“The Big Five Model”


Your personality. You take it with you everywhere you go in life. Just like your trunk and your linens, it certainly comes with you to camp. Dr. Ethan D. Schafer describes different aspects of our personalities in his article How Understanding Your Personality Will Make You a Better Counselor. He shows us how understanding these components and their interplay with one another can transform our success as counselors.

fun outdoor field games

Dr. Schafer outlines “the big five model”. This is a set of five major traits by which we can all be measured- thus, our personalities. Each of the five traits exists in a continuum rather then a category. If you categorize your personality your claim, then, is that you’re either, for example, an extravert or you’re not. You may not be surprised that researchers claim that your personality is much more complicated than that. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two claims.

The “big five” personality traits Schafer suggests that counselors explore in their own personalities are extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness. As previously mentioned, considering each trait as a continuum, counselors determine where their personalities fall by aligning with a “very low” or “very high” amount of each trait on the five scales. It is important to keep in mind, Schafer warns, that personality traits are neither “good” nor “bad- they are what they are. The importance in understanding our own tendencies lies in how we use our personalities to effectively interact with the world.

Extraversion:

Extraversion refers to how strongly someone is programmed to seek positive emotions. In general, high scorers on this scale are sociable and enthusiastic. At camp, these counselors will embrace all the new opportunities presented to them, but may struggle to “follow through” on certain tasks.  Low scorers are sometimes called “introverted.” They tend to be more careful and measured in how they relate to others or how they try new things. These counselors may prefer small group settings and will need to schedule more down time to refresh themselves.

Neuroticism:

Neuroticism refers to how someone is wired to experience negative emotions like anxiety or sadness. High scorers tend to be “sensitive”, they feel emotions intensely. This can work well at camp because these people tend to be more prepared for stress as they have had more practice dealing with it. They are more likely to be on guard for dangers; a very useful tool in risk management. These counselors really need to monitor their emotions while at camp. Low scorers on this scale tend to stay calmer in a crisis situation,  but are less likely to take the emotional distress of others seriously because they struggle to connect with it.  These counselors need training in risk management.

Conscientiousness:

Conscientiousness refers to self-control. High scorers tend to be disciplined and organized. These counselors do well at camp with autonomy and a set of responsibilities. They may have trouble when a situation calls for flexibility. Low scorers are a bit more spontaneous and impulsive. They do well with situations that are fluid and constantly changing. These counselors must work on skills such as planning and promptness.

Agreeableness:

Agreeableness refers to caring about others. High scorers are empathic. Counselors with high agreeableness will be very patient and understanding. They will, however, need to work on listening to constructive criticism without taking it too personally. Low scorers put less weight on emotional factors and interpersonal issues when making choices about how to behave. These counselors tend to do well with making difficult decisions without taking matters personally. Low scorers need to make deliberate efforts to understand the emotions of other staff members and campers.

Openness to Experience:

High scorers in this category tend to be unconventional and creative. At camp, this leads to innovated thinking and leadership styles. These counselors may need direction, however, to value the traditions and the structure of camp. Low scorers are more literal and concrete. These counselors love to work on concrete tasks. They need to work to remember not to allow their disinterest in more free-flowing ideas to influence their camper’s decisions.

Schafer concludes by stating that learning what works best for our personalities is a lifelong process. Camp is the perfect place to begin.

Words that Inspire

During a staff meeting this past summer, we divided our counselors into groups of four. Each group was given a set of famous quotations that they were asked to relate to their job at a summer camp. After five minutes the groups traded quotations and the pattern continued until each counselor had analyzed about 25 different quotes.

Some of the responses from counselors were funny, some sweet and tender, and many were thought-provoking. Take a look at a sampling of the words that inspired our job performance last summer.

camp garden and girl back

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky.”     -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

“Do the things you talked about doing but never did. Know when to let go and when to hold on tight. Stop rushing. Don’t be intimidated to say it like it is. Stop apologizing all the time. Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph. Spend time with friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down. Stop giving your power away. Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it. Finally, know who you are.”     -Kristin Armstrong

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”     -Neale Donald Walsh

“Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing until it gets there.”     -Josh Billings

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.”     -Unknown

Icing on the Cake

Magic Show banner

We all come to camp prepared to work with children. We think, ‘Psych 101 taught me stages of development- check. My education and public speaking course taught me effective teaching techniques- check. Living on my own taught me healthy conflict management skills- check.’ Good to go, right? Not quite. Camp is about expanding on your knowledge during staff training and learning how to put it into practice with children, and it never hurts to have a little extra icing on your cake.

