Camp counselors make campers happy

an inside look at summer camp counseling


"Get a real job." Some people will just never understand. The absolute "realness" of working with children in a camp environment is truly acknowledged only by those who have experienced it.

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I've experienced it, and there is nothing else like it. There is no greater opportunity for a young person to be a leader, no better way to learn indispensable organizational skills, and certainly no happier medium between work and play.

The job of a counsellor is one in which one's job performance is rated most obviously by the expressions on the children's faces; in short, a happy camper indicates a job well done.

So, what exactly is involved in fostering the needs and expectations of all those potentially happy campers? A crazy combination of parent, teacher, nurse, coach, psychologist and best friend, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For me, true down time is rare during an average day at camp. As a cabin counsellor for 10 Grade 5 girls and the head of canoeing, with a staff of nine, I am responsible for many people and in many different capacities. From health forms and risk management to written reports and evaluations, paperwork is always waiting to be done. And if I'm not on the ball, rarely is anyone free to pick up the slack. Every day, without fail, there is a cabin dispute to resolve or an all-camp program to help plan. It isn't unusual for a good night's sleep to be interrupted by the need to comfort a homesick camper.

Even on four hours' sleep, however, nothing can replace those joys that few other young adults are privy to in the course of a summer job — the chest of a camper swelling with pride at finally having mastered the intricacies of paddling a canoe in a straight line; the Popsicle-stick-and- white-glue creation clumsily presented to you in gratitude; the admiration in the eyes of the girl who, in the words of a poem that hangs in the staff room at Tanamakoon, "is waiting for the day when she can grow up just like you."

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