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June 27, 2012
Why being a camp counselor is easier than you think
Being a great camp counselor comes down to a few key ideas and some simple and practical strategies. If I had to frame the job in the simplest terms, I would say that it is about creating relationships by being interested. I’m not saying that there aren’t other extremely important ideas involved (like safety, responsibility, dependability, caring, and team play, to name a few), but I think those (or most or even all) ideas can be understood through the lens of creating relationships by being interested.
What does it mean to create relationships? Connecting… Looking for opportunities to connect kids with each other, to connect to each individual kid in your group or program, to connect with the other adults that you work with, and to connect with parents, volunteers, and other “stake holders” in your program or camp. Those may be different things and are accomplished using a variety of different skills, but it is essentially the same outcome. So, how do you create that connection? By being interested. Relationships are about creating mutual liking based on something that you have in common or something you identify with. You can discover what that commonality is by asking good questions (and then of course carefully listening), engaging or participating in activities, try new things, being emotionally and intellectually present, sharing about yourself, and many other ways.
What does all of this mean for you as a camp counselor? In each moment that you are at camp, with campers, talking to parents, or anything else, ask yourself, “What’s interesting about this?” and most of the time that will give you a direction to go. The very best camp counselors connect quickly with each camper in their group. They ask really good questions and find out a lot about their campers. They don’t do it because their director told them to, but because they are interested in each camper as an individual and the campers know that. The best camp counselors see or recognize safety concerns before they are an issue because they are interested or engaged in the environment. The best camp counselors are put parents, volunteers, and other members of the community at ease, because they are interested in how they are connected to the experience of camp. Great camp counselors look like this,
because they are interested in creating an unforgettable experience for their campers.
What you do as a camp counselor will have an impact on many people’s lives. It’s easier than you think, just remember to be interested.
Scott “Funsize” Arizala
Camp Director for Camp Kesem, Vice President of Summer Programming for Dragonfly Forest, Summer Camp Consultant & Trainer, and award-winning author of S’more Than Camp. For more information please visit www.TheCampCounselor.com