An excerpt from “DaveRules: a behavior management system for children, and life tenets for the rest of us”
© 2017 David A. Hennessey, MS
If you haven’t read Dave’s first “DaveRules” post, check it out here.
CHILDREN NEED A SENSEI
Laura was a great “first boss”. She was a coach and mentor that repeatedly made me cry on several occasions because she spoke the truth. She would always be there to help me find a solution without ever compromising her high standards. She taught me how to use the phrase “the expectation is…” and not to write notes to myself on my hand. She bought me a Covey and sent me to Time Management training. She cared but not too much, as it was my struggle and my journey.
Laura’s husband worked for a local university and because someone knew someone who knew someone, Matt came to work with us the next summer. A computer science major, we were skeptical if he would make a good camp counselor. I can’t even remember if he had any “kid experience”. Turns out that either Laura was a great judge of character or I was an amazing trainer; Matt was a phenomenal counselor and working at camp changed his life.
Matt’s nickname began with the letter “C”, as all of ours did. I was Chief. Coach was my Assistant Director. Captain, Cookie, Cherry, and Cracker rounded out the core team that summer. Matt became “Cheese” and it stuck so hard that I struggled to remember his real name as I write this. Cheese became the best version of himself that summer. I don’t know if he ever went back to computers; he worked in child care and summer camp until I moved to another Y camp and we lost touch. I know that he is an amazing father and started a business renting camp equipment to folks in Cincinnati.
Cheese, like Laura, was an excellent coach and mentor to his constituents, the children with whom he worked. Camp staff have an immediate leg-up on the competition that makes them successful: counselors aren’t parents. Like parents they wear many hats: leader, disciplinarian, psychologist, clown, caretaker, problem solver. Unlike parents, they are younger and much closer to the child’s age, and invariably cool even if in a nerdy way. Campers know that they have a life outside of camp, even if they can’t get any details. Campers will fill in the gaps with their own version of events; hence camp “marriages”.
Counselors are the big sister and big brother that children never knew they needed. Counselors can blur the line between enforcing rules and letting things go that can be construed as a “learning experience”. Should you write a camper up for using the “F” word? Definitely. Is it also ok for a seasoned Camp Counselor to show some leniency because of the situation and remind the child that they “shouldn’t say that when adults are around but boy, that was a hard thing you did and I would have said the same thing”? Which one is more effective?
Counselors are invested in a camper’s success more than anything else. At camp, every child can succeed if given the tools and someone in their corner. Camp inherently teaches life skills with the principal one being “learn to accept help”. Cheese genuinely cared about each one of his campers, had a great attitude and repertoire, and blossomed by having a huge impact on his kids that summer.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
King Arthur had Merlin. Luke had Obi-Wan. Harry had Dumbledore. The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi. John Keating was the mentor for the Dead Poet’s Society. Michael and Jane Banks had Mary Poppins as a mentor. Master Shifu. Professor Xavier. Jiminy Cricket. The Genie.
All ninjas have senseis. Knights have wizards. Students have teachers. Athletes have coaches. Children have counselors like Cheese. I had Laura. The heroes of the story have someone who supports them, teaches them, and believes in them. You are, and children are, the hero of the story. We have the opportunity to be their Wizard.
The Hero’s Journey is a literacy device identified by Joseph Campbell that can be seen in most stories about someone going on an epic journey. It describes a normal person who goes out and achieves the unimaginable on behalf of their tribe.
Children are called to the adventure of Camp! Usually unwittingly, our new Hero is asked to leave normalcy and go on an adventure to somewhere new, somewhere completely unlike anywhere else. The external pressure of Mom & Dad force him down this road on a journey that is sometimes hard and uncomfortable. Fearing the unknown, the Hero Camper fights Mom & Dad on the decision.
The big day comes. The saving grace is the introduction of the Counselor Mentor, who accepts the Hero Camper and promises training, guidance, and advice on the journey. The courage and wisdom imparted by the Mentor give them hope. The Hero accepts that with the Mentor’s help, they will continue on the adventure of Camp. Mom & Dad can leave and secretly cry in the car that their baby is “growing up”.
The cabin group provides tests to the Hero, who quickly ascertains who are allies and who are enemies. Together with his new band of best friends, they prepare for the major challenge: girls. Or the zip line. Or water skiing.
For every camper, there is a point in their camp experience that is the pinnacle. They face their deepest fear and ask the girl to dance. Or drop in at the skate park. They confront death and live to tell about it, and start a new life. One with unshakeable confidence and resiliency. One with grit. The hero is now the proud owner of a treasure more valuable than gold. Celebrations ensue. The challenge seems to have been won.
Little does he know the challenge is just beginning. Now he must take the treasure home. He must complete the adventure of Camp and re-enter the normal world. A world that doesn’t know he kissed a girl or stood up on water skis. He is tested by the normal world and must be successful, carrying his new-found confidence forward. How will he react to the pressures of the normal world? Instead of being fearful of the adventure of Camp now he is fearful of being back home where he might not be a hero.
His only saving grace is to continue to be different. His epic journey only complete when he uses his new-found courage to try new things in the normal world. His only option is to change his normal world with an element of the treasure he found, just as he was changed. Until he is called on another adventure.
Hey guys – Dave also has his own blog now, click here to check it out!
I love having guests on my blog, because it’s nice to hear a different perspective. What do you think? Have you been Obi-Wan to a camper’s Luke? Tell me about it in the comments section below!
Also, let me know if you’d like to write a guest post for my lil’ ol’ blog. I love collaborating.