How Being a Camp Counsellor Made Me a Better Badger

Favourite Things1. Time Management

It’s no secret that overnight camp takes a lot of time out of the counsellor’s day. From the morning bell to the evening programme, there’s always something going on at camp. The same is true of the life of your average Badger. From late night studying to early morning essay writing, the average student has so much to consider when budgeting time for our day. As a camp counsellor, I was up from 6.30am to at least 11.00pm, something that I have carried over (maybe to a lesser extent…) into my student life as I try to balance my academic commitments with social commitments. Camp taught me the values of a work ethic and how hard you have to work to make it all worthwhile.

2. Organisation

From writing programme lesson plans to keeping count of my camp group, being an organised camp counsellor simply makes life as a counsellor that much easier. Imagine showing up to a 7pm programme outside in the backwoods of Algonquin Park and not knowing where one of your 12 year old campers is…I’m not speaking from experience here, but I can only imagine that even the healthiest of hearts would skip a beat or two.

As a student, between keeping track of due dates for assignments in 5 or 6 different classes at once and making sure that I’ve ticked all of the boxes when I’m doing work for the Residence Staff, there’s a lot to keep track of. Keeping organised is a key factor to being a successful Badger (or any other university student for that matter). As a camp counsellor, I was often planning a week at a time (starting Sunday) for four weeks at a time, for a group of about 10 campers. If that isn’t organisation, I don’t know what is. In my student life, I’m often planning for academic work a month or so in advance, and without my experience as a camp counsellor, I would have no clue how to manage all of that!

3. Relationships

From the day that camp preparation begins, to the first day of camp, to the end of Spring/Summer, every camp programme runs around the building of relationships. These can be staff-staff relationships, staff-camper, camper-camper, human-nature; everything in-between and so much more. These relationships aren’t always easy to make or maintain: we may not always get along with the people that we work with, we may have disagreements with the people that we are working beside but the fact of the matter is that at camp and at school, relationships are everything.

Working with difficult folks at camp have taught me that we aren’t going to get along with everyone, but it may be something that we have to try our hardest to do to get the job done. Let the past stay in the past, try to be professional because more often than not, how you interact with the people you don’t always like says so much more about you than how you carry yourself with the people that you get along with the best.

Tanamakoon Week 2

Photo by Ed Mizzi

4. Appreciating the Small Stuff

It’s a rainy day in Algonquin. Your archery programme is flooded out. You have to move to a small cabin room to house your now indoor programme and the cabin is full of a group of sopping camp children and 4 other angry counsellors. In that moment, when most are feeling frustrated by the rain, one of your campers is talking to another and you overhear them saying “That was SO AWESOME! Do you think we could swim in that!?”

It’s in that moment that you realise that, as my camp programme director says, rain is an adult issue. Adults fret about the things that change our plans. Traffic, bug bites, cancelled dinner reservations. These are all things that stress adults out in the real world in the same way that students stress out about sleeping in or pressure to maintain friendships over academics. The fact is we forget to live in the moment, to remember that anything can be fun as long as we think of it as fun. Once we remember to start thinking like a kid again, our rainy days start looking a whole heckofalot more colourful.

Cache Lake

Photo by Ed Mizzi

6. Stepping Outside Every Once in a While

Sometimes, we have so much work to do that we simply forget to go outside that day. Sometimes we don’t even look out the window because there is so much work that our eyes remain fixed on the computer screen sitting in front of us. It’s in these times that we often miss out on our most beautiful of surroundings. Brock is located in the heart of the Niagara Escarpment, so you can be sure that you’ll see some wildlife every once in a while, maybe even animals that you’ve never seen before…maybe even a real live Badger! If there’s one thing that camp taught me, it’s that even when I’m back at home, it’s so important that I unplug once in a while. Turn my phone off for a day, keep away from the computer (you mean using pen & paper every so often!? Yes!!) and maybe, just maybe go for a walk…who knows, you may even have a dragonfly land on your head…

Tennis court


About Iain

Hello Future Badgers! My name is Iain, and I am a fourth year Concurrent Education I/S B.A./B.Ed. student (teaching subjects in Drama & History) and Head Resident in the Residence Department here at Brock! First thing’s first, I love this newfound second home that I call Brock and I’m hoping I can pass off all of that love to all of you! This summer I spent an incredible four weeks teaching and living at an Outdoor Education Camp in the Algonquin Highlands and would love to tell you all about it! Through the experiences as an actively involved University student here at Brock, I have seen that maintaining a social life, as well as an academic life is just as important to becoming a well-rounded and balanced student (it’s almost like eating both your fruits and vegetables!) In the coming months, I hope to pass this knowledge on to you, to ensure that your love of all things Brock grows strong. Brock On Badgers!

One Response to How Being a Camp Counsellor Made Me a Better Badger

  1. avatar Patti Thom says:

    Hi Iain!
    What an awesome article! You managed to capture so many of those great life lessons learned at summer camp! Your energy and enthusiasm definitely shines through! Your passion and love for the outdoors and all things “kids” helped not only to give the kids an amazing experience but also the staff and yourself! It’s a passion for life that makes heroes out of out of every day leaders! Power On Iain and continue to tell your story and the stories of the Tanamakoon Outdoor Centre. You are all leaders of great experiences-these are your stories to tell. Encourage others to take a leap of faith and try their hand at OED-they too will develop their own stories-they too can be a hero just like you!

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