Posts Tagged With: camp staff

Camp Counsellor Hiring Season

Woah, what a whirlwind couple of weeks. I finished up my full-time camp director job, officially got started working with the faith-based camp I mentioned in this post and launched Patchwork Marketplace. It’s been chaotic and SO MUCH FUN!!

But once again, my little blog took a hit when it came to managing my time, so I apologize for that – especially to Dan who asked a pretty great question about staff hiring and balancing that with camp prep and the million other things you need to do this time of year.

So, even though it’s later than I had planned… here’s some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, although I’m so far from an expert in any of this, I hope my experiences will help at least a little.

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Fitting it all in

Ok, so I realize this is probably not very helpful at this time of year but it’s worth saying anyway, usually in September or early October I create my work plan and map out when and how I’m going to accomplish all of my big tasks throughout the year.
I try to get the bulk of my program planning, pre summer prep completed in the fall because I know from January to May is going to be straight out madness. (That made sense for my schedule, each camp program is so unique that you will likely need to adapt that to your specific schedule.)

I was the only person solely dedicated to camp in my organization, so that meant I did everything from staff recruiting & hiring, to program development, and even camper registration – we had a development team so I got a small reprieve from grant writing and marketing, but worked quite a bit with the team to help in those areas too… so I totally get that overwhelming feeling of needing to do everything and never having enough time. I feel your pain!

What I started doing the last few years was carving out certain parts of my day for specific tasks – for instance I had a little checklist of things I needed to do for registration and I would go through that first thing in the morning and right after lunch (simply because the mail arrived after lunch and since it was a pretty recent transition to an online registration system we still had quite a few mail applications, and I always worked on it first thing in the morning so I would have answers if someone asked me how registration was going later in the day). Continue reading

Categories: New Camp Director Pro Tip | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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!)

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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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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. 

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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: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Listables – Top 10 things I learned from working at summer camp

I’m celebrating 15 years in camping this summer, I’ve worked in very “rustic” camps, music camps, science camps, day camps and camps for people with disabilities. I’ve learned a lot over the years, here are 10 of my top lessons

1. How to cook some gourmet meals over a campfire

Anne Worner / Foter / CC BY-SA

I’m not much of a cook to begin with to be honest, but I’m actually better at cooking over a campfire than I am over a stove.

2.  It’s ok to be foolish, in fact it’s encouraged camp is about having fun and being silly, nobody takes themselves too seriously and it makes for a really welcoming, comfortable environment. Continue reading

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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)

Timeline:

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

Hiring Staff is like Buying a House

Tis the season – for hiring staff!
Camp directors all over the land will emerge from their holiday break, squint at the bright sun, stretch, yawn, and kick into high gear. This is the most important season of our year – the pre camp season. This is when we create the groundwork for the magic that happens at camp (the post-season and in-session periods are obviously important too… but this is the one that allows those other parts of our year to even exist!)

One of the most important things a camp director does at this time of year (or earlier, for some of my more industrious colleagues) is hire all the people who will be the magic makers, dream weavers, role models, and storytellers this summer, aka the camp staff.

Hiring staff is huge, it’s so huge in fact, that there are dozens upon dozens of books, articles, and blog posts written about how best to interview, vet, and choose your staff. These are the people who will interact with your campers on a daily basis, they have the power to shape that camper’s experience at camp, so we need to make sure we have the right folks in place. As I was reflecting on this over my holiday break (because, let’s be real, no one in this industry really ever takes a break, am I right?!) it occurred to me that hiring staff is a lot like buying a house.

I’m making this statement as someone who is beginning the process of buying their first home (exciting, I know!) so I’ve had real estate on the brain a lot lately too. Let me lay it out for you: Continue reading

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