When Plans Fall Apart

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Well, the last time that I spoke with you all, I was anxiously anticipating my first week of camp. Now that two weeks of camp have gone by, that feels like a lifetime ago. If I could have prepared myself for the challenges, the stress, the excitement that I would soon be facing on the job, I would have…well…I’m not entirely sure what I would have done differently.

In preparing for camp, we prepared ever so strategically. We mapped out almost every minute of every day, meticulously planning lessons, activities, and games which all focused on teaching our kids important financial literacy lessons. Well, turns out, kids aren’t too keen on spending their summer vacation following lesson plans. Kids really want to play Trouble, basketball, and hit their older brothers.

One thing that Sarah, my colleague, and I quickly learned was that our detailed plans could not stand the test of 7-13 year-olds. We realized that we would have to adapt our stringent plans to allow kids to just, well, be kids. Less focus on financial literacy, more focus on fun. However, this did not solve all of our problems…turns out, when kids are left to their own devices, trouble will inevitably follow.

The first two weeks of camp were challenging for many reasons. Behavioral issues occurred almost every day. Whether kids were having tantrums from losing games, not keeping their hands to themselves, missing their parents, or talking back, it seemed like the most common word I was saying to my campers was “stop”, followed closely by “no”. It’s hard to take care of 8 kids all at once, let alone kids who are going through troubling home situations, who often do not receive enough attention from parents and teachers, and who are only vaguely accustomed to structure. Moving forward, I definitely need to focus on how to provide guidance and constructive criticism to these kids, who all too often hear the words “stop” and “no”.

While our strict guidelines and meticulous planning may not always work, I think that moving forward, Sarah and I will continue to provide a structured day for these kids, whose lives have all had major structural challenges. We have learned to adjust our expectations and to adapt to behavioral issues, reacting to these children through a lens of care. If at the end of the summer, even if these kids aren’t on the fast path to becoming investment bankers, we at least hope that they have a summer of childhood fun that they can forever look back on with nostalgia, remember the care and support they received during a summer full of fun!

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Amanda! I commend you for staying strong! I know how incredibly difficult it is to walk into a room of kids with great plans and end up doing a job that feels like babysitting. I am an alum embarking on a similar project in New York City this summer and our trainers suggested thinking of behavior management as an integral part of the curriculum, rather than a distraction from other curriculum goals. Simply by providing behavioral guidelines and structure you are providing a safe place for children to simply be children this summer… and I’m sure they will pick up some financial literacy on the way too 🙂 Love this work you are doing, your positive attitude, and your honesty.

    Courtney

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  2. Eric Mlyn says:

    Thanks for your honesty here. This is just another reminder that working with children can be very difficult, and that those who do it well are well trained and skilled. I have such great admiration for those who do this well. And I bet by the end of the summer you will be really good at it too. Eric Mlyn

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