Staff Week: When counselors are campers, too

Well, after months of preparation, planning, hiring and waiting, it’s finally time for the first day of camp! This morning, while our campers and their parents are preparing to say goodbye, our 200 energetic and enthusiastic staff members are getting ready to say hello. After more than a week of rigorous pre-camp training, they just can’t wait to get camp started for real.

At Bryn Mawr, we take staff training seriously — and that includes making it not only seriously educational but seriously fun. Our pre-camp orientation, which we call Staff Week, evolved from a simple philosophy: Counselors are best prepared to help campers feel welcomed and comfortable when they themselves feel welcomed and comfortable. Staff Week is modeled on a real week at Bryn Mawr, with a schedule that follows the camp day as closely as possible and provides counselors with an advanced course in camp life.

Staff Week has five basic objectives:

1. Introduce staff to camp.

While we enjoy a great counselor return rate, every summer we welcome many first-time staff members, some of whom grew up at Bryn Mawr or another summer camp, some who have been counselors at other camps but never attended camp themselves, and some who are experienced with children but entirely new to camping. An important part of Staff Week is getting all our staff members familiar with our facility, policies and procedures so they feel confident in the way things work.

2. Make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.

This one is critical, not just so staff members feel welcome but so they know how to make their campers feel welcome! Our Staff Week replicates the camper experience for counselors beginning the moment they step off the bus. Counselors learn firsthand what it’s like to be brand-new at camp, and they’re able to use that experience to help their campers feel at home right off the bat.

3. Help staff understand their role at camp.

Everyone at Bryn Mawr plays an important part in our camp community, and during Staff Week we help counselors (and group leaders, program directors, nurses, male staff, support staff and leadership) get a sense of where they fit in and how their job helps keep camp running smoothly.

4. Prepare for camper arrival.

Of course, preparing for camper arrival means getting camp physically ready — unpacking trunks, decorating the bunks, arranging the dining hall, setting up program areas — but just as important is helping staff members prepare to be good leaders and role models. Much of Staff Week is spent building skills in problem solving, communication, constructive discipline and leadership. Every year, we welcome “camp guru” Bob Ditter, who provides staff members with a virtual toolkit of techniques and ideas to help them manage their campers with strength and sensitivity.

5. Help staff understand the LBMC philosophy.

On the surface, lots of summer camps seem similar. They’ve got swimming and tennis and land sports, maybe horseback riding, drama, arts and crafts… but what makes a camp unique is its philosophy. At Bryn Mawr, we believe in making camp emotionally safe for all campers and staff, and we strive to help our girls grow up to be young women who know how to communicate, solve problems and sustain healthy friendships. During Staff Week, we teach staff what it means to live by the Angel Code of Loyalty, Beauty, Merit and Comradeship, and we help them learn about our camp traditions and what they mean to our campers.

It’s a lot to pack into just over a week, but we also remember to fit in lots of fun. Between the songs, games, get-to-know-you games and special events, counselors wrap up Staff Week with a strong understanding of what it means to be a part of the Bryn Mawr family — and they can’t wait to share their enthusiasm with the campers who are the reason we’re all here!

We’ll see you at the bus!

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