Camp Counselors: Have you ever wonderedwhat your dean (or program director) is really thinking? We may act calm, cool, and in control all week, but here’s an insider’s view on what’s going on in the mind of your fearless leader.


(Before Camp/Counselor Recruiting)

1. When I ask you if you can counsel, and you say, “Maybe,” it’s really not helpful at all. You might think maybe trumps no, because I will be crossing my fingers and hoping beyond hope that you can come, but actually all maybe means is that you will string me along for another two months and probably tell me no eventually, usually two weeks before camp, so then I’ll be scrambling to find someone at the last minute. A no right off the bat is much more helpful than a maybe.


2. Yes, I think all the paperwork you have to fill out to be certified to be a counselor is monotonous, too, but we all have to do it, so I wish you would do so in a timely manner and just get it over with so I don’t have to harp on you every week to make sure it gets done.


3. The worst possible time to email me and say you can’t counsel after all (even though you told me you could in April) is June 17, a week before camp starts. Actually, the worst possible time is June 17, a week before camp starts and 2 hours after someone else cancelled and the registrar just called to say 12 more kids signed up.


4. When you make a request for a certain cabin, co-counselor, or camper to be in your group (or an anti-request), it makes my job of assigning groups about 50% harder. Each subsequent request by you or a co-counselor makes it even more difficult.


5. It’s awesome when you tell me that your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to be a counselor this summer and has already filled out the required paperwork and asked his or her boss for the week off, but chances are, you will break up over the course of the year and not tell me. Then I will have to replace the boyfriend/girlfriend on incredibly short notice. So I honestly don’t count that person in my tally of confirmed counselors unless it’s Saturday night, 18 hours before campers arrive, and you and they are on camp premises.


6. Acceptable reasons to cancel from counseling at the last minute:

  •  Death in the family
  • You lost your job and had to get a new one so that your family doesn’t have to live in a cardboard box
  • Yourself or a loved one is very ill
  • You have a communicable disease that, trust you, we don’t want to catch

Unacceptable reasons to cancel from counseling at the last minute:

  • You forgot to ask your boss for the time off until three days before camp, and (for some inexplicable reason, he said no
  • “I think I’d rather go shopping in Green Bay instead.”
  • At high school camp you started dating one of the girls who will also be counseling for me, but you broke up last week, and it would be awkward (better yet, don’t tell me that, just don’t show up and make me pry that information out of your ex-camp-romance when I’m trying to figure out why you ditched out on camp)


(At Camp)

7. When the camp manager pounds on my cabin door at 1 am to tell me that you and your buddies were night swimming but she kicked you out of the lake, I will, of course, give you a stern and crabby-sounding lecture about how awful that was to do. But really I’m more annoyed about getting woken up at 1 am when the camp manager could have told me about the situation at 7 am. 


8. I think some of the rules are unnecessary, too. But I’m the one the camp director complains to when you break them (or let your campers break them), so I’m going to encourage you to follow them.


9. S’more night scares the crap out of me because of all the 9-y
ear-olds running around with flaming sticks. Every year I’m pleasantly surprised that nobody catches on fire or gets their eye poked out, and only after everybody’s faces are covered in chocolate can I rest easy.




10. Sometimes, when you are hiking, swimming, or playing kickball with your campers, I go back to my cabin and take a nap. I only get up because someone has to ring the bell, and that someone is me. If I can pawn off the job on someone else, I will keep sleeping. Just keeping it honest here, folks!


11. I purposely didn’t fill out the part on the certification to be legally qualified to drive campers to and from events because I knew my co-deans did, so now when your camper rips her finger off in a bathroom stall lock, I can’t technically be the person who drives you two to the hospital so she can get four stitches.


12. My dream is for each group to turn out perfectly even, for every cabin and group to have two counselors who each have 4 campers of the same ages. I will try for hours to get this to work out, but in the end, no amount of color coding and creative swapping of this camper for that camper will make it work. This will bug me until next summer when I have another chance to make it all balance out evenly. It won’t. And that will bother me for the next camping season.


13. Despite the admission that, yes, I do occasionally take a nap while you are at an activity, it is more likely that after breakfast when you left and had to, in order:

  • listen to the pastor speak in chapel,
  • clean your cabin,
  • sit on the dock while the lifeguards watch your campers, and
  • sit in the craft cabin while the craft lady leads your campers in a sand art project,

I have actually:

  • swept up all the dirt your camper hoppers left behind,
  • led a frantic search for the pastor, as it was five minutes until chapel and he could not be found,
  • located said pastor in the woods, communing with nature,
  • reminded him he had to get to chapel,
  • found the songbooks (which your campers put away in the wrong place),
  • took a phone call from a concerned parent who has to pick up his kid Friday night instead of Saturday morning,
  • found the camper’s pick-up form and noted the change,
  • quickly typed a cabin report on my laptop for the camp newsletter,
  • ran to the boys’ cabins to do clean cabin inspection,
  • brought a bed-wetted sleeping bag up to the dining hall to be washed,
  • got my ear talked off by the cook about the awesome dessert she was making for dinner,
  • ran to the girls’ cabins to do clean cabin inspection,
  • searched for the maintenance man to tell him about a cabin’s burned out light bulb,
  • talked a homesick kid out of going home,
  • typed another cabin report for the newsletter,
  • tracked down one of the counselors from the cabin that hadn’t turned in their report yet and gently reminded her that I needed that pretty soon,
  • got talked to by a staff member because some of the counselors were letting the campers jump off the bell stand, which is considered “highly dangerous,” (see number 8),
  • ran the bed-wetted sleeping bag back to the cabin so the poor kid’s secret would be safe,
  • sorted all the mail so you and your campers can get your letters from your boyfriend or care packages from Mom and Dad,
  • helped get your table hopped because you and your campers were late getting to the dining hall from swim time,
  • asked 5 people before one agreed to be in charge of after-meal songs, and
  • sat down in the seat I was sitting in when you left breakfast (to sit in chapel, clean your cabin, go swimming, and go to craft time).

So when you come up to me and say, with a slight smile on your face, “I had a busy morning. How about you?” I know that that look in your eye says that you think I’ve sat at this table, looking out the window and admiring the view with my cup of coffee. And I really don’t appreciate it.


14. When I ask you to a) do something or b) not to do something and you then a) don’t do it or b) do it but I know for a fact that you would never, ever, ever consider a) doing so or b) not doing so for one of my 50-year-old male co-deans, it doesn’t make me want to ask you back next year.


15. I don’t care that you had to sit through the same clown evening program last year and that it’s aimed at 9-year-olds instead of 19-year-olds. I’m 32, and I’ve seen the same clown program the last 6 years in a row. And I’m not a fan of clowns to begin with. Or grasshead craft projects. Or people dressed in mascot costumes.


 (After Camp)

16. Sure, I’ll be a reference for you so you can get a job at another camp, and I will say awesome things about you (if they truly apply) but you realize this means I will have to replace you at my event which doesn’t exactly thrill me.


And there you have it, counselors. Now you know what your dean is really thinking!

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