Life is unpredictable. Before the start of the summer, I had no idea that I would be a YMCA summer camp counselor. Now, here I am near the end of the summer, finishing up camp. I can't say it's been easy, but it was undoubtedly a beneficial, enjoyable experience for me.
The children I helped take care of were very energetic. They were so playful. I found out that kids never run out of energy. We could come back from a full day of swimming at Rockland Pool, and they'd still want to play dodge ball. It took a lot of strength and effort on my part to keep up with them. Sure, camp was meant for the kids to have fun, but the YMCA camp went beyond that and instilled values in the kids. This was a process I enjoyed implementing. Children need values in life and the YMCA promoted four main values. They were respect, responsibility, honesty, and caring.
I remember a time I tested the honesty of the kids. At camp, we had gone over each of the four values. I knew the kids knew them, but would they practice them? Once a girl in my group found a quarter. She was honest and gave it to me, telling me that it wasn't hers. I went to ask the kids whose quarter it was. At once, all of the kids jumped up and down laughing, saying, "mine, mine." Then I asked them if they were being honest, reminding them that it was one of the four values. One by one, the kids admitted that the quarter was not theirs. Finally, one child said that it was his and two other kids agreed with his statement, saying that they had witnessed him dropping it. I thanked all of them for their honesty and reminded them how important it was to be honest.
Respect and responsibility are two values which are diffcult to implement. My children were part of the Break Aways program, sponsored by the Board of Education. One of the main goals of this program was to improve students' literacy skills. I really enjoyed the experience of teaching the children in this program, and felt as though I gained something from it. The children in this group were a challenge to work with. They would be very hyper before beginning an activity. But, once I started reading them a story or got them started on an activity, I had their undivided attention. Many times the kids would be reluctant to be quiet when it was time. But, by teaching them the value of respect, they became silent for me and other children when it was needed. They also learned to respect their peers. Without the value of respect, children grow up lacking dignity. This can ultimately cause chaos within a society.
I recall an incident in which I read the children a story and they loved it. In fact, I didn't even have to ask them what the moral of the story was. The kids started telling me themselves. They told me, "The story is trying to say that it doesn't matter how you look on the outside, but it's your heart on the inside that counts." They continued to tell me that if you have a dream you should never give up on that dream, no matter what obstacles lie in front of you. I was moved. I was in awe of how the kids learned all about caring and responsibility through a story I had read them. I congratulated them on their insights. I felt as though I was becoming a teacher.
The kids are not the only ones who learned from summer camp. I think we, as counselors, have learned a lot from children. I've noticed that children overcome tempers and conflicts quickly. They often realize that the solution is as simple as talking things through, or considering how the other person feels. It would be great if the world were like that. But, for a short summer, these children were exposed to four values that, if practiced, could help them for the rest of their lives. I certainly hope I will be part of the reason that they remember and apply these values.
Submitted by Anonymous