Fun fact: I’ve been a camp counselor for six years. Crazy, right? I love being able to be completely silly all the time, lose my voice everyday, and wear face paint on a regular basis.
The kids look up to you, and you really get the chance to see how much you influence these children after just spending a week with them. Camp counselors, much like teachers or any position where you have to work with kids, are crucial to the development of children and preform an under-appreciated art. So let’s head to the craft cabin- because whether you work with young children or you have a younger family member, every interaction with a child will leave an impact. It’s up to you to make it a good one.
Working with boys and girls all summer was amazing. The guys loved to run around, throw the frisbee, and scream chants showing all of their camp spirit. The girls loved…to do the same exact things. Were you expecting singing songs, doing arts and crafts, and going to the pool? Well, yes, they did enjoy these things as well- alongside the boys. Honestly, the majority of my campers had a blast regardless of the activity (because camp is awesome- duh). However, counselors, and other adults that interact with children, have different approaches to meeting boys and girls. The first thing many people say when they meet a young girl is “oh you are so cute!” or “I love the way your hair looks.” Something regarding physical appearance. The first thing a lot of people say when they meet a young boy is “do you play any sports?” or “what’s your favorite video game?” Something regarding an activity. It’s harmless though, right? You just met these kids; you’re just trying to find something relatable to talk to them about. Yeah, except, what about books? Or their favorite school subject? What about their favorite word?
In 2011, Lisa Bloom published an article in the Huffington Post titled “How to Talk to Little Girls.” Last year it went viral and several people shared it with me, knowing that I am a camp counselor. I am so grateful for that, because I assure you I thought of that article every single day this past summer. In 2012, Bloom published another article titled “How to Talk to Little Boys” that earned significantly less recognition, but it is just as important. She explains that a young boy she was talking to said that a lot of his friends thought that reading was “girly.” Meanwhile, the girl in Bloom’s first article was hesitant to talking about reading because she wasn’t accustomed to having intellectual conversations with women she hardly knew. Are we shaming boys AND girls from reading books for fun??
Whenever I meet a new kid- regardless of gender- I always ask what their name is and what grade they’re in. I like to talk about their classes, observe their clothes to see if I can figure out their favorite color, find out if they like to read books. I tried my best to make reading time at camp favorable, despite the kids not wanting to come inside to “just read.” We need to stray away from gender-normal questions and try our best to produce intelligent conversations with today’s youth. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about sports or how cute someone is (because trust me, my campers were ADORBZ), but it would be great if we could remove these socially-constructed, gender-specific, “go-to” conversation starters. Let’s make sure all of the impacts we leave on the children that surround us turn out to be great.