Earlier this week I told you about what a great time of year it is for us to be on the conference circuit, as well as some of the things we learned at the recent ACA Virginias conference.
Now I want to tell you a little bit about the keynote address delivered there by Scott Arizala of The Camp Counselor. His talk was focused on the practical aspects of running a camp and what it means to provide hands-on leadership.
One thing he urged camp leaders to do is to really engage your staff in DOING the things themselves (with their hands, feet, bodies, thinking-caps) that you are teaching them during staff training. So instead of only rules, procedures, introductory lectures, and going over protocols together, it’s about getting up and moving around and practicing it all.
It’s his belief, (and it totally makes sense to me) that the only way to really gain confidence, command, and true know-how to perform the job is that, during training, the staff:
- Steps into their roles fully, building familiarity with all its parts.
- Learns their duties down into their muscles and bones.
- Uses role play, exercises, and “training games” to try things out “for real.”
At Camp Alleghany we’ve been practicing similar methods for a while by overlapping our Mini Camp with part of our training time. This works because of the way we structure Mini Camp, with older alums coming back to camp to perform the role of tent counselors and other key positions. During that time our counselors are teaching classes part of the day, and going to their own training classes during the other part. It’s a great way for us to ease into the camp season and go in depth for our training.
Nonetheless, it’s always good to get a refresher at a conference, and hear an expert reinforce the benefits of these practices. It’s also wonderful to get inspiration for new exercises and approaches to take with training.
Talk to me
Scott also talked about communication and creativity, two issues dear to our hearts at Camp Alleghany. From our no-gossip policy to our protocol for resolving any interpersonal issues to our “rainy day boxes,” and evolving nighttime activities we’re always big fans of keeping communication lines open, encouraging creative initiative, and allowing new ideas a place to get heard.
Scott was such a wonderful speaker so I had to attend a second session of his about camp culture and traditions. There I got some great ideas on ways to keep our culture and traditions alive, as well as fun ways to tweak them to spice it up a bit! So if you’re coming to camp this year as a camper or counselor, get ready for some fun!
C’mon get happy!
Lastly, I attended a session on happiness, which I thought was great! The main thing I got from this session was that the idea that “…if I do X, Y, or Z, I’ll be happy” is wrong. Rather, the reverse is true: “…if I am happy, I will be successful at X, Y, or Z.”
We watched some great TED talks and talked about compelling researched-based happiness studies to learn more about what really makes people happy and sustains their happiness in a variety of situations — or essentially continuously, as an underlying feature of how one approaches life. Happily I’m looking forward to introducing this concept and practice with the staff this summer!
As at other conferences, in addition to the sessions, there were a lot of vendors displaying their goods, products, and services, including several we work with:
- Beverly Man from The Nit Fairies was there.
- Tom Ashby of Progressive Graphics. (We get a lot of our store items from him, if our local Alleghany Tee doesn’t carry them.)
- Our insurance guy. It’s always good to connect with him!
- Maile Armstrong of Armstrong Unlimited was there. (She trains our staff every year in CPR, and also does some fun and games sessions with them.)
It’s also a great time to form new relationships with vendors who might be able to offer us (and our campers) something new and beneficial. And it’s just plain fun to browse around at everything going on in the industry.
But overall, my favorite thing about conferences is networking with other camp directors! The Virginias conference is extra special because we see so many friends and familiar faces. But I also love that at the National Conference (coming up), there are hundreds and hundreds of camp directors from all over — so many more people to meet and share ideas!
I come back overflowing with energy and creativity, and also happy that I’m able to share with others what has worked for us!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls