Many years ago I changed jobs, or I should say I quit a job without having a procured a new job . I found during those days, right after I stopped reporting to work, I had a lot of time to waste. Luckily, it was summer and the weather was beautiful. After a few days I could see that this was going to be a great time for me – nothing to do but wake up and go to the beach, find a friend with whom I could debate the realities of early manhood, and pose thoughtful questions about what the future might hold. It was beautiful and I was young – and very naive.
Soon, the beauty of being unengaged in any meaningful activity began to be a curse. I noticed that all of my friends were working, thus I often was alone. I found the summer activities I loved just a short time ago had become too routine and stopped providing the return I enjoyed just a couple of weeks earlier. I found myself wondering what my future would be like if I stayed like this, unengaged in meaningful work, shallow and alone. This wasted time eventually proved beneficial to me. I learned never to waste the time you have to waste. That lesson has paid some dividends over the years, and I think it may be a good one to reflect on when planning the summer for a certain student you might know.
Summer can be a valuable time for kids in many respects. I think the regular respite from the grind of school should be provided to all of the kids, but I also think that expectations for wise use of time should exist too. It could be that summer provides time for strengthening some academic skills that caused a problem during the year. It could be that some routine tasks around the house be assigned differently in accommodation of the time available. It might mean the expectations from parents be refreshed on a regular basis; from cutting the grass to cleaning an old closet, washing the cars, taking care of pets, helping neighbors who could use a hand and finding a meaningful way to volunteer in the community. There are plenty of ways to get kids engaged in meaningful activities this summer.
Next fall when all the kids return to school, teachers and administrators will be out in the front of the school asking students how their summer went. I hope they don’t hear the usual chorus of “I Dunno” and “Boring!” That would send the message that the child wasted a summer. Instead let the teachers hear a chorus of things that were done – fun things, meaningful things, difficult things, individual and group things. It is always so sad to me when I hear that a child has wasted time they could have directed at better enterprises. Jefferson said that the “productivity of an adult is shaped in the industry of youth.” I agree with that. Have a great summer, and keep a close eye on how much time is being wasted.
~Ed Holler, EdD, EES Consultant