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.
In the past week I’ve had two very different experiences that turned out unexpectedly well and I was pleasantly surprised, I also learned a little something about myself. So I thought I’d share them with you.
Getting Things I Want
I finally had a meeting about my end of season report, it’s a pretty extensive report and I always make a lot of recommendations in it that I think will improve our program.
Now, as I mentioned in my wish list post I think it’s important to make sure that you’re making others aware of what you want/ need for your program just in case they’re willing to give it to you but I never expect to get everything I ask for… at least, not right away.
So I went into my meeting thinking that I would get about half of the stuff I had highlighted as a priority, and I expected one of the recommendations to be greeted with a hard “no”.
This was something that would actually improve camper and staff experience, but would cost us a few bucks, and when your program has a tight budget, you expect anything that will cost a few bucks to be shot down pretty quickly.
People are left with a certain impression when they visit your site. As an accreditation visitor for my provincial camping association I’ve had the pleasure of visiting numerous camps throughout my province. I’ve found that each camp has its own vibe. I’ve also found that first impressions are really, really important. I’ve noticed over the years that regardless of how new, old, fancy, or rustic a camp’s facilities are the thing that impacts my first impression most is how tidy/ clean the place is (note: although they go hand in hand, tidy and clean are not the same thing!)
If a facility is well looked after it leads people to make assumptions about the quality of care that the staff puts into every other aspect of their job, specifically camper care. It may not be a fair assumption, but it’s a common one.
I remember visiting a camp’s website, thinking how cool the camp was, until I saw a series of photos that had a mess in the background. My thought was, if these are the photos they’re using to promote their camp, then what does the place look like on a bad day?? The camp was for people with disabilities and special needs, and I couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t trust them with a camper who needed special medical attention because I wouldn’t feel like I could trust them to be thorough, careful, and attentive to details.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that camps need to be military style clean, but the beds should be made, and there shouldn’t be stuff lying everywhere all the time!
So here are 5 quick tips to keeping your camp clean and making a great first impression. Continue reading
Want to know the fastest and easiest way to alienate your staff and make them feel unappreciated and disgruntled? Act like you’re better than them.
So here’s New Camp Director Pro Tip #4. Don’t do that. Or in other words, stay out of the ivory tower.
You’re in a position of authority, others look to you for advice and guidance now – awesome! That’s a pretty important role you have there but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands dirty sometimes too. Staff need to know that you respect them and one way to show them that is to work with them and not just shout orders from your throne (or desk, or lawn chair, or wherever else you might plunk yourself). Continue reading
Awkward conversations happen. Sometimes it’s because it’s a difficult or uncomfortable topic, sometimes it’s because of the relationship you have with the staff member, and sometimes it’s just because you’re not used to being in a position where you have to discuss certain topics with staff (don’t worry, it get’s easier with time, you’ll get there).
I thought it would be a great time to cover this since I recently talked about awkward conversations in my last post about Campmances, if you missed it, check it out here.
Scott Arizala, of the Scott Arizala Show has a great video about having difficult conversations over at Camp Hacker. I highly recommend you check it out. Continue reading
My first summer as a seasonal camp director was SO exciting! I was jazzed that I had actually gotten the job, I had so many ideas and plans and lists, and I was thrilled that my assistant camp director was someone who I had worked with before as a counsellor, and was someone who I liked and respected. I knew it was going to be an amazing summer.
Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Things went wrong. Mistakes were made, and it got hard. Now, not all of the mistakes were mine – but those are the only ones I’ll talk about because those were the only ones I had any control over, and while I can learn (and have learned) from other people’s mistakes, it’s not my place to point them out or discuss them openly. So here are the things I wish I’d done differently when working with my ACD my first summer as a camp director.
I didn’t have a full understanding of what my role was in relation to my ACD.
Everybody loves a good list! I know I do!! Here’s a list of things that every new camp director should have, and I wish that someone had given me a box of these things when I started – along with the coinciding advice.
Note: If you know a new camp director, give them a box of these items, or a basket, preferably a picnic basket, if they’re a camp director chances are they buy into the idea of eating outside, on the ground… anyway…. this would be a nice gift for someone.
1. Duct tape
Advice – Duct take is like gold at camp, it will be used for everything. You will be forever searching for it because your counsellors will have swiped it, I strongly recommend writing your name or “office” on the inside of it and keeping it in a safe place.
2. A pencil-case containing pens/ highlighters/ sharpies/ post-it notes
Advice – Ok I realize that this is sort of cheating because I’m telling you to get a pencil-case then put a ton of office supplies in it, but all of them are important – and it’s super handy to have them all in one spot!! Again, beware of counsellors “borrowing” your supplies, cause they will, especially pens and sharpies.
Congratulations! You’re a shiny new camp director! As you sit at your new desk in your new office with your pen, a stapler, some paperclips, a box of half used paint bottles that should be in the A & C hall, a crown that should be in the costume closet, a hoodie that should be in lost and found and a mountain of paperwork. You think, “This is SO exciting!!!” Then you might wonder, “what should I do first?” Well, right after you put those things back where they live (why is it that the directors office accumulates so many random, weird objects?) you need to learn some history. … wait… what? Yup, you heard (read?) right. It’s learnin’ time.
Pro tip # 3 – Know your history.
You need to know the history of your camp because people will ask!
People will ask all the time, which is great because that means that they’re interested. But it also means that you need to know what you’re talking about otherwise it makes you look … well… like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
And then the people will start to question if you *actually* know what you’re talking about in other areas, and that’s not good. Continue reading
“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
Change can be hard, especially at summer camp where so much is rooted in tradition. Unfortunately, not all traditions are good, or healthy, or worth keeping. But people hold on to them because that’s what they did as campers, or in their first summer as a staff member (which in some cases was LAST YEAR!)
And some “traditions” aren’t even traditions! They’re habits, bad habits.
So as a new Camp Director, how do you break those habits, shift the camp culture, and create new, healthy habits (that will hopefully become traditions).
One step at a time, friend. Continue reading