Wisdom from Teenage Boys

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 25, 2013 6:25:00 PM

I am guessing that many of you think that the words “wisdom” and “9th grade boy” do not belong in the same sentence.  A recent exercise, however, suggests differently.

The counselors of 007 gave their young men an assignment.  In case you do not know, “007” is our 9th grade boys cabin.  These campers are starting their first year of our three year senior camper program.  During their first couple of nights, we take them on a special trip (along with the girls’ 9th grade cabin called “7-11”) and talk with them about our expectations for the senior camper program.  One of the exercises we do is ask the guys what it means to be a man and a Champion.  They also suggested rules to live by in pursuit of becoming men and Champions.

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Tags: Counselor

The Late Torchlighter

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 24, 2013 5:04:26 PM

Cute pic - has nothing to do with blog Cute pic - has nothing to do with blog

It took ten years.  Some said it would never happen, yet it did.

This occurrence is rarer than a total solar eclipse or a Dallas Cowboy playoff victory or a quality movie from Michael Bay.

Liam Baskin became a torchlighter.

Frankly, I debated whether to write about this.  After all, you want to hear about your children, not mine.  I do not want to be the myopic parent that assumes that everyone wants to know about me and mine.

I am also reluctant to write about this because I think it can suggest that being torchlighter is more important than it actually is.  It was somewhat important to Liam because his twin had received it, but we can easily over-emphasize it.

But Susie Ma’am suggested that there are some useful lessons in this unexpected occurrence that I should share.

And I ALWAYS listen to Susie Ma’am.

First, it is a reminder that being a torchlighter is much less important to campers than parents sometimes assume.  Liam loves camp.  Sure, there are moments that he wanted to be a torchlighter, but he loved camp independent of that.  We have focused a lot of energy on celebrating the torchlighter for 5 minutes and then redirecting the attention to the entire community.

Second, it became a teachable moment.  When he would say “I wish I were a torchlighter” (which he would on occasion), we chose to respond “who in your cabin and division did get it?  Did they do anything you did not do?”  In Liam’s case, the answer was usually staggeringly blunt “well, he was always nice to everyone and I got into a few arguments with some other guys . . . a LOT” or “he was helpful to the counselors, I kinda resisted at times”.  Ultimately, his greatest challenge was being a consistently good cabinmate.  He would have days where he was much more focused on having fun and hanging out than having responsibilities and helping out.

Third, I love seeing campers get torchlighter after 5, 7 or 10 years.  Our children (yours and mine) have been raised in the shadow of the self-esteem movement where every mini-triumph is celebrated and perseverance is less emphasized.  Knowing that some things might take many years of effort is a great lesson for children to get.  The truly great gifts of life generally require many years of sustained effort: college, marriages, building a career and – most importantly – raising children.  The noble endeavors are not like microwave meals; they take time and consistent effort.

Fourth, having campers wait 10 years helps reduce parents’ stress if their child does not get it by year 3, 4 or 5.

Of course, some campers are perfectly happy never worrying about it.  Seven years ago, one of the members of our Leadership Team (and one of the best counselors I’ve ever worked with) said that she knew she would not be a torchlighter.  “I was pretty hard-headed and I could be bossy.  But my cabin loved me and I loved them.  I, however, did not always make the cabin easier.  It would have taken too much effort to do what I needed to do to be a torchlighter.”  Once she was a Senior Camper, the same energy and head-strong tendencies made her a wonderful cabin leader to 8 year-old girls.  Her strengths were now truly strengths and she – like Liam – was first recognized as a high schooler after 9 or 10 years. This summer during orientation, a 13 year camper and senior camper was recognized for the first time as a counselor.

I feel I should also share a quick story from a 7 year camper who loves camp (and we adore him).  He was asking about SCOPES.  SCOPES are the daily report on each cabin and every camper.  In them, the counselors report on the behavior and emotional comfort of every camper (along with comments).  They also share thoughts on the previous nightly ritual as well as the strengths and challenges of the cabin.  Finally, this is where they first nominate torchlighters (starting an elaborate vetting process).

