We are 2 full days into our Leadership Week where our Group Leaders, Program Directors, Division Heads and other leaders come together to learn from each other, our camp policies, how to be the best role model and form special bonds that make Bryn Mawr so unique. Below is an excerpt from one of Dan’s Leadership Week sessions to our leadership staff of summer 2011. We thought you would enjoy reading it.
LBMC is successful because we have leaders who set high standards and goals on cabin row and in program areas. These strategies are developed and refined in the non summer months with the assistance of Bob Ditter and our full time staff. They are implemented during our Spring Retreat and staff orientation.
This week – Leadership is about goals, values and concepts.
Our leadership team will set the tone and influence our camp environment and create the culture.
We set high standards and our values reflect the concern we have for our staff and campers.
These goals, values and concepts make up the LBMC culture and how our parents and campers judge us.
Welcome to LBMC Leadership Week and becoming part of the 91st chapter of our illustrious history.
The below blog entry was written for us by Bob Ditter, a child, adolescent, and family therapist in Boston. Bob has been working with the Bryn Mawr staff for the past eight years. In addition to training our staff, Bob spends four days at camp during the summer “in the trenches” helping campers and staff.
As always, feel free to call or email if you have any questions or concerns!
Getting Ready for Camp If you are the parent of a first time camper at Lake Bryn Mawr Camp and you are like most parents, you are probably both excited about the prospect of your child going off to camp and a little nervous. After all you are about to open a new chapter in your family’s story—the start of a new adventure for your daughter! Camp professionals have been helping kids become more independent for years, and Dan and Jane Kagan are among the best at helping girls find their own voice while putting families at ease with the entire process. Dan and Jane think of camp as “life experience with training wheels”—a powerful way to add to and enhance the many strengths your daughter can develop. The Kagans see this as their true business. What your daughter will talk about are all the friends she is making and all the activities she is doing, like horseback riding, gymnastics, dance, theater, swimming or arts and crafts. What seasoned camp families know, however, is that by being at camp their daughters are becoming even more self-reliant, confident and self-assured. In other words, Bryn Mawr teaches coping skills for girls while having the time of their lives!
So what can you do as a parent to get yourself and your daughter ready for this life-enhancing experience we call camp? Having been involved with camp for over thirty years I have a few ideas that I’d like to share with you.
Getting Yourself Ready First, notice that when I posed the question about what you can do to get your daughter ready for camp I included you in the process! There are 4 pieces of advice I offer to help you as the parent get ready for camp!
As parents you need to be absolutely clear with yourself about the reasons you signed your daughter up for camp in the first place. Whether it was to make new friends, learn new skills or learn to fend for herself in a safe and supportive environment, you need to put those reasons “front and center” in your thinking and not lose track of them when you inevitably have a sad feeling about seeing your child off on the camp bus next month! As I often tell parents, one of the best things we can do for our children is to encourage them to take on the world in a healthy and sustainable way. Camp offers the perfect opportunity for helping widen your daughter’s horizons.
Reassure yourself as a parent that you’ve done your job. All the advice, coaching, caring and goodwill is in there. Trust the job you have done. Your daughter has it in her! You are simply letting her try out her wings even if it means she hits a bump or two along the way! There are many caring adults at camp to help her on her way!
Have allies! Letting kids go—off to camp, off to college, off on a long trip without you—is an emotionally charged event. Let your friends, colleagues, or spouses support you emotionally as you adjust to the “child sickness” you may occasionally feel.
Take advantage of the new freedom you will have and make some plans! One of the best things you can do to develop your child’s independence is to have a life of your own. When children see their parents thriving and enjoying their adult lives it helps them think about growing up in a much more positive light. Parents sometimes tell me they feel guilty enjoying themselves when their children are away, but this is n fact a key to healthy living.
Inoculating your child against homesickness
Many parents ask about what they can do to minimize homesickness. First, let’s remember that homesickness is a natural phenomenon most kids experience and survive! That said, here are some ideas about what you can do to help your daughter get ready for camp:
Involve them in shopping for camp, maybe even doing some packing together.
