The Role and Responsibilities of the Education Director at Shehaqua Family Camp
By Sally Sayre
Editor's Note: Rob and Sally Sayre were the first Camp Director and Education Director and have carried that role for years.
For a summary of the responsibilities scroll down to the bullet points near the bottom.
To understand the role of the Education Director for any one week of camp, it’s necessary to understand how this role first became defined. When Rob and I would work on preparing for a week of camp, I would concern myself with all aspects of education. I would consult with him about who might want to teach and who would be good in the role of teacher. Then I would personally contact the people on my list and ask them to take responsibility for preparing lessons for whatever group they would teach. There were times, of course, when someone would request to teach a different group than what I had in mind or would ask to be excused all together.
It was also my job to organize the classes into groups of boy and girl campers within each lecture group. At first we only concerned ourselves with grouping the oldest campers (Suns, Comets, Supernovas). Eventually, however, we had so many teen campers who wanted the experience of being a group leader that we included them in the Moons and Suns as well. Even the Stars might have one or two younger teens to help out. As demographics changed every year, the needs and organization of camp would change. At one point the crafts cabin was way too crowded, and we asked the teachers of the younger campers to also create crafts for their students. That no longer is an issue as we spread out our population over three weeks of camp and have also added service projects for one afternoon activity for the older campers.
Rob would concern himself with all the general organization of the camp — schedule, cabin assignments, job assignments, etc. I always got first pick for teachers when it came to assigning camp jobs because we always felt education was one of our core goals and took precedence over any other responsibility. When I worked with Robert Pickell, he particularly made sure that I had the teachers I wanted before assigning other duties. We would continue to consult all through the process of assigning roles so that it was clear that moms of Twinkles, for instance, were not assigned to anything but their education group. (Sometimes it might be OK, but we’d have to consult with the family and make sure that Dad was there all week and available, if Mom wanted to work in the kitchen or be on bathroom clean-up crew.)
It is understood that teachers need time and information well in advance of camp in order to prepare well. I would try to keep them informed about how many students they had, and how many were boys or girls. Even though most of our teachers have been to camp before, it’s still advisable to go over with them the basic outline of three or four sessions of instruction. If a change is going to be made to the schedule, it needs to be communicated to the teachers as much in advance as possible. I would always explain to the Stars/Twinkles groups that it was entirely up to them how soon they would meet in the morning and that parents were welcome to stay with the campers if need be. It was also up to them how to structure breaks to allow for nap time, if necessary.
Built into camp fees is $5 per camper for educational materials. I usually encourage teachers to create an outline and/or activity book that the campers can use for classes and then take along home with them after camp. I used to keep a selection of these on file so I could send out samples if teachers wanted to see what others had done. As I have sent them out, my supply has dwindled. In my experience as a teacher, a booklet helps to keep me on track with what I want to teach and it gives the students something to do (coloring, filling in answers, etc.). It’s also nice for the campers to take something home with them, perhaps to show their parents and discuss more of the DP at home. If you want to make a booklet, please contact the registrar beforehand, because the registrar can print them at a fraction of the cost.
Besides an education booklet following materials would also be considered an educational expense: Paper, certificates of completion, pencils and crayons that kids use during the week and can take home afterwards, some small craft that kids complete during the morning classes with the teacher, and photocopies that you can't have the registrar make.
As education director, I worked with camp directors other than my husband once we expanded to two weeks of family camp. It was during those couple of years that I had to more clearly define my role and it became clear to me that the successfully planned camp had good cooperation and communication between three major camp roles: director, education director, and registrar. The director and the registrar had always conferred constantly over cabin assignments, schedule, and camp jobs. I also would look over the schedule to make sure that the education groups were provided for and that each group was able to have a good balance of crafts, sports, etc. This kind of checking and cross-checking often caught conflicts in scheduling in time to avoid disruptions at camp.
Robert Pickell as director introduced the idea of having the Park Rangers come and do educational programs for the youngest campers. This was usually in lieu of hiking and it worked very well for a time. The challenging part was making sure that we scheduled this well in advance (around May) and that the Rangers understood what groups they were presenting to at what time. Confusion with the scheduling gradually made this less feasible, particularly once we went to three weeks of camp. Also, not all weeks have enough young children to do this.
Prior to camp, I would prepare reflection sheets for each group from the oldest camper to the Suns/Moons. Sometimes Moons didn’t fill out reflection sheets. I left that decision up to the teacher. I would normally hand out the reflection sheets the night before to each teacher, or I would hand deliver them to the classes at the beginning of classes on the last day. The reflections were to be handed in to group leaders and then to teachers. They were read by everyone who received them and then turned in to the education director who would share them with the camp director. Parents were welcome to see what their own children had written.
We used reflection sheets for the Comets and older that were prepared by Noah Ross several years ago. I created the reflection sheets that are used by the Suns/Moons. These reflection sheets are useful, not just for the teachers and the camp in general to get feedback, but for the campers themselves to examine their experience of the past few days and perhaps make new determinations for their lives. However, the questions themselves could be changed or expanded upon if someone wants to do so. I would hope that self-reflection (What’s the most important thing you learned from the lectures?) and general feedback (What would make camp even better?) be asked in some form. The registrar has previous years' reflections that can be used for inspiration. Also, the registrar can print the reflections once you make them.
