Picture This…

Women in Camping

WOMEN IN CAMPING

When I first started as a counsellor I knew right away this was something I wanted to do forever. I couldn’t imagine a better gig and I was determined to figure out how to keep working in camping as a real life, grown up job.

Ashley and me

This was my first summer at camp. This my friend Ashley and I dressed up in “fancy clothes” drinking Mocktails that we made with our adult campers for a patio party.

One of the first things I did was to begin actively paying attention to the people around me and the structure that was holding us all together.

Female vs. Male campers/ Counsellors/ Directors

Over the next few years there were a few things I began noticing, we always had lots of female campers, in fact if we didn’t have a cap for cabin assignments, we’d probably end up with way more females than males.

We had an abundance of female counsellors too, and we almost always struggled to get male counsellors. This became especially clear during my first few years as a seasonal director when I was partially responsible for putting together my summer team.

We would have loads of really phenomenal female applicants, and unfortunately we couldn’t hire them all because we didn’t run an all girls camp and needed some male role models too. But it was often a struggle to get male applicants, let alone really great ones.

Often what would happen is that we’d end up having more female staff than male and they would be paired with a male counsellor and work on a boys cabin. It wasn’t ideal, but I always said I’d rather have a really amazing female over a not so great male.

I hate the idea of hiring someone based on the body parts they own, or the gender they identify with – but residential camps have policies about who can work in which cabins.

Here’s the strangest thing I noticed though. There were lots of female campers, and lots of female counsellors but not all that many female directors. Huh.

I don’t just mean at my camp(s) but camping within my province in general.
Weird, right?

What is happening between all of those female campers & counsellors and directors

Here’s a really poorly drawn diagram of what my perceived experience was.

*Please note, there is exactly zero scientific evidence to back this up, I haven’t done any studies, and don’t have access to what the camper/ staff numbers were back in the early to mid 2000’s. This is simply a representation of what I was seeing.

Female to Male

Why yes, I did draw this diagram on a piece of scrap paper with some markers I had lying around. Thank you for noticing.

 

With that said, there were a lot of women in leadership positions at the International Camp Directors Course I attended last November, and there are lots of women in many of the online camping communities I participate in – although I don’t have any data on those numbers either. So maybe it’s a regional phenomena?

 

Women as Role Models

I have been so fortunate to work with some really fantastic humans in my career so far. Some of them have been women and some of those women have been supervisors and others have been colleagues or employees.

I’ve actively sought out women I admire, to say hello, chat with them, learn from them, or work with them.

I make an effort to encourage the women I interact with at camp to pursue a career in camping if that’s what they want, to take big chances, speak up for themselves when they feel like they’re being dismissed, and to support each other.

I also make an effort to encourage the men I work with to pursue a career in camping if that’s what they want, to take big chances, and to be aware of some of the challenges their colleagues face and of times they’re being dismissed simply because of the weird social roles society had attached to body parts and/ or identity.

 

Strong and Independent 

One of the questions I always ask on the Head Counsellor application is “Why are you a strong role model for new staff?” and my returning staff always try to give serious answers  in the funniest way. So one of my returnees answered “I am a strong and independent women…” and it has become a catch phrase for the entire camp (with permission of course, although we still tease her about it a little bit.)

But I love that!

Camp DOES breed (and attract) strong and independent women and men.

And it’s our job to create environments that foster that type of confidence and strength and to be those strong role models for our young staff. I’ve been so fortunate to work in some really incredible cultures, but I’ve also had some bizarre encounters too.

 

My Experience as a Female Director

I have had some really amazing, incredible, phenomenal, – other adjectives to describe “good” – experiences in my directing career. And I’ve had some super challenging ones too. But the only experiences that truly frustrate me are the ones that are directly related to me being a woman.

One memory that really stands out to me (though it wasn’t the first or last time this type of thing has happened) happened during my first year as a seasonal res camp director, which would have made me around 23 or 24. (Although I still looked like I was 12.)