Our 7 year camper then stopped the counselor, “Wait YOU are the one that nominates?  But, I have been sucking up to Leadership all these years and misbehaving in the cabin.  Wow, looks like the wrong strategy, eh?”

As long as I am talking about SCOPES, I wanted to share one from a Rookie cabin.  Here are the entries:

Nightly Rituals: They love the stories we read and the stories we share.  Evening bonding is great.

Cabin Successes:  They show fantastic teamwork – pulling together as a group consistently.

Cabin Challenges:  Unfortunately, they use teamwork to form a mutiny against authority . . .


Yep, sounds like the cabin is bonding well!

Steve Sir

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T-Bone Club

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 23, 2013 6:35:09 PM

T-Bone campersAt dinner, we hosted the T-Bone Club.  The members of the club are the campers finishing 8th grade who are entering their last week as normal campers.  Once they are in 9th grade, they will return as Senior Campers (our high school leadership program). So this last week is extra precious to us and to them.

With this in mind, we invite them to the Outdoor Cooking Pavilion during our Sunday picnic.  While the rest of the camp is enjoying hamburgers and host dogs (and miscellaneous other outdoor fare), the T-Bone Club gets a special treat.

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Great Additions to Camp

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 19, 2013 7:38:55 PM

Pirate shipOne of the things I love about camp is the chance to make it better every year.  Each summer, we conduct this wonderful experiment creating a camp community.  For the 9 months we are not running camp, we are searching for ways to make camp even more fun and even more impactful.

Let me give you a few examples.

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Tags: Counselor

Rain Resilience

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 19, 2013 7:29:50 PM

sunset gazeboWe saw a nice card today: "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain."

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Growing Grit

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 14, 2013 6:10:19 PM

High ropes girlOver the course of our careers as camp professionals and as parents, Susie Ma'am and I have become somewhat obsessed with learning about youth development and helping every child realize his or her potential.  Because we have the pleasure of working with so many children and families, we have an opportunity to see a wide swath of educational and parenting strategies.

The good news is that we have learned a lot.  We have then taking what we learn and modified our camp program and philosophy to focus on growth opportunities for our campers.  The bad news is that we still have a lot to learn.

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An Odd Pre-Camp Trip

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 13, 2013 9:24:15 PM

The last 5 days have been a bit of a head-bender for me.
SRB as Tiger
Over the weekend, I attended my 20th HBS reunion in Boston.  I only had 48 hours between the end of orientation and the start of Opening Day and I had initially decided to pass on the event.  After all, it sounded like a fool's errand: 2 3AM wake-up calls over 3 days and lots of plane time.  Also, since camp had started, I (like our counselors) had pledged to not drink during the summer.  Of course, this is not generally a big deal, but these events are a lot like weddings - lots of celebrating.  Being the guy sipping sparkling water would seem a tad bit strange.

So I was inclined to pass on the trip.

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Sending Champions into the World

Posted by Steve Baskin on Jun 12, 2013 3:22:27 AM

Yesterday, Susie Ma'am and I received an email from Kate Hutson, the woman who served as the Division Leader of our youngest girls last summer.  She is not with us this year because she was accepted to serve in Teach for America (TFA).  As you may know, TFA features a notoriously stringent selection process.

Of course, we are sad she is not with us this year, but we are delighted that many students will benefit from her commitment and skill as a youth development professional.

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Creating Advantage in College

Posted by Steve Baskin on Mar 21, 2013 9:50:09 AM

When I started my career as a camp director in 1993, my mother (the "Silver Fox") shared the following thought with me: "summer camp is like college, but just a little bit early".

Being a strong believer in my mother's wisdom, I found myself thinking about this statement fairly often. Summer camp had been a huge part of my personal development as a young man, and had even found its way into my college and graduate school applications. Yet the idea that "camp was like college" did not seem to make sense to me at the time.

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Tags: Counselor

Cruising Kathmandu or "It's Finally Foreign"

Posted by Steve Baskin on Dec 6, 2011 6:32:36 AM

Wow, wow and wow!

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Tags: General, Counselor