Use of Reflections to Improve Family Camp
A explained above, the purpose of reflections serves both an internal and external purpose. The internal purpose is to have each camper reflect on his or her own experience and, hopefully, solidify what he or she wants to “take home” from camp internally. Externally, as camp leaders, we need to find out how well we are serving our children and families. At times I have kept a running record as I read each reflection and made a list of what suggestions were made that were mentioned several times.
We strive every year to refresh our own and our childrens' understanding of Divine Principle and Principle Life Education. The topic is and should be the same every year. In my experience, the teachers are often inspired to emphasize a certain aspect or to teach a chapter in DP that they don’t usually cover. But this one week at camp may be the only structured Divine Principle Education a child receives all year. We want to encourage the teachers to present the material in a creative, interactive manner, but we need to get across key concepts from DP every year, especially those that can be put into practice and help our children grow in their faith.
The camp director and education director hold a nightly staff meeting after the evening activities ended, often in the dining hall. The staff meeting is to listen to feedback and suggestions from the adult and young adult staff, and from any other interested person. These meetings also provide a time for concerned people to bring up situations before they become a problem.
Things the Education Director Doesn't Have to Do
As camp evolved, I found myself often in the public role of being emcee at the campfire on s'mores night. I would usually emcee with Noah or Bruce or Robert for the candlelight prayer. This is not necessarily the responsibility of the education director. If someone else can do this, great! I also used to emcee the talent show every week. Anyone who is comfortable in the role and willing to take it on can do it. Many of the young folks who have grown up in camp understand and can perform these public roles better than their parents.
In general, the education director needs to recruit teachers, keep them informed about the schedule, the number of students they will have, who their group leaders will be, etc. Teachers should also be made aware that they can spend money for educational materials and be reimbursed at camp. The registrar can print materials for you and your teachers. The most important role is to be one of the three people overall responsible for any week of camp along with the director and registrar. Good communication and mutual support amongst these three roles is key.
Education Director's Duties Include
- Finding by access to database who is registered for camp and willing/desiring to teach.
- Personally contacting teachers (via email or phone) to secure teachers for each needed class, based on registration. Sometimes the demographics at any one camp will mean that there will be no need to recruit a teacher for the Comets class, for instance, since there are not enough campers in that age group. A couple of Comets could then be assigned to go with the Suns or the Supernovas as necessary. (If an email is sent and no confirmation comes from the teacher, then a phone call is a MUST).
- Informing teachers how things work at Family Camp and what their job entails: preparing lessons for three (or four) mornings, basically from 9:00 or 9:30 until lunch time (12:00). Classes should dismiss in time for students to get to dining hall in time to sing and pray and hear announcements.
- In consultation with camp director, assign group leaders to groups. In some cases, it’s advisable to contact the group leaders and ask what they want to do or which lecture group they’d like to participate in.
- At camp, hold organizational meeting at 4:00 p.m. on move-in day, with teachers and group leaders to make sure everyone knows what to expect. Deal with any errors, problems, questions, etc.
- At orientation, introduce teachers, group leaders and campers to one another. Emphasize being on time for classes and creating a united team in order to have the best possible atmosphere for the students.
- Handle any mistakes or necessary changes in class lists or group-leader assignments as they arise.
- During the week — check on classes (if you are not also teaching) and provide needed materials, answer questions — essentially be available to teachers and support them however necessary. At the nightly staff meeting, get brief feedback and remind teachers what might be different about tomorrow’s schedule.
- Engage in group-leader training before camp if possible, but certainly be a resource to encourage group leaders to take responsibility to care for their younger brothers and sisters.
- Before last day, hand out reflection sheets, explain their purpose and the procedure for handing them in.
Once you are at camp, if your preparation for camp has been good, then you can enjoy visiting the classes and offer support as needed. The morning schedule is essentially under the authority of the education director along with the overall camp director for that week. If someone proposes a change to the morning schedule, it should be agreed upon by the camp director and the education director.
Education is the very heart of what we do each summer and each week of camp. The whole experience is meant to be educating our minds and spirits (and bodies) to become more truly God’s children. Even our cook provides education so that we can understand the real benefits of the healthy food she serves.
As we all take a role in making the camp run, we are learning experientially how to create a heavenly home where all members work together for the whole family. In our classes and in our sharing at formal adult discussions or informal discussion over meals, we can learn how to have a more heavenly attitude towards ourselves and our brothers and sisters. This is what I relearn every year. The world around us is all out of whack — essentially it is too easy for us to operate from a fallen perspective: fail to keep a heavenly viewpoint, step out of alignment, become dominated by the temptations of the world and finally participate in activities that make us feel distant from God and one another. We recharge our spiritual batteries at camp and can make real progress from year to year in our lives of faith, in being more effective parents, and in being a better witness to friends and neighbors.
The best part about being the education director is being in a position to experience God’s heart towards all the students at camp — that’s everyone, adults and children alike!