I’ve learned so so much this summer. I worked at a summer camp for two summers before this one, but the structure was completely different. Previously, I had 11 first grade boys in my group with myself as the senior counselor and 4 other junior counselors. We followed a weekly schedule and brought our group to each pre-assigned activity (i.e. Nature, Music, Art, Drama, Cooking, Swim, etc.). Each activity also had its own teacher, so my job was really to oversee behavior and safety for my 11 boys.
This year, I’m a supervisor at a camp that is run very differently. We have six counselors (me and my co-supervisor plus four other counselors) to oversee 40 kids. The six of us not only watch out for the safety of the kids but we also plan the days completely and facilitate everything that happens. I didn’t realize how easy I had it when I was just able to bring my 11 boys to music class and sit with them in a circle while someone else facilitated that block of time. It’s just crazy to me how in charge we really are, we do everything from first-aid (at my old camp we had a camp nurse!) to managing all behavior problems, both big and small. With camp running from 7am-6pm everyday (and with the counselors coming in staggered 8-hour shifts), our schedule mainly looks like this:
Morning free time
We also have two pool days a week and we watch a movie every Friday.
I have learned SOO much this summer. Near the beginning of camp, I was given lots of advice by lots of different people. Two things I remember hearing were that I was to present my expectations of my campers to my campers and to be stricter in the beginning. I certainly knew that I had heard these things before and that they made sense, but it really took the hands-on experience of this summer to SHOW me that these things are true. As for being stricter in the beginning, I really feel that I had a good grasp on that throughout the summer. The campers all respond well to me and I have a great balance of tough/kind (in my own opinion at least!) I appreciate that they do listen to me (because I have seen them completely disobey some of my co-counselors) and I also appreciate the fact that they still feel that they can play with me and give me hugs and have a good relationship too. I honestly can’t look back at my behavior and pinpoint just how I created this balance (with this group of kids at least), but I am glad that this worked out so well for me this summer.
As for presenting expectations, this is something that I didn’t really understand the need for at the beginning of the summer. A few weeks ago though, as I was looking at the craft table that looked like a tornado had just ransacked it for the 20th time, I realized the need for explicitly stating at the beginning of the year that THIS is how the craft area should look. On that day, I cleaned everything up and put it all in a specific place. The next day, I presented the table to the campers and explained where each supply was kept and that the table should always be cleaned up to look like it did right then. Since that day, I have not had to clean up the craft table and I was very happy to see how effective this was. (I’m sure that things won’t always be this easy, but I’m glad that sometimes they are!) I also implemented a policy (after consulting all of my co-counselors), that stated that if a toy was not put away properly when it should have been cleaned up, it would be taken and kept behind the counselor table for one week. We only had to clean up/take away a few toys before I could see this policy working as well.
Although these aren’t huge things, they are things that I want to remember learning. This whole summer has been such an awesome learning experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to get so much out of my job. As I told my mom the other day, as long as the campers are having fun and staying safe, anything that my co-supervisor and I learn through trial and error only benefits us all as we learn to be better teachers in the future.