Each winter, we brainstorm a theme for the upcoming summer. First we think about the prosocial value that we want to be the “drumbeat” of camp for the summer. Then we try to find a catchy phrase that we can weave into staff training, programming, and everyday actions to create a tapestry of caring. We’re very intentional about this process because we firmly believe (and research bears out) that qualities that are shared by a community are embraced by that community.
At Coleman Country, our goal is to help children grow into successful and happy adults, and that requires character development as well as skill-building. We’ve long held the opinion that coaching good citizenship requires three components: first the language that defines the character trait; next the awareness of what it looks and feels like, and then finally some tools to hone the new emotional skill.
We already know that while most “top-down” programs to enforce no bullying, for example, look promising, they often fall short. (In a recent article, NEA Today referred to the “mythology of bullying.”) The reality is that we can’t depend on adults to constantly monitor zero tolerance or conduct peer mediation or even to inflate self-esteem as a protective measure. Instead, we need children to see first-hand what treating each other respectfully should look like; a whole culture shift has to happen.
The great thing about camp is that it is a place where everyone feels that they are loved and that they belong and contribute, so it’s safe to try out new behaviors – we like to call it an intentionally sculpted community. In other words, we can decide what is okay and what is not okay; and then we can expect adults and children to honor those codes of behavior.
So, drumroll: “Follow Me” will be the watchwords on The Ranch in 2011, a reminder to each of us that it’s not what we say but what we do that counts. Actions speak louder than words. Leading by example, doing the right thing, making good choices, performing good deeds, showing compassion….
Think about the positive role models in your own life. You learned by watching them comport themselves in ways that demonstrated integrity, courage, resilience, respect, fairness, responsibility, and tolerance.
Mahatma Gandhi said it: “You have to be the change you want to see in the world.”
FOLLOW ME… it’s a powerful mantra.