Counselor Heroes

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 7, 2018 6:30:00 PM

For years we have talked about hiring “counselor heroes”.  A friend unfamiliar with summer camps asked me to define what we mean by this and to explain what we do to get “heroes”.  I thought you might appreciate how I responded.
Bees
Our heroes are young men and women committed to being exceptional role models to our campers.  These are individuals whose talents justify easier hours and higher pay, but who understand the power of working with young people (of course, they also enjoy having an active and exciting summer).  While these heroes teach the campers a great deal, they inevitably learn some powerful lessons themselves.  They learn the 21st Century skills of communication, teamwork, work ethic, leadership and creative thinking as well the joy of serving others. They learn that hard work and great fun can go together.

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Tags: Counselor

Definition of a Champion

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 5, 2017 2:30:00 PM

“Our passion is to help every camper grow into the Champion he or she is intended to be.”
---Camp Champions’ Mission Statement
Boys with shadows2
When I share our mission statement with parents, some ask me what we mean by a “Champion”.  Some picture a camper draped in medals or one that wins a competition.  We mean something different.

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Tags: Counselor

My Odd "Workplace"

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 8, 2016 8:43:04 PM

1967_Costumes.jpgOne of my hopes with this blog is to provide you a feel for camp. Sometimes that means explaining a tradition. Sometimes I will share quotes from campers. Other times I strive to give you a glimpse of what it like to be a parent-aged “adult” at Camp Champions.

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Tags: Counselor

Helping our First time Campers Feel Welcome

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 7, 2016 8:38:50 PM

Squirrel_2.jpg 

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Tags: Goofy, Camper, Counselor

Chasing Animals and Appreciating Camper Wit

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 6, 2016 10:04:23 PM

Green_Acres_Chicken.jpgEnjoying Green Acres

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Tags: Goofy, Campers, camp, Counselor

Explanation of Torchlight Ceremony

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 17, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Torch

Several years ago, we had some parents contact us with questions about Torchlight, our evening ritual.  With this in mind, we decided to provide a little bit of an explanation about this important camp tradition.

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Tags: Counselor

Senior Camper Program

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 16, 2014 3:00:00 PM

Each year, we are asked to make presentations at national camp conferences about our high school leadership program.  We call it the Senior Camper program and it serves teens finishing 9th, 10th and 11th grades.  Here is an overview of the program.  I hope you can see why it has become an nationally recognized!
Senior Camper Talk
The teenage years are particularly challenging ones for parents.  Once a child turns 13 or 14, peers and other adults often become more influential than parents.  Susie Ma’am and I see that happening with our three high schoolers.  They still love us, but they are preparing themselves for a time when they will be in college and we will not be there.  This is a necessary and important developmental milestone, but it is also scary one.  We parents like being in control and we worry about who the other influences will be.

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Tags: Counselor

Our Little Guests

Posted by Steve Baskin on Aug 9, 2013 6:17:24 PM

MinionsTonight’s blog is destined to be a short one, but I do want to share a little about our youngest two cabins.

 

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Tags: Counselor

Finding the Positive

Posted by Steve Baskin on Aug 1, 2013 5:07:08 PM

We had fireworks tonight! We had fireworks tonight!

One of the challenges with camp is framing the experience for the campers.  Children do not simply have experiences, but they also think about them and process them multiple times after the experience is over.

 

Here is an example.  I have a friend named Shawn Achor, who wrote the book “The Happiness Advantage”.  I have mentioned him in previous blogs so I will not go into much detail.  Simply know that he is considered an expert in Positive Psychology and has even been used by PBS as part of their fund-raising drives.

 

He loves to tell the following story about processing experiences.  When he was 8 or 9, his parents asked him to watch his younger sister who was 4-5 five during a dinner party.  While they were playing on a top bunk, his sister rolled off and fell to the ground, landing hard on her hands and knees.

 

He looked down at her face after this painful fall.  He could see the rising tears of pain and indignation.  She was about to explode and he would soon be in trouble.

 

At that moment, he had an inspiration.  He is fond of saying that he “peaked at age 9” with this words that he then uttered.

 

“Amy, did you see how you just landed?  No human could land like that.  Only a BABY UNICORN could land so gracefully!”

 

Amy’s greatest wish in life was to have the world recognize her inner unicorn.

 

At this moment, her face froze.  She could choose to be angry and indignant about the painful fall OR she could embrace her status as a unicorn.

 

She smiled, wiped away the tears that had come forth and celebrated her unicorn-ness for the rest of the evening.

