Starting any new job is scary. But starting a job you’ve never done before in a different country? That’s a whole different story! I’m sure all of you want to be the best possible counselor that you can be at camp this summer, so here’s a few ways you can go about doing that.
1. Listen to everything you are told.
Whether this be in staff training when you first arrive at camp or at random times during the summer, the best way for you to learn is to listen to other people’s advice and instructions. The people telling you what to do have done your job for many years and they know what works and what doesn’t! That’s not to say you always just have to tow the line and follow along though – your ideas and suggestions will always be welcomed. So if you’ve got a great new game you want to play with your kids, tell someone… it might become the next big camp craze!
Listening also applies to your kids too. If you do it right, the campers that are put in your care are going to love and totally idolise you, and one major way to bond with them is to listening to absolutely everything they tell you. Be someone they can talk to and can tell anything to, take everything in and get to know everything about them.
2. Ask a lot of questions.
Right alongside listening is speaking. There are going to be so many things you don’t know or understand when you first get to camp and really the only way you’re going to wrap your head around ti all is by asking a million and one questions. I know I did. Ask your fellow counselors, ask your supervisors and definitely get the questions going with your kids too.
Once you’ve got the standard introductory questions out of the way with your campers, play some fun question games such as ‘would you rather’ (keep it camp appropriate, obviously) or even just make up your own! This is the best way (along with listening) to get to know your kids.
3. Remember it is all about the kids.
You are there to make sure all those campers in your care are having the best time ever at summer camp! Read it again and repeat. That is your job. If you ever find yourself too wrapped up in your own drama, or just distracted by the rest of the staff dramas (and there will be plenty), take a minute to remind yourself why you are there… for the kids. And as soon as your remember that, you will immediately be better at your job as a camp counselor.
4. Try to go above and beyond.
You will have off days. There will be times when you think you are too tired to function and just don’t want to do it anymore, your kids are driving you crazt and you’re counting down the hours until your next day off. That’s all quite understandable. Being a camp counselor is a hard job – much harder than you probably thought it would be. You are allowed to have a few days when you just want to cry and you can’t quite believe you actually chose to do this for a whole summer.
But the rest of the time, once you get over your days of despair, you should always be striving to be better than you were the day before. To go above an beyond the duty of your role. Not out of the desire to be noticed or congratulated, but just because you can see something needs doing so you do it, or because someone needs help so you help them. It can be really tiny things like picking up any trash that you walk past, instead of just leaving it on the ground, or it can be bigger things like giving a helping hand to someone who is obviously struggling, tidying the whole Athletics shed when you were initially just asked to put away some basketballs, or anything that involves you trying to consistently be on form with your kids, and working harder than just the base level requirements of your job.
5. Set some ground rules.
This is an important one. When your campers first arrive they have no idea who you are. They’ve never met you before and you’ve never met them. Kids are kids – they will always try to push the boundaries to find out how far they can go. Or rather, how far you will let them go.
So it’s important to set some ground rules right from the start, and then stick to them. This doesn’t mean you have to be a total tyrant about it, but just have a nice chat at the start of the week, telling the kids what you expect from them and what they should expect from you. Something that works really well is to discuss with the kids what rules they want to have with each other (things like being respectful and tidy for example), writing them all down on a piece of paper and then having everyone in your tent/cabin sign it, so you can all see what you agreed upon at the start. And then once the rules are set, stick to them. If a kid knows you don’t stick to your word, they won’t either.
6. Be energetic, fun and throw yourself into absolutely everything.
There will always be aspects of camp life that you don’t like as much as others. And the campers feel that way too. There will be games that you really loathe, or foods that you can’t stand, but lets go back to point number 3 – it is all about the kids. They will do everything that you do and if they see you hating on something, there is absolutely no way you’re going to get them to do it. But if the kids see you enjoying yourself, they will too! It’s really as simple as that. And you might find that when you really throw yourself into something, you actually end up enjoying it far more than you thought you would!