What does “icing on the cake” mean exactly? Working at camp requires a pretty strong set of toes because you are on them all the time. Children have figured how to keep things fun, exciting, and unpredictable for camp counselors. In order to return the favor, you should have a few tricks up your sleeve. In addition to learning all you can about the stages of development, respectful behavioral management, and  effective activity teaching techniques- you may need just a little more uumph to keep your campers in engaged.  Read on for a few ideas of how to put the icing on the cake:

Fun Facts:

Introducing fun facts into conversation is a very effective tool for reaching campers. Incorporating new information that surprises your campers during meals, at bedtime, or during rainy day activities will keep things fresh and exciting. Your facts will be met with wide-eyes, giggles, and very interested campers.

Here are a few examples provided by Science Kids and National Geographic Kids:

-Even when a snake’s eyes are closed, it can still see through its eyelids.

-Cats use their whiskers to check whether a space is too small for them to fit through.

-Teddy Roosevelt had snakes, dogs, cats, a badger, birds, and guinea pigs as pets while he was in office

-FDR was the first president to ride in an airplane

Magic Tricks:

Now this one is a bit “tricky” (pun certainly intended). It’s very easy to go over-board with magic tricks, but it does not take much to incite wonderment in kids.

PBS Kids takes up step-by-step through a fabulous trick to perform with your campers.

The Disappearing Salt Shaker (You’ll need a salt shaker, a dime, a napkin, a table, and a chair)

1. Begin by stating that you will make a dime disappear by rubbing the salt shaker over it.

2. Cover a salt shaker with a napkin and put your hands over it.

3. Place the salt shaker, now covered by the napkin, on top of the dime and say the magic words, “zooma zooma zoom- make this coin leave the room!” and then take the napkin with the salt shaker off the table. The coin is still on the table. Now pretend that you are disappointed because the coin didn’t disappear and the trick has failed.

4. Then, while the napkin and the shaker are off the table, open your hands and let the salt shaker fall into your lap. The napkin will still look like the salt shaker is in it. Then say, “let me try that again.”

5. Now place your hands over the “shaker” and say the magic words, “zooma zooma zoom- make this coin leave the room!”

6. Push down the napkin, and it will seem like the shaker has fallen through the table!

7. You campers will be amazed!

Jokes and Riddles:

Jokes and riddle are classic and match the spirit and pace of camp- fun and sweet!

Take a look at a few of our favorites also provided by PBS Kids:

Q: What do puppies eat at the movies?/ A: PUPcorn

I was wondering why the baseball was getting bigger and bigger and then it hit me!

Q: Where does a duck go when he is sick?/ A: The DUCKtor

Q: How do you make seven even?/ A: You take away the “s”

With all this icing and all the cherries on top, it’s important to remember, however, that the most important thing to your campers is the cake- that’s you!

Yoga and Camp

children's yoga

Camp provides so many wonderful opportunities for girls to try new things- whether it’s creative, athletic, or adventurous. Our counselors spend quite a bit of time preparing to become experts in the instruction of our camp activities. Often time this preparation can be quite a process! One of our fabulous cabin counselors, Mallory, recently received her Yoga Instructor Certification. She recounts her experience and how she plans to use her new knowledge in the future below:

“I literally did yoga from before sunrise to after sunset on many occasions (6am to 8:45pm…CRAZY!), but I loved every moment of it.  We learned to adjust students, come up with class themes and sequences, learned to sing/chant in sanskrit, and worked on some fun arm balances.  We got to do a kids’ yoga class, a chair yoga class, a prenatal class, a mommy-baby class with sandbag babies, and more!  I tried a lot of different styles of yoga (Bhakti, Jivamukti, Ashtanga, Anusara, Viniyoga, and Kundalini) with a lot of AMAZING teachers! We ate a lot of weird green smoothies (avocado, dates, walnuts, banana and chocolate, anyone?) since we were always doing yoga…I’m super excited to begin teaching yoga and figuring out how to incorporate it into my future science/public school teaching!”

We are very proud of Mallory!

Counselors On Target

Archery at camp

This past summer, our staff meetings focused on the personal and professional development of our counselors. We explored positive leadership qualities, relaxation techniques, and several other topics meant to equip our staff with all the tools they needed to best serve their campers. One article that drove our staff’s performance last summer was Stephen Wallace’s Letters From My Campers- A Counselor’s Guide to Mentoring Youth. The article provides simple, yet powerful principles for the profession. Here are a few our favorites from Wallace:

Relaxing at Camp
  • Communicate information
  • Have a sense of  humor
  • Clarify expectations
  • Be relaxed
  • Be a good role model
  • Show leadership
  • Have fun with your campers
  • Model responsible behavior
  • Discourage foul language
  • Teach fair play
  • Supervise for safety
  • Show a knowledge of each camper
  • Be fair to all campers
  • Encourage campers to try new things
  • Foster self-confidence
  • Be patient
  • Be vigilant

Notes From the Field

A Cultural Study at camp

Margaret Mead, a leader in the field of anthropology, dedicated her life to studying the interactions of cultures foreign to the western world. Your work as a new camp counselor closely mirrors that of Meade and her colleges.

