Finally, we close our trilogy of camp counselor tips with one last blog dedicated to you, future camp counselors…
Get ready to build your resume! Working as a camp counselor at a summer camp will provide you with some invaluable experience that will serve you well far beyond this summer. Many HR Managers in lots of different fields find summer camp experience very impressive because of the level of dedication and commitment required. Summer Camp also demonstrates that you can adapt well to new cultures, which is essential for success in many corporate environments. In fact, many corporate executives were once campers and/or camp counselors themselves. If you’re an education major, it goes without saying that experience working directly with children is a huge plus on a new teacher’s resume.
One final warning: As a summer camp counselor, you will act goofy, dress funny, and find yourself doing all sorts of crazy things you’d probably never ordinarily do…and you’ll have a blast while doing them. It’s what summer camp is all about. But what other job can you get where being an expert in painting faces, making signs, inventing outrageous costumes, and acting silly are all just part of your typical workday?
So there you have it! A few suggestions for preparing yourself for a great and successful summer. Have fun!
We promised a sequel and here it is: Orientation 101…
The first thing you should know about the orientation is don’t sweat it. Yes, it’s intense. Yes, it’s a VERY busy week and there is a lot to get done. We know that, by the time months of anticipation for your new summer camp job to start come and you travel (sometimes for hours or even days) to get to the camp and find yourself actually there, even the most staunch start to feel the butterflies. Remember that everyone with whom you come into contact those first few days is probably feeling the same butterflies—even returners who’ve done all of it before. But relax. Orientation is also full of opportunities. Opportunities to learn more about your new surroundings, opportunities to learn more about your summer camp and embrace its traditions, opportunities to learn more about your summer job as a camp counselor, opportunities to change your mindset and grasp expectations, and opportunities to make friends.
Speaking of making friends, be ready to make LOTS of them from all over the world! Sure your summer camp job will only last for a couple of months. But a couple of months are plenty of time to make lifelong friends when you spend everyday together. You may even find that you don’t need the whole summer to bond. You’ll probably be planning vacations to visit some of your new friends during the winter before orientation is even over.
Don’t over- or under-pack. Yes, we know that you’re going to want to cram your entire bedroom into your suitcase or duffel.. But the fact is that camp housing isn’t exactly spacious. Most summer camps provide their camp counselors with packing lists. Of course you’re going to want to bring a few personal items, but don’t stray too far from what’s recommended and definitely avoid packing the “DO NOT BRING” items. In other words, make sure your camp permits camp counselors to bring outside food onto the campus before you pack a stash of Doritos and energy drinks. It’s also a good idea to make sure you read the camps guidelines about permissible items, particularly those related to swimsuits and shoes. Once you’re packed, inspect your suitcase one more time to make sure you remembered things that are often easily overlooked or forgotten by new summer camp counselors, like rain gear or bedding (if your summer camp requires you to bring your own).
Chances are that you’re going to get a very important email or envelope from your summer camp very soon, if you haven’t already. It’ll have some pretty important paperwork for you to complete. Be sure to pay attention to the specified deadlines for each form. For one thing, you’re not going to want to be bothered with it after you get to camp. For another, not filling it out on time may cause pesky delays in important things…like being paid!
Well that about covers the orientation. We’ve still got enough tips left for you that we’re going to make this one a trilogy. Be sure to come back in a few days for the final part of this series!
So you’ve gotten a great job at a summer camp and are wondering what to do while you impatiently wait for June to get here…
First things first. You found this blog, so we’re assuming you want to know as much as you can before you leave. You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a few suggestions for you…Actually, a lot. In fact, since we understand that you’ve come to this site to read a blog, not War and Peace, we’re going to have to divide this into a few different parts. But we figure that’s okay because they do it with movies all of the time, right? So without any further delay…
Have you started checking out your camp’s blog as well as this one? Many camps now maintain regular blogs and they frequently post blogs (like this one) intended specifically for staff members.
Check out the camp’s website, if you haven’t about a thousand times already. Even if you visit the website everyday and spend hours staring dreamily at the photos as you imagine images of you having the perfect summer showing up on the site this time next year, dig a little deeper. A camp’s website can also tell you a lot about the very special world that you will be part of this summer. Many camps have FAQ pages for staff members or special staff areas. They give you ideas about what to bring and what to leave at home. Some post sample daily schedules, which are a great way to familiarize yourself with how you will be spending your days. If there are videos on the site (or if the camp sent you one), watch them. Not only will you be ready to leave the same day, but it’s a great way to get to know the camp.
