How We Train Our StaffJune 17, 2013
It’s an incredible thing. Every year, on a Sunday night in June, we gather together a collection of people from around the globe and recreate this camp community of ours. It’s always a mixture of young and old, veterans and new, Americans and Internationals. Everyone is some combination of excited and nervous, and yet by the end of the first evening the apprehension seems to have washed away. And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, this latest version of our “team” gets what Kenwood & Evergreen is all about. It surprises me every year how quickly we are able to craft this special, intentional little world of ours.
As with previous years, just after dinner Scott met with all of our Specialists/Coaches/Teachers, Unit Leaders, and Kitchen/Maintenance Staff. In a short but powerful meeting he talked about what we, as a community, will achieve this summer. How we will work together to change the lives of our campers, helping them to be leaders, be creative, be resilient, and be healthy risk takers. He spoke about the life-enriching learning that takes place here, and the incredible outcomes we create each summer. The entire group seemed to hang on his every word, excited to contemplate the possibilities of a summer at Kenwood & Evergreen. Walking from the meeting I asked one of our quieter new staff members what he thought of our first meeting. “I almost cried as he was speaking”, he told me. “I’m a teacher the rest of the year and I can’t believe that I have an opportunity to work with kids in this way”.
It rained here today, so after Scott’s meeting I gathered our staff in one of our comfortable Evergreen lodge living rooms. For about 2 hours I took them through a series of exercises and conversations designed to model what we will be doing with our campers throughout the summer. In a matter of minutes we were able to take about 100 professionals from around the world and make them feel like valued members of a cohesive group. We quickly moved beyond basic introductions and started to share our thoughts, our hopes, and even our fears about this summer. We discussed the crucial aspects of the K&E culture that we need to create this summer, like the atmosphere of trust and respect that we had crafted in a very short time tonight. I smiled as I saw dozens of faces suddenly realize that the entire night was a model for what we want them to foster in each and every camper interaction this summer. THIS is how we train our staff!
Afterwards, while we taught our new friends how to make ‘Smores, Scott brought out his guitar to lead everyone in a few songs. Then an amazing thing happened. One of our new waterfront counselors brought out his guitar and sang a beautiful song that he had written. Everyone cheered at both his artistry, and the guts it took to do this in front of a group that he had just met today. Then one of our new waterski instructors did the same. Then a lacrosse coach played a few songs and had the entire room singing along. I grabbed a guitar, and with only a few words between us all of the guitar players in the room found a song that we all knew. As a staff we sang into the night. To see so many people reach that extreme level of comfort in a new place with new people tells us a great deal about this group of staff. They get what Kenwood & Evergreen is about, and they are thrilled to be a part of it.
This is what Camp is all about. Tonight we began to train our staff not with a rulebook, but with a shared set of values, an understanding of the outcomes we seek to produce, and a model for how we will achieve them this summer. This is how we train our staff.
We are so very excited for this summer.