For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 09 2016
by Lauren Wigren

7 Lessons I've Learned As A Camp Counselor

By Lauren Wigren - Aug 09 2016
As a college-bound eighteen-year-old with mounting wants and needs, summer is a time to work and work hard. Waiting tables, bagging groceries and counting articles of clothing are among the multitude of options I have to secure a paycheck. I’ve chosen to spend my past three summers, however, working as a camp counselor at the day camp I fondly attended every summer as a kid. Though it can be a tough job (long days, challenging campers and difficult parents), I wouldn’t want to spend my summer any other way. I love my job and the invaluable life lessons and skills it has helped me attain. Here are seven that I’ve found to be the most significant.

1. Embrace your creativity.

The last thing you want is for you or your campers to be bored. Whether it’s picking out an outfit for an upcoming spirit day or coming up with a game or activity for your next group time, thinking outside the box is a big part of any camp counselor’s job. The experiences I’ve had trying to come up with unique and innovative ways to solve a problem or kill some time at camp will help me later on when I face difficult problems or tasks in my career.

2. Patience IS a virtue.

Yes, as cliché as it sounds, having patience will make your life a whole lot easier. Working with young children all day long, I’ve had to develop patience, otherwise I would have gone insane a long time ago. I’ve had some campers with poor listening skills, others that have needed help with what we consider to be basic tasks, and others who are simply hard to entertain. Having patience allows you to remain level-headed and positive and allows you to communicate with campers and other staff members in a rational and effective manner. If you lose your patience too quickly, your campers - and even some of your co-workers- may feel uncomfortable around you.

3. Hard work DOES pay off.

Becoming a counselor wasn’t easy: I first partook in a two-year counselor-in-training (CIT) program in which I did odd jobs and assisted counselors, specialists, life-guards and campers of all ages. While some days were fun and interesting, other days were exhausting and stressful. As a 14/15-year-old with little work experience, some aspects of being a CIT were daunting. However, at the end of it all, I earned a paying-position as a junior counselor, and have since been promoted to assistant senior counselor. Having authority, a group of my own and, of course, money, are all privileges that I earned through hard work and dedication.

4. Be empathetic.

In order to truly understand and be able to help your campers, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. Children are still learning to navigate the world that we have become accustomed and desensitized to, and because every child is different from the next, each will have their own obstacles to overcome. Often times, if you can understand where a child is coming from when they are struggling, you will be able to get through to them and come up with solutions to their problems. No matter where life takes you, you will be forced to interact with other people the whole rest of your life. Having empathy will allow you to understand and perhaps even accept other’s flaws, thus strengthening your relationships, both personal and professional.

5. Be responsible.

As a camp-counselor, the world doesn’t revolve around you. It is your job to provide a fun, safe, positive environment for other people’s children. Any bad decision you make will affect not only you, but your campers and co-counselors as well. Always being cautious and making good choices is critical, and I know that I will use the decision-making skills and sense of responsibility I developed at camp throughout my life.

6. Teamwork makes dreams work.

Camp can only be a success if all staff members work together and are on the same page. Communication, compromise and learning to work around different personalities and work-styles are crucial to ensure that campers are having an enriching and safe experience. Conflict or lack of communication between co-workers may confuse or upset campers, detracting from their camp experience.

7. Be confident.

Kids can pick up on a lack of confidence from a mile away. If you want to gain their trust and respect, you have to be confident in your own ability to be a leader. Every time I am able to make a camper smile or get my group to settle down when things get a little hectic, I have no doubt that I am capable of being a leader and a role model to them. There’s no greater feeling than having campers tell you how excited camp makes them or hearing their parents thank you for helping them have such a positive experience. Hearing those words of encouragement reminds me that I am good at my job, and that I am capable of anything I am dedicated to and work hard at. Being a counselor has made me a more confident person overall.

My job provides me with more than just money: I am able to return every year to a place I love and continue to grow as a person. Working with kids and their families has taught me more about myself and others than standing behind a cash register ever could. I am proud to be a counselor and look forward to camp every year.

Lead Image Credit: It's A Laugh Productions

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Lauren Wigren - Simmons College

Simmons College 2020! Majoring in Elementary Education and History. Loves writing, acting, singing, working with kids, and my dog.

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