What I Learned at Summer Camp
To: Dr. Bill Calzaretta
From: Caroline English
Date: November 15, 2011
Subject: What I Learned at Summer Camp
Make a plan. Carry a water bottle. Laugh. Always have duck tape. These four things were vital to surviving summer camp. My management philosophy reflects my camping experiences. I realize through Bolman and Deal’s conceptual frameworks and lessons from Dan King, my favorite manager, that my camp counselor days helped me create a set of beliefs and principles that will allow me to be a successful manager.
As a camp counselor, I had to devise an activity plan everyday for the campers. It had to be fun, detailed, and organized. The activity plan had to coordinate with the other camp units so that the group did not overlap into one another. This required clear lines of communication with the other camp counselors. In Bolman and Deal’s structural framework, a clear plan and mission is essential to the success of an organization.
I also always had to have a water bottle with me. Summers in Southern Illinois are hot and humid and someone is always thirsty. It was my duty to make sure the physical needs of the campers were met. Dehydrated campers are tired and cranky and their experience at camp will not be as fun. Meeting the needs of staff is key for developing motivated and happy staff.
Summer camp is a time when fun and laughter rules the day. It is not uncommon for campers and counselors to break out into song on the way to an activity. Summer camp is a chance for me to embrace my inner child and just have fun. My manager, Dan King, welcomed the chance to be childlike summer camp. He would be the first to jump in to a pickup game of baseball or put on a silly wig for a campfire skit.
One of the most fun activities at camp was the marathon at the end of the week. It was a competition among the camp groups and each camper had a specific task. My campers and I would meet and decide what everyone would do during the marathon. There were times when campers would choose the same event and it was up to me to decide who would do that task. This required me to realize my campers’ potentials and maximize my resources for the best outcome for the camper and the group. Dan King believed in all of the staff and campers and truly wanted everyone to have fun and succeed. Through his encouragement, he gave me the confidence I needed to apply to graduate school.
My experiences have taught me to always be prepared for anything. I could have the best group of kids, perfect weather planned, great activities ready but something could and would always go wrong, which is why I had a roll of duck tape with me at all times. From plugging a leaky boat to fixing a blister or fashioning a bracelet, duck tape was my answer. Conflict and problems are unavoidable in organizations. The key is to be prepared and have solutions.
These experiences helped me to become a decisive leader. I infuse humor with challenging tasks and develop creative solutions. I also value input from those that I supervise. I have had good outcomes and bad outcomes at camp, but all have helped me to become the leader I am today. I can build a pretty good campfire too.