Note: As summer rapidly approaches many of us find ourselves preparing for staff training. Over the next two weeks we'll focus on staff training related topics on the Summer Camp Leadership blog.
Planning for staff training often that begins by pulling out last year's schedule, evaluating what worked and didn't work last summer and integrating in new ideas you've picked up at conferences, on the internet and from other sources.
Before you get too far along with planning staff training, it's important to spend some time thinking about the goals of your training. From my perspective staff training is about:
1. Teaching skills and how to use them in real camp situations. - This is the obvious how-to part of staff training. It's important to focus not just on the skill but on how the staff member transfers the skill from training into actual use at camp.
2. Helping staff learn and embrace the camp's staff culture. - You want to help staff to develop the attitudes and values that support who you are as a camp. If staff members don't believe in what you're doing all the skills in the world won't make a difference.
3. Acclimating staff to the camp environment. - Help staff adjust to the schedule, the environment (heat, rain, etc.) and the physical demands (walking, playing physical games, etc.) they'll face during camp.
4. Building staff community. - By the time staff training ends staff members should feel accepted, cared for, valued and have a sense of belonging. Not only is this important to their effectiveness as a staff member, it models what you expect them to do with campers.
5. Evaluating staff members. - Despite your best efforts, there occasionally are folks who end up at staff training that are not a good fit with your camp. They may decide camp isn't for them or you might decide they're not right for the position. It's better that this happen during training rather than when they're with campers.
When you plan staff training try to intentionally integrate all five of these goals into the training. When you teach a skill, focus on applying that skill in actual situations. Teach not just the how-to, but also teach why the skills are important and how they support the camp's culture. Make your training schedule resemble what staff will experience during camp. Do it outdoors, in all weather and physically move from place to place. Provide planned opportunities throughout staff training for staff to interact. Small group discussions, skill practices and other training activities help staff get to know one another. As staff training unfolds, have your leadership team continually assess how staff are doing and whether they can be effective once kids arrive.
Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.