Pack a favorite personal item, like a T-shirt, cap, small stuffed animal.
Have the child “practice” showering, sleeping over at friends or relatives and writing letters. (Most children today don’t write letters, so get them pre-addressed envelops and practice!)
Talk with them about the fun things they will be doing at camp. It can even help to watch the camp DVD together as a way of generating some ideas.
Share your own stories about your first times away from home, but keep it short and positive!
Point out what your daughter does well and how that will be an asset to her at camp.
Post a letter to your new camper a few days before she leaves for camp so it will be there on the first day when she arrives.
If your daughter does become homesick, tell her this is normal, that once she makes friends she will feel better and that you believe in her! Remember that children get caught up in “the moment,” and that even intense feelings eventually pass. I have seen children at camp speaking in desperate terms to their parents on the phone, only to be smiling and having fun minutes later while leaving their parents feeling devastated! Work with the well trained and experienced folks at camp and your daughter will grow from the experience!
Other conversations to have with your daughter before she comes to camp:
Every camper is part of a group and as your parent we expect you to cooperate and help out.
If you are having a problem, your counselor is there to help you. Don’t wait to tell us, you can tell your counselor. Be honest and ask for what you need.
If your counselor doesn’t help or is part of what makes you uncomfortable, talk to your Division Leader, Marjori, Max or Pilar.
Clean-up is part of camp; you do it everyday; we expect you to participate.
There are many new things at camp and you may not like them all or be as good at some as you are at others. We expect you to try!
Go about making a new friend or two. If you are timid about meeting someone new, ask about what they like and be a good listener. Your counselor can help you with this!
Not everyone has to be your friend, and you don’t have to be everyone else’s friend. If you have one or two good friends at camp, that’s great!
Have fun and tell us all about it on your first call home!
Recently on the blog, we’ve talked about how we help campers develop leadership skills. Being a leader isn’t a task that’s ever complete — leadership is an ongoing process of growth and development. Early spring is the time of year at camp when our senior staff — the leaders of the leaders at camp — focus on continuing to develop their own leadership skills. Here are a few of the things we do to keep growing:
Tri-State Camp Conference
One weekend each March, we gather with other camp directors and staff members for the American Camp Association’s Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City. “Tri-State” is the nation’s largest conference for camping professionals, and we are amazed that no matter how many times we go, we always learn something new! This year’s Tri-State keynote speakers were Seth Godin (a bestselling author, marketing pioneer, blogger, Business Week’s “ultimate entrepreneur for the information age” and former Camp Arowhon camper) and Jean Kilbourne, recognized for her groundbreaking work in the exploration of the connection between messages in popular culture and their effects on girls and women. We also got to hear from some camp favorites (speakers like Bob Ditter, Jay Frankel and Michael Brandwein), and share some knowledge of our own. Drew volunteers on the program committee as the liaison between the professional speakers and the American Camp Association and Britton ran two roundtable discussions — one on being a head counselor, and one on the challenges of being a woman in camping. At past conferences, Bryn Mawr leadership team members have helped lead sessions on programming, facility management/safety and working with campers and staff.
Tri-State gives us a chance not only to hear from experts in child and staff development, but to reconnect with our colleagues in the camping industry to share ideas and best practices to keep making camp safer, more fun and more rewarding for campers and counselors alike.
Training with Bob Ditter
We have been fortunate enough, over the past eight years, to have developed a fantastic working relationship with the incredibly insightful Bob Ditter. Bob is a clinical social worker who dedicates part of his Boston-based practice to helping summer camps ensure positive experiences for their campers, staff and parents. Over the years Bob has visited camp many times to help train our counselors and talk with campers, and last week he sat down with Jane, Britton and our division heads to begin preparing for the summer. Bob works with our leadership team to help them work well together and provide an emotionally and physically safe environment for campers and staff. If you read this week’s blog post from Jocelyn Glantz, a Bryn Mawr parent and our new Junior Camp assistant division head, you’ve gotten an honest firsthand reaction to one of Bob’s leadership training sessions!
