Posts Tagged With: camp director

Camp Sick

camp sick

Ok, I’ve totally been feeling camp sick.

As you may or may not know, I resigned from my full time camp job in February (actually I resigned in Nov or Dec, but I finished working in February) and while I’m happy with my decision and SO excited about the new adventures I’m embarking on, I can’t help but miss camp at this time of year.

 

I was fine, I was looking forward, excited, not thinking about my former camp a whole lot… then they posted a photo during staff training.

They only posted one photo and it wasn’t anything super special… in fact, here’s the photo. (I’m ‘borrowing’ it from the camp fb page… is that legal? I feel like I get a pass because I created the fb page… and that used to be “my” fire pit… rationalization!)

CT campfire

 

Anyway, like I said, nothing too special about this photo.

But it totally sent me on a spiral of missing camp, it hit me, “oh, they’re at camp right now… having campfire… without me…”

It’s important to note that I knew they would have campfire without me… hahahaha
I wasn’t expecting camp to shut down once I left or anything (see my post the cult of the director for my thoughts on that) but it just hadn’t occurred to me how HARD it would be.

Within the next few days I wore all of my old staff clothes, looked through all of my old camp photos (if you follow me on Instagram, you may remember me posting five years of camp photos… yup, it was a cry for help) and chatted with my former ED a few times (which isn’t super unusual, cause we’re friends, and I sincerely adore her).

And I let myself be sad for a few days. I let myself be nostalgic.

I always liken leaving a camp to breaking up with someone.
It’s a similar emotion I think, you have all these wonderful memories, and had such good times, it was an important part of your life but sometimes you have to move on and it’s ok to mourn that a little bit.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.

Feeling emotions like a human being.

Then I reminded myself of all the reasons why I decided to move on, texted the new director a “happy day 1” on the first day of camp, wished him luck and spent a little time in nature (which is a funny story and I’ll tell you about it in my next blog post), and now I’m back to feeling like myself again.

Whew. What a rollercoaster!!!
Human emotions are exhausting, friends!! haha

Have any of you experienced campsickness before?
I used to get it every year around February when I was a seasonal staff, but camp sickness due to not returning is a very different experience.

What did you do to help combat your campsickness?
I’m sure it’ll rear it’s head at least once or twice more this summer, so I’d love to hear your words of wisdom in the comment section below.

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International Camp Directors Course 2017

 

group-shot

 

Hey camp friends,

Remember when I shared this post  back in in December?

Well in case you didn’t read it, the Reader’s Digest Version ( for those of you who don’t get the reference, that means the abridged version. Am I dating myself? Do people still read Reader’s Digest? My friends used to tease me mercilessly when I was a teenager because I LOVED that little magazine.) is that I was a huge fan and I think everyone should take the course.

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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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The Path We Take … Curt’s Story

I’m really excited to share today’s post with you all. In my third installment in The Path We Take series we focus on Curt “Moose” Jackson, the creative and dynamic force behind the Summer Camp Programming website among other projects.

While I’ve yet to meet Curt in person, I’ve long admired his brilliant and creative programming ideas – and the fact that he has been able to bring camping professionals from around the world together to share ideas in his roundtable compilations.

(click here for information on how to participate in future email roundtables)

Now that I’ve had a chance to learn a little bit more about Curt through this process, I can also say that I admire his candor (he got real folks – and it was awesome!) and his drive to continue to explore, learn, create, and improve the level of programming we offer in the camping industry. 

I hope you enjoy learning about Curt’s journey as much as I did, and if you have any questions, comments, or just want to tell Curt how awesome he is, tell us about it in the comment section below. 

 

curts-story


Tell us about yourself.

 

Yikes, this is a broad question. It all started when I was a twinkle in my mother’s eye.

Just kidding.

