- Get Involved
- Education & Events
- Publications & Research
- About ACA
July 16, 2013
The fun doesn’t have to stop when it rains! If you’re looking for some ways to spend a rainy day at camp, try these activities out.
1. Marshmallow Tinkertoys and Towers
If there’s one food that you have in abundance at camp, it’s probably marshmallows! Put those to use on a rainy day by building a 3-D house, tepee, or even a marshmallow buddy with pretzel sticks and marshmallows. (Idea from www.parents.com/fun/activities/indoor/kids-indoor-games-activities/)
Or even better, build a S'more tower, like the picture to the right. (Great idea, Camp Howe!)
2. Board Games
Bust out your favorite board game. From Pictionary to Monopoly, board games a great way to get everyone involved on a rainy day. If you have a big group, set out a few different games and have campers split up and play their favorites.
Take some time to enjoy a good book. Camp is a great place to show kids that reading is fun — if you’re enthusiastic about reading for pleasure, your campers will be, too! Record your reading minutes for Scholastic’s Summer Challenge. Already this summer, kids around the U.S. and world have broken the summer reading world record!
4. Creative Greeting Cards
Put a spin on the typical letter from camp and have your campers get creative with stickers, glitter, magazine photos, and more to make a greeting card for mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, or friends at home. When the rain clears up, put them in the mail! (Idea from www.parents.com/fun/activities/indoor/kids-indoor-games-activities/)
5. Word Searches
You know you love ‘em! Find some great word searches you can print for free at Science Kids. Or get creative and make your own using words about your group or camp.
6. Indoor Bowling
Create your own indoor bowling lane. Make the pins by filling up 6–10 plastic water bottles with about an inch of sand or dirt. Clear out a lane on the floor and use a soccer ball (or whatever you have around) as the bowling ball. (Idea from http://chocolateonmycranium.blogspot.com/2008/02/homemade-bowling-pins.html)
Some nature-focused coloring pages that you can print for free:
8. Making a Collage
Use magazine cutouts and other craft materials to work on a collage. Let campers decide if they each want to make their own or if they want to work on one as a group. Try themes such as “All about Me” or “Our Favorite Things about Camp.”
9. Indoor Treasure Hunt
Have an indoor treasure hunt by hiding several small toys, books, or special snacks around the cabin, then give your campers clues or a map that leads to the treasure. (Idea from http://fun.familyeducation.com/play/35560.html#ixzz2ZDUjFJH3)
10. Slow-Motion Tag
Play a game of slow-motion tag indoors! Bonus points if you can communicate in slow motion, too! “Yooooouuuuurrrrrrr’eeeeee iiiiiittttt!!!!” (Idea from www.parents.com/fun/activities/indoor/kids-indoor-games-activities/)
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
July 10, 2013
“We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
—John Dewey, influential educational reformer
After a day on the ropes course or canoeing on the river, we ask our campers to reflect on what they learned about themselves, their skills, and their relationships. We know reflection is a powerful tool — but as leaders, are we using it ourselves?
Well, now’s a good time to check in!
How are you doing on your goals? What skills have you gained? What have you learned are your strengths, and what could you improve?
If you’re keeping a journal of what you’ve learned this summer, take some time to look back at what you’ve written and set some new goals or refine some old ones if you need to. If you haven’t logged the skills you’ve gained, take a moment today to reinforce your memory by writing about a time when you:
- Showed leadership acumen
- Were resourceful
- Taught something technical to beginners
- Encouraged positive group dynamics
What have you learned so far this summer? Share it in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Manzano Mountain Retreat, Manzano, New Mexico
July 2, 2013
As a camp counselor, you have a special bond with your campers. Maybe it’s because you teach them new games and songs, eat your meals together, and experience the thrills of camp as a team. And maybe it’s something more, too . . .
Michael Thompson, PhD, an author and psychologist, writes in “Why Camp Counselors Can Out-Parent Parents”:
Children love to learn, but they get tired of being taught by adults. Children want to learn from older children, and, at a camp that means older campers, CITs (counselors in training), and camp counselors. They want to live with them, emulate them, absorb them. In our age-segregated society, camp is the only place in America where an eleven-year-old can get the sustained attention of a nineteen-year-old.
So this summer, take advantage of the unique opportunity you have to support your campers’ development just by being the caring, fun, responsible leader that you are! You truly are a role model, and your campers love learning from YOU!
