So it's the second day of member camp 2. My biggest struggle has been differentiating myself from the counselors as staff. With my youth the lines become blurred, and I want to work with the kids, when instead I should be letting the counselors (teenagers) learn to be leaders and educators. I struggle here as I see counsolors overstep their bounds, doing what the kids should be doing (lettering, painting, etc).
I talked to the counselors last night about kids and ownership, trying to emphasize that the kids should be doing the banners, not the counselors, along w/ many other things like that. They were very defensive (they being mainly xxxxx and yyyyy). It was interesting how when I mentioned the science fair example, xxxxx got offended that I wasn't giving kids enough credit/recognizing their abilities while she was defending doing things for them. Here I was mentioning the science fair project that the kid didn't do anything, but the parents did. xxxxx said I was selling the kids short, that she was sick of the attitude I'd mentioned, saying adults don't give kids enough credit. On the other hand, she had been lettering and drawing for the kids.
Perhaps I should be glad that while last night turned into a me vs. them, rather than a discussion - it at least demonstrates to me that they have bonded as a team. Though on a related note, yyyyy seems to like to challenge zzzzz in public on stuff he says or does, which is bad. This is bad since zzzzz is staff, and yyyyy is a counselor, and yyyyy's confrontations degrade zzzzz's authority as a staff member in front of not only the campers, but also the other counselors and staff.
Yes, he's been dumb about lines and he doesn't really listen, but that's no excuse for confronting him in public. Like qqqqq said last night, it's like parenting - even if you don't agree, you present a unified front.
I also wonder about teens as leaders. These kids amaze me with how good they can be, as kids, but it's also apparent that there is plenty of room to grow. The counselors obviously cared very much for the kids, but didn't want to listen to advice from me, or anyone else. They really seemed to think being friends w/ the campers was more important than being an authority figure. Maybe they're right - maybe these kids need someone to lean on, rather than to guide and direct. Maybe they're at an age where they automatically respect older/bigger people. I don't really believe my maybe, but I was trying to see things from both sides. And when I say that being an authority figure is more important, I'm really trying to say that it's necessary to establish bounds, that if you focus on being a friend, kids will run all over you, and if discipline ever becomes necessary, you'll have no authority as you're just a friend.
So, I feel I may have over-reacted yesterday on the processing/debriefint - they seemed to do a much better job about it this time around. I'm not sure about this - I mentioned to the counselors the night before that after they do an activity or an icebreaker such as the human knot, it was important to do debriefings which I hadn't seen much of. The ones I saw were more the counselors lecturing to the kids, rather than letting the kids talk, throw ideas out, and reach a conclusion for themselves. During a conversation I had later with some other staff, it was proposed that perhaps children 8-12 really can't understand the lessons that many icebreakers and teambuilders try to teach, at least not on the level I was expecting. I also pondered whether it was possible for teens to really do this kind of processing. I said they seemed to be better, because I at least saw them ask questions, rather than lecture, but the questions weren't good at getting them to answers or guiding the discussion.
But, at campfire tonight they sang a song, rather a verse, of "Boom-chica-boom" Chinese style that mocked, using the stereotypes of the "ching-chong" and higher pitched voices. For those who don't know the song, it's a call-and-answer style song, with various styles, such as Harley style - I said a vroom-chicka-vroom, I said a vroom-chicka-vroom, I said a vroom, shift-a-rocka, shift-a-rocka, shift-a-vroom The nurse thought it might have been because of my comments last night and it was the counselors trying to take a shot back at me for giving them constructive criticism the night before. I'm reluctant to think that any of the counselors would do something like that intentionally. Another person's analysis of the situation was that they did it for this girl who was visiting (some of the counselor's friend) who was Korean and adopted. They think this because the Korean girl high-fived the lead singer after that verse
On the other hand, there was snickering when I raised the issued to them as they did their special awards. I'm not sure if this was because I didn't wait long eough for the dust to settle from their previous conversation or because they were happy their barb had hit home. Such ignorance and perpetuation of stereotypes, especially in front of 8-12 year old children is appalling.
All right, so I talked to the counselors late that evening, mentioning that while I didn't feel like the song had been an attack on me and didn't feel offended personally, I was offended by the perpetuation of the stereotype as acceptable, even humorous behavior. Apparently, another staff member talked to them, saying the verse had bothered her as well. (She was also the one staff member who I talked a lot with and agreed with that the counselors didn't want to listen, that they did need to loosen up on the campers, etc etc - she's somewhat more aware of the diversity issues as her family is the "United Nations" as she puts it. There are something like 4 non-Western ethnicities, through marriage and adoption, and 6 religous faiths, so she's pretty accepting in general.) The nurse also said something to them (she was very offended, and had also been asking why 4-H wasn't more diverse, and felt uncomfortable when her son was at camp, as she's in a mixed-race marriage) and they apparently said something like "well, Ernie said it didn't really bother him." Argh, I wonder if my hearing was that selective when I was that age.