If the camp has Facebook or Twitter pages, join them. They’re another way to keep up to date on what’s happening and, as summer inches closer, the anticipation that builds is infectious. Many camps also post helpful information or instructions for staff members as summer nears. Facebook and Twitter are great ways to connect with other staff members before you get to camp. Not to worry, though. You’ll make PLENTY of new friends during your Orientation, even if you show up knowing no one!
Prepare to work hard. We won’t lie. Camp is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have. It’s also one that you’ll probably love the most. Every second of every day, SOMETHING is happening at camp. It’s all a lot to take in at first, but the chances of you making it through the last day at camp without shedding a single tear and hugging hundreds of people are pretty much nil-to-none. And you’ll probably be making plans to come back next summer before this one’s even over.
Well, like we said, we’re well aware that if you were looking for a novel, you’d be downloading the latest best seller for you Kindle right now. So we’ll call it a day for this blog. Be sure to tune in next time for advice about what to pack (and not) and some tips for orientation.
What do camp counselors learn at camp that helps them later in life? The specific answers to that question are varied, but one thing remains constant—camp has a big impact on individual lives long after campers grow out of their camping and counselor years. Recently ReadyMade magazine featured Kelly Stoetzel in its regular series about awesome jobs. Kelly works for TED, a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading” and spends her days interacting with fascinating people from around the world who work to make things better. What was her first job? Camp counselor! And what does she list as her “Best Job”? Camp counselor!
Kelly learned that “being a camp counselor is all about leading a group of people into enthusiasm,” and that continues to be important in her job today. Just as campers and staff still gather each summer—sometimes for the first time and sometimes after waiting all year just to come back—Kelly went to camp! There, learning, personal growth, fun and friendship blossomed during intense times and life-long skills and ideas were forged. Camp operates as a microcosm of experiences that mirror real-life situations as everyone negotiates friendships and different personalities, tries new things and finds their unique role in the group. If you’ve been a camper or a counselor, you know what I’m talking about. You also know that facilitating fun and teamwork takes creativity and enthusiasm. (If you’re thinking about being a counselor, camp is an incredible way to learn skills and prepare for future jobs!)
One counselor puts it this way, “Many aspects of camp allowed counselors to forget life outside of camp and just live in the present focusing on how to facilitate fun in the moment. I don’t think you get to do that as frequently in other life experiences, or at least you are not encouraged to do it as frequently.” She goes on to state that these skills are important in any profession and that camp administrators also served as references for her later jobs. For this counselor, camp led to asking questions about larger social structures at work in the world which led to going to graduate school and a career as a professor!
Another famous camper, Disney’s Michael Eisner, credits his many happy years at camp for teaching him to be honest, loyal and “willing to help the other fellow.” He’s quoted as saying, “Working in business can be another canoe trip!” You can read more about the impact camp had on Eisner’s life and career in his book Camp where he shares his memories and multiple lessons learned. If you’re a social and outgoing person and drawn to the opportunity to lead with enthusiasm, camp counselor could be the summer job for you–check out the AFSC website for more information.
According to American Camp Association (ACA) CEO Peg Smith, approximately 1.2 million camp staff make summer camp happen each year. Camp counselors are a large group in that staggering number and many are also college students who not only earn money for school but also professional experience, resume-building skills and learn a lot about themselves!
Smith says that summer camp provides a unique learning experience for college students since “a camp job offers real life experiences and a hands-on education that simply cannot be found in a classroom.” If you’re looking for a way to earn money and also develop and grow as a person, summer camp is a place where children and adults come together to form a unique community. It’s a job that you can take seriously and share what you know—but also learn—from staff and campers.
Here are some benefits you can expect from the job:
No research then writing arguments here! You’ll have to master real-life, problem-solving skills in the moment, like how to get your campers to clean up and go to activities on time.
You’ll be a role model and surrogate parent for children who grow to love and respect you while you have a significant and positive influence in their lives.
As you care for and encourage others, you’ll develop greater self-understanding. You’re moving into adulthood and it shows in the way you treat others and make choices for yourself!
You’ve heard about “networking,” and this is where it starts—you’ll develop and expand a network of peer relations that can last a lifetime.
Do you want to know more? Find out about camp counselor opportunities at Laurel South and how you can combine earning money for college, professional and personal development and yes, a little camp fun!
In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At Laurel South, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.
Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. We focus year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity. The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. We recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)
Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to the camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation. We are especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for our particular mission and traditions.
The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. We bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.We also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the director’s meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.
Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.
All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.