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
June 25, 2013
On the first day of camp, your main objective is to make your campers feel comfortable. But it’s also a great opportunity to make parents feel more comfortable about the camp experience, too!
In their absence, you will take on many of the responsibilities of a parent for your campers. So it’s important you present yourself as the warm, informed counselor you were hired to be! Here are some of our favorite tips:
Get yourself in the right mindset.
Most of you aren’t parents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t imagine how it feels to be dropping your child off at camp. In her Camping Magazine article, “Wow Your Campers’ Parents,” Audrey Monke describes an exercise from training expert Michael Brandwein:
Michael Brandwein . . . has an exercise called “A Letter for Learning” (2004). You are asked to pretend you are a parent sending your child to camp for the first time and write about your fears, hopes, and concerns. After discussion, there is a moving letter for you to read that Brandwein has composed. He really sums up how parents feel about sending their child to camp and the mixed emotions that are involved.
If your camp doesn’t do Brandwein’s exercise during training, you can do some of your own empathy training by doing the following:
- Spend a minute identifying an important child in your life (sibling, cousin, close friend).
- Think about how you would want him/her treated by his/her counselor.
- Think about what you would worry about.
Be polite and confident.
Shake the parents’ hands, greet your camper at his or her level, and tell them a little bit about yourself. Maintaining good eye contact and a friendly warmth will put campers and parents at ease. Learn the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the initial greeting (among many other ways to be a great counselor) with ACA’s bestselling “Camp Is for the Camper,” available in both online course and book formats.
Prepare for common questions and concerns.
Authors Karla Henderson, Kelly McFadden, and Deb Bialeschki researched what kinds of questions parents asked of camp counselors. The most common questions fell into five categories: staff qualifications and supervision, camper health and safety, technology and opportunities for communication with children, camper expectations and behaviors, and camp program logistics. Here are some questions to be prepared for:
- What is the camper-to-staff ratio?
- What happens if my child gets sick?
- Will my child have access to e-mail?
- How do you handle homesickness?
- How much time do campers spend outside?
(Read more in the Camping Magazine article, “What Parents Want to Know that Camp Counselors Should Know.”)
Remember, you were hired because your skills and personality make you a perfect fit for the job! By being yourself and keeping these tips in mind, you’ll make a great first impression on campers and their parents. Share your tips for making a fantastic first impression with parents below!
Photo courtesy of Tom Sawyer Camps, Altadena, California
June 19, 2013
Chances are you’ll encounter some camper behavior this summer that leaves you frustrated, confused, or worn out. But don’t worry — these tips will help you handle difficult camper behavior and keep everyone on track for a great experience!
Remember to follow any behavior management guidelines specific to your camp or your director’s preferences, and keep the following in mind:
- Give the camper one warning; make it clear that the behavior or action was inappropriate and undesirable.
- Give the camper a chance to explain; he or she may have a good reason for the behavior.
- Be consistent and impartial.
- Stay cool and calm; keep strong emotions in check.
- Avoid lecturing or embarrassing the camper; discipline in private if possible.
- Stress that the camper's behavior is the problem, not the camper's personality. Help the camper identify acceptable alternatives to the problem behavior.
- Once the disciplinary time is over, accept the camper as a part of the group again.
- Follow the camp behavior management policies for continuing discipline problems.
(From Behavior Management 101)
Camp experts have written extensively on managing camper behavior for Camping Magazine. Check out a few of the most recent articles:
- Behavior Plans at Camp — A Powerful Tool, by Bob Ditter
- Camper Behavior — Growth without Shame, by Bob Ditter
- Confessions of a Disciplinarian: How Managing Camper Behavior Can Save the Summer, by Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed
- Do You Want To . . . Hey, Look Over There! Strategies for Working with Children Who Have Attention Deficits, by Chris Thurber, PhD
- There Is a Reason! Understanding Challenging Behavior, by Scott Arizala
ACA also offers a recorded webinar on Managing Difficult Camper Behaviors, hosted by clinical counselor Susan Fee, MEd.
How do you handle difficult camper behavior? Share your tips and success stories in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Sugar Bay Holiday Resort, Zinkwazi, Nkwazi, South Africa
June 11, 2013
Making sure your campers are safe, healthy, and having fun all summer long is your main goal. To do that, you need to take care of yourself!
Here on the Counselor Blog, we want you to have the best resources for self-care . . . because camp is just that much more fun when you’re alert, ready, and in control.
Read up on these past blogs before camp starts, and make plans to be at your best!
