Why I Came Back to Camp
About 4 min reading time
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Admittedly, I just sort of fell into this job. I had never heard of this company before, nor had I stopped to think that this sort of thing was even popular. Things like iD Tech Camps simply don't exist in Maine, or at least very few people have heard of such camps. I'd never put much thought into teaching, and children have a habit of driving me nuts. But at the recommendation of a friend I applied anyway.
I mean, the alternative was going back to being a cashier at Walmart so I figured anything was better than that. Not that I really hated my old job at Walmart, I just felt ready for something more valuable.
The first phone interview of my life was for this job, and I was nervous. I felt like I blew every other question, I stumbled through quite a few answers, and felt that I didn't have all the skills I'd need to actually teach kids something. Add the pressure of making my friend look bad by recommending me, and you have an idea of how I felt for the first 45 minutes of that phone call. But to my surprise, I was offered the job right then and there. Somehow, I'd done something right.
A few months later, camp started. I'd met all of the excellent people I'd be working with, decorated my classroom to the fullest extent (16 corgi pictures included), and thought I was ready for the kids. And then they arrived.
It's funny now, but I was a bit of a wreck my first week. I had issues with the software, questions I wasn't ready for, and I had somehow overestimated the focus and mental capacity of the average 9 year old. Every other problem caused a new bout of panic. I stayed up extra late every night planning and re-planning, and by Thursday morning I was far more exhausted than I imagined I would be. On Friday, I experienced my first family showcase - a time for parents to see what their kids created all week and get a look at what they paid for. I stumbled through it, but managed to make it through my first week with nothing but positive feedback.
As the weeks blurred by, I became more and more comfortable. I had a solid routine for my classes, but grew increasingly tired. Children still frustrated me and tested my patience to its limit, but I made it without seriously upsetting any of them. After 8 weeks, camp was over. I left camp land, slept a lot and then continued life as normal. It was an incredible summer, despite how awful I just made it sound.
Like any crazy person, I chose to subject myself to it again. I came back to camp for another season. And though our old lab space has been torn down and we don't have all of the same great staff as before, it's still camp. A lot of the people who made last year so great are back and there's some good new staff as well. It's a very different camp than before, but it still works. And though I haven't enjoyed the software I've had to teach and kids can still be challenging to deal with, I love this job.
This past week, I had a few particularly unfocused students. They would often distract the others, required me to repeat simple directions far too many times before they would react, and either lacked the ability or the desire to think on their own. It made for a very challenging week which couldn't end soon enough. But when Friday and family showcase did come, I was fully reminded why I do this.
The youngest student in my class was also one of the best. He was genuinely interested in learning to program and he was very easy to teach. He often needed extra help, but it was easy to help him rather than do for him. Being able to talk with his dad about how well he learned and that he should continue with programming was nice. Being told that this kid is unusually picky about who he works with and that he loved me was incredible. I don't know exactly what I did to earn this 9 year old's seal of approval, but having earned that trust matters.
I can't impact all kids that way. Most of them usually won't let that happen. But once in a while there's a kid who sincerely looks up to you as an instructor and believes you matter. Those are the kids who really want to learn something and walk away with more than just a project at the end of the week. They have an experience that changes their perspective, piques a new interest, or sets them on a new path of life. Sure, it's just a summer camp full of computer courses, but students who take it seriously form career and life skills here.
No matter how hard I try, I can't make every kid see it that way. But having a positive impact on just one kid all summer makes this job worthwhile. It's the reason I came back to camp and it's the reason most of us come back. It's what gets me through each exhausting day. There are days where I still don't think I'm cut out to do this, but I keep going. I simply keep waiting for those kids who are few and far between.