Annual spring leadership retreat
Each spring, we gather together our entire leadership team — directors and assistant directors, division heads and key staff members — to begin preparing for camp in earnest. It’s important to us that our leadership staff are on the same page as Jane and Dan when it comes to camp philosophy, policies and practices, and the leadership retreat held at camp is one of the steps we take to ensure that’s the case.
At this year’s leadership retreat, held the first weekend in April, we introduced new key staff members and gave the team an update on how things are shaping up for the summer — enrollment and staffing, operations and calendar overviews, and any business we need to take care of as we head into the camp season.
The rest of the weekend is spent talking about ways we can continue to improve the camp experience for our campers and staff, and making plans for the summer. We share the new knowledge we picked up at Tri-State, talk about what worked well last summer and what needs to be updated, and brainstorm new ideas for activities, special events and other fun additions to camp. Some of this is done in small groups (the division heads might talk about some camper-specific topics while operations staff discuss the physical running of camp), but major decisions are made by the whole group. For example, one of the questions our full leadership team discussed this year: How do we continue to make the camp experience valuable to parents while creating lasting memories with their children? How do we keep things fresh and exciting? This led to a variety of suggestions: Junior Camp division head Marjori Schecter will work with campers to create end-of-summer photo collages. Ty Widman, our director of adventure, will lead small groups of campers who want to learn outdoors skills, like how to build a campfire. And don’t be surprised if your daughter tells you about taking a moonlit barefoot walk on Wembley Field (supervised, of course) or a trip to the Court of America with Senior Camp division head Max Matovic to look at the stars, or sends you a photo of herself with her Peanut Mom, explaining camp traditions.
These are just a few of the ideas we came up with for keeping parents connected to their campers and camp life. And that was just one of many fruitful conversations we had over the weekend. Our leadership staff members have hundreds of summers at camp between them, and we value the knowledge and experience they bring to the table.
If you have any questions about the ways we continue to promote leadership development year-round, we’d love to talk about it with you!
So, what is it like to make the transition from parent to staff at Bryn Mawr? This past weekend I had an insider’s view and was so impressed that I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
As a parent, I felt completely confident in my decision to send my girls to Bryn Mawr. I knew that the philosophy represented the same values that my husband and I shared at home and it was clear that my girls were well cared for in a safe environment. But this weekend, I had the opportunity to see Bryn Mawr from a completely different perspective.
Of course, in the winter that never seems to end, last Friday was a cold, snowy day even though the calendar reminded us that it was April. But, this was a weekend I didn’t want to miss. My first stop was Dan and Jane’s house in New Jersey for a day of professional development with Bob Ditter. Wow…honestly, that is all I can say. I knew that Bob served as a consultant to our camp but didn’t really know the depth of his connection. He is a clinical social worker extraordinaire and I wish he could come live in my house. Since that is not likely, I feel so fortunate that he comes to camp during the summer to work with our staff and children. Bob only works with a few select camps and we are extremely lucky to benefit from his expertise.
Then, after an enriching day with Bob, it was time to go to Bryn Mawr. As I drove on the familiar roads up to camp, the trees were all bare, the sky was grey and everything looked quite different from the summer. I pulled into the empty parking lot and I must admit I was a bit nervous. Dan, Jane, Britton, Drew and the rest of the leadership staff were meeting at camp for Leadership Weekend.
From the moment I arrived, the atmosphere was as warm and welcoming as the environment that my daughters experience during the summer. The leadership at Bryn Mawr is a close group of intelligent women and men. Everybody took the time to introduce themselves and gave me an overview of their role at camp. I was immediately struck by the genuine affection, admiration and respect they all seemed to have for each other. What a wonderful example for my girls.
As we participated in team building activities and discussed ideas for the summer, I was overwhelmed not by the challenges that were ahead of me, but by the strengths of the team that leads our camp. Their dedication to our children, and to the staff that takes care of them, is incredibly impressive. Through each discussion, they tried to anticipate everybody’s needs and continuously asked, “How can we do this better?” As a person who has always relied on her instincts, it felt so good to have all of my feelings validated.
I drove home this morning exhilarated by the weekend and excited to take on my new role within the Bryn Mawr family.