13 Things I Wish My Summer Staff Knew

13things1. You were hired for a reason. We talked to probably 3 or more people for your exact position, and decided to offer you the position.

2. Chacos are not in the uniform. Staff shirt? Check! Sunscreen? You betcha! But you don’t have to have a name brand shoe to work at camp. Nor do you need an Eno hammock. Columbia, North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Wear, and so many other brands are well-made, but expensive. I know how much I pay you. Get what fits well. You don’t need Chacos.

3. It’s so much more than how you work with children. If you are incredible with campers, I will be totally impressed! However, if your attitude stinks or you terrorize the other staff, I probably won’t ask you to come back from your next night off. See, the uniqueness of camp relies on everyone feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually safe & free to express themselves. If you prevent that consciously, I can’t risk you being here. So do your best to love ’em like crazy… all of ’em!

4. You can’t really fool me. I may not be able to prove it, but I know that when I let you leave early on Friday for a “funeral” you were actually at a music festival. Your new car stickers, sunburn, and hoarse voice are a dead giveaway. I also know that you and old so-and-so are the ones who were hooking up in the canoe shed, I know that you texted rude comments about another staff member, and I know that you’ve been adding minors on Facebook. I also know when you’ve jumped in for other staff, when you share the glory for something you did, and when you just happen to be incredibly awesome…

5. It’s ok to take credit for your awesome. If you planned that amazing program, led a successful camp clean-up, encouraged a climber, wrote a new campfire song, I want to know it was you. I want to give you credit for that awesomeness!

6. Sometimes I can’t give you all the information. Look, you know that I have lots of confidential files in my office. What you may not know is that the information you feel you are lacking is not in any of those files. I wish I could tell you why we are suddenly changing the plans for a guest group. I wish I knew what was around the next corner. Truth is, sometimes we are both making it up as we go and hoping it all comes out in the wash. And usually, it does.

7. This is my career. Once upon a time a million years ago, I was a six-year-old at camp with my big sister, and I decided that it was my favorite place in the whole wide world, and I wanted to stay. Fast forward to modern times, and my little dream came true. I spend my entire year working in the Experiential Education sector, and I take the notion of “learning moments” very seriously. I attend trainings, do massive amounts of research, and never stop improving and logging the contributions that the camp world can make to society at large. If you want this job, I can tell you how to get it.CampFam1

8. I want you to succeed. Every time I evaluate classes, staff clam up and pray that no mistakes happen. I know I’m your boss and all, but I am not there to count strikes against you. I’m there to see how you have grown since staff training. And this stretches past evaluations, too: when you call me in 3 years asking me to serve as a reference for your dream job, I am so proud of you I could burst.

9. I am here for you. My office door is typically open, and when it’s closed I’m usually having a moment with your coworker. If your class is stagnating, I will provide resources to jazz it back up. If your grandmother is sick, I will give you hugs and as much time to see her as we can afford. If you got picked on, I have your back like a mama bear. If you make a mistake, I will give you chocolate and help you fix it. Even if a moment comes that I can’t rehire you, I will help you find another appropriate job.

10. It’s really hard to get fired. Back to #8… I want you to succeed. Do you know how hard you have to work (or not work as the case dictates) to actually get fired? Sometimes we have a sit-down chat about mistakes, but if you have all the best intentions, you probably won’t get fired.

11. You are infinitely cooler than me. I listen to NPR. I call it “snack chat.” I don’t know how to Dougie. I rely on you to tell me when something is appropriate, but trust me when I say I have my sources and… well… #4.

12. Your summer job is better than everyone else’s. I mean it. You are learning so much that you will apply to future jobs, and I have yet to meet a potential employer who shrugs off time spent at camp. Plus, you get to have fun, make new friends, develop and lead new programs, learn new dances, and live in this weird world of tie-dye, campfires, music, adventure, and nature.

13. I love you. My motto for counselors and staff is “love ’em like crazy” when it comes to the campers, because ultimately when you love someone you want to protect them, shower them with praise, and help them work through difficulties. You may not know this, but I love you so, so much. Even if your time at camp sours or is cut short, I love you.

Even when I'm teaching you a super intricate game that makes very little sense...

Even when I’m teaching you a super intricate game that makes very little sense…