August 10, 2014
As the summer goes on, I find myself lacking insight.
I have had a chance to comment on so much of camp over the past 8-9 weeks and I fight the urge to become redundant. I realize that few of you read anything I wrote previously, but I still strive to provide fresh thoughts into life as a camp director.
Lacking a clear inspiration, I decided to answer this question – what are the best parts of being a camp director?
My friends from school often ask this question and are a bit surprised at the answer. I think they assume that I will saw I love the active life and the waterskiing. Or maybe they expect me to comment on the silliness of camp life.
Instead, I share my two great joys: watching campers grow and seeing counselors shine.
Because camp is such an unusual environment, it facilitates a lot of growth in a short period of time. We grow most when we are out of our comfort zones and when confronted with unusual challenges. Camp does both. Campers leave the familiarity of home, parents, pets, siblings, TV, school and “normal life” for something entirely different. They are no longer in bedrooms by themselves or with just one sibling, but now have 9-13 cabinmates. The activities are novel and exciting, but they are also often challenging. The schedule is new and the location unfamiliar. Even the language is odd. They will hear about the “Fillin’ Station” (dining hall), the Parthenon (the boys’ gym), Acropolis (the girls’ office), the Ill Eagle’s Nest (the health center) and Home Plate (the main office).
All of this throws even the most confident child into a little disarray. But from this disarray, growth follows. Once the camper understands the lingo, knows the schedule, makes friends, bonds with counselors and conquers a few activities, he or she beams with a new confidence. The fact that parents are not around only makes these victories sweeter and more significant – they belong solely to the camper.
Growth starts in these moments, but it continues every day. As campers resolve conflicts with friends, they hone interpersonal skills. As they reach out to others, they become more selfless and also more optimistic. Overcoming a fear of heights (or boats or bugs or anything else) fosters confidence in the ability to navigate future challenges.
I see the growth continuing every year. In fact, the high school years (our Senior Camper program) might be host the most opportunities for growth as the Senior Campers learn to lead, work as a team and serve something other than themselves. This group is also fun to work with because they are cognitively capable of articulating their growth.
I simply love watching campers develop competence and confidence.
My second joy is the opportunity to work with the young people who are part of our team. We often hear that this generation of teens and college-aged students are self-absorbed with a weak work ethic. While this might be the case in the aggregate, I see something completely different here.
I see passion and complete commitment. Our counselors work 16+ hour days, 7 days a week. They get one full day off every 3 weeks. During the week, they will get 3 evenings off and 2 lunches off. If my math is correct, that ends up being around 90 hours “on”. By the way, this does not include anytime they might need to wake up in the middle of the night to help a camper.
They put in these hours while in close quarters without the traditional comforts of technology, like computers, TV, AC or their phones.
Yet they do so because they have a sense of purpose and mission. They want to impact their campers in powerful, positive and (the hopefully) lastly ways. They are engaged, optimistic and fun.
Our Leadership Team of 27 is the cream of this already great crop. They have all been honor counselors in the past and are now working as supervisors and mentors. Susie Ma’am and I meet with each morning to discuss the day and any triumphs or challenges that we are facing. Even when tired, their default approach is “what does the team need me to do?”
At the top of this team is our directors and full timers: Leah Ma’am (the girls’ director), Craw Ma’am (Leah’s assistant), Erec Sir (the boy’s director), George Sir (Erec’s assistant), Kirksey Sir and Robbie Sir (the activity directors) and Moak Sir (the associate director). Between the 9 of us, we have over 120 summers of camp experience. But what really excites me about this group is the fact that they are both committed and fun. They make us feel young and they keep us excited to attach each day.
With all of this in mind, I find myself having mixed thoughts about the next two weeks. I am SO excited about the campers here, but I am somewhat ruing the end of the camp season.
So – consider yourselves warned. I might get a little sentimental during the last week.