An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Rob Blackwell, Middle School assistant director

“Student centered” is a term that gets used a lot at Lakeside and in schools in general. Being student centered, by definition, means meeting students where they are currently, and shifting the focus of teacher-based instruction on the student. The concept of student-centered education is even more important today, due to the impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic that has followed.   

Over time, ideas about middle school have changed. Society has moved away from the concept of “junior high school,” which described the warehousing of early adolescence after elementary school and before high school. The adoption of student-centered education was part of this change, and the movement began with a shift in teachers’ approach. Lakeside Middle School is a community of learners led by adults with a passion for teaching students in their early adolescents — they are experts in directing students’ energies while teaching a combination of skills, content, and responsibility. As you may have figured out from having your student at home this fall, teaching middle schoolers can be challenging! It’s a special type of teacher who can channel these students’ energy and curiosity and create a thriving learning environment. This year, students have been encouraged by their teachers to think outside of the box in our collective pursuit of experiencing a meaningful school year.

Being student centered during this pandemic requires allowing students to imagine the unimaginable while also providing a platform to make it all come true. As educators, we strive to enable student success by staying attuned to their experience: listening to where they are at and then being there for them.

Have you seen the Lakeside Leo? It’s the Middle School newspaper that was developed during the fall as a student-led club idea. The Lakeside Leo is 100% operated and staffed by students representing every grade of the Middle School and is led by a 7th grader serving as editor-in-chief. Our entire club system is built around the concept of students coming up with ideas, and then the club advisor (a faculty or staff member) supporting them with advice and resources when they ask for help. It’s a remarkable publication covering a range of topics and is giving the Upper School Tatler a run for its money!

Another example of empowering students and giving them opportunities to share was the Winter Festival. It occurred the week before winter break and was hosted by student clubs. What occurred was absolutely an amazing experience for the students, focused on building connection and community, grades 5-8. Each participating club planned a one-hour virtual activity for students and faculty. Fourteen clubs participated! As an example, chess club planned a virtual tournament for those students interested in playing; and in the same meeting, a breakout room was designed for a lesson on strategies and tactics as they were played in the popular Netflix show, The Queen’s Gambit, from the actual matches played by Beth Harmon — extraordinary!

Again, students took the lead but were supported by their teachers. Teachers put together supplies for students to pick up in advance, rearranged their lesson plans so that students could lead activities for their peers, and provided feedback to student club leaders about ways to engage a wide range of students in activities. You can get a recap of the week in this news article from before break.

Final point today on being student centered: Thank you to everyone who filled out a survey about your student’s experience this fall. We’ve been going through that data and will be reporting back to students and families soon. It is great to hear from so many of you! This is a partnership, and we feel grateful that you are sharing your student with us.

Reopening update

This week, Lakeside’s Medical Advisory Board will meet and make a recommendation as to whether we should reopen campus next week. We will update families by email, later this week. If your student is hoping to return to campus, please remember that they need to be back in the Seattle area a week prior to getting tested the Friday before returning to campus.

Parents and guardians: Review the family checklist on the reopening webpage; sign the new COVID-19 waiver on the Magnus Health portal (see Bryan Smith’s email from last Friday); check out your child’s cohort rotation (when they would be on campus and when they would be learning remotely); make sure you review the health and safety expectations and the Middle School return-to-school checklists and protocols; and make sure that you student has everything they need.

Additional dates and events for January

Review the Inside Lakeside email for Middle School highlights and the full calendar for information about PGA and other school events. Watch for email updates regarding reopening, including important information about testing, contact tracing, and the daily health checks.

  • Monday, Jan. 4: Classes resume. All classes will be remote this week.
  • Thursday, Jan. 14, 8-9 a.m.: Middle School parent and guardian Zoom webinar with administrators. Invitations will be sent a week in advance. A recording of the webinar will be posted the following day on the parents and guardians webpage.
  • Friday, Jan. 15: Fall semester ends.
  • Monday, Jan. 18 and Tuesday, Jan. 19. Lakeside is closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and for a professional development day. 
  • Friday, Jan. 29: End of term reports posted on Veracross for families.

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