Enjoying the unexpected

By Mary Rose Fissinger

Millions of songs have been written about the joyous days of summer. Come the start of June, commercials, stores, or perhaps even your own iPods constantly blare the occasionally sub-par instrumentals but entirely fitting vocals of songs like Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Nat King Cole’s “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.”

However, these songs harken back to the summers of old, at least for the majority of my peers and me. Summer is no longer about relaxing and unwinding after a grueling nine months of all-nighters, double period calculus tests, impossibly long layout weekends, and hours upon hours of unrelenting cross country and track practices ( I may still be a little jaded from junior year…). Now, the summer months are stuffed full of jobs, internships, fall sports practices, summer classes, far-away programs and camps. The knowledge that college applications are not only made up of grades and extracurriculars during the academic school year, but also your activities during the summer leads to not-so-relaxing vacations for many students.

I believe that my summers have become much more memorable and fulfilling ever since I started filling them with structured activities. For example, this year my summer consisted of early morning cross country practices four times a week and a four week stint teaching sixth through eighth graders math at my elementary school, a gig I would not have traded for the world and one that may even have impact on my future goals.

The plain truth of the matter is that most people end up really enjoying what they fill their summers with.

I don’t want to suggest that, were it not for college applications, students would be entirely unproductive all summer.

But let’s face it: Harvard-Westlake is a pretty demanding place. So it’s natural that when summer rolls around, we want to revel in the leisure of waking up later than 6:30 each morning and not having to constantly go over the checklist in our minds of assignments and when they’re due.

Most of us still get a week or so of these luxuries. But then it’s more early mornings, responsibilities, and long days. I, for one, can’t complain. Doing nothing all summer can get boring; it’s nice to be productive. And nothing says productive quite like running nine miles at seven in the morning, especially when it’s followed by explaining the concept of sales tax to a seventh grader.

I had spent the entire month trying to get the kids excited about math, which turned out to be quite the challenge since practically 100 percent of the students were there only by decree of their parents.

They’d enjoyed the casual, fun atmosphere of the class but drudged through the actual work. On that final Wednesday, after several examples of factoring polynomials, one of the girls in the front row lit up. “Wow,” she said. “I get it! That’s really cool.”

I was very pleased that she finally understood what I meant when I said “math is cool.”

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Wow, this girl is a huge nerd,” you are entirely correct. The fact that I was able to communicate some of my love for learning to one of my students was by far the most rewarding moment of my summer.