“Stay Healthy at Camp!”
What you’ll learn about: eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep
What you’ll learn about: how much sleep you really need, tips for getting more rest
Did you notice how many of the posts mention the importance of getting enough sleep? That'd be ALL of them. So this summer, can you make sleep a top self-care priority?
Have fun and stay healthy!
Photo courtesy of Pali Adventures, Running Springs, California
June 4, 2013
When applying and interviewing for jobs, work experience plays a critical role. According to Forbes.com, 66% of employers believe interview performance and relevant work experience are the most important factors in their hiring decisions — far more significant than strong academic performance.
Employers want to know you can apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to the real world. So what can you do this summer to make sure you reinforce and highlight the skills that are most relevant to your desired career?
These skills are critical — and you’ll be using them all!
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has defined “Learning and Innovation Skills” — critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity — as requirements for job-seekers in the 21st century. As a camp counselor, you’ll be sharpening these skills all summer long. Here are just a few examples!
- Critical thinking: Assessing your campers' requests and skill levels when dividing them into teams. Reviewing equipment and weather conditions to accurately predict if it’s a safe day for your canoe trip. Testing several different morning hikes to see which is most enjoyable and gets campers to lunch on time.
- Communication: Meeting camper parents on the first day, anticipating their questions, and being ready to answer them. Explaining the rules of Gaga to your first-time campers. Clarifying any discrepancies in expectations for camper behavior. Listening to campers’ concerns.
- Collaboration: Working as a group to create a set of rules. Teaming up with your co-counselor to address a group problem. Compromising on healthy snacks that everyone enjoys while on the trail.
- Creativity: Finding alternative rainy-day activities that your group will enjoy. Writing and rehearsing a skit for the talent show. Planning ways to keep your activity sessions fun and fresh.
It’s important to remember these experiences as you revise your resume and speak with hiring managers. You might consider keeping a log of your skills during the summer as a reference for after the summer.
Take the initiative.
Developing the critical skills listed above will help you no matter what job you’re pursuing. But there can be many other opportunities at camp to hone skills that are specific to your future career. Going into journalism? Volunteer to work on or create the camp newsletter. Wanting to get into video production? Make a promo video for your camp starring your campers. Is teaching on your horizon? Keep notes of all your plans and outcomes for activities, skits, nature hikes, etc. Talk with your director or supervisor about opportunities to gain skills that interest you. They might have a great idea about a camp project for you to get involved in.
Your job as a camp counselor is not only fun, challenging, and fulfilling — it’s also a fast-paced crash course in real-world skills that will take you far. Remember to watch your progress and growth, and be proud of your accomplishments this summer!
Photo courtesy of River Way Ranch Camp, Sanger, California
May 28, 2013
Campers (especially first-timers) will be counting on you to make your group’s “getting to know each other” process fun and meaningful. As the group leader, it’s important for you to be prepared and enthusiastic about the upcoming camp session. Here are a few ice breaker activities to get your group’s friendships growing and dialogue flowing!
A Tangled Web
Gather your campers in a circle sitting around you. Hold a large ball of yarn. Start by telling your group something about yourself. Then roll the ball of yarn to a camper without letting go of the end of the yarn. The student who gets the ball of yarn tells his or her name and something good about himself or herself. Then the student rolls the yarn to somebody else, holding on to the strand of yarn. Soon your group has created a giant web. After everyone has spoken, you and your campers stand up, continuing to hold the yarn. Start a discussion of how this activity relates to the idea of teamwork — for example, your group needs to work together and not let others down. To drive home your point about teamwork, have one camper drop his or her strand of yarn, which will demonstrate how the web weakens if the group isn't working together.
Adapted from Education World
Before your campers arrive, write a series of “getting to know you” questions on slips of paper — one question per slip. Then fold up the slips and tuck each slip inside a different balloon. Blow up the balloons. Give each camper a balloon, and let campers take turns popping their balloons and answering the questions inside.
Adapted from Voxxi
Take As Much As You Want!
For this ice breaker, you need to have a roll of toilet paper on hand. Explain to your campers that they will need it for the next activity. Pass around the roll and invite campers to take as much as they want. After campers have had a good laugh over the amount of paper they took, explain how the game works. For every piece of toilet paper each camper took, he or she must tell the group one thing about him or herself. Some realize they took quite a bit of toilet paper, but with a little prompting and probing from you, they will find things to share. Consider having campers share what they are most looking forward to about camp when they get to their last piece.
