Summer Plans by Director of College Counseling Kate Ramsdell
During the first faculty meeting of the new year Kim Libby, my sage English department colleague, offered an engaging presentation on classroom technology. Invoking inspiration from Janus, the Roman god of “beginnings and transitions," Kim encouraged us to see the transition into a new calendar year as an opportunity in our classrooms. In the college office, January marks another transition that I relish more with each passing year. It’s the time when we move from fall’s focus on Class I and begin our meetings with members of Class II. I find the month invigorating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I get to know a whole new group of Nobles students really well, which is at the crux of why I love what I do. Often, our first few meetings bring us to a discussion of summer plans.
When I think about the wide swath of opportunities that are introduced to many of our students – whether they are able to take advantage of Nobles-sponsored travel and immersion or service programs, or a research internship, or college-level coursework – I am amazed by their initiative and their focus. I can assure you that, as a sixteen-year-old, I didn’t even think to consider spending a summer doing research or traveling abroad. Nor did I have the kind of guidance that we offer here. So, I spent nine consecutive summers lifeguarding, coaching and teaching swimming lessons. Nine.
Quick math will reveal that I was twenty-three years old before I moved on to “real life” summers spent (perhaps regrettably) largely indoors. In fact, when I got hired at Nobles I was a day late to new faculty orientation because I needed to finish up my “summer job” coaching a swim team in the county championship meet.
During those nine summers, however, I learned to show up on time. I learned never to leave early and to bank on the fact that if it rained, I’d be scrubbing mildew off showers and toilets. I learned how to play a mean hand of Rummy 500, how to take a 10-minute power nap sitting up, and how to make a recorded meditation track sound like real thunder over the pool intercom. I learned how to budget a four-dollar daily lunch allowance, how to beat a pack of twelve year-olds at deep-end ‘shark’, and how to hold my breath for two minutes under water.
I learned that I could save gas money for the school year by riding my bike to work every day, and that $7.50 an hour is real money if you’re not supporting a family on it. I learned to respond to an emergency in a split second, to give CPR and to splint a broken bone. I learned to help an eighty-year-old with early stage Parkinson’s out of the water and how to negotiate a freezing three-year old back into her swim lesson. I learned patience with entitlement and how to hold the line with a bunch of kids my own age.
I learned to sweep a court, vacuum a deep end, tighten a lane line, and repair a broken lounge chair with whatever tools we had in the office. I learned that on my fair Irish complexion there’s no such thing as a “base tan”, and that Discovery Channel’s Shark Week may be the best week of the summer. I learned that hard-working and fair bosses tend to get the most out of their employees and that it’s always good to own up to your mistakes. I learned that if you work really, really hard you might get a bonus and an invitation to come back next year.
I made more money in my last summer as a swim coach than I made in my first year at Nobles (that’s actually the truth), and in hindsight I know that my nine year summer “career” is, at least in part, what led me to my life’s work. When my counselees share that they’re headed off to intern for a politician at the State House or to spend part of the summer working with underserved populations in far off places, I recognize that the ways in which they will grow and learn will be central to how they will see themselves now and in the future. And while I would have loved to have access to similar experiences when I was younger, I wouldn’t trade those nine summers for anything.