If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I have been on the road a quite a bit recruiting and hiring counselors. While traveling is fun, hiring is incredibly important to the success of your daughter’s summer. I have such high expectations for our counselors to be wonderful in every way.
Two weeks ago, we spent a week in New Orleans for the American Camp Association National Conference. Being an Accredited camp, we are constantly striving to learn more, implement more, and achieve more in excellence. Every day was packed from 7:00am to 8:00pm with hourly sessions, and each hour had multiple sessions to choose from. We divided and conquered many valuable sessions and broke what we learned down in a debrief afterwards.
I focused on attending staff oriented sessions such as, “A Staff Training: A Student Perspective,” “The Training Doesn’t Stop Here,” “Moments, Messages, and Mindsets,” and one of my favorites was, “REAL training: Moving from Sessions to Experience.” Scott Arizala discussed with us how staff training is about connection. We have to start with the “why” of everything we do. By connecting through a story, we are able to make counselors believe why we are doing it. Posing questions to counselors like, “What is the experience of camp?” “How do you define it?” and “What am I (as the counselor) instilling in these children along the way?” create an environment where counselors are not only challenging their motives but also challenging the campers to learn about themselves.
Arizala gave this great list of principles to creating a culture of learning:
- Less is more
- Giving to much information out during orientation is overwhelming and staff is unlikely to retain it all.
- Goals and objectives
- List them out and connect everything to fun.
- What are the mandatory issues you have to cover? What can you do before camp? What does it say about your camp if you bring counselors into orientation and immediately make them do paperwork? That camp is boring.
- Best learning is done in pattern form. Telling stories that constantly relate to something you’ve previously talked about.
- Balance and time
- Making sure learning has moments of active and not active. Also providing yummy snacks intermediately.
- The more voices who teach, the bigger the messages.
- Keeping everything simple and sweet. He gave a great example of always asking campers open-ended questions. To the camper, the counselor becomes that favorite person that they feel is sweet and supportive of them. The counselor, in turn, is really learning about the individual quirks of each camper.
- Follow-up, review, and practice
- Program the simple steps of what to do in an emergency, repeat it, and act it out during orientation.
I laughed at the end of this list when he said, “Make a list of everything your staff need to know, then take half of it away. There is no way to cram everything in that one week of orientation. Let there be constant learning, reviewing, and practicing of how camp is supposed to run.” There are so many wonderful traditions to teach our counselors! How can I possibly cut it in half?
I have new goals and objectives in my staff training. I’m thankful for how much knowledge even just one session made my brain start spinning with new ideas and concepts to bring in during orientation. The counselors I have hired are absolutely lovely, and I can’t wait to introduce you to them!
I’m off to recruit at Sam Houston State University today! Hopefully I will catch a couple great gals to create a learning environment for at Heart O’ the Hills this summer.