Cookies, Counselors, and Common Denominators

Salutations! Since this is my first post of the school year, I figured I’d start out with a hello.

As the summer draws to a close and the fall term is poised to start, I wanted to take the time to look back at these last three months. It has been a delightful summer vacation both restful and exciting, but I am definitely looking forward to the new school year with a nervous anticipation.

The most notable part of my summer was working as a counselor at the Epiphany summer intensive in Groton for the month of July. Being at school over the summer was certainly interesting, if only for the nostalgia that it induced in me. (We stayed in the Third Form dorms for the program, very close to my own beloved old Third Form dorm.)

Every year, the Epiphany School holds a summer camp for its incoming sixth to eighth graders, usually children of economically disadvantaged families in the Boston area. The summer program serves as an academic enrichment camp, with classes in the morning and fun activities, like sports, in the afternoon. I had the pleasure of tutoring the students during the day and supervising (and joining in) their afternoon activities. As a counselor, I was also responsible for a group of advisees, and we would eat every meal together.

Needless to say, it was a very busy July as well as a novel and rewarding experience. I absolutely adored working with the other counselors, the faculty, and the students. If I had to choose, my favorite part of this summer program would have to be the one-on-one tutoring sessions that I had with some of the students. (Though the almost daily pool time is a close second!) I loved getting to know each of my tutees and discovering their strengths and weaknesses, which subjects they liked and which they didn’t, and how to help them understand harder concepts.

Being a counselor to these students has also taught me some valuable lessons. I’d never faced the challenge of balancing being a tutor, a friend, and an authority figure at the same time. Another challenge that I encountered, much to my chagrin, was my height. At five feet and zero inches, I was shorter than a significant number of the students, even the sixth graders, if you can believe it. Much of the first couple days was spent convincing the students that I was not a twelve-year-old and, yes, actually a junior in high school. Of course, I found the whole situation quite amusing; I don’t think anyone has been as shocked about my age as those kids!

In helping out at this summer camp, I have realized three things (besides my conviction that I love working with our younger members of society):

  1. If you don’t watch carefully, there will always be that one kid who grabs three desserts when he is supposed to take one (not that I can blame them; the Dining Hall does make some mean chocolate chip cookies).
  2. The students are willing to do anything if you make it into an entertaining game. Even if the thing in question is a three-paged, double-sided worksheet chock-full of fraction addition problems, which is not (as you might guess) a favorite of the students. Repeatedly finding the least common denominator is a rather tedious task … unless you’re racing your friend on the mobile whiteboard with a possible prize on the line.
  3. The feeling of accomplishment gained from spending time helping the students learn is something I will cherish for a long time. I cannot articulate in words how happy I feel when I receive a bright smile and a thank you from one of my students after a tutoring session. It’s really a marvelous feeling!

This July was a wonderful but tiring month filled with rambunctious kids, and I enjoyed every bit of it, even the sweltering heat of the summer. (The air conditioning in the Schoolhouse is fantastic after all!)