A wise person suggested that my husband and son spend the ten days of Counselor Training in New York visiting grandparents and I cannot thank them enough for that advice. CT was intense, extroverted and exhausting, as well as insightful, inspiring and informative.
All Camp Stevens summer camp Adventure Groups are led by a triad: one staff person (here for the whole summer) and two counselors (here for a week or two, sometimes more during the summer). The CT groups are no different, except that there is one staff person, one counselor, and one “flow person” – someone who keeps a special eye on both the forest and the trees of the learning experience, if you will.
Although intimidating, my role during CT was as a flow person, in part to experience CT myself (now officially CT class of 2013!) but mostly to give to the program and the group. In many ways, CT is the initiation into Camp Stevens culture and it includes everything from group development theory, how to lead group games and how to use the creative process, to the practical elements of an overnight experience and child abuse prevention.
Here are my thoughts after the early stages of my reflection on the CT experience:
I am an introvert!
Introverts aren’t necessarily shy or quieter than the extroverted world (although that is often the case), but we do need time alone to recharge our batteries. Being on the go from pre-breakfast to 11 pm every day was an important reminder of who I am and what I need to keep going!
This reminder of my own introversion also transfers into a healthy reminder about our campers and the folks we live and work with every day: not all people are extroverted! In the busy, day-to-day schedule of camp, some children (and staff) need time to decompress alone or with one or two friends. So many camping programs are designed to be on-the-go from morning to night and not all of us are wired to function this way. (For a great video about introverts, check out this Susan Cain TED Talk.)
Sunsets are God’s gift to summer camp.
Forgive the soap-box for a moment, but we live in a way-too-busy, entertainment-oriented world. We glorify busy in our own lives and in the lives of our children. We quantify our success by the number of things we’re involved in and we rarely take a break or a breath. (Don’t worry, I’m preaching to myself here, too!).
On our first overnight, our group (The Movement), spent sunset at Upper Meadow. We arrived earlier than expected – about 20 or 30 minutes early. My instinct was to program. To worry about the then campers’ experiences, fret that they might get bored, wonder if they were having fun and generally over-program and entertain.
And then it dawned on me: sitting in the chilly wind watching the sun go down and the sky change colors might be the best gift I could give them this entire ten days. For that thought, Rachel Carson, who continues to remind me of the importance of wonder, the gorgeous sunset, and the experience in general I am grateful.
Information is power.
Over the course of the last eight days, the Counselors-In-Training are presented with skits and mini-lectures filled with good and helpful information. As the CITs took in these lessons about how groups and people function, their faces lit up with knowledge as they put the pieces together – at least until they started looking overwhelmed!
Information is power. But giving out information isn’t necessarily giving away our power. Rather, I think, it is empowering others. I’ve got a lot more digesting to do on this one, but I feel pretty strongly about the importance of giving away information in order to empower others.
This can be as seemingly simple as letting an Adventure Group in on the location of their overnight and as complex as inviting people into a conversation about the vision and mission of Camp Stevens. I am excited to explore how giving out information – as scary as it sometimes seems – can deepen the sense of belonging, empowerment and ownership campers, guests, staff and donors have of both their own and others’ experience at Camp Stevens.
Giving away information – intellectual, emotional, social, or otherwise – risks being vulnerable. I’ve been working my way through Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly and highly recommend it. Using her own research (and, arguably, principles of the Johari Window CITs learn about in Counselor Training!), Brown makes a compelling argument that “vulnerability [sharing your secret/hidden self] is at the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences.” And that’s what camp is about: meaningful human experiences!
But I digress …
I’d be thrilled to hear reflections on your CT experience, whether this year or 30 years ago. Please share them in the comments below or via e-mail!
Whim: “sudden idea.” This weekly-ish post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!