Adapted from Education World
Tell your campers to imagine they’ve been exiled to a deserted island for a year. In addition to the essentials, they may take one piece of music, one book, and one luxury item they can carry (i.e. not a boat to leave the island!). Ask them what they would take and why. Give campers a couple minutes to think about their responses and then have them share them with the group.
Adapted from 40 Ice Breakers for Small Groups
All My Campers
Ask campers to form a shoulder-to-shoulder standing circle, and then have each person take a step back. Give each participant a place holder to set at their feet. The leader will begin in the center of the circle, but his or her task is to try and find a place on the outside of the circle and have someone else end up without a place. The leader will make a statement, for example, “All my campers who are wearing tennis shoes” or “All my campers who love to swim,” etc. If that statement applies to any campers in the group, they must come off their places and find another spot in the circle. Campers may not move immediately to their right or left and may not move off their space and return to it in the same round. When everyone has had a turn or two and you think campers have had enough, simply say, “OK, this is the last round.” Give a round of applause to the last camper who ends up in the center.
Watch an example of "All My Campers."
Photo courtesy of Camp Kamaji for Girls, Cass Lake, Minnesota
May 21, 2013
How much do you know about the typical kid in America?
Use this infographic to learn a little bit more about today's kids . . . and your campers! Familiarizing yourself with their realities, strengths, and challenges will help you connect from day one. (Viewed best in Chrome or Firefox.)
May 13, 2013
So you have your dream job this summer — working with a ton of kids, having fun, and staying active at camp!* How do you make sure that you get exactly what you want out of your summer at camp? We’ve already talked about what to expect. Setting goals before the summer can be helpful and make you more aware of your desired outcomes.
Get Clear on What You Want
Start by asking questions like this:
- How do I want my campers to feel at the end of their session?
- What would I want campers’ parents to be able to say about my counseling abilities?
- How do I want my coworkers and supervisors to feel about my counseling abilities?
- How do I want to feel at the end of the summer?
- What will allow me to do the best job I can?
Make SMART Goals
After you know what you want, make SMART goals toward getting there:
Examples of SMART goals:
- I want to “catch” each of my campers doing something good every day.
- I want to work with my campers to set 3–5 main ground rules of our camper group on the first day. (For help with this, read Stephen Maguire’s “The Cool Counselor: For the Right Reasons.”)
- I want to tell a coworker “thank you” for something each day.
Use these examples as a guide as you create goals specific to your job.
Keep a Record
As the summer progresses, it will be helpful to write your about your goals and how you are accomplishing them. That way, if you create a goal such as “Make sure all of my level-one swimmers are ready for level two by the end of the session,” you will remember the steps you took to achieve that goal — and the skills you gained. This notebook will serve as a reminder of your goals during the summer . . . AND afterward, when you are adding to your resume or portfolio.
If you have any other tips, share them in the comments below!
*Haven’t found your dream job yet? Post your resume or browse openings on ACA’s Summer Jobs at Camp site!
Photo courtesy of YMCA Camp Wabansi, Brussels, Wisconsin
February 18, 2013
So you’ve found your dream job this summer — you’re working at camp for the first time!* You’ll be spending your summer playing with kids, making a positive impact on their lives, having tons of fun, meeting new people, and making friends. But there are a few other very important things that you should expect from your job at camp.
The most essential aspect of your job this summer is safety. Make sure your campers are always wearing the right clothing/equipment for activities. Create an environment among your campers that values respect — make sure everyone feels emotionally safe. Take care of yourself (get proper sleep and nutrition) so that you remain alert and can make appropriate safety judgment calls at all times. Physical, mental, and emotional safety should be your main priority at all times.
Resources to help:
- The Role of Safety
- A Healthy Camp Depends on You: Six Things Staff Can Do to Have a Healthy Summer
- Wanton Words: Curbing Verbal Crudeness and Cruelty at Camp
- Excellence in Staff Training to Reduce Bullying
- Risk Management: A Letter to Camp Staff
You Are the Example
This summer, as a staff member, your campers will look to you for guidance and leadership. It’s important to give campers structure (establish expectations at the beginning of camp), make sure your campers know that you are in charge and are comfortable in that role, and be able to communicate with campers effectively. You will be leading by example, so it’s extremely important to know the profound impact your actions, habits, and words have on your campers.
