I first went to camp back in 2011, almost 6 years ago, and I’m now coming up to spending my 7th summer at camp, the place I call my second home (81 days and counting!).
In these last 6 years, I think my life has changed quite dramatically. When I first went to camp, I’d just graduated from university and really had no clue what I wanted to do or be, and thought that a summer in America would just be a fun way to spend a few months in the sun and get to go travelling for a bit afterwards.
But camp ‘got’ me. Or rather, I ‘got’ camp. I became a camp person. And I spent the next 6 years trying to find ways to fill the empty period of time between when I left camp in the Fall, to when I returned each Spring. I did a round the world trip (with a friend from camp), spent a winter season in France (with camp friends), lived in Australia (again, with camp friends… starting to see trend here?), came back to London and worked as a nanny, road tripped through California and travelled to Central America (with camp people) and got a job with a travel company working on their summer camp program for a while too.
Little did I know the profound impact that first summer would have on me, leading me to where I am now – back at university and currently about two-thirds of the way through doing a PGCE to become an Early Years Teacher.
Before I went to camp I’d never really taught anything at all, and my experience with children was limited to looking after my little sisters and lots of babysitting. In fact I’d actually really hated school and had always said I’d never be a teacher. Camp changed all of this.
I was thrown in at the deep end in 2011, challenged with starting a completely new Media program, planning lessons for film-making and doing a radio show with the kids. This stuff was all completely new to me. I LOVED it and, as they say, the rest is history.
I’ve come up with 7 reasons why camp made me want to be a teacher:
1. Camp confirmed for me that I love working with kids. Of all ages, but especially the younger ones.
2. It showed me I have the ability to solve all sorts of problems. This is something that comes in handy everyday as a teacher, when a child is having a meltdown, or you can’t find something you need for an activity.
3. Camp taught me how to be a leader, and how not to be afraid of taking responsibility, in fact, now I kinda love it. This is a major one – as a teacher I need to be able to take responsibility for the children in my care and lead effective lessons.
4. It (mostly) cured my fears of getting up in front of people and talking, or just being looked at by lots of people. This is definitely helpful in teaching, whether it’s a group of children or the other adults you’re working with.
5. Camp taught me self-confidence and how to follow my instincts. Working with children (especially the little ones) is a lot about going with what you think will work best for the individual child, and often this means you need to have the confidence and knowledge that the decisions you make are the right ones.
6. I learned how to plan lessons and adapt them to suit the needs of the children in my classes. This is vital when working with small children (or children of any age). They often don’t respond to an activity or some resources in the way you thought they would, so you have to be able to think on your feet and make a change as quickly as possible to suit their needs (see point 2).
7. Camp taught me that working with children is as much about just being there for them and making them feel confident and successful and loved, as it is about teaching them a specific skill-set.
And it’s that last point I really have camp to thank for. As an Early Years Teacher, I’m going to be working with children aged 0-5, and these are the years where those things really matter. Yes, children need to learn how to speak and walk and read and write and count. But more importantly (in my opinion), and in order to successfully do those things, they also need to learn self-confidence and independence, how to handle their emotions, how to manage their own behaviours, how to handle successes and failures, how to make friends and have secure attachments, learn what they like or don’t like, who they are and how they fit into this world… I could go on.
And these are all things we teach at camp.
So thank you, summer camp, for showing me my potential, and giving me a path in life. It’s a road I never thought I’d be on, but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine anything different, and I don’t think I’d have figured out that this is what I love doing without these past 6 summers.
Bring on Summer 2017.