I grew up an only child to a loving single parent in Southern California. My mom was a nurse who worked long hours and I was a latch-key kid. She passed away from cancer when I was 15. Unfortunately, nobody in my family wanted to take on the burden of raising a teenager. So after getting tossed around a bit between aunts and uncles my grandparents took me in. Six months later my grandfather passed away. Those two years were rough and had a big impact on my life, positive and negative.

I’ve always wanted to be an actor or a rock star, but I know that if I really did either of those careers I wouldn’t enjoy them. Besides, camp gives me the chance to do both with camp skits and camp songs. As a young kid I wanted to be a professional baseball player or a magician. Come to find out, I wasn’t very good at either of them, but I still like to pull out some magic tricks when campers are around.

I like road trips, the ocean, Moose Tracks ice cream, campfires and the smell of freshly cut grass.

I don’t like inconsiderate people, Brussel sprouts, humidity, and movie theaters that don’t have stadium seating.

TradingCards-template-SURVIVOR 2.psd

This is one of Curt’s super cool trading cards he offers on his site. You can order them here.

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Sending out an S.O.S

So here’s a (well-known?) fact about me.

I hate asking for help.

I hate it. Seriously.

Especially in my career. I don’t think it makes me look weak or anything like that, I know it doesn’t. I’m just stubborn I guess.

I was “brought up” in a camp culture where we powered through things, and made due, and solved problems with creative solutions… and laughed the whole time at the ridiculousness of the situation.

I still do all of those things, in fact, I pride myself on being able to do all of those things. I consider myself one heck of a creative problem solver, and it typically takes A LOT to really freak me out, and I spend most of my days laughing at the utterly ridiculous things that happen at camp.

But…

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Work/ Work balance

Everyone has heard of work/ life balance… it can be challenging to achieve at times and most people struggle with it. But camp directors have an additional struggle… and that’s work/ work balance. A camp director WANTS to be out with the campers, it’s good for the staff to learn by their example, it’s good for the campers to see them around and get to interact with them, it’s good for the camp because they have their eye on things, and most importantly, it’s fun!!
But, there’s also office work to be done. Phone calls to return, emails to send, reports to write, meetings to be had. All of the things that go into running a business.

One of the things I wish I had done differently over the years is to create a better work/ work balance. It’s something I continue to struggle with today and if I’m being honest, the last few summers the scales have definitely been tipping toward the office work side of things… which is such a bummer.

work: work balance

Based on this photo, I’m not sure why I’m so eager to show up to programs!

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It’s the most stressful time of the year

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This is how I feel at the moment.

To be honest, this is how I feel every year at this time. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I try to do in advance, it never fails that April and May are just… bonkers!

It feels like I have hundreds of things on my To Do list, and dozens of them are super, ultra, major, high importance. And time just keeps on moving forward – camp is sort of like the theatre, regardless of whether you’re ready or not, the show must go on. The campers are going to show up with their suitcases and high expectations and we have to be able to deliver. 

And life keeps happening (so to speak… ) sometimes things happen where I have to take a step back and make time for family and loved ones, but the work stuff doesn’t go away. It just sits, and waits, and grows. 

Even though some of my favourite things take place during this time of year like getting to know new staff hires, getting ready for staff development week, hyping up camp for campers and returning staff – it’s also by far the most stressful time of year too.

And unfortunately this little blog, that I really enjoy writing, always ends up taking a back seat to the super, ultra, major, high importance things on my list, and to my family obligations. So I’m sorry for that, I have about 5 or 6 posts that just aren’t quite ready to share yet, but are in the works (and have been for a while… hahaha… sorry)

 

Unfortunately this is not one of those times where I might have a bit of advice about something I’ve learned from these situations in the past. This is just me… venting? complaining? making excuses? stating facts? All of the above, I guess.

All I know is that this is my hardest time of year every year, and if you’re feeling it too – I sympathize. 

And if you have any tips or suggestions, feel free to share them in the comment section below, or just vent, that works too.

