Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What Being a Camp Counselor Reminds Me About Being a School Counselor

During the summer, I work as a camp counselor in the oldest division (5th-8th graders) of a day camp. Stepping outside of the school counseling role with the age group I work with during the year gives me some important reminders about my job that help me feel refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges come fall. Here are a few reminders camp has given me.

1.     Don’t overthink building relationships. I am blown away by how quickly and easily campers attach to me at camp. While it often takes time and effort to figure out how to reach kids at school and build trust, it feels sometimes like within minutes, kids I’ve just met are talking animatedly to me and coming up for hugs. Part of it is the setup – as a camp counselor, the relationship is no-pressure for them; they do not expect me to start delving into their feelings. But I recognize that I relax more in the camp setting as well. Building relationships at school can be as simple as chatting with kids about television shows they like or a sport they play.

2.     Take the pressure off. I mentioned just before that the counselor-camper relationship is a no-pressure one. The title of school counselor automatically makes me the “feelings lady” to a lot of kids, which can be a deterrent to kids who do not want adults prying into their lives. There’s lots that we can do as school counselors to be more than just the feelings person. Informal lunches and lighthearted conversations with students are so important so that they want to naturally open up when it’s really important.

3.     Middle schoolers can be such kids! In school, middle schoolers have a tendency to act too cool for everything, and can roll their eyes at silly, fun activities. Especially with the ubiquity of technology and social media, preteens and young teenagers seem more adult than ever before. Yet at camp, I see rising eighth graders get really into a camp-wide scavenger hunt, become excited about a clay animal they make in ceramics, and make up games in the pool. So even if they try to look bored to feel cool around their classmates, many of them enjoy the games and activities we come up with and will feed off our enthusiasm.

4.     Teaching growth mindset is SO important. Actually, camp reminds me that the mindsets and behaviors we instill as school counselors are all incredibly important, because I get to see how they apply in a non-school setting. Growth mindset stands out because of how many “I’m not good at” and “I can’t” statements I correct every day. It’s hard to think of a more low-pressure activity than arts and crafts at camp, and yet kids are filled with self-doubt and frustration. If that’s the case, imagine how hard it is to keep a growth mindset during a tough math exam!

Are you doing anything this summer that gives you a new perspective or a helpful reminder about being a school counselor? Please share in the comments!

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