Hey there everyone! Long time no talk, I know! I spent the last 4 and a half weeks being a camp counselor working with children ages 6-10. Quite a span of ages, I know. As an intended early education major, I thought that working as a camp counselor would be a step in the right direction. I expected to learn a lot about working with and controlling up to 30 little ones at once, but I was not expecting that the kids would teach me things about myself. Here are the lessons I’ve learned over the last month as a camp counselor.
Living and interacting with 30 kids under the age of 11 for four weeks may sound overwhelming and it totally is. When one kid is screaming because an ant is crawling on them, another is crying because they miss their parents and a third child way on the other end of the field has a cut the size of a small nail on their forehead; all you want to do is scream. Two cases of laryngitis later, I discovered that yelling doesn’t always work.
Sometimes I forget that little kids, even the smallest of six-year-olds, are still people. Little people, sure, but they have feelings like us, if not more intense feelings. Working with the little trouble-makers taught me how to be compassionate. Not that I was a heartless wretch beforehand, working with moody, sensitive children has taught me to listen to others and fully attempt to understand what’s wrong or why they’re upset.
I’ve learned that I’m not a mind-reader and have no reason to attempt to guess as to why someone is upset only to give them advice that they’ll ignore because it doesn’t apply to them. When a child would tell me their stomach hurt, instead of just dismissing it, labeling the child a “whiner”, I learned to ask them why. Why does your stomach hurt? Nine out of ten times they just missed home. One particular child stands out in my mind: Johnny*. He came outside of his cabin on one of the first nights and said that his stomach hurt. My co-counselors shrugged it off and told him to go back to bed. The other kids who complained like he had, had just gone to bed after that, but Johnny wouldn’t move. I went up to him and ushered him back into his cabin. He asked me if I would sit down with him on his bed and, of course, I was more than happy to do so. I asked Johnny what was wrong and he said that he didn’t feel safe. Not because camp is a threatening environment, but rather because he was scared. He told me how this was his first summer away from home and that he was scared. I hugged him and told him that this was my first summer as a counselor and that I was a little scared too. We promised each other that we had to be brave so that the other could have someone to lean on and to trust.
As silly and foolish as it may sound, I realized little kids are people too and want to feel just as safe and supported as the rest of us, despite their naive dispositions. I have never learned so much from a group of 30 people in my entire life. Granted, I’m only 18 but there’s something to be said for the life lessons that those pre-pubescent children can teach us.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the child.
Have you ever unexpectedly learned a lesson from a job?