 

 

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

Priorities – Part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about priorities at camp and in life (you can see that here) and I thought that I would expand on that a little bit.

I’ve noticed over the years that the staff don’t always know what the Camp Director’s daily priorities are (I mean, beyond the obvious health, safety, and well being of the campers and staff) or how their their leaders prioritize things.

I know that when I was a first year counsellor I had no sweet clue what my director’s priorities were… or even what they really did all day…

And I’ve had that question asked to me by staff over the years “so… like… what do you DO all day?” – if I’m asked that question it is definitely a wake up call that I am not communicating effectively.
(ALTHOUGH I wrote the draft of this post before I listened to the Camp Code Podcast # 15 – Building Your Summer Camp Leadership Team, and Ruby Compton said something that really struck me. She said that the job of a camp director is to run things so smoothly that people DO ask, “what do you do all day?”, and compared it to her former role as a sound tech for live theatre … listen to the podcast, she explains it so much better than me. BUT it really got me thinking and has definitely changed my perspective on that question! I’m going to have to spend some time with it and let it swirl around in my head a little bit, but I’m very intrigued by this new perspective. )

So my ACD and I sat down and came up with a short exercise to do with our head counsellors (who make up our leadership team, they would be considered “mid- level managers” in a typical organization structure) to help them understand how we prioritize, and then move the conversation into delegating and why it’s important.

It’s just a brief 20 minute exercise, we give them a typical ‘to-do’ list from a day at camp and get them to prioritize it, when they’re just about done and have their wonderful organized list, we throw them a curveball. They then have to re- prioritize and delegate some of the work.

To Do List Activity

This is a copy of one of the faux to-do lists that someone already started prioritizing.

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Priorities – At Camp and in Life

Oh, hello camp friends!

It’s now 2016, and you know what that means – we’re THISMUCH closer to camp 2016! Woot!

So I’ve been away for a few weeks, and by away I mean both literally and figuratively. I had a mini family emergency (which we originally thought was a major family emergency but got dialled down to a code yellow – yay for small victories, which are actually pretty major victories in the scheme of things) and headed “home” (where I grew up- about 5 hours away) for a short period of time.

After that I had about a week to play catch up on a lot of things before the holidays, and then I decided to just spend as much time as possible unplugged and with my family over the holidays. It was nice.

So this whole ordeal got me thinking about priorities.

Setting Priorities and Communicating Them

I am so fortunate to work with some really amazing humans who are supportive and understanding; when I told my bosses that I felt like I needed to go home for an unspecified amount of time but would work remotely when I was able to and would take vacation days if I found I wasn’t able to work much, they were like “Okay cool, we trust you. Check in when you get a chance and let us know how everything is going and what your timeline is shaping up to be.”

Awesome. Right?

I’m also really fortunate that I was at a point in the season when I could pick up and take off and it didn’t disrupt my work very much (although it wreaked havoc on all of my other commitments, hence the catching up). It would have been a whole lot harder to take so much time if camp was in session.

But I would have done the exact same thing, because family takes priority.

Balancing “Real Life” and Camp Priorities

I’ve always tried to do the same for my staff – I ask them up front if they have any commitments during the summer that will conflict with the camp schedule, then we try to work around it.

Obviously the more notice I have, the better – but there are some things that just sort of crop up and I try really hard to accommodate …well… life, when I can.

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The Path We Take… Mel’s Story

For part two of my path series, I asked my good friend Melanie Dash to talk about her journey to becoming a camp professional.

Mel just so happens to be one of my favourite people on the planet!
We met at a camp fair a few years ago and I decided right away that she was an adorable human and we should become friends immediately (that’s how everyone becomes friends as an adult, right?)

Over the past few years Mel has continually inspired and astounded me with her creativity, organization, passion for camping and most of all, her drive for success.

Hopefully her story will help inspire and motivate some of you too!

The path we take Mel's story

Photo credit: Doug Scortegagna / Foter.com / CC BY

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