I Must Be Cool Now

After gallivanting around Spain and Portugal for five weeks, it was time to come home and get to work.

photo-34As a child, I spent most of my summers at a new camp every week, learning about animation or volleyball or astronomy.adored my counselors; it was refreshing to have energetic, caring leaders who weren’t “old” (at age 8, anything over 30 seems old). They were my role models, and I hoped to someday be as cool as they were.

And I guess I must be cool now, because this summer I’m working full-time as a day camp counselor at the Jewish Community Center. Last week we did staff training and hosted a summer kickoff party for the campers, where I indulged myself in the ubiquitous camp tradition of face paint and became a cat.

One of my goals as a counselor is to spot kids who are shy or have a hard time interacting with other campers. I’m fairly outgoing now, but my dirty little secret is that I was terrified of meeting new people as a child. It only makes matters worse when a lot of them already know each other (at JCC camp, a bunch of the kids are “lifers” or stay for many weeks throughout the summer). I remember really appreciating counselors who made an extra effort to engage me when I was feeling shy, so I’ve made a point of doing the same.

This week I’ve been assisting in painting camp, which has a pretty calm classroom environment, and I’ve loved getting to know my campers by chatting with them about anything and everything while we paint.

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On Monday, I sought out one shy camper while watercoloring. She told me about how her grandma is an artist and the two of them create watercolor paintings in grandma’s studio. I loved hearing this little piece of her life and I noticed her feeling more comfortable talking to other kids once I got her warmed up–just like how I was at that age.

Today she was absent (it’s like she’s trying to break my heart) so I sat at a more talkative table while we created pointillism paintings. The girls had such a hard time with the concept of blending colors on the paper instead of the palette, so I modeled the technique on my own painting. With a lot of encouragement from their obviously super fabulous camp counselor me, they finally got it, despite some initial pointillism-induced impatience and frustration.

Needless to say, I’m loving camp so far. While I expect the kids will tire me out by week 10, I’m excited to hang out and play games with some awesome campers this summer, all the while fulfilling the same role my incredible counselors did for 8-year-old me.

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16 thoughts on “I Must Be Cool Now

  1. I never went to camp as a child. Never got to be a camp counselor either. That sounds like so much fun. I did spend a couple of weekends volunteering with the Special Olympics though. That seriously changed my life. I think I blogged about it here as well. Well done you for bringing joy to peoples’ lives.

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  2. I was a camp counselor for several years and remember what a great experience it was for me (so I guess I was once cool, too.) It’s great that your camp makes a point to give staff a mission to help shyer or more nervous students. Camp can be scary for many young people and, so often, it only takes one person to change the experience for them into something wonderful.

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    • They mentioned briefly in training to make sure shy campers are getting involved but didn’t emphasize it, so my engagement with more reserved campers is pretty much entirely based on my childhood experiences. It definitely can be hard for kids–some are away from their parents for the first time–so showing them that camp is fun and making it more comfortable for them is really important.

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  3. Good for you! Keep it up. Some of my best childhood memories are of teachers who were truly invested in each pupil. Your compassion and attention will surely leave a lasting imprint on your campers!

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  4. Glad that you’re using your own experiences at camp as a child to focus your approach as a counselor! It’s so reassuring to know that there’s someone making an effort to reach out to shy kids – they need that encouragement to edge out of their shells, and you should feel great about yourself for giving them that praise. Also, wonderful job instructing art, I would never be able to do that.

    Hope your two jobs bring you much fulfillment this summer.

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