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The Benefits of a Summer Job

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When asked for a recommendation of whether students should work, I almost always answer "yes."

As school dismissal draws closer, many students begin to consider hunting for summer jobs. I am often asked by parents if I recommend that they support the notion of summer employment for their children. I almost always answer with a resounding "Yes." Much certainly depends upon the age of the students, the time spent on the job, and the task to be performed, but as a general rule, I believe students should begin exploring the world of work both at home and in other settings. Summer is the perfect time to do this.

Short term summer employment can offer your child many opportunities, some of which cannot be duplicated in a school setting. I know that I always encouraged my three boys to work during the summer months and they managed to still find time for summer camps, baseball teams and family vacations as well. They learned a great deal at summer jobs. The lessons they learned were applied at school and helped them to make life choices.

So what did they learn? Many things, but below are some of the most important.

Money-It isn’t difficult to earn for teenagers, but it takes commitment and perseverance to keep it coming in on a regular basis. Work is not the difficult thing. Getting up early in the morning, passing up fun and games with friends, and completing work tasks is the challenge. In addition, when students earn money, they begin to learn the value of the dollar, both in the sense of what it takes to earn money, but also how they choose to spend those earnings. It is a great learning opportunity.

People- Teachers and administrators may be pleasant to a student at school, but the world of work throws students into a mix of people that will teach them some valuable lessons, both good and bad. They will meet people who are friendly and helpful and others who treat them less than kindly. "Putting up" with the boss and fellow workers can be a challenge. However, it is a great learning opportunity. Learning to get along with people in a work situation is one of life’s great lessons.

Scheduling-Time seems both endless and fun-filled for students during the summer months. Working forces students to budget their time for their priority interests. If fishing or swimming is important, then that may take priority over a video game or watching television. Learning to prioritize time for what is important to a young person is a key skill.

Independence-The world of work helps students to develop a sense of independence. They have to stand on their own two feet and their effort and work speaks for them. Parents cannot intervene to assist in the work or the scheduling of duties. If the young worker feels uncomfortable or upset, it is up to them to take the matter up with the supervisor.

Future-More than anything else, discovering the world of work helps students to plan for future choices. All of us have heard stories from friends about their work experiences as a teenager. During my youth I worked as a box boy (now a grocery bagger), lawnmower jockey, painter, baby sitter, berry picker, gardener, wrestling coach, engineering aide, fish cutter, and dishwasher. I have weeded more gardens, dug more ditches, and helped more people move than I can count. I even put out fires at a rural garbage dump! I learned that all jobs require dedication to task and can be done poorly or well. However, regardless of the job, if it is done well, the person performing it deserves respect.

I have also learned there are jobs that I did not want to perform as a career. (Putting out fires at the dump and dodging the terrified rats fell off the list immediately!) That may be the single biggest learning. It focused my attention upon school and the work I needed to perform there, day in and day out. In short, it helped me to chart my work path.

We are proud of your children and what we teach them at school. We believe all of it will apply to their future. However, summer employment will also help them to learn many valuable skills that will serve them a lifetime. It is a different type of school that will make a difference in their lives.

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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