Catch Your Seven Summer Lessons Before You Forget Them All in the Fall
By Haben Girma
Before you start a whole new year of learning, take a moment to appreciate this summer’s lessons. During the summer did you feel joy, fear, sadness, or excitement? Ask yourself why you felt that way. Ask yourself what those summer experiences teach you about yourself. Carry those lessons with you into the fall to help you develop your strengths, address your challenges, and strive for your dreams.
Here is my own list of seven summer lessons to help get you started. Pausing to reflect on the lessons each new experience offered has benefited me tremendously throughout my journey. You, too, can catch your summer lessons to prepare you for the fall and beyond.
- My very first job felt so much fun because it involved both Harry Potter and braille! I worked as a reading tutor for a middle school student who needed help improving his braille reading skills. I prepared lessons that involved lots of Harry Potter, which he loved.
Lesson #1: Yes, you can earn money while having fun!
- I worked as a camp counselor for wonderful campers, at a beautiful camp site, with co-workers who constantly expressed the belief that blind people can’t be trusted. Sometimes it was subtle, sometimes it was direct. After trying and failing to change their negative attitudes, I eventually decided to leave. The good news is that this camp’s culture has changed since then.
Lesson #2: You choose the obstacles to overcome, and sometimes some obstacles aren’t worth your energy.
- After working as a tour guide in Alaska for just an hour, a manager pulled me aside. We’re so sorry, she said. While your application impressed us, hiring you was a mistake. The hiring process was supposed to favor Alaskan residents, and unfortunately we messed up, overlooked lots of qualified Alaskans, and hired you, a Californian. A Californian, oh no! Fixing this calamity meant letting me go.
Lesson #3: The weather in Alaska is not the only thing up there that feels really, really cold.
- One summer I served as an assistant for an elementary school, helping to organize field trips, board games, and other fun activities. I liked the kids and the kids liked me. Well, there was this one difficult seven-year-old boy. He approached me one day adamant that he could prove, once and for all, that he was smarter than me. He pulled out the all-powerful Connect Four set and challenged me to a match. That’s right, the classic board game Connect Four. Masking my amusement, I calmly won the first game. And the second. And the third. “Do you want to do something else now?” I asked.
“No! You just got lucky. I’m going to beat you this time.” He slammed the Connect Four slider and several dozen chips spilled out of their slots. He wanted a new round.
Some of you are thinking, “Just pretend to lose. Give the kid some slack!” But we want to teach kids to play fair, right? Equal treatment for all? Besides, losing would likely contribute to his conviction that I wasn’t worthy of his respect. I needed to work effectively with that student throughout the summer, and earning his respect happened to involve playing one of my favorite games. How often do you get to completely change a person’s perspective through playing a favorite game???
I proceeded to win twelve times.
Lesson #4: Play lots and lots of games when you’re a kid. Those skills come in very handy when you start adulthooding.
- During my second summer of college I worked as a receptionist at a small gym. My fantastic manager gave me a detailed tour of the gym and worked with me to develop systems for doing all of the main tasks. I would unlock the gym in the morning, make sure all the equipment was in the right place, and answer customers’ questions. One day a customer couldn’t start up one of the treadmills. Uh oh, I thought, I don’t know anything about fixing treadmills! Carefully exploring the treadmill with my hands, I found a hidden switch the customer had missed. She was impressed. Honestly, I was impressed, too.
Lesson #5: You can work in any field you want if you’re with people who value inclusion.
- Working as an editor for a novelist, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the author’s work and giving him feedback on his characters, plot, and other elements. We worked together just for a summer since my time diminished once the semester started.
Lesson #6: Writing with a team can be more fun than writing alone.
- After my first year of law school I interned at the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education. The team was absolutely wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed working there.
Lesson #7: Bringing in cupcakes every week to celebrate birthdays, half-birthdays, and unbirthdays helps build community.
Before this summer gets away from you take the time to think about a lesson you’ve learned. If you want to feel particularly prepared for the fall, challenge yourself to think of not just one but seven summer lessons. Share your insights on social media with the hashtag #SevenSummerLessons or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.