 

Neurological research has shown that our minds are single processor units.  We can only do one thing at a time.  In other words, Amy could be sad or be a unicorn, but she was cognitively incapable of being both.

 

I love this story because it shows the power of the mind to reframe an experience – even one as undeniably unpleasant as a 5 foot fall onto a hard floor.  I have also found myself thinking about this story a great deal in the last 4-5 years since I first heard it.  As a camp director, I find amazing power in the following ideas:

  • With the right frame, campers can see almost any experience as a potentially positive one.  A skilled counselor can help a child find the “teachable moment” in any circumstance.
  • (And this is the biggie) we can help teach children that this it true so that they can choose their own interpretation of events in the future.  This is a true and life-affirming power.  It is hard to see yourself as a victim if you can always see grow or positivity in experiences.

 

I like to tell the Senior Campers that time in 2001 when Susie Ma’am and were founders of a camp-related Internet company.  It was essentially the predecessor to CampMinder.  We raised a lot of money and hired over 60 people when the Internet bubble burst.  Without additional funds (we were still in the development phase), we had to close our doors.  We had to let our employees go, tell our investors we had lost their money, explain to our vendors we could only pay them a fraction of our payables and let our camps know we could not serve them that summer.

 

None of that was fun.

 

But we had a partner that said the following once we learned that we could not raise any additional funds, “We did not make our vision work, but we are not failures.  In fact, we have been given an opportunity to go out with our heads held high.  We will finish strong and everyone will notice.  Most importantly, our own children will notice.  It will be a wonderful message to them that failure in an endeavor cannot keep us down!  Let’s finish strong!”

 

After that, we each work up and came to the office with a sense of purpose.  Sure we would be delivering bad news to someone, but we could do so in a way that showed compassion and dignity.  We even began to think we had a new mission – to show everyone that we came in contact with that we were not defeated.  In fact, we had several vendors ask us why we even called them and paid them anything.  We told them about “finishing strong” and they were really taken aback.  It have never occurred to them that someone could find a sense of purpose in an awful situation.  One guy (who work for the US Post Office) ended up in a long chat with one of us and ended up resolving that he would not feel so helpless at work any more.

 

I certainly hope that I never have another experience like that (and I tell the Senior Campers that), but I find it wonderfully liberating to know that we could handle it if it were to happen again.

 

When camp is at its best, it helps campers learn that they can control their interpretation of their experiences.  Of course, it helps that most experiences are really, really fun and require no re-framing.  But there are inevitably teachable moments.  It is not always fun to clean the cabin (though some have found a way to do even that).  Being homesick is not fun.  Having a conflict with a cabinmate is not fun.  Overcoming a fear of heights and climbing the Wall or Pirate Ship is a powerful, but challenging experience.  The Lake Swim and kilometers are also great opportunities to see the positive in a challenge.

 

Some campers’ initial instincts is to go to a more negative space.  “I don’t like swimming in the lake and I am now tired.  I wish I had not done that.”  Our job is to help them re-write that story in their head.  “I am not an enthusiastic swimmer and I find the lake a little intimidating.  Because of that, this swim was a bigger triumph for me than for most kids.  I am proud of myself because I am stronger and more capable now.”

 

This is were we talk about the Warrior versus the Worrier.  We remind them that there are different dialogues going on in their minds and that they can choose to feed their strong voice and starve the inner victim.

 

Let me assure you that the campers do not see this “heavy” stuff.  We are not talking about cognitive interpretation in front of them.  But I thought you might enjoy reading a little about some of the goals we have for our campers.

 

I look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday!

 

Steve Sir

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Tags: Counselor

Loving Sunday Evenings

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jul 28, 2013 6:37:42 PM

Vespers 2_13I truly love our Sunday evenings.  I love the picnics in general, and I enjoy this particular one in particular because we host the "T-Bone Club".  The T-Bone Club are all the campers having finished 8th grade that are in their last summer as campers (prior to becoming Senior Campers).  During one of our picnics, we ask them to dress up and we serve them a special meal of steak, double-stuffed potatoes, green beans. bread sticks and strawberry cake.  It is a fun celebration of their leadership as the oldest campers and an acknowledgement of their pending graduation.

Susie and I dress up as well, she in a classy way and I in a Scottish way.  Let's face it, you do not get too many chances to break out a kilt, so the T-Bone Club is one such opportunity.  [Note: wool socks in a Texas summer are not fun - this requires real commitment.]

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Tags: Counselor