by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director
In many ways, the last week in the Middle School has been subdued, as we process the loss of longtime Lakeside Spanish teacher Mirta Blat. Many of our students in grades 6, 7, and 8 knew Mirta as a teacher, advisor, and affinity group leader. She will be deeply missed by them, her former students, and all of her colleagues.
During this time, I’ve been heartened to see so many students reaching out to adults they trust. Many are connecting and talking in the counseling office — both with counselor Mike Matsumoto and with each other. One of the special things about Lakeside is our extensive student support. I encourage you to reach out to advisors, members of the student and family support program, or to me or Rob Blackwell, if you need any help or advice in helping students process their feelings at home.
Reflections on service learning
It’s been a busy fall, but the students recently had an opportunity to pause and reflect on what was important to them during our two service learning days. Lakeside Middle School has three strands in our experiential program: our Service Learning Program, the Outdoor Program, and Middle School Global Service Learning (GSL). Service learning may not be discussed as much as some of our other programs, but it’s a longstanding and critically important part of the Middle School experience.
We devote four days a year to service learning, two in the fall and two in the spring. Fifth graders work with their teachers and advisors on a variety of activities related to food, including researching food issues and food justice in the Seattle area, volunteering at a food bank, and organizing a food drive for the entire school. Sixth graders work with Earthcorps, helping to preserve and promote Seattle parks by learning about the environmental impact of parks and plants, pulling non-native species, and planting trees and shrubs that will thrive. Seventh graders volunteer at a variety of places including Aegis Retirement Home, Recovery Cafe, Operation Sack Lunch, Treehouse, and Northwest Harvest.
Students start service learning days with “pre-flection,” learning about the organizations and the people they will serve, anticipating what challenges they might face, and setting a personal intention such as “I will stay present,” or “I will connect in a meaningful way with at least one resident.” When students return, they reflect on what they learned and the people they met or the work they did. This process of reflection turns “service” into “service learning.”
Here are some of the students’ reflections from our service learning days this fall.
- “My biggest takeaway was that a few people can make a big difference. We packed 4,500 pounds of food.”
- “The most important [thing I learned] was how little it took to help so many people … [At first,] the task seemed too simple to make an impact … I thought to myself, ‘What the heck is picking a few lousy apples gonna do?’ But as we worked and worked and worked, and the apples got higher and higher and higher, I started to realize what we were doing. These apples were putting food on the tables of so many people and the mulch was keeping the park clean and healthy. I think the lesson also applies to life. It’s not the most grand or lush options that matter most; the little ones do, too.”
- “My biggest takeaway is that I should be grateful for what I have. Kids living at this organization just want to have a normal life.”
- “I learned how important it is for everybody in a community to help each other. My biggest takeaway from Treehouse is that it is important for everybody (kids and adults) to feel important.”
- “A takeaway from my service was even if the leaders of the world don’t do much about the environment, I can still make a difference in my city.”
Our experiential programs connect deeply with the mission of Lakeside and with the competencies and mindsets the school is considering for the future. In new and sometimes unfamiliar environments, students are asked to engage with each other and the world in ways that cultivate critical thinking, resilience, collaboration, and, sometimes, some good old hard work. Our next service learning days are April 30 and May 1.
We send midterm and end-of-term reports home in November, January, March, and June. Students will meet individually with their advisors to go over the reports, and a link to reports will be emailed to parents and guardians on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
There are three components to the midterm and end-of-term reports.
- The Markers for Student Growth are seven qualities or characteristics that the Middle School faculty identified as key to academic success at Lakeside. They are: comes prepared to class; demonstrates engagement; exercises self-advocacy; manages time effectively; shows consideration for others; shows understanding of course material; and works effectively with others. There are also two academic discipline-specific markers. You can expect that every student will receive at least one area for growth (AG) from every teacher in every marking period because there is always room to improve.
- The narrative comment includes specific information about work the student has done, identifies areas of strength, and addresses the areas for growth identified in the markers.
- Seventh and 8th graders receive letter grades. Letter grades are a cumulative measure of the student’s progress in the course up until that point.
The audience for the reports is you, the parents and guardians. This is our primary mechanism, four times a year, for communicating with you about your student’s progress and achievement. The principle that underlies these assessments is developing a growth mindset in students. A person with a growth mindset believes that “abilities and intelligence are malleable and are influenced by the amount of effort we exert,” whereas people with fixed mindsets believe “that a person is born with a certain set of abilities and intelligence, and there is not much you can do to change what you’ve been given.” By developing a growth mindset, students start to see challenges as opportunities to grow, not pigeonholing themselves into an identity or belief about their intelligence. Here is an excellent visual summary of this concept.
Be intentional about the tone you set when discussing the reports. Set aside time to review them together. Ask questions, be curious. Help your student see these reports as opportunities to reflect on what they are learning and how they are learning it, more than a measure of their worth as a student. Here are some good questions to ask:
- What themes and patterns do you see?
- What are your strengths as a student, strengths you can build on and continue to develop?
- What would you like to improve on? Where do you have areas for growth?
- Which teachers will you follow up with to get more information? In other words, how will you advocate for yourself and get support so you can move forward?
- Which class stretches you the most?
- What specific changes will you make to move forward on your goals?
Frame your conversation about the feedback positively. Resist the temptation to do things for your student. Middle School is the time when students learn good habits, when they try things and fail with minimal consequence. It’s up to the adults in their lives to be honest with them about areas for improvement, hold them accountable, and coach them on how to move forward on their own.
On Nov. 13 (after 12 p.m.) parents and guardians will be able to access reports on the family portal of Veracross.
- Log in using your Veracross user name at: portals.veracross.com/lakeside.
- On the home screen, find the links next to your student’s picture.
- Click the link that reads “MS Fall Term” and the report card will open.
- If you want to print the report card, first download the file using the “Print to PDF” button on the upper right corner of the report. Open the PDF document in your PDF reader (like Adobe Reader or Preview) and then print.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the main office.
Advisor and parent/guardian conferences: Nov. 11-15
Advisors will be reaching out to you to set up individual conferences. The goal is to share information about how your student is doing at school in all areas: academic, social, and emotional. Conferences also cover how advisors and parents/guardians can work together to help students navigate the ups and downs of middle school. Please remember, there is no school for Middle School students on Monday, Nov. 11 to facilitate these conferences.
Inclusive practices: Parties at home—small or all
At the start of the school year, I shared our suggested guidelines about parties at home. As we approach the first dances of the school year, now is a great time to review them. 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 discuss it with your student in advance of organizing any activities. 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, and eight students if you are in 8th grade.
- We also encourage students not to post pictures of smaller gatherings on social media. These postings can be as hurtful as the events themselves.
Notable November and December dates
Please check the online calendar for more information, locations, and updates, as well as information about games, concerts and performances, PGA events, and other happenings on campus.
- 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. Note that there are PGA sponsored roundtable discussions for 7th grade parents/guardians and 8th grade parents/guardians during the first part of the dance.
- There is no school on Monday, Nov. 4 or Monday, Nov. 11.
- Lakeside is closed for Thanksgiving break from Thursday, Nov. 28 through Tuesday, Dec. 3.
- The second dance of the school year is Friday, Dec. 6 (for students in grades 7 and 8).
- Winter break runs from Monday, Dec. 23 through Sunday, Jan. 5. Classes resume on Monday, Jan. 6.