Our term campers arrived Sunday June 24, meaning our formal Staff Training at camp had officially ended. But that doesn’t mean that our training is over. Being an international counselor at Camp Alleghany for Girls, especially as part of the NCCCs (Non-Camper Counselor Club), means that every day I’m learning something new, whether that’s a new chant in the Dining Hall, a new American phrase, or a situation with a camper that needs attention that I haven’t dealt with before.
Luckily, our Staff Training this year was revamped by our Camp Director and Program Director, which ensured that each Counselor was equipped in new and exciting ways for their own campers when Opening Day came around.
We had one week of focused Staff Training, and then another week during Mini Camp where we were able to put our newly acquired skills into practice while still meeting for additional Staff Training sessions before our Term Campers arrived for First Term.
The best thing about Staff Training this year was that our daily schedule matched the daily schedule that campers follow during Term Camp, allowing us to accustom our body clocks to the correct waking time (especially given the time difference for international counselors), and helping us to practice the routines of the morning Staff Meeting, the bells for meal times, Free Time and our special “wind down before bed time” Twenty Minutes at the end of the day in our tents with our tent campers, just to name a few places where the schedules coincided helpfully.
The main theme of Staff Training 2018 was putting on our “adult pants,” meaning we step up even in the situations when we’re tired or worn out or not prepared. We were not just being a camp counselor, but a CAMP PRO, meaning we go above and beyond in every situation to be the Camp Pro we know we all can be.
What, Where, and How
The content of Staff Training was led by Elizabeth Shreckhise, our Camp Director; Casey, our Program Director; Bonnie Dawson, who fills a variety of directorial roles; and several Head Counselors and Support Staff.
Training modules were always accompanied by research, studies, or videos to heighten the skills, approaches, and lessons being taught, which enabled the content of the sessions to apply to not only camp situations, but to other potential jobs and life in general. This approach allows each Counselor to focus on her own personal goals and development while at camp, while nurturing the growth of the campers we’re looking after.
This was a big “getting to know you experience.” All of the Counselors were continually re-mixed into different groups for each activity and told to choose partners who we didn’t know very well. Place-setting name tags were mixed up each meal time so we could dine with someone new and we were organized into groups with people we weren’t specifically close to prior to camp.
Tent assignments — where we lived during Staff Training — were made with a variety of new and returning counselors placed into each tent. All these tactics were used to ensure that we were able to talk and bond with every member of the team and work with people we wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to when we are teaching different Camp Activities during the camp sessions.
Enjoy Your Sweet GRAPES
GRAPES, an acronym, was a big part of Staff Training too, offering a wide range of mindfulness activities for half of Rest Hour, to remind Counselors that their own mental wellbeing is just as important as the campers’. GRAPES stands for Gentleness, Relaxation, Accomplishment, Pleasure, Exercise, and Social, reminding us that we should be caring for ourselves to make sure we are in the best shape to be able to look after others.
GRAPES was my favorite element of Staff Training and utilizing it was the perfect downtime for my self and my thoughts between the busy timetable at camp. We spent sessions cloud watching, journaling with helpful prompts, crocheting with Bonnie, and enjoying a guided wade in the creek called “creeking.”
Throughout the week of Staff Training, while we were bonding as Counselors and becoming accustomed to life at camp, we covered topics such as missing home, sensitive issues campers may bring up, the history of Camp Alleghany and its mission, as well as First Aid Training and Rifle School for the Counselors teaching Riflery.
Overall, by the time our Mini Campers left, we were all so ready and excited for our term campers to arrive. I couldn’t believe that two weeks had passed by so quickly, and that we were now fully equipped to be looking after these girls for the following three weeks.
A Bonded Team
We spent our last night before the campers arrived watching a slideshow of all the photos of our group of Counselors for this summer, and seeing the now familiar faces of the people I’d only seen before camp via the Facebook announcements of the 2018 staff. These new pics pleasantly matched up with the friends and colleagues who I now knew and loved! I was so overwhelmed by emotion and the sense of family that has been created within such a short space of time at camp.
Even a few days into First Term, seeing my fellow Counselors adapt and respond to our campers using the tactics and elements of Staff Training we learned, makes me so proud to be a part of this team. We have such a strong team of Counselors, and the campers we are looking after are very lucky to have us, just as I am very lucky to be a part of this amazing team!
— Annie Chapman*, Counselor, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*In addition to writing this blog post for us, Annie Chapman maintains her own blog called Chapter by Chapman.