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Monday, June 04, 2007

I am kind of a boss, and that makes me a little nervous.

I am going to be spending a lot more time around young children, as full-time day-camp (this needs a name, let's call it KinderCamp, as the campers are all entering Kindergarten in the fall) is set to begin soon, and the pre-camp mini-session has already has begun.

I have always liked, nay, loved KinderCamp more than I can possibly explain. KinderCamp was always the one place in which I felt totally and completely confident in my abilities. I am a good camp counselor. This is one thing I know. I have horribly low academic self-esteem, I often feel self-conscious around peers, and "grown-ups" tend to scare me. But at camp, I am a rock star.

Thus, it was a shock when, several years ago I was not promoted to a position with more responsibility, despite the fact that several people in high positions-of-power at the camp had told me the previous summer that I would most certainly be promoted the following year. Over the winter there was administrative readjustment, and the new boss didn't appreciate my years of experience (and seniority), excellent evaluations, or relevant academic coursework. The ensuing summers had other issues which resulted in me not being applicable for this promotion, so I didn't apply again until this year. After an interview, which concluded with the interviewer saying to me, "Well, you seem kind of passive, but I think we can work with that..." I was finally hired.

And then I began to question myself. KinderCamp is in Hometown, from which I feel more and more separated each time I return. I think I have more intense culture shock returning to Hometown from SchoolTown than I did going from Hometown to Mexico for my study abroad. Hometown is very privileged and white and the people in it kind of drive me crazy. (I know, I'm sure I sound like every college-student-returning-home-from-school. And all I can to that fact is, "okay.")

As I was getting ready before pre-camp mini-session today, the other counselors were all talking about their sorority houses and tanning and buying new SUVs and I was just sitting there (or rather, I was walking around the room putting up camp-decorations) listening and rolling my eyes (though hopefully this was a mental eye-roll, and not an actual eye-roll). All I could think about is how I am not, nor have I ever been that person. And my God, am I glad. I like who I am (despite my many neurosis).

But my big worry is, I am going to be in charge of a couple handfuls of these people this summer. I will be overseeing the counselors and I have to not let me disdain for the town and its (in my opinion) misguided values (ie: Abercrombie and Fitch clothes, Starbucks coffee, love of Suburbia) affect my perceptions of the ways in which they fulfill their roles as counselors. And really, I know I probably sound like a complete jerk writing this, however it is an actual concern for me. I am currently grumpy and stressed, due in large part to my constant worry about the Future and what I will do upon completion of my student teaching in December, and this is making me resent Hometown even more than usual.

Interestingly (to me at least) none of this is what I came here to write about. I think I came here just to mention that I'm a little nervous about being in charge of other camp counselors, because I have noticed that I am a bit controlling. Or rather, I hold myself up to incredibly high expectations when it comes to my job, and as the boss of others, I hold them up to these expectations as well. But really, most of these counselors are 15-year-old high schoolers. They aren't going to be perfect and I have to understand that. Though at the same time I do have to make clear my expectations and hold them to these expectations. When I was 15 I wasn't a great counselor either, it took me a few years before I really hit my stride. I've been doing this camp thing for 10 years now and I know a lot more than the beginning counselors. Therefore, while I am responsible for showing-through-example and verbally (and in writing?) setting expectations for these "beginners" I have to accept the fact that they are not me, nor are they me 10 years ago, nor will they be me 10 years from now. Okay, that's phrased strangely. What I want to say is, I am going to need to work to find the medium between letting my counselors put in the minimum of effort, and forcing them to meet my perhaps-not-quite-attainable sky-high expectations.

This new position is going to be more difficult for me in this regard than in the actual being responsible in more ways for more children, communicating more frequently and fully with parents/caregivers, and having more responsibility in regards to liability. These other aspects I feel prepared for, because they involve only me, and I know that I am responsible and competent. When it comes to the other counselors though, I have no direct control over their minds or their actions (though that would make the camp day a bit more interesting...). I must give up my desire for that type of control and allow them to be the individuals that they are, and this includes their weaknesses as well as the many strengths I'm sure they all have.



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