Posts Tagged With: 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.


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

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

5 Quick Tips – Running a Meeting (with camp counsellors)

Meetings are a part of the job, not everybody likes them but they’re a great way to pass information, check in with people and highlight some of the positives or give feedback about what you’d like to see happen. Here are some lessons I learned along the way to prevent grumbles from your staff when they hear there’s a meeting.

1. Be Positive.
Nobody likes a Negative Nelly (sorry Nelly, you know it’s true). Try to find ways to focus on the positives, and smile. Chances are your staff are tired and either want to get on with their day, or go to bed (depending on meeting time) so send them off on a positive note. Give high fives.

Great Meeting!! High Five!!
                                                              big-ashb / Foter / CC BY

  Continue reading

Categories: 5 Quick Tips | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Who are your counsellors?

There are a several counsellor archetypes that tend to emerge on each staff team. It’s important to be able to recognize them and learn how to meet their needs.
Here are 10 common personality types that you’re likely to encounter:

1. The “I ❤ camp because it’s camp” counsellor 

Common characteristics: this counsellor LOVES camp, they love the games, the singing, the tie dye wardrobe, and the tan lines. They’re strangely ok with early mornings, late nights, chores, and constantly being wet from being thrown in the lake. They are what we call a “lifer” they were probably a camper as a child and have worked their way up the ranks.

How to spot them: They’ll be decked out in tie dye, cargo shorts/ pants, TONS of friendship bracelets, tevas/ keds/ rain boots, and a great big smile.  Continue reading

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

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