I was waiting for some repair person to fix the fridge, or washer, or something that couldn’t be fixed with duct tape – I don’t remember what exactly. I saw the van coming up the drive so started making my way out to meet them.

One of the counsellors wanted to run something by me so we chatted while walking to meet the repair person. The counsellor was an 18-year-old guy who was on staff for his second summer (he also looked 12), we chatted about whatever it was he wanted to ask me and I excused myself when the repairman got out of his van, the counsellor waited around because he had a follow-up question.

I introduced myself as the camp director and the person who had called him about the fridge/ washer/ whatever, he shook my hand, introduced himself and proceeded to look over my shoulder and ask the counsellor standing behind me what the problem was with the equipment.

The counsellor, who had nothing to do with the equipment and who only knew there was a problem because I had told him about it 5 minutes before, answered, “uhh, yeah, we’re not sure what’s wrong with it, but it just stopped working early this morning.”

The repairman said, “ok why don’t you show me where it is and we’ll have a look at it”. And he and the counsellor started walking toward the main building while the repairman started asking some follow-up questions.

That’s when I came out of my shocked stupor and said “actually Jim*, why don’t you head back with the campers and I’ll show Mr. MacNeil* where the equipment is, then I’ll come check in with you and answer any other questions you have, ok.”

The counsellor made his way back to his campers and I showed the repairman where the equipment was, and answered the rest of his questions.

fridge

Ok, so to some of you reading this, it may not sound like a big deal, and in the scheme of things it’s not earth shattering, but it is an excellent example of what women sometimes come up against.

Not only did the repairman look to the closest male for information and verification, but the counsellor went along with it rather than saying, “actually she’s the one you should talk to” – he jumped in and answered questions even though he had almost no information. Not because he’s a bad guy (he wasn’t, he was a great guy and an awesome counsellor), but that was the norm of the society we are a product of – the “man” or 18-year-old kid, as the case may be, is expected to have all of the answers ESPECIALLY if it has something to do with repairs/ trades/ hands-on things.

So that was a super weird experience that left me feeling … icky, for lack of a better word.  It’s not even the most frustrating or uncomfortable situation I’ve been in, just the one that stands out most in my memory.

If I encountered the situation today, I’d have used it as a teaching moment and (nicely) pointed out to both men what was happening. I’ve done it a few times over the years; I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable standing up for myself as I got older and I’ve tried to work hard to create camp cultures where everyone feels respected and heard.

 

Moving Forward

We have such a cool opportunity at camp to empower kids to embrace who they are and feel powerful.

There’s so much scary, weird, stuff happening in the world right now that it’s more important than ever that camp is one of the safe places for young people to learn how to speak up for themselves, and not only feel powerful, but learn how to empower their peers too.

So let’s make a promise that we won’t shy away from those teachable moments (even if they’re uncomfortable), that we’ll constantly evaluate our culture and our biases, and that we’ll encourage young women to speak up, speak out, and step up as leaders.

What do you do in your camp to encourage “strong and independent” and supportive campers? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

 

*Names have been changed.

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We Went Glamping!

We wanted to try something a little different this summer, so we invited friends & supporters of our camp to a “Glamping” weekend.

In case you’re not familiar with Glamping, here’s a definition:

Glamorous Camping; getting to experience the outdoors without giving up any of the amenities or comforts of home. In other words, fancy camping.

 

glamping

If you look up Glamping on Pinterest, you’ll likely just find a bunch of fancy yurts and fairy lights.
Well that wasn’t an option for us, and we also don’t have a resort style camp… and we weren’t about to go into major construction for this thing, so we worked with what we had and created an event that could be described as “slightly less campy camping”. Or “mildly fancy camping”. FUN!

 

We promoted it as a weekend for ladies 19+ (because we’re in Canada, and we were allowing alcohol) and we ended up with a small but great group of gals. It was a great first shot out of the gate.

