Posts Tagged With: camp counsellor

Supporting Your Staff – Part 5 -Shout Out Wall Update

The Shout Out Wall has been one of my post popular posts.

Kudos to you, camping community, I love that you’re all so concerned with spreading kindness and encouragement!

One of the questions that I get asked most often is, “What are some other themes I can use on my board?”

Well I thought I’d help ya’ll out with a list of themes my staff and I have come up with (and some photos too!)

If you’re new here and you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my Shout Out Wall post to get some tips on how to do one.


Shout Out 

You can really draw anything with this, we’ve drawn animals, megaphones, and a man’s face, you can be creative.

ABCD – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

I went for Buzz Lightyear’s slightly less handsome cousin (because it made sense with our theme) but you could do a medal or something if that makes more sense to you.

You Rock (because…) 

I’ve done both the electric guitar type rock, as well as a poorly drawn picture of a rock, but you could be creative and do Mt. Rushmore or something! Or a KISS face. (The band, not the … duck face thing.)

You Rule (because…) Continue reading

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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!)




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*

Continue reading

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The Campers Come First Philosophy

Campers Come First

“Campers Come First”
Said every camp staff ever.

Yes. Absolutely. 100%
You are correct, friend.

Except, do our staff really know what we mean when we say that?

A few years ago, I had just taken over a shiny new director job, facilitated training session, went over all of our policies, taught best practices… everything went great.

Or so I thought. (dun dun dunnn)

Continue reading

Categories: Quotable Camp, Self Care at Camp | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WOW Book!

Last winter I was creeping around on Pinterest and came across a staff motivation Pin by Emily Hansen over at Hanselor the Counselor. She had the brilliant idea of creating a “Wow Book” for staff to praise and motivate each other, then pass along.

I recreated her idea, and tried it out this summer with my camp team. It was a hit!
Here’s how it went and what I found out along the way.

I bought an inexpensive spiral notebook and wrote “WOW!” on the front. 


I wrote the instructions on the inside cover.

Then at a meeting I mentioned that the book might come around, told them where they could find the instructions and asked them to make sure they read them before using the book. Continue reading

Categories: Staff Encouragement & Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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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Categories: Picture This... | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Camp Director Pro Tip # 5 – Be Available

I talk a lot about fun & cute ways to support your staff, shout out walls, warm fuzzies, etc. but the most important way to support your staff is to actually, physically, be there for them. Let them know that you’re available to talk – or listen if when they need it. Then, actually BE available!

I know that as a camp director you have tons of work to do, ESPECIALLY as a new camp director… sometimes you feel like you have too many balls in the air, I totally get it.

I start during training session, I tell that staff that my ACD and I can be their “people” and that if they’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, confused, or any other emotion that makes them feel icky, they can come find us and we’ll talk, hug, scream, eat our feelings… whatever it is that they need.

Some camp directors are great at scheduling office hours to keep themselves on track and so staff know when they’re available to chat. That’s not one of my strengths.  My guess is that that type of system would work better for bigger camps with hundreds of staff and large leadership teams.

I run a small camp, I wear a lot of hats (figuratively AND literally – I really like hats!) so one minute I can be submitting payroll, the next I can be helping wash dishes, and the next I can be hanging out with a counsellor and their camper who just needed a little down time. So I have to make sure I carve out time to check in with staff, and to let them know that even though I may LOOK busy – I’m never too busy for them.

hats Continue reading

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Supporting your staff – Part 4 – Secret Friend

santa catEvery season for the final week of camp we do a little activity called Secret Friend. It’s like Secret Santa – but in the summer!

It’s a great way to re-energize staff and celebrate the end of the summer while you’re at it. Here’s how it works (at my camp at least)


Choosing Names
On the last day of the second last session (week 7 for us) you ask the staff to pick names out of a hat (obviously if they get their own they choose another)

Shopping/ Prep
They then spend the break preparing for the week. That might include shopping, crafts, note writing, etc. (more on that later)

Leaving Goodies
The actual activity starts on the first day of the last session. (We start on day 1, the day campers arrive. Not day 0 – which is the day before campers arrive)

Continue reading

Categories: Staff Encouragement & Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Supporting your staff – Part 3 – Shout Out Wall

One of the easiest and most effective ways to motivate and support your staff is to publicly point out the good things they do. I know, some real high level ideas here…

But seriously, pointing out their awesomeness in front of others will give them all of the warm fuzzy feelings and let them know that you are seeing their hard work. Know what else will make em feel great? When OTHERS compliment them on a job well done too! Woah.

That’s where the shout out wall comes in handy.

IMG_2583 Continue reading

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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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