Counselor Training Day 1!

By: Allison Gross

While laughing through the warm up exercises, I almost forgot how heavy the content we are trying to deliver.  As we work through the material more and more with owners and counselors, we are finding new questions and challenges that we never considered before.  The day of training was an interesting mix of fun, lighthearted activities with deep, though provoking discussion.  Ideally, this is a model of how the camp will go as well.  We are anxiously waiting to see if this still goes smoothly when you add teachers and students into the mix.

The day started off with lighthearted introductions, and a name game warm up that started to introduce counselors to each other as well as to the activities that they’ll be teaching throughout the camp.  The counselors range from young women working through their college courses, to highly experienced women that have raised girls of their own, all selected for their unique experiences and outgoing personalities.  After a fun start, the day became more focused with an explanation of the affordable schools that the counselors will be working in, since they are joining the schools as an outsider and need to be familiar with the characteristics of teachers and students that they will work with.

As we started talking about camp and structure, our first activity came to GIRL CODE.  At the start of camp the campers will work together to come up with the rules for their camp, and are all responsible for making sure that everyone follows these.  We mimicked this exercise with the counselors and had them come up with their own rules for training.  As we started a discussion, counselors brought up that girls are not always looking out for each other.  It is often girls that are perpetuating negative gossip about each other or sharing secrets that have been told to her in confidence.  We started listing out ways that we can be more respectful to each other and trust each other.  The Girl Code started with being on time, being a good and active listener, always being empathic, and giving everyone a chance to speak without being interrupted.  The number one rule was inspired by vegas: “what happens in camp, stays in camp.”  The success of the camp undoubtedly relies on building a safe, productive environment.  If the girls don’t feel safe to open up and share they’re experiences the activities won’t be as valuable and discussion based learning will not be effective.

The day continued with sessions that went through improvisational dancing activity designed to have girls let go of any negative experiences and allow themselves to grow stronger from them.  In a circle, we all went around sharing the experiences we’ve had and how we’ve grown from them.  There was a change in the atmosphere after this exercise, as we all opened up to new people and allowed some of our barriers to come down.  This trust builds a strong bond, even in a group that you’ve just met, and left me thinking of how powerful this exercise could be in bringing together a group of adolescence.

We ended the day with an introduction to differences between men and women through a body mapping exercise.  We identified all the different parts of the body as well as stereotypical characteristics associated with girls and boys.  There were disagreements in words like shallow/materialistic – some feeling that men can be much more appearance focused than women. Others noted differences in expectation about women being more reserved and modest, where men are meant to demonstrate masculinity and power, and what society thinks if you don’t follow these prescribed roles.  It was most interesting to me to hear about the impact that media here has on maintaining these societal norms, and the types of characters common in serials that all the girls watch.

At the end of the first day, the excitement from the counselors was invigorating and there was so much mutual learning.  A lot of girls issues were brought up and set the stage for the start of an amazing summer.  I can’t wait to go forward with the next days of training!

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