Here’s a loose schedule of what we did.

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Summer Book Review

You guys…
I think that BR Myers is stalking me…

Haha, just kidding (I think?) but I did read her adorable book a few months ago called Girl on the Run. Which I happened to pick up by chance, because it was near Tyler Oakley’s Binge book in Chapters (which I also picked up), and I liked the look of the cover.

Once I turned it over and read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it. It was a book about running AND camp!!! Two of my favourite things!!

So I brought it home and started reading it, it was so much fun (and also a little unsettling, but I’ll get into that in a moment).

It’s a YA novel about a 17 year old girl who has given up running after her father’s death, she heads to summer camp to try to get her life back on track (peh. heh. heh. unintentional pun, but I like it and now I’m proud of it!)

IMG_0602.jpg

 

 

When I started reading it I was reminded of the Sweet Valley High books I used to read when I was young, it was a fun read and I finished it by the end of the evening.

There were a couple of references in the book that made me say ‘YES, this author totally gets me, we should be friends”.

And then there were a few story points that made me think “man, this camp is SKETCHY!”

Let’s get into it, shall we?

*Warning – Spoilers Ahead*

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Catching Up

Hi friends,

Sorry I’ve been away for so long – it has been a bit of a whirlwind these past few months!
Here’s a quick re-cap of my life incase ya’ll are interested.

  • We’re well into camp pre-season and registration is BOOMING! Three of our biggest sessions filled up by the end of February and the remaining 5 sessions are getting fairly close too. We have a bunch of new campers, which kind of worries me for all of the returning campers who haven’t gotten in their applications yet – we may have to add another session if this keeps up. So as you can imagine, the camp office has been busy!

 

 

busy days at the office

  • My husband and I bought a house!! (A teeny, tiny, cute little house)
    It’s all very adult of us, which I must admit super freaks me out, every time I need to chat with a lawyer, whether it’s to buy a house or get some advice on a camp matter, I’m slapped in the face with the thought “OH YEAH! I’m a full fledged adult!” which is an easy thing to forget while I bomb around in a tiara and rain boots (yep, that’s happened … more than once – see the photo below for an example of my typical adult status).

 

P & D Dance

Here’s a shot of the Assistant Camp Director and I adulting so hard! We were dressed up fancy for the interpretive dance of the first day of camp we “choreographed” for talent show The stars were obviously because of how magical the dance was!! 😉

 

  • The house we bought just happens to be 4.5 hours away from where I work…. sooo… that’s a thing.
    We bought a house in our hometown (and pretty much paid for it with lint & buttons from our pockets – we got a great deal!!).

Anyway, back to the point – as we were buying the house, I was submitting a proposal to my work for a trial “work from home” arrangement. It was a very, very, scary time. I seriously love my job, and if they had said “no way, Jose!” I would have been incredibly sad. I mean, I would have understood but that would mean that my options would have been to start a new camp in my new home, or to find a new career – neither sounded particularly appealing right now. (Mind you, having my own camp would be AHH- MAZING but that’s something that takes planning, and money, and not something that should be done on a whim – plus I still feel like I have more to give to my current camp).

So after submitting my proposal and having a few meetings I was surprised and delighted to be told “sure, let’s give it a shot!” so I’m working from the head office in the city for 2 weeks a month and working from home a few hours away for 2 weeks a month, until a move to camp for the summer.
Fingers crossed that it all goes well!!!

I’ll talk more on the proposal process in another blog post.

house

Photo credit: MarkMoz12 via Foter.com / CC BY                                                                                     *Not our actual house. Although it IS about the same size… peh. heh. heh.

 

 

  • We were the victims of fraud.
    THAT was a bummer!!
    I won’t get into all of the details, but amidst all of the house buying and proposal writing, someone transferred a chunk of money out of our savings account. It turns out that the poor guy who did it thought that he was transferring money out of his girlfriend’s cousin’s account to help her get into Canada. NOPE!

