by Reem Abu Rahmeh, Middle School director
Last week, a student in the 5th grade approached me and started with, “Good morning, Ms…” and he leaned closer to read my nametag as he began sounding out my name. After figuring it out, he shot me a big smile through his mask and repeated the full greeting, “Good morning Ms. Abu Rahmeh!” I, still processing this sweet and genuine interaction, reciprocated my greeting to him.
In my role as Middle School director, I spend a lot of time, along with my colleagues, helping students learn to live our shared values in developmentally appropriate ways. With the unpredictability of this past year, we knew we needed to focus on building community. And to be successful at that, we had to start by helping each member of our community feel like they belong here — that they are seen, heard, and valued.
At the start of the year, we talked with students about the responsibility that each of us has in creating a space for each other to belong. We accomplish this by listening to others with openness, by being curious and interested in each other’s stories, by being supportive and encouraging of each and every voice in our community, and by being inclusive and kind. We reach our goal by always taking a moment to ask: Whose voice is not present? Whose experience is not honored? Whose space needs to be expanded?
In the first month, and always, we create opportunities to speak with students about our values in community meetings, in advisory, and in our classes. We try to model “belonging” in our interactions with each one of them. We create spaces for students to practice living out these values. And, knowing that students internalize things at different paces, we patiently wait.
At some point, this slow and steady guidance begins to take root, and we start seeing glimpses of it across the school — like in this interaction with this new student. I don’t know many ten-year-olds who would be willing to be vulnerable in approaching a new adult and sounding out her name. This student took our message of always greeting others and getting to know each other’s names and began living it in his interactions.
Here’s another example of students living this value: Since the beginning of the school year, a 7th grader has been greeting his fellow classmates at the entryway of the building every morning. This student has built a gathering of other students who have joined the welcoming group; it’s a purely student-led initiative, driven by a sense of belonging that they wanted to pass to others. Every one of those welcomes says to other students that this is their school, their community, and that they will be inclusive and take care of each other.
Our youngest students are already leaders in this work: While waiting to be dismissed at the opening assembly, a few 5th graders led their class in the Lakeside School cheer, with pride and enthusiasm and without any adult prompting. Here is the youngest class showing pride in their newly found voice in this community, and confident that the older students will embrace them.
You may wonder: What drives a student to take the initiative to stand at the door and greet fellow students every morning? Where does a 5th grader find the strength to be vulnerable and reach out to build new connections? This is the planted seed of belonging: students knowing that Lakeside Middle School is their second family, their community — and in this community, they are stewards of this gift of belonging. We ask them, every day, to have courage to reveal and share their authentic self with all of us and to be intentional in CREATING the space and environment for others to be true to who they are.
Conversations at home: Opportunities to foster belonging
Here are two opportunities for families to have conversations at home about how to be part of an inclusive community that fosters a sense of belonging. The first is Halloween, which falls at the end of the month. On Friday, Oct. 29, students who wish to do so may come to school wearing a costume. Here are a few guidelines that could be helpful:
- All costumes should abide by community expectations and be respectful to everyone. We ask families to discuss cultural appropriation in costumes with their students; here is a helpful resource for that conversation.
- There should be no sharing of wigs or hats (it raises the potential of a lice outbreak).
- There must be no accessories that resemble weapons or that get in the way of learning.
- Faces must be shown at all times.
If you have questions about any of these guidelines, please reach out to your student’s advisor.
The second opportunity for parents and guardians to help students practice inclusivity is the first dance of the school year, on Friday, Oct. 29. This is for 7th and 8th graders. Students can wear their Halloween costumes to the dance if they choose to do so. Otherwise, the dress code is casual and in keeping with our community expectations. We encourage you to talk with your student in advance about how they plan to use the time to get to know a wide variety of people instead of just hanging out with a clique they already know.
Some other things to know about the dance:
- The dance is optional: students do not have to attend but most do choose to come.
- Students will have to leave school at the end of the day and come back at 7 p.m.
- No food will be served, so please have your student eat beforehand. A drink and candy will be provided and students will be asked to eat and drink outside the gym.
- There will be a live DJ at the event; we ask that students not engage with the DJ.
- Students should stay in the supervised areas, as indicated by the dance chaperones.
- The dance ends at 10 p.m. Please be on time for pick up.
Notes from the front office
Here are some up-to-the-minute reminders and announcements from our wonderful office team.
- Please help us by reminding students to sign in or out at the main office whenever they arrive late or leave early (for appointments, late bus, etc.). This is important because, in case of an emergency, we would know that students are safely off campus.
- As you can read in today’s health and safety update, vaccinated students no longer need to fill out the Magnus Health daily health screening. Parents and guardians with unvaccinated students do need to continue filling it in by 7:45 a.m. every day. Doing this on time will help our office staff ensure that protocols are being followed. If you have any questions about downloading the app, username/password issues or trouble using the app, please contact the main office (206-440-3630) or Lisa Devine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important dates and events for October
- Tuesday, Oct. 5: Lakeside Fund Kickoff. Learn more and RSVP.
- Thursday, Oct. 7, 8-9 a.m.: Middle School parent and guardian Zoom webinar with administrators. Invitations will be sent a week in advance, along with a prompt for questions. A recording of the webinar will be posted the following day on the parents and guardians webpage.
- Friday, Oct. 8: NWAIS Professional Development day; No classes. Teachers will be participating in a variety of educational opportunities.
- Thursday, Oct. 14, 6-7 p.m.: Equity & Inclusion Virtual Speaker Series with Gyasi Ross presenting “Indigenous People, Race, and Education.” Learn more.
- Wednesday, Oct. 20, 7-8:30 p.m.: Mark J. Bebie '70 Memorial Lecture featuring adventurer and author Darcy Gaechter. Learn more and register for this in-person event.
- Friday, Oct. 29, 7-10 p.m.: Middle School dance, for grades 7 and 8. See information above.
Reem Abu Rahmeh is the Middle School director. Reach her at MSdirector@lakesideschool.org or 206-440-2772.