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Why I’m Proud To Be A Camp Counselor

Think back to how you spent your summer as a kid. They probably included family vacations, trips to the beach, riding bikes, chasing the ice cream truck, and if you were lucky, attending summer camp.

Summer camp was an almost magical place where you got to be with your friends all day and just play: like school, but better. You probably learned to swim, maybe did some archery, and came home with bathing suit tan lines and lots of nature-related crafts. It was probably a place full of special memories and maybe even the site of new friendships. So why is it that when I tell people that I’ve spent the past five summers outside all day, getting bitten by a million mosquitos and supervising the sunscreening of fifteen seven-year-olds, that they either comment on how cute or easy my job is, or that they are unimpressed with my choice in summer employment?

I think most people consider summer camp a job you have when you’re sixteen and just learning what it means to be employed: it’s a relatively easy job and the pay probably isn’t great. It isn’t a “real job”. Once you hit college, people expect that during those summer months, you’ll be interning at a company that may or may not be relevant to your intended field but will provide you with work experience. The opinion seems to be that while summer camps are fun places to work, they aren’t giving you much of that coveted work experience: those foundational professional skills that will help you in the terrifying post-grad world of Real Life Employment.

Photo curtesy of SheKnows.com

But I disagree with this notion. While it is true that many summer camps do employ teenagers, that doesn’t translate into “no skills necessary”. Can you do this job with minimal effort and just go through the motions to get to the weekend or a paycheck? Sure, but as with any job, you won’t be very good at it. If you want to be a good counselor, there’s about a hundred necessary skills you’ll have to master. You’ll have to maintain communication with your co-counselors and supervisors about pretty much everything, from how to pair up your kids with buddies every day to who’s allergic to peanuts. You’ll need to learn how to make the most out of your time at each activity, including allotting enough time to physically get there. You’ll become an expert at intervening in and mediating camper altercations, and coming up with creative games to entertain your kids during downtime. You’ll be responsible for teaching campers social skills and how to respect all of their peers by fostering a welcoming environment where everyone feels like they belong. You’ll need to be prepared and speak and act with confidence, because trust me, kids know when you don’t know what you’re talking about. And the best counselors work hard to meet all of these expectations even in 100 degree heat and amidst a small herd of children demanding their attention.

I know that being an elementary education major plays into the reasons why my experience as a camp counselor has been so valuable to me. It directly helps me prepare for my future in a way that it may not for people who are not working towards becoming a teacher. But that doesn’t mean many of those skills aren’t transferable to a plethora of other professions. Nowadays, most employers are hoping you’ll be a good team player and open to communicating and collaborating with your coworkers. They’re looking to hire those with good time management skills and the ability to solve problems in creative ways. They’ll expect you to treat others with respect and be confident about your work. And they definitely hope that you’ll be dedicated to doing your job to the best of your ability.

I love my job as a camp counselor. It’s (almost) easy to get up in the morning to go to work because it barely feels like work. Those kids teach me countless lessons about life, happiness, friendship, and so much more. They are kind, curious, funny, honest, and a daily reminder of the importance of being yourself. Their smiling faces bring me so much joy, which is good, because I need it on those long rainy days. Camp solidified my decision every day to pursue a career in education, and it helped me grow both personally and professionally just as much as any other internship might. Sure, I may wear a tutu and face paint to work, spend half my day singing about a great big moose and other woodland creatures, or come home with terrible one piece tan lines, but don’t underestimate how much I’m learning. I’m proud to call myself a camp counselor, and I’m grateful I got to spend my summers holding such a rewarding job.

Holliston//Boston Current senior at EC, future teacher of your children Things that make me happy include: Christmas, new bottles of nail polish, ice cream cookie sandwiches, a good book, and anyone who can understand my Friends jokes. 
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