Friday, June 16, 2006

Well, here's a short account of my first week of counseloring at a local day camp:

One week down, seven more to go.

I'm working with some great counselors every day, and the kids, for the most part, have been great, too...BUT. There are always some exceptions, and there were about three of them this week.

I expected there to be some kids who might be somewhat wacky. Just communing with all the counselors in the first week revealed some who were clearly affected by the events of the past year. One counselor had returned with his family to their home, which had taken on some water due to Broussard's decision to dismiss the folks who were supposed to be manning the pumps in Jefferson Parish. He said if it happened again, his family would be picking up and moving.

However, there's only so much stuff us counselors are equipped to handle. We had a maximum of thirteen kids this week, and under normal circumstances, three counselors should be enough to handle that many kids. Throw in one VERY needy kid with a tendency to separate from the group on a regular basis, however, and one counselor is out of the game, period. Throw in a second kid who wants to hide under desks on a regular basis, and it stretches the personnel resources. Throw in a third kid who is bound and determined not to listen and to thumb his nose at the counselors on a regular basis and...Greater New Orleans, we have a problem.

I know we have consultations with the camp director and notification of parents as disciplinary measures. If worse comes to worse, we can let our fingers do the walking and call up the local family service and counseling organization for tips from the professionals for how to deal with a kid.

But THREE of them? It leaves all of us counselors who have to deal with this on a regular basis wondering what the hell we did to deserve all this tsuris, as they say in Yiddish. Every time we have brought this class into the art room, they have done things to tick off the art teacher, who doesn't deserve it either. One of the kids, the needy one, was brought in to the camp director after a disastrous field trip, in which the kid lashed out at an offending kid and cursed at him. Early on in the week, this same kid said that he didn't want to be at camp, that he wanted to be at home playing video games and swimming at his pool there. According to my other counselor, who brought him in to the director's office, she told him repeatedly that he wasn't going to be sent home, and he kept screaming that he wanted to go home.

I talked to a friend of mine, an education director herself, about the situation, and she said she wouldn't have tolerated that. The only thing that would convince anyone to keep a kid such as this in the camp, though, would be money. I think the family service folks will have to be on my cell phone's speed dial from here on out. Today the needy kid wasn't in class and it was a gazillion times better...we could really devote our time to the whole class. Even the other two kids who have been driving us nuts were better. It made me feel like less of a failure, for certain. I still can't shake that nagging feeling that I've gotten a preview of what will possibly be coming down the pike for my own son.

Other insights into seven and eight year old behavior? They are a very active bunch that love to play games and to do a lot of hands-on activities. This group was largely disappointed when a recent field trip to a cooking school was structured like a cooking show in which they got to eat the food - they thought they really were going to do some cooking. A good bunch of them loved to do puzzles. Each had a favorite board game, to boot. Swimming was the ultimate, however - and most of the kids delight in riding on a counselor's back, or on being launched in the air by my guy counselor, the strongest and biggest of the counselors. I was one giant ache every day from having some kids riding on lil' ol' me in the pool - but the cure for that is to start another day with such a wild and crazy group.

And then there's my son, who is enjoying camp, but who wants to sit with Mommy at dismissal instead of with his own preschool group. Oh, the pitfalls of working at the same place your own child is attending - I'm just glad they didn't place me with his class. That really would have been awkward! The counselors for his group marvel at how polite he is - glad I taught him that much, and he listened. He expresses his usual frustrations from time to time - a good yell until someone tells him to talk about what's making him mad. Heck, I've certainly felt like doing that in the past week.

Hope this week will treat us all better...

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