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Thursday, August 03, 2006

I apparently like control and routine in my day.

This summer I have been busy and lazy.  Mostly lazy, though.  I worked at the day camp, took a summer school night class, and watched way too much television.

I was a substitute camp counselor this summer.  The way the camp I work at works is that there are different locations at the different elementary schools in town.  Each school houses a camp for kindergartners and a camp for 1st graders.  At each location the camp is the same camp, it's just at a different place.  Since I was a sub, I traveled around at the different locations, helping out where I was needed.

I learned one thing.

In all my previous eight years as a counselor, I have worked with very good head counselors.  I never realized that the head counselors aren't all great.  At one of the locations I was at for several weeks, the head counselor just did not know how to handle her 30 1st graders.  This person is an "adult", she teaches at the local Catholic middle school.  But with the little kids?  She did not know how to manage them in all their squirmeyness. 

And this. Drove. Me. CRAZY.

Despite the fact that I am certainly old enough and experienced enough to be one of the head counselors, I am not.  (And I could go on and on about why, but I'm not going to.)  Because I have been at the camps for so long, I have experience, I know how to work with the kids, and I felt so frustrated at the way she was leading the group.  This all taught me one thing, which I never really realized before.

I like to be in control.  In the past, I have mostly agreed with the way the head counselors lead their camp sites, so I didn't have a problem with anything.  With this group though, the kids were always running around like crazy, jumping on each other, tearing the art projects off the walls, being loud loud loud, not ever listening.  There is nothing different about this group of kids as a whole than the other kids I worked with this summer and the groups I have worked with for the past eight years.  The difference was with the head counselor and the way she interacted with the children.  I wasn't at this site for the first week of camp, so I wasn't there for the setting of rules or the establishing of routines.  After I had been at the site for two weeks though, I realized something.

One of the major problems at this site was that there was no good establishing of routines.  There was a rough routine, because the bus came to take the kids to the swimming pool at a set time, but aside from that the day was a chaotic jumble of noise, confusion, and the kids wrestling with one other on the carpet.  I did my best to present some type of consistency in the room, but my temporary status, combined with mostly inexperienced co-counselors who just followed the lead of the head counselor resulted in little improvement.

The kids and even their parents didn't realize that there was any problem.  Maybe the problem was just in my head.  The parents continued to say how great the camp was, and how much their children loved camp.  But I could see the potential for it to be so much better if their was just a little bit more routine, a little bit more control.  And I'm certainly not talking about extreme power over the children, or anything like that.  It's camp, they are there to have fun.  But at the same time, the adults in charge need to have a certain level of control over the group they are in charge of.  And the group of kids was basically an average group of six-year-olds.  If rules had been enforced (no jumping on top of your campmates, no tearing other peoples art projects off the wall, etc.) they would have been followed.  If they had been followed, the days would have run much more smoothly.  The campers and the counselors would have had a more enjoyable overall camp experience.  Because even if the campers didn't realize they were missing anything, they really were.  They were missing the routine and consistency in the day that especially young children, but really most people, crave overall.  Not an extreme creepy type of routine, but the type that results in increased comfort and an ability to anticipate to some degree with is going to happen next.


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