Monday, June 6, 2011

Snapshot of My First Day!

Today was altogether chaotic, energy-draining, and exhilarating. Today was my first day working as a camp counselor for the Y here in Indy. So far, my impression of this camp program has been that it is highly organized, high quality, and high standards. I loved that impression, especially coming from my past experiences working with the Y and being able to see the potential there for all those things to be true of our program, too, but not getting to stay in Belleville to see it happen. My impression of the Y here in Indy, though, was just that-- an impression. Today I got a better understanding of what my summer will look like. While a director of a camp can hire competent staff, organize them as much as possible, train them in all the rules and regulations, and plan exciting themes and games, we still come to realize that we are working for children instead of what we would like to believe is a well-oiled machine.

Let me give you the context before going more into my day-- it's my very first day. Already some of the camps have been in session for a week, some for two. Originally, I was assigned to work at an offsite camp with ages 6-12, but was informed this weekend that I would be switched this week to the on-site camp, working with the Pre-School and KG camp. Total switch. Since I had been scheduled to work at an off-site camp, I never received a full tour of the on-site facility during our training. I literally walked into work today knowing nothing about what I would be doing, and surprisingly, I wasn't the only one. Communication breakdown has occurred already in the Discovery Camp's third week of camp.

There are site directors in the mix, too. While the director oversees, the site directors run the show. Sometimes the site directors are overwhelmed, and the show, therefore, stops for an intermission. This happened today. There was a moment where our site director simply sat down, spouted off in frustration, and huffed a breath of steaming air, imitating many of the 4 and 5 year olds we were working with. It is hard as an experienced staff member to see that happen, but I knew I just needed to be independent at that moment and come up with something on the fly. Honestly, that's what camp is all about. Nothing really ever goes according to plan, and you have to be prepared for that. If I had been a first-year counselor today, I would have been so clueless about how to handle that situation, though. Hopefully I was able to set an example to those counselors in what they are capable of bringing to the kids in unexpected moments like that.

Actually a snapshot from 3 yrs ago...
The kids! I almost forgot! I would love to tell you about every child I held, hugged, rocked, high-fived, bandaged, grabbed, chased, played with, smiled at, frowned at, but that would lead to at least 1 paragraph on each one, and I just don't have the energy to write 70 paragraphs! It was seriously overwhelming the amount of children and disorganization that went into this day. That combination is a bit of a disaster, but we made it through.

I had one child whose favorite word of the day was "NO!" and whose favorite activity of the day consisted of hitting, spitting, kicking, yelling, stomping, and running away from counselors who were trying to discipline him. He was my buddy for the day, even though he wasn't in my group. It's cool to realize that all the experience I have had with disciplining children in the classroom and during past summers has truly helped me grow in my confidence in working with kids and standing my ground.

We had another child who spent most of his day crying-- he's a sensitive one, and one of the younger ones (maybe 3 yrs?). He even cried after being asleep for about 15 minutes during naptime. He woke up disoriented, and I happened to be rubbing the back of the girl laying next to him. He started crying and seeming like he didn't want me to hold him. I picked him up anyway, after some encouragement from my site director, and rocked him back to sleep. I think he just got cold and needed to be warmed up again. It was such a tender moment. I can't remember the last time I had the privilege of rocking a child in my arms. It felt so good to be needed and to be able to give love.

Towards the end of the day, a girl from my group was crying as she approached me accompanied by another counselor. The counselor told me to to hold the little girl so she could go grab something from the other side of the room. When I picked her up, I let her cry on my shoulder, and I tried to talk to her and see what was wrong. Then I noticed that my arm was wet. She explained to me that she didn't want to change her pants because her mom was going to be really mad at her for having an accident. She continued to cry as the other counselor came back with dry clothes, took her into the bathroom to try again, and changed her. I told her that I was proud of her for being so brave and changing into her dry pants even though she didn't want to. She came back and sat in my lap, and I gave her a sticker and said that I knew she wouldn't have an accident tomorrow. She said, "But I always have accidents!" I said, "Not tomorrow. Do you believe that?" She was hesitant, but I finally convinced her that if she did not have an accident tomorrow I would give her another sticker. She got up from my lap with dry pants, dry eyes, and a big smile. Her self-concept seemed to have shifted.

These were only a few of the many personalities present in my day. It was so interesting to jump right into this  unfamiliar position and have to step up as a leader while learning about all the different personalities of the children and adults I am working with. While I am exhausted, a little disillusioned, and needing to do some preparation for down times, I still feel so fulfilled. This may sound weird, but I know that I have been given a gift of deep love for children. When I am not working with children, I feel like I have so much love stored up in me that I might burst. Sometimes the relationships in my life receive the explosion of that need to love, and it hurts those relationships. Someday I will be able to spread all my love around to the children I serve everyday, whether that be my students, my campers, my neighbors, or my own children. I thank God for each day that I get to exercise this vast love for children that he has given me. When I get to work with kids, I don't feel the need to be loved by anyone else. The exchange of love that occurs in these times is more than satisfying for my soul.

Now I just need to figure out how that will play out for the rest of my life. Will I open an orphanage somewhere across the ocean? Open up my home to adopted and/or foster children here in the US? Teach music in the same school for thirty years straight? Lord knows. I just hope I always have kids to get to know and to love. They are the most valuable gift to this earth.
Also from 3 yrs ago-- the girl with the beads was one of the worst (and one of my favorite) campers I have ever had.


  1. I knew in my heart that you would be a teacher! Your gift has been evident since the day Jacob was born. Remewmber? You were 8 years old & he was your first student!!! Go where God puts you & you will be where you belong. Apparently the preschoolers needed you more than the 6-12 group. I think God knew you needed lots of hugs & tears & opportunities to comfort His wee ones. I love you!

  2. Ah, Kayla, you have a wonderful compassionate heart! I love how you want to help these kids grow and that you love seeing them step into the reality of who they could be. I am sure that your love and concern for them is making a big difference. You are good at nurturing and instructing and loving. :) I love you Kayla!

  3. You paint awesome pictures here all the time, but this was especially special. I was a YMCA summer camp staff member when I was 16 (I still don't know why they let me do that) and I was nowhere near as awesome. It makes me happy to see you so happy about finding one of your passions. :)!