You begin your “field work” by leaving your own comfortable world and entering into a culture you know very little about. Of course, you’ve completed as much research as you can- you’ve explored the camp’s website, spoken with the directors, and perhaps have even made contact with others who have worked in the camp community. Even with all this preparation, you’re still unsure of what you are about to encounter.

Upon arrival, you take vigorous mental notes. Everything is new to you. Even the “jargon” doesn’t fit into your own catalog of words- “Be-Bop”, “Dog-Trot”, “Hi-Ups”. You have no meaning to attach to these words just yet.

The interactions among members of this community is conduct that you have experienced in your own culture, but not to the extent as it is observable here- the girls are so friendly and encouraging to one another. No one seems to be concerned with make-up or physical appearance. Girls spend the majority of their time laughing and playing. They conduct their lives in a noticeably carefree manner.

Within three months, you have become fully indoctrinated by this new community. Your work is brave and tireless. You have transformed something enigmatic into something comprehensible.  Although your work may never be published or studied in its own right, you will, like Margaret Meade, change the world.

Fall in Love With Fall

Lessons from Rockbrook Camp

Rockbrook is the reason why we all love summer so much, but it doesn’t have to stop there! We can take the lessons we learned at camp and use them to help us fall in love with every season. Try to complete ten of the following challenges and brighten up the fall season!

  • Take an extra snack to work or school and share it with a friend.
  • Remix a popular song (extra points if the new lyrics speak to good manners, girl power, or sharing).
  • Find a green space in your city and enjoy it.
  • Eat dessert first.
  • Paint each of your ten fingernails a different color.
  • Go to bed at 9:15.
  • Turn off your cell phone for a day.
  • Send a “snail text” (also know as a letter).
  • Make up a game.
  • Water a plant.
  • Have “flashlight time.”
  • Wear socks with sandals.
  • Don’t look in the mirror.
  • Host a sleepover.
  • Get a little dirty.
  • Pick up trash.
  • Give a thumbs up.

Leah’s Spirit Fire Speech

Leah and Abby


The third session Spirit Fire, that closed that session and the entire 2012 season, included a speech by Leah Mayo (here she is on the right just before giving this speech). Leah has been coming to Rockbrook for 10 years, first as a Junior camper and now as a counselor, and in the speech she tries to describe “the magic of Rockbrook.” It’s a wonderful testament to why she loves this place so much. Enjoy!

I can’t believe it’s finally happened, that I’m wearing my 10-year necklace. I can still remember standing up my second year for applause at Spirit Dinner and thinking how far away receiving even my 3rd-year pin was. Ten years is a long time; it’s more than half my life. And this year I’ve come to realize just how lucky I am to have spent ten years here, to have been a part of the magic that occurs here for ten summers.

And that magic is what has kept me coming back year after year, and has made such a radical difference in my life. The magic of Rockbrook is hard to describe, but one of my campers last session came very close. She said that she loved Rockbrook because here “it’s okay to wear your shirt inside out.” She’s eight years old, the same age I was when I first came to camp. My first year at camp was one to remember, I let a High-Up dye my hair blue and Jerry bought me a brush because he thought I lost mine due to its “wild” appearance. I went to the riflery tournament that year—I guess some things haven’t changed. But a lot of things about me have changed. I’ve found myself.

Rockbrook’s magic is that it allows everyone to truly be themselves. And in the process, find yourself. It is here that I have found myself. It is in the heart of the wooded mountain that I have grown from that 8-year-old girl who couldn’t brush her hair into the person I am today. And the magic continues each year.

This year has been the most magical by far. I had a lot of expectations of what my tenth year at camp would be like. I imagined I’d get my necklace surrounded by my friends with whom I’d grown up at camp. But the people who spent those ten years with me aren’t all here. Some came earlier in the summer, some didn’t come at all. I was very sad when I realized I wouldn’t get to share this day with them, but little did I know I would be surrounded by some of the most amazing girls ever!

It has been such a treat to watch them grow as I did and put on one of the best banquets I’ve ever seen. I am so glad to know each one of them, and will always cherish the times we’ve had this session. We’ve all grown so much these past weeks. Someone special to me once said this in a Spirit Fire speech, and I want to pass this along to all of you: You are all strong, independent women. If you were a holiday, you’d be the Fourth of July. I am so proud to be your counselor. And to my co’s, I couldn’t have asked for better people to spend hours upon hours in Treasure Island with. We really are a family now.

Rockbrook’s magic is also about relationship building. It is here that I have formed friendships that have turned into sisterhoods, and I am close with people who live all over the states. My wish for my girls, and all the campers here, is that you will build friendships that will turn into lifelong relationships here as I have. And that here at camp you feel free to be yourself and so find yourself. There’s a line in the camp song that goes “May you see us one day the girls that you wish us to be.” That line has been on my mind all summer. The Spirit of Rockbrook isn’t finished working its magic on me yet, but I am so happy that I have spent ten years here and look forward to more.