Hiring a Magnificent Staff
When Jack and I sat down in the fall to start making lists and plans for what we needed to accomplish to get the second summer of Stomping Ground rolling, we made hiring staff a huge priority. We were both extremely nervous that this would prove to be the most challenging and elusive part of preparing for camp.
We are now approaching the end of April, we have 2 and a half months left before take off and we feel confident that we have hired a truly magnificent summer camp staff.
It has been such a joy to interview and talk with the over 80 people that have applied for a summer staff position at Stomping Ground. Both Jack and I have talked at length with all applicants, on the phone, on Skype, and in person in many cases.
What we were looking for.
Hiring a cohesive and compassionate camp staff is the most important thing we can do as directors to create a authentic and intentional culture. When interviewing candidates we asked them, "If we were to talk with your best friends, your confidants, the people you feel most close to in your lives, and ask them to describe you in a few words, what do you think they would tell us?" We got answers like, "hard working, caring, compassionate, gentle giant, persuasive, positive, and trustworthy."
To get to know applicants further we asked: "How would you spend your day if you got to design it top to bottom?" Some staff had trouble imagining a day with no "have to’s" on schedule. They talked about how they would spend time hiking with friends, watching the sun rise or set, cooking and eating good food. Some said that they would spend the whole day creating and making art, others said they would want to gather their good friends and play board games or pick up games outside. Each answer was unique and gave us an interesting view on who would add vibrancy and uniqueness to our staff and camp community.
We talked at length with applicants about what a challenging job being a summer camp counselor is. Even when you are “off” at camp you are on. There are always kids and people around and you live in this close knit, intimate community for a whole month. We talked about how important the 10 days of staff orientation are before the kids show up. The goal of staff orientation is to create a cohesive and unstoppable unit, to bond as a staff and create a family that has each others' backs. Staff training is also about wrestling with big ideas and challenging conventional wisdom of working with kids. We take a deeper look into rules and throw out the ones that are designed for adult convenience. Together as a staff we will talk about safety, policies and procedures that make our camp run smoothly, and we will also brainstorm and dream on impressive activities and unforgettable moments and memories we can help create with kids.
The most important thing we look for in a staff member, beyond flexibility, willingness to give and receive feedback, teamwork and communication skills, is compassion. Compassion for kids, for others on a team, and compassion for themselves. We want to hire a staff that will create a culture of compassion, seeing and hearing each other's humanity and striving for peace.
Looking forward to living in community with you this summer!