First Year Counselor Training

  • They entered the building last week for a full day of Cohen Camps First Year Counselor training. Each was a little nervous, a little excited, and a little different than how I remembered them. All of them, like Sam, want to be a counselor because they want to give back to a place that has given them so much, and because they want to teach campers to “appreciate everything that camp has to offer.” All of them, like Zoe, talk about becoming like the counselors they had who encouraged them to expand the boundaries of their comfort zones and “shaped them into the leaders that they are today.”

    As they sit down ready to start, I can’t help but remember them as the nine and ten-year-old campers they once were. I see the nine-year-old boy who stole the ball and ran away when he got out in four square and the ten-year-old girl who refused to do her job on the job wheel because someone stepped in her area. The training begins and I watch these nine and ten-year-olds grow up right before my eyes.

    The day opens with a presentation by camping expert Steve Maguire. Steve teaches our first year staff about the incredible impact that they will have on campers and, as First Year Counselor, Ben, said, “the importance of a positive attitude.” He gives them tips on how to encourage bonding and how to keep campers engaged. Emily shared that this session helped her to internalize the incredible “responsibility of watching someone’s child for the summer.”

    The afternoon carousal of training includes Routines and Rituals, First Day, and Your Jewish Story, each one facilitated by a Cohen Camps Director. Caleb learned about the importance of including everyone and shared tips for how to do that at the dining hall table. Rebecca appreciated that she will never be alone at camp, and will always have support from Head Counselors, Department Heads and other members of the leadership team.

    During individual camp time, the Tevya staff was able to ask questions and discuss how the training helped prepare them for their job this summer. Throughout the day, I listened as they shared stories about how their counselors taught them to be independent, caring, and to challenge themselves. They shared that they feel camp is a safe place to express themselves and that as a community it is important to embrace everyone’s unique contribution.  I listened with the realization that it was the counselors of the past who taught them these values. Now it is their turn to share their acquired wisdom with today’s campers, so that they too will develop into the talented leaders that I spent the day with.

    As the day came to a close, I no longer saw them as the campers they once were, but I truly saw them as the amazing young adults who have been hired to be mentors and role models for our campers. They are no longer my campers, but are now my staff.  Still a little nervous, still a little excited, and still a little different than how I remembered them. Just as I watched them grow as campers over their years at camp, I saw them grow before my eyes as counselors during the training.

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