Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Happy Camper - Part 3 - The Campers

The campers - why the camps are here.

My perspective has been that the campers are always the same, just their names change. In other words, the same boys are in the cabin year after year as different kids come through life filling the same slots:

The Perfect Camper - He excels in all the activities. He minds the counselor. He doesn't cut up. He is mature beyond his years. He's the "go to" guy when you need a "mini-me" counselor. The only problem with this camper is that you want to spend all your time with him since he is so fun, but he actually needs your help and attention the least. You have to let him motor on his own as you deal with campers who need your attention.

Typically these campers run in families so counselors yearn for one of the "Smith brothers" or one of the "Jones brothers" to be put in their cabin. And if you're really, really lucky you'll get more than one in your cabin.

Canon Fodder – They’re not the perfect kids, but they’re not bad kids. They have average talents and are just going along with the flow, generally following directions. They’re the meaty part of the distribution curve and make up the vast majority of the campers. The only problem with these kids is that it takes forever to memorize their names. The good kids and the bad kids stand out, but these guys are interchangeable. With some hard work, though, some of these kids can be turned into Perfect Campers.

The Cut-Up - He pushes boundaries and limits. He will purposely ignore you. And the worse part is that these guys can easily take other campers down the same path with him. You have to come down hard and fast on this type and establish who is the Boss. And there should be no doubt in his mind that the Boss is you.

Inexperienced, younger counselors will try to halfway do something about it, or worse, will just ignore it and hope it gets better. The problem is that if you give an inch he will take a mile. Since there is no corporate punishment (of course) and ideally no yelling, my technique is to simply ask the camper to look me in the eyes and dress him down as a drill sergeant: “When I asked you to do x, did I say it was an option?”, “What part of what I said did you not understand?”, and so on. My experience is that with normal, suburban campers, this works 99% of the time. Very few of these kids are talked to in this way these days, and usually just the shock of someone coming down on them is enough to get them to behave for the rest of the term.

The Loser – He’s quiet, can’t or won’t make friends with the other campers, and is afraid of or won’t apply himself at activities. This is the guy who needs the counselor the most. You’re job is to break him out of his shell to learn confidence, self-reliance, and how to fit into a group. I have one in my cabin now and I have decided he is my “project” for the term.

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