There is nothing more difficult, yet rewarding, than working with kids. For the past three summers I have been a camp counselor at Camp JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Rockville, Maryland, and I have learned a lot about children through my experiences there. Here is some advice for anyone interested in becoming a camp counselor:
- Prepare to be called a plethora of names. I worked with first graders, and a lot of them still have trouble pronouncing what we think of as simple words. I was repeatedly called Header and Heaver throughout the summer because they had trouble with the “th” in my name. Some kids called me Feather because they thought it was funny too. One of our CITs, or Counselors in Training, was even called Mashed Potato Man! So be ready for a few new nicknames to surface.
- Bring a notebook and pen to camp. As mentioned before, kids say the funniest things. Keeping track of all the silly things that they say and do throughout the summer is impossible, so a fun idea is to write down everything that happens in a notebook! Reading over all the memories will definitely make you smile.
- Save everything that your campers make for you. Your kids will come to camp with things that they made just for you. Bring them all home and put them in a box to remember your wonderful kids forever! One of my campers made popsicle stick superheroes that we put in the classroom’s freezer so that it would be protected from evil. It sounds silly, but saving even the smallest piece of art can make any child feel special.
- Be loud and crazy! The point of summer camp is to have fun, right? A camp counselor who comes to camp spirited and excited every day can really make a difference for a child’s summer camp experience. It can be tough at times, but putting on a huge smile once you walk into camp will make the summer much more fun for you and your kids.
- Do not be afraid to discipline your campers. There is always at least one “trouble camper” in each group. Therefore, it is important to remember that making a child sit out on an activity or giving them a serious talk may be necessary at some point in the summer. A great camp counselor knows how to balance fun and discipline.
- Kids are impressionable. Your campers look up to you. They think that their camp counselor is the greatest person on the planet, a real life superhero, someone that they can come to with any problem. You must remember this before you act because anything you do or say, they will most likely copy at some point. Be a positive role model for your campers to look up to as they learn and grow.
- Enjoy every minute you have with your campers. The summer goes by so fast, and you will meet some amazing kids that will be tough to say goodbye to. You may never see them again once camp ends! Make sure you appreciate each and every moment that you have with them.
I will be forever grateful that I was able to be a counselor at Camp JCC. Over the years, I have met some amazing children that I know will change the world in their own ways. I can only hope that I was able to make a difference in their worlds by being their camp counselor.