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Working at Camp Develops Skills for “Grown Up” Jobs – Part 6

Mike Green and Jessie Gottlieb

Owner / Director and Superstar Briarwood Counselor, respectively

Being a summer camp counselor is the most fun summer job you’ll ever have . . . AND it’s a resume builder!

Let us explain – Briarwood’s high school and college aged staff get meaningful responsibility and work with older, more experienced staff to develop leadership, people management, communication and problem solving skills, all of which are crucial to future jobs. These are skills that employers want to see. Plus, being a counselor is a lot more fun than folding sweaters or delivering pizzas!

We reached out to Briarwood’s present and former staff members – now out in the “real” world – to tell us about how being a counselor at camp helped them in their “adult” careers. Here’s what one of our young teachers had to say:

Jessie G., Teacher

How Camp has Helped me in my “Grown-up Job”

Working with Parents

Undoubtedly, the biggest way camp has helped me in my job as a first-year sixth-grade teacher is how I was prepared to communicate with parents. Because parent communication often is not a responsibility that student teachers take on, many first-year teachers express that their biggest fear going into the school year is how to communicate with parents, especially when they need to have difficult conversations or relay bad news. Because my role as a senior counselor at camp had required me to communicate with parents in the past, I felt comfortable and unafraid to hit the ground running with emails and calls to parents as soon as the school year began.

Interestingly enough, I brought this up in my interview as well . . . how my job as a camp counselor had allowed me to practice and become more comfortable talking to parents, and the interviewers really liked it! As stated before, parent communication is usually one of the most common fears for brand new teachers entering the field, so my 2-3 years of experience with dealing with all types of parents at camp (overprotective, hands-off, supportive, non-supportive) really helped me with this aspect of my job.

Learning to lead a large group of children

As silly as it sounds, my first day as a teacher in August of 2022 was my first day as the lead teacher in a classroom. Ever. While I certainly took on the lead teacher role for much of my time as a student teacher, the true reality is that even during those weeks where I was “running the show,” my mentor teacher was usually in the room and was there if I needed her. Because I have never worked as a substitute teacher, I had literally zero experience being completely in charge of a classroom before prior to getting hired. That said, my time as a camp counselor helped me feel prepared and capable of handling a large group of children on my own. Especially because I always seem to end up as the senior counselor of the some of the largest bunks in camp, I have been known to strut around camp with my “small army.” Never once did it occur to me that something as simple as getting all the girls to and from activities on time was actually practice for me in leading a large group of children in the same way that I now have to do at school.

In a similar way, there are plenty of times at camp where I need to get and maintain the attention of the campers, so that I can give them important information. This too has helped me gain experience with leading a large group of children, as being able to capture and maintain the attention of students, as well as being able to communicate information efficiently and effectively is, obviously, one of the biggest parts of my job.

Being in charge of other employees

As a senior counselor at camp, you are responsible for making decisions and designating tasks to junior counselors and CITs. Especially for someone like me, who is more reserved and not usually the one to “take charge,” there was certainly a learning curve for me when it came to giving directions to coworkers. Briarwood helped me learn how to do that in a fun, supportive way. You can imagine my surprise when I was told I’d be getting an instructional assistant in my classroom, whose entire job is to assist students at my direction. Especially because my assistant is older than I am, this was a big concern for me. I remember telling my principal, “I feel weird giving her orders. She’s older than me!” While being the one “in charge” and having to delegate tasks to someone else is still something I’m working on getting more comfortable with, my experience as a senior counselor at camp has certainly helped me practice for this real-life situation at school.

Advice from other teachers/networking

It is no secret that most adults who work at camp are teachers in the off-season. As a recent college graduate who was going through a stressful interview process, I was so fortunate to have been surrounded by a variety of newer and veteran teachers all summer long. I received advice on everything from interview tips to classroom management strategies and everything in-between. My supervisor even lent me her password to an extremely helpful website for educational resources that I ended up using in one of my interviews. While I ended up getting a job in a district that is about an hour outside of Bucks County and therefore could not “name-drop” any local teachers I knew from camp, I have absolutely no doubt that if I had interviewed in the Bucks County area, I would have been able to network using my connections from camp.

Working as a counselor at Briarwood Day Camp is a fantastic way to build skills for “grown up” jobs and opportunities. Briarwood counselors are given responsibility, they get to lead, they communicate with customers, they learn better management skills, they network and THEY HAVE FUN!

Interested in working at Briarwood this summer? Click here to learn even more!

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