert on Monday, March 2 features music students in grades 7 through 12 performing at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. A pre-event reception is at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public.
  • Parents and guardians interested in learning more about the proposed academic year calendar changes for 2021-2022 are invited to a calendar Q&A with administrators on Thursday, March 5. It will start at 7 p.m. in the Evans Theater in the Middle School. Read about the proposed calendar here.
  • Join Elaine and me on Tuesday, March 10 at 2:30 p.m. for one of our regular Q&As about what is happening at the Middle School. These are informal, drop-in meetings 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.
  • Our 5th graders leave for their outdoor trip on Wednesday, March 11. Families of 5th graders are emailed detailed information.
  • The PGA Rummage Sale will be the weekend of March 14 and 15. Check out this article for more information.
  • Parent and guardians of current 8th graders should attend the 9th grade curriculum night for current 8th grade families on Tuesday, March 17. Our Upper School colleagues will introduce the Upper School curriculum and give an overview of the decisions rising 9th graders are making when choosing courses for next year. It takes place at the Upper School in Kent Evans Auditorium in Allen Gates Hall. The program begins at 7 p.m.
  • On Wednesday, March 18 the Lakeside Lecture Series brings novelist Min Jin Lee to campus to deliver the Mark J. Bebie ’70 Memorial Lecture. Learn more and RSVP for the evening event.
  • Tuesday, March 24 is Middle School photo day. Students will receive order packages at school.
  • Our 6th graders in drama will perform their “Seattle Stories” on Thursday, March 26. These short vignettes are based on real events from students’ lives and are collaboratives piece of theater with students joining in to play other characters, act as set pieces, and provide sound effects. Performances are at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Evans Theater and last about 40 minutes.
  • Midterm comments, grades, and markers for growth will be posted on Monday, March 30.

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