Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

March 2016

Nobles Parents' Newsletter March 2016

"The Value of a Summer School of Hard and Helpful Knocks" by Head of Upper School Michael Denning

Presidents’ Day Weekend has come and gone. With each passing day, we gain precious minutes of natural light, and the “mad dash to spring break” has entered our collective consciences and classrooms. I love this time of year. Although feelings of exhaustion and crankiness stemming from the winter quarter’s challenges and weather rear their heads from time to time, more prevalent is a sense of excitement about fun upcoming events: the opening of The Sound of Music; big end-of-season games (especially those against Milton); New England Championship tournaments; the annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament; the Chamber Music Concert and Fringe Fest; and spring-break plans. Shattuck Schoolhouse is abuzz with positive energy and witnessing this never grows old.

I also relish this season’s spirit of renewal. Just last week, the course-registration process began, offering returning students the chance to consider great opportunities available for the next academic year. This perennial process is also a reminder that the school year will soon enter its final quarter and that summer break will be here before we know it. Indeed, while considering courses for next year, students and parents also need to begin to finalize plans for the summer months spent away from Nobles.

There are a number of worthwhile ways to spend the summer. Some individuals— accomplished student-athletes, musicians, studio artists and thespians, for examples—will take time to immerse themselves more fully in endeavors to which they have devoted a great deal of time during the academic year. However, if your son or daughter has not yet discovered an academic or co-curricular passion to which he/she wishes (or should) devote two to three months of intensive study—and this is a large number of Nobles students—then I invite you to consider the benefits of a summer job, one of the greatest learning experiences available to high school students. What follows are a few ideas to consider:

  • Bosses, Managers and Supervisors can be great teachers: Teachers offer feedback on student performance, often through grades and comments. So, in one sense, a teacher can emulate the role of an employer. Nevertheless, inasmuch as a teacher offers critical feedback, he/she has the luxury of being—and, frankly, the responsibility to be—very invested in an individual student’s growth, improvement and success. Many supervisors and bosses, however, don’t have or want that luxury. For most supervisors, there is a bottom line, a service to customers that must be rendered and organizational objectives to be reached. If the employee does not contribute sufficiently to these, they may, regardless of how the manager may feel about them, be let go. I suspect that it was with this reality in mind that renowned Wellesley High School teacher, David McCullough, delivered his famous graduation address, “You are Not Special and Other Encouragements” (which he later turned into a bestselling book by that same title).                                                                                                                       
    At Nobles, our kids develop confidence from our reminders of how special they are, but spending time around supervisors who suggest they are not so special may be edifying and helpful. If you think low grades and academic warnings inspire reflection, you should be present when a student tells me what they learned from dealing with a challenging boss or from being fired from a summer job.
  • Co-workers can be great teachers, too: Co-workers can offer students a more expansive, sophisticated and mature understanding of the world(s) in which they live. Throughout a student’s years at Nobles, we endeavor to give him/her opportunities to work with and know people from backgrounds different from their own, believing that exposure to economic, cultural, political, religious and ethnic differences develops confidence, humility, cultural understanding and an appreciation of the value of diversity. Summer jobs can offer not only all of these opportunities, but also cross-cultural and intergenerational endeavors that are uniquely eye-opening and empowering.
  • The Value of Hard-earned Money: If you link your child’s summer earnings to his/her spending allowance for the 2016-2017 school year, the impact on their maturation could be immense. Consider what your son/daughter might learn if you made him/her responsible for much or all of his/her recreational spending money for next year? Would he/she begin (or continue to learn) to understand how to plan, prioritize, save and live on a budget? Would their decision-making process with regards to spending and chitting change in a positive way?
  • College Admissions Deans love reading about paid summer jobs because they know most summer jobs are environments in which students have had to stand on their own two feet and deliver. 
  • The Positive Relationship between Confidence, Satisfaction and Responsibility: Students are crucial to the successes of Nobles’ classes. However, with few exceptions, no academic class’ success is dependent upon any one student. Implicitly, students know that if they are absent, they will be missed but their classes will go on (and probably be successful). Moreover, they also know that when they compete for teams, perform with ensembles, serve on a tech crew, write and edit The Nobleman or Calliope or immerse themselves in a project in the service of others, they are essential to, and thus responsible for, their endeavor’s successes and failures. In many respects, this is the essential value of experiential education.

    This feeling of responsibility is felt just as strongly by those who experience a good summer job. I know this from the hundreds of conversations I have had with students—and the many thousands of college essays I have read—about the powerful confidence-building experiences that summer jobs have been. Whether they are serving as camp counselors, flipping burgers, bagging groceries or waiting tables, our students love to add value and feel great satisfaction when they are able to positively impact an organization and/or customer’s experience.

I could go on and on about the valuable skills and attitudes one can learn on a summer job, and the opportunities some provide for students to apply and practice the analytical skills they develop during the school year, but I have gone on for too long already. So I will conclude with one final thought. Over the course of the past three decades, we have endeavored to develop significant opportunities for experiential education, believing that it “is through Experiential and Community-Engaged Learning (EXCEL) that Nobles develops citizenship, collaboration, empathy, resilience, appropriate risk-taking and character.” There is perhaps no better complement to Nobles’ EXCEL programs than a challenging summer job.

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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at