Summer Camp (is like no other camp!)
WHAT WAS I to have expected of Summer Camp? I had never been to a summer camp as a camper. What made it so different to the regular Spring camp groups I had been working with for the last four months? What made Summer Camp so special anyway?
The only things I can remember expecting in particular were the things that my seasoned colleagues had told me about Summer Camp.
Instead of a series of three-day school groups from specific year groups; of which Jubilee could administer up to three school groups at once, up to 130 kids from ages 7 right through to 17 descend on the camp for seven days apiece. The kids are divided into their different age brackets (7-9, 10-12, 13-16, 16-18 aka Counsellor in Training) and genders into cabins of up to ten kids.
For us, the camp Counsellors, we are put with a specific age group to work with and then a cabin group (i.e. the group of up to 10 kids). We then do everything about camp with them.
SO JUST what is everything about camp?
Let me give you the breakdown. To make it easier to explain everything that we do as a counsellor, we have a motto as part of our staff training:
Be with kids, talk with kids, play with kids.
BE: Not just your physical presence. They say the modern counsellor is a mix-mash of a parent, an outdoor activities instructor and a child: bringing together the skills, maturity and youthful expression that one needs to be the heart and soul of such an active and enervating summer camp such as Jubilee.
To be with the kids is to be with them in a cabin, lay down the cabin rules and ensure hygiene is being maintained, that the cabin is kept in a cleanly state, that the kids are having fun and not having a go at each other and that the kids are actually going to sleep. Essentially, it’s being present as a parent away from home; being present but also with a presence.
Then there’s meal times. Yes, you have to be a parent then too.
TALK: Communicating with the kids at their level is another important element of the job. It’s all well and good to be there for them – but you also have to engage them in a way that they will understand and respond well to (and won’t go on with a litany of questions about what you were trying to get across). Also having the patience to answer innumerable questions (most of which are the same, coming from different kids) as simple as what the time is, where an activity is, what they are doing now and if the stick they found is big enough to cook a marshmallow.
PLAY: Here’s the fun part. To play with kids is to have fun with the kids and engage in the activities so that the kids will enjoy their time and (hopefully) never forget their experience being with you as a counsellor for the seven days that they did. Even something as simple but rewarding as putting your dessert on the line for the first bullseye at archery can create an everlasting memory, or even an amazing performance of ‘The Moose Song’ at campfire on opening night.
In a nutshell, that’s our roles as camp counsellors.
So how did my first two sessions go?
I spent my first session with a group of 12-13 year old boys who were on a mentorship program with the local Rotary organisation. These boys were superb! I considered myself to be very lucky to have such an active yet disciplined group. These boys had so much that on the last night, and I kid you not, there were more than a few tears shed.
I thought that after having the pleasure of being with such a well behaved bunch of kids that the next session would surely be a reversal of fortune.
But such was not the case.
In my next session I worked with both 7-9 year old boys and girls, and while they did not have the same level of discipline as the mentorship boys did, they gave me more attention than I previously thought girls and boys of their age could hold to me – so long as there was an activity happening and fun was to be had.
And after two sessions, I had only had the humiliation of a docking twice (that’s a good thing!).
With two successful sessions which were most enjoyable for both my kids and myself under my belt, I feel like this summer camp might just fly right by. Two down, six to go. Now halfway through session three with another great group of kids, I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world.
So the rest of summer camp…bring it on!!