In March I went on my first official business trip to the American Camp Association Tri-State conference. It was low-key one of the highlights of my young life.
To say I’m nervous about being the assistant camp director this summer is an understatement. It took me months to even apply for the job.
After the conference, I felt so much better. I can (almost) say I feel prepared for the summer. At the very least, I have a plethora of new ideas with a game plan on how to shape those ideas into action.
Most of the panels I went to talked about the importance of communication and how to be a good communicator. Communication at camp is something that can always be improved upon, and as a unit leader last summer there were definitely times where I was frustrated with either the lack of communication or the way things were communicated (not to say everything was like that!).
Part of my role this year will rely heavily on communicating with other staff members and offering feedback and evaluating their job performance. A little fun fact about me: I am obsessed with evaluations. That probably spans from my creative writing critique experiences and how much I love receiving and giving feedback in writing groups, but that has also seeped into other various aspects of my life as well.
Another big idea that came up a lot is creating a positive culture at camp. Keeping campers and staff positive is so important for me, partially because I tend to think of myself as not an optimistic person. I went to a panel that gave me some great ideas on how to work on creating a positive community with the staff during pre-camp and I am so excited to try out some of the ideas!
Lastly, I went to a panel on managing camper behavior and it was seriously so enlightening and humbling. Before that talk I always thought about how inadequate I was as a counselor when dealing with a difficult kid because I didn’t feel like I was changing their behavior. The speaker was a child pyschologist and his exact quote was when addressing this exact concept to the audience was: “How narcissistic are you to assume that you can change years of a child’s behavior in just a number of days?” He said it with a laugh and immediately a lightbulb went off in my head.
My boss and I recently talked about how there’s no such thing as a “returning camper” because we see girls for a week or two out of a whole year. That’s fifty weeks they have to change and grow. We don’t know them at all when they come back to camp.
In two days I’ll be driving through the gates of my camp, probably shrieking with embarrassing excitement. I’m looking back through the pages of notes I took at the ACA Conference and trying to remember these three big ideas that will hopefully carry through at least for the first few weeks until I get my footing.
Any advice for moving forward in a new job, or any advice for working at a summer camp?