Resources to help:
- On the Care and Feeding of Adolescents at Camp (working with teens)
- The Seven Absolutes of Camp Counseling
- Four Simple Words to Better Communication
- Will I Be Enough to Make a Difference?
Games Are More Than Just Fun
Playing games with your campers is not only fun, but beneficial! Ice-breaker games on the first few days of camp can help campers adjust to one another and become friends. Playing games with your campers on the spot can make for better transition times (think of how much easier those extra five or fifteen minutes before lunch will be if your campers are occupied). And observing your campers while they play games with each other allows you to notice and give positive reinforcement for things like: good sportsmanship, including everyone, playing by the rules, and good communication, just to name a few.
Resources to help:
- Configure the Ideal Smartphone: "Apps" for Camp Staff to Download and Install
- Essential Staff Training Activities (staff training activities you can use with campers, too)
- The Right Activities for the Right Moments
- Staff Training: What Do You Expect?
Find more information about these topics and more in ACA’s Knowledge Center. Not your first summer at camp? Tell us what else someone might expect from their first summer working at camp!
*If you haven’t found your dream job yet, post your resume on ACA’s Summer Jobs at Camp site to help employers find you!
Photo courtesy of Camp Howe, Goshen, Massachusetts
February 7, 2013
This week's post is a guest blog from Laura Dallas McSorley, a member of one of ACA's educational allies, Teach For America.
Camp Glisson was the most wonderful place I had been as a kid — almost magical. I had been to other day camps and even overnight camps, but nothing was like the first time I stepped onto the grounds of Glisson — beautifully nestled in the North Georgia mountains around a large waterfall, with an old wooden chapel. I went every summer, as did my siblings, and even my parents as a nurse or the minister for a week. (Glisson is a United Methodist camp.) When I was old enough, I was finally a counselor, getting to fulfill a long-held dream. Most of my co-counselors were passionate about Glisson's central mission: ministry to children. Many went on to go to divinity school or teach school.
I, however, couldn't imagine myself in the classroom or in a church. Instead, I spent the next several summers dedicated to various social justice causes that pulled me away from camp — homelessness prevention and housing reform, advocacy on my college campus. And as I began to dig deeper, exploring not just the effects but the root causes of the social injustices I saw around me, I found Teach For America (TFA). After graduation, I headed to Washington, DC, to teach in a Head Start classroom with TFA’s first cohort of early childhood educators. I spent the next five years teaching pre-K in the city.
At camp, the culture we built in our “living groups” was so powerful that campers and counselors were often crying at the end of the week when it was time to say goodbye. We often said at those times that, while we felt like we were returning to the “real” world, in many ways camp was more real. Camp and the communities we built offered a glimpse at what a “beloved community” could be, in the way God intended us to dwell in the world.
I thought about this often when thinking about how to build a safe, supportive, and nurturing environment for all my students, regardless of what might be happening outside our classroom or school. Of course, I worked intentionally to have strong relationships with families, including home visits, and to incorporate students' home lives and cultures — through pictures of their families, favorite books, memories of neighborhood walks, and community reading materials. Just like at camp, I tried to make my classroom a microcosm of the real place we want the entire world to be — one where we are free to explore the “outside” world with fresh eyes and discover new information about ourselves we can translate at home. For my three- and four-year-old students, this might mean being more independent in their routines or exploring and describing an array of animals that live in the ocean.
One of my dear friends and co-counselors, Rob, and I were known for singing — all the time — with our youngest campers. Not just at the designated chapels or special “singing on the porch” activities, but literally walking from lunch to the pool . . . and everywhere. Years later, this became my persona as a teacher as well — but with a different purpose. I wanted to use all my teaching time with students in developmentally appropriate ways as strategically as possible — making every moment count toward the ambitious goals we were working toward together. While we rhymed our way through “Willaby Wallaby,” counted down with understanding from ‘Five Little Monkeys,” or explored complicated new vocabulary like “Dreidel,” this brought joy and perhaps again a bit of notoriety to our neighborhood walks — just as I had enjoyed at camp — but also rigorous mastery for our students on key skills to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
I want all kids to have the chance to feel a part of a loving community as I did each summer at camp, just as I want all children to have an excellent start from their very first formal experience in early childhood through the rest of the school experience. I loved being a camp counselor, as you likely do, too. Now imagine you are getting to expand your impact to not just a few weeks, but to a year or more with a student and their family. As a teacher, you'll get build daily the “real” world we want all students to have. What could be better?