It seems that his “girlfriend” was a scam artist who was able to access one of our computers with malware and convinced this poor soul to do an email money transfer (since they were outside of Canada they needed someone within the Country to physically do it). I actually felt really sad for the guy, he had his heart broken and found out that he was complicit in a crime all in the span of about 10 minutes.

Fortunately, it’s all been sorted out and the money has been returned to us. AND we learned a valuable lesson about computer security (I thought we were pretty safe already, but clearly not careful enough).

networkunlockedcloseup-jpg

Photo credit: CyberHades via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

 

So, these are some of my excuses reasons for being out of touch lately, I’ve had a lot of personal and professional stuff happening and something, somewhere had to give – that ended up being my little blog. 😦
But I’ve missed sharing and chatting with my camp pals, so now that things are starting to settle a little (which is a HILARIOUS thing to say at the beginning of camp season, and is a pretty good indicator of how hectic things have felt lately!)  I’m going to start posting regularly again.

I have LOTS of half finished posts and new ideas that I’m excited to share with you guys, and for the sake of consistency (and my sanity) I’m going to post once a week on Mondays for a while.

So that’s it, I’m glad to be back ‘in the swing of things’ and I’d LOVE to hear about the things that are taking up your time lately. How’s staff hiring going? Are you all set for staff development week? How are your registration numbers going? Tell me all about it in the comment section below!

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Picture This… A Snapshot

There’s a nature activity where campers break into pairs and one person closes their eyes while their partner guides them to something. The camper keeps their eyes closed and cups their hands around their eyes like a camera while their partner brings them close to the object (leaning over to look at a leaf, leaning in close to see tree bark, crouched down to see an animal track). The partner says “OPEN” and the camper opens their eyes for 3 seconds to get a ‘snapshot’ of the object their partner wanted them to see.
The camper is then led, with eyes closed, back to the starting spot and they have to figure out what and where the object was.

It’s a super fun game, and I’ve learned that it’s hard to find a tree or a leaf after getting such a small glimpse for such a short period of time. (I’ve also learned that getting me to lean in close to a spiderweb is a bad idea and that you should not be within jumping/ arm flailing distance when I open my eyes…)

leaf snapshot

Photo credit: Threthny / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Which got me thinking…

All we ever really get is a snapshot of the people in our lives. 

Everyone is very aware of this in the early stages of employment, dating, etc. so when you go into an interview you are putting your best foot forward because you know that the interviewers first impression of you may be their ONLY impression of you, or during your first week of work (in the case of summer camp this would most likely be staff development)  or on a first date, you are aware that every story you share, every thing you do, or don’t do, is shaping how others see you.

But we often forget that we’re only seeing pieces of the people we work with day in and day out, no matter how long we’ve known someone and how many hours we’ve spent with them, we’re only seeing part of who they are.

Working at camp is a really unique experience, I’ve never worked in another environment where people get to know each other on such a personal level so quickly, or create bonds so easily. This all happens so quickly and easily in fact, that it’s easy to forget that you don’t actually “know” this person. It’s unwise to make assumptions about your co-staff based on the small piece of their lives you get to be part of.

The way someone acts in a work environment may be entirely different from how they behave at home/ school/ in the company of close friends/ strangers/ etc.
Again, because camp breaks down a lot of those barriers quickly, you may feel like you really know someone but to make assumptions about who they are and what they are capable of is a huge disservice to you and to them.

I have seen staff grow so much from the beginning to the end of the summer and especially between seasons. Since we are primarily working with staff who are in their teens and 20 somethings … and those are the years that you change the most (in my opinion), we need to remember to allow them to change and grow, and not try to fit them into the little Polaroid frame we’ve created for them. 

