Thinking About Summer by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
As the days get a bit longer, the sun gets a bit higher and the reality of winter’s impending conclusion sets in (thankfully!), thoughts begin to turn to summer. In recent years, I’ve been asked more regularly about the best ways for Nobles students to spend the summer—often with the subtext of "what will make my child more attractive in the college process?"
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that summer can and should be used in important ways—but how best to spend that time varies dramatically between individual kids. Here are a few ideas to prompt the thinking about what might be best for your son or daughter.
More than any other summer activity, I believe that getting a summer job is often the most valuable pursuit a teenager can undertake. The world of work presents opportunities for accountability and growth that schools cannot adequately replicate and forces interactions with a broad range of people from different generations. Adolescents develop an enormous sense of pride when they bring home that paycheck, build their own bank account and no longer have to rely on parents as their personal ATM. Whether the job is bussing tables or cutting lawns or teaching swimming, the values of hard work and responsibility are often taught better in a work environment than anywhere else. It is also a great opportunity to help your child understand that they can contribute towards the cost of something important to them.
Using the earnings from a summer job to become involved in some sort of travel or service opportunity can teach the lessons of work and of engaging in a new and different environment. Whether the experience takes one far from home or to a new neighborhood in greater Boston, there is incredible value in placing oneself in a different milieu with new people. If travel is abroad, I strongly recommend programs with home-stay components: not only will language be improved (if in a non-English speaking country), but also the experience will not simply be a "tour" with other American young people. The more time one spends with those "native" to the environment, the better.
Finally, I am a great believer in the value of the outdoors. Whether counseling at an overnight camp or enrolling in programs like Outward Bound, NOLS, Island School or High Mountain Institute, the lessons of independence, self-reliance and physical activity (and often great challenge) can be incredibly powerful to the developing adolescent.
It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that summer is also an important time to relax, recharge the batteries, and to be with family and read.
Many of the above can be done without significant financial outlay and many students take advantage of scholarship opportunities presented by the programs themselves or through the Nobles Pi Newell Fund. Hopefully over the course of the next few weeks, you can engage your child in a productive conversation about how to use the summer to grow, learn something about oneself and simply to have some fun.