Laura Dallas McSorley was a 2006 D.C. corps member with Teach For America. She currently serves as Managing Director of Teach For America’s Early Childhood Education Initiative. Don’t forget to apply to Teach For America by the final deadline — Friday, February 15th. APPLY NOW
Photo courtesy of Lutherhill Ministries, La Grange, Texas
January 28, 2013
Want to know what it takes to have a career in camp? Take advantage of ACA’s upcoming Student Camp Leadership Academy (SCLA) — Texoma opportunity:
- Begins: Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.
- Ends: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at noon
- Location: YMCA Camp Carter in Fort Worth, Texas
SCLA — Texoma brings students together with camp professionals to take an in-depth look at options for a profession in the camp field. It also helps students build skills to prepare for a career in camp. For more information about SCLA and its history, read Student Camp Leadership Academy: Developing the Next Generation of Camp Professionals.
After successful completion of the SCLA experience, all students will receive an ACA SCLA certificate. Learn more about outcomes of SCLA.
Registration fee: $135 program fee and board per person
For more information and to register, contact Tim Huchton at thuchton@ACAcamps.org, or 765-349-3539 by February 5, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Camp Aranzazu, Rockport, Texas
December 7, 2012
Camp is place to make new friends (or meet up with old ones!), learn how to be a leader, and hone your skills to help kids have fun and grow.
ACA’s 2013 ACA National Conference gives you the chance to do all that, too!
Network with peers and experts, attend great keynote lectures, and workshop your skills in a wide variety of educational sessions. And, as always, Student Members of ACA attend conference FREE. (Check out the registration page for details.)
Join us in Dallas, February 12–15, 2013! Visit the conference homepage to find more about the keynote speakers, educational sessions, and schedule — plus special events and pre-conference gatherings.
Not a member? First-timers can join ACA for free.
October 25, 2012
Guest post by Sarah Andes, a 2009 Mississippi Delta corps member, Teach for America
Summer camp is about discovery. New sports and hobbies. New friends and loves. New tans (at least if you’re in Texas). New songs. New independence. It’s all about creating and experiencing a community in which kids are free to explore and grow.
That’s why I loved Greene Family Camp at the time. I knew it as “fun.” Looking back on my experiences as a camper, counselor, and administrator, I now value camp for the unintended byproducts of those “fun” summers. I developed a set of values and beliefs at camp that have grounded the choices that I’ve made and the attitudes with which I have made them ever since.
Several years after my last summer at Greene, I once again packed up my belongings and loaded the car, but this time I was headed down a new path: east to the fertile farmland of the Mississippi Delta to begin my journey as a 2009 Teach for America corps member.
My approach toward teaching Algebra 1 at Williams-Sullivan High School, beyond the state standards and the lesson plan templates and the learned pedagogies, stemmed from the wise words of my brilliant camp director, Loui. He constantly impressed upon us the understanding that, to their parents, each of our campers was the most important child in the world. Each camper deserved our unceasing respect, attention, and care, and this philosophy guided me in cultivating an empowering community within my own classroom.
Loui urged us to “talk independently with each camper every day.” And as a teacher, I greeted my students at the door and checked in one-on-one as I collected their homework and they worked on the first activity of the day.
An administrator implored me to “say yes if you can.” And as a teacher, I worked to create a student-centered culture in which I facilitated students’ learning by validating what they knew (“yes!”) and pushing them to think more deeply and to apply new knowledge.
And my favorite, Loui’s mantra: “enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.” As a teacher, I continued to make a fool of myself as I had years before. I sang math songs and made horrible jokes. I incorporated kinesthetic workouts and taught students algebra Taboo. I knew that I was the leader who had the power to make my classroom a joyful and exciting place to learn.
Being a good teacher is not being a good counselor. Your goal is not for your students to have a good time. Your students might not always want to be there. You are working within, rather than removed from, the pressures of your and your students’ day-to-day lives. But it is this challenge that drives me to continue working in schools and with students. The stresses may be new, but as I tackle them I can draw upon the experiences of my youth to frame my vision for the future. Education, too, is about discovery, and it’s my job to make sure all students, like all campers, are able to explore and grow. That’s a lesson I learned around the campfire a long time ago.
American Camp Association is proud to partner with Teach For America. APPLY NOW to the 2013 Teach For America corps! Next application deadline: Friday November 2, 2012. If you’re interested in learning more, find out who we look for and learn about your potential to change lives.
Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps, Estes Park, Colorado