Sometimes it’s a hard concept to grasp, regardless of whether you’ve worked with someone for 2 days, a summer, 3 years or 8 years… that doesn’t make you an expert on them. I always get a kick out of it when my staff are surprised to learn that I know something about programming, or that I can jump in and help in a cabin – I mean I get where it comes from… because I don’t often do those things anymore… I’ve hired amazing people to do those things. And as someone who has really struggled with learning to delegate over the years (and who works every day at being a good delegator – it’s still a struggle sometimes) I try not to overstep, to jump in and take over – I’ve tried to empower my staff, to encourage them to be experts in programming or cabin management. But what on earth do they think I did in the years before I became a director?

All they have is a snapshot of me… and for some of them, it’s a cropped image because we’ve known each other for such a short time. So of course they’re going to make assumptions based on what little they know.  We all do it. But let’s try to stop. Let’s start asking questions instead of making judgements. 

Tell me all the things you know about me …

Tell me all the things you know about me …

And on the flip side of that… now that we know our staff are only going to see a snapshot of us this summer, and our campers will see an even smaller one… what image do you want them to take away? How will you present yourself, your team, and your camp so that the snapshot campers, their families, and the community get will be a good one? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

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Picture this… Is it summer yet?

tie dye

A warm sunny morning, a soft breeze rustles the leaves on the trees and the tie dye hanging on the line… the sound of campers laughing echoes through the camp and everything just feels good, and right…

But no, instead it’s still dark outside, and I need to go scrape my car (ok, in all honesty, my husband usually scrapes the car for me… but still!) because we just had another snow storm this weekend, and they’re calling for another one tomorrow. Did I mention that it’s the middle of March? In fact it’s heading toward the end of March. IN FACT it’s St. Paddy’s day… (now that I actually look at the date) Happy St. Paddy’s Day, here’s a snow storm.

Anyone else ready for summer yet? Only 61 days until I leave for camp… and since I’m in the East Coast of Canada I’m starting to worry that instead of hanging our tie dye on the line we’ll be hanging our mittens by the fireplace! Winter needs to end folks! What’s your countdown? How many days till you’re “home”?

Do you have any pressing concerns that you need to take care of before your countdown ends? Other than the fact that I may have to tunnel my way into my camp, I have a program that I’m trying to get off the ground, but in order to do that I need to visit schools around the province, which isn’t going to happen if we keep getting snow storms. (Ok, I’m willing to recognize and admit that this post is a little bit of a rant, I think it’s my first…for the blog. Milestone!)

Ok, enough with the ranting, here’s something I’m excited about – I’m psyched to get my staff together and start becoming a team, we’ve got some really stellar people on board this year and I can’t wait to get to know them better and see them in action.

Tell me your countdown in the comment section below, and maybe the thing you’re most looking forward to, let’s get hyped up for camp instead of all bummed out that winter just won’t take the hint.

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Picture this… Registration Woes to Registration Whoa’s!

Paperless RegistrationOhhh la la!

We just switched over (after 3 years of me begging, pleading, and stomping my feet in frustration) from paper applications to an electronic registration system and it’s pretty much life changing.

The two photos above are what my first day of registration looked like last year vs this year. Wowza right?

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Big change or more of the same?

Princess Puppy

The age old question; does camp change people or just make them more of who they already are?

We talk all the time about how camp changes people for the better, how leaders are created, and how campers go home as different people. But what about the argument that we didn’t actually “change” or “create” anything… we simply give campers a safe environment to challenge themselves and grow the skills and qualities that they already possess.

I don’t have the answer, all I have is years of watching campers (and staff) … become. Become more confident, become happier, become better versions of themselves.  Continue reading

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Picture this … Anatomy of a Fabulous Camp Director

Sometimes all you need is a picture…

I found this photo on Pinterest but it originally came from Kidcam Teacher Track (I think they were the original creators – at least I can’t find anything to prove otherwise)

Check out more camp director resources on my Pinterest board.

What qualities do you think are important for being a fabulous camp director? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

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