If you went to summer camp as a kid and felt it change your life, you already know what I’m talking about. The community that forms when you face a challenge – a real, fundamental, spiritually intrinsic challenge – with a group of peers and let it change you into a group of close friends. The skills you learn as a youngster in the outdoors: camping, cooking, cleaning, certainly, but more importantly good cheer in trying times, entertainment from friends and nature, self reflection, and self reliance.
During the school year I am a math teacher because I am passionate about youth, education, and, well, math. During the summer I am the director of Shiloh Quaker Camp, where I, along with my staff of twenty five, create a community of loving, supportive, laughing kids. I do this because I am passionate about teaching kids to respect themselves, each other, and the connections that form between people who live together. We create the community at camp with intention and great care, and in many ways it’s a lot like teaching math. (I’m beginning to suspect that any kind of teaching bears great resemblance to any other (who’d’ve thunk it?)).
I went to a camp like Shiloh when I was a kid, and I’ve worked at Shiloh since I was a teenager in high school myself. It’s been a spiritual and social foundation for the entire framework I base my life upon, and I think what I learned at camp informs every interaction I have with my students in school. Math awes me because it is a fundamental structure of the universe; math is an undeniable order that we presume stretches to the edge of the cosmos (and beyond?). Camp awes me because of the growth I see in kids; independence and interdependence flourish together in kids as young as eight years when they’re faced with the right kinds of challenges by staff with the right training and a supportive focus.
I miss out on a lot of professional development opportunities in the summer, and I miss out on a lot of travel opportunities. My summer break ends two days before it starts, and I’m planning classes desperately in the three days a week when the kids are off climbing or canoeing or hiking. If you’re not a camp person, you might not understand the magnitude of the experience I’m describing, but as a camp person I can tell you that its the most rewarding experience I can imagine!
If you’re an amazing teacher (or at least working on becoming one) and want a taste of this camp experience, send me an email. If you’re looking for a way to spend your summer that will recharge your batteries and give you new perspectives on your classes and your role as a teacher, send me an email. Even if it’s not at Shiloh (which is hard to get a job at, if I may brag briefly), I can direct you towards some programs that need good people, are a blast, and will hone your teaching skills like no summer institute can!
Are you a camp person? Leave a note with your camp experiences!