Positivity... and negativity.

I believe that every camp has a place or person that is supposed to instill fear in children.
We had "the barn."
In school, there was "the office."

Threats were thrown in advance, "Do you want to go to the barn?" "If you keep this up, you're going to the office!"

Normally it worked. when I was younger, the threat of the office was intense - it left a bad feeling in my stomach. I even got nervous about the office when I was there for good purposes. The office was a bad place.

Of course, there were other children - some fairly friendly ones, in fact - who were not phased by the office... who had been to the office several times without turning white or wetting themselves.

When I was an instructor at camp, I noticed the same two kids always in the barn. Sure, there was a series of children that changed based on the threat... and then many more who cried and pouted in the barn, never to return again. Two campers, however, made the barn their home.

A couple of years later, I was in charge... and in a position that I could change camp in any way that I liked. I was able to rewrite the rules from the beginning and completely rethink how things were done... and I thought about my barn boys.

What is the purpose of the barn? Is it to modify the behavior of campers who make bad decisions through punishment? If the barn is a successful mode of punishment, then why are the same two campers spending more time there than arts & crafts?

I posed these questions to my directors... and suggested eliminating the barn entirely.

But now what...?

Kid disturbs class -> Class is disrupted -> Kid needs to be removed to restore order

That's the normal order of things. How, then, can this be remedied?

We established a new title at camp, a type of floating director called the "Care Worker." Dr. Bob was hired (the second year... when we got it right) as a 26 year School Psychologist with the instructions of keeping kids from disrupting while keeping them out of the barn... while freeing up my directors to manage the staff and do paperwork.

Bob used anticipation and positive redirection to change the landscape of camp discipline. He made reporting sheets for the counselors to fill out during the day and send home at night for campers who were "at risk." Bob's success came from a simple scoring method that allowed campers who had a certain number of smiley faces over a given time to participate in extra activity time. Most chose fishing, but others went for swimming... or anything. No matter what, Bob would arrange it with the counselor and give that camper a whole period of one on one attention while doing their favorite camp thing...

And it worked.

I have more to write about this after learning about other methodology, but I know one thing for certain: the barn didn't work. We scared campers into following the rules and every so often, we lost... and I think we can do better than ignore the problem.

1 comment:

lilsunbug said...

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate and love the Camp site. My children are going to LOVE learning the "Froggy" song tomorrow and more-so, I'm going to love teaching it to them!