Big Kids' Advice for Future Big Kids

Date published: April 6th, 2016 | By Matthew

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We've hired about 75% of our staff for 2016 — but we're not done yet, and we need some help.

Longacre is not an ordinary place — it can be tough to explain — so a recommendation from you means a lot. Even if your friend (or your family friend, or your student) isn't thinking about summer camp, she'd probably check it out if you suggested it.

But what should you tell her?

Well, last summer we asked our big kids (our staff / counselors) to jot down some give advice for future big kids. And here's what they wrote. These words might give your friend / family friend / student a better idea of what to expect from the Longacre experience: it's a summer job, sure, but it's also more than that.

Big kids who do well here believe in what we do. They are not afraid to work. They are open to growth. They understand that education takes patience and compassion.

We are very fortunate to attract such amazing young adults.

With a few exceptions, which I've noted in [brackets], this is verbatim. Enjoy ... (and thank you)

P.S. Titles are mine.

P.P.S. First step in our staff application process is to submit an inquiry form.

Come with concrete ideas for activities ...

I would highly recommend coming to Longacre with some concrete ideas of activities you would like to plan in the various areas that Longacre provides (fabric arts, sports, environmental education, adventure trips, etc.) and an open mind to read what the desires / capabilities / curiosities of the kids are once you get here.

I would recommend also becoming familiar with yourself and the ways you process emotions, information, and making sure to communicate that to your fellow big kids and to also give yourself the space to do it. (I discovered conversations with certain big kids were essential to me being able to process how I felt I was doing at Longacre, and have known I need time to be alone and journal as well.)

Know that you need to advocate for yourself and ask for things you need. Be ready to be challenged, be uncomfortable, and be eager!

Include the campers in your brainstorming …

Include the campers in your brainstorming for activities. Take advantage of all your available materials (woodshop, art house etc.). Time outside of activities can occasionally be the best time to build rapport with farmers.

Look for tangible implications of Group early on for better appreciation and utilization of later Groups.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself and your needs — both physically and mentally.

Be goofy on deck ...

Motivate yourself to be goofy at deck. That made it a lot more fun and easier for me to be really excited about my activity. Make the little things the big things. Selling a boring job that just has to be done as a “task force” was awesome and made a lot of kids wanna do it.

Have something like a little notebook with you because there will be 1,000 things in your head and it’s helpful to have a list and to check that you didn’t forget anything.

Remember that the kids and their summer experience are priority, encourage them, believe in them and in what they do; especially when you’re struggling to be motivating and present, it’s good to remind yourself.

Have fun and enjoy your summer!

Hash out your own priorities ...

Our work is as multifaceted as it gets. We are simultaneously mentoring, role modeling, teaching hard skills, improvising, in almost constant communication / cooperation with teenagers and their families, our co-workers, and members of the surrounding community. We are having fun and getting real, hard work done … building cabins, growing food, shoveling [manure], making music, creating wind chimes and dreamcatchers … baking Challah.

There's this indigenous Peruvian concept / practice my American-turned-Peruvian friend shared with me a few years ago. It's called “sumak kawsay”. This translates to “good living”. In its elaboration it emphasizes care for the earth and care for people. At the farm, we have the opportunity to practice this.

There's an attitude that emerges from living in this place I think the world needs. At the foundation is both listening and action: listening to our own needs, those of others, those of the earth and then acting accordingly. Unless I'm feeling 110% and ultra creative in the moment it helps to plan and establish intention for an activity period and even your summer in general.

In my experience, having clearly hashed out goals and priorities for yourself during [activities or crew] is a big part of making relationships with other staff and farmers more fluid, fun and productive. Light a candle, sit under a tree, stand on one foot … do whatever you need to do to feel genuinely motivated for an activity period / your approach to running a crew and working / living in this place! It will make a difference … it won't always be perfect, but it will be better :)

And hug your friends.

Take time to reflect ...

My advice to next year's staff is to throw yourself into the experience by being open to new situations and new people — it sounds cliche, but it's true. At Longacre you will constantly be put in situations in which you can learn something, but you don't always catch them until you are reflecting on your summer.

Which is my second piece of advice — reflect. Take time (outside of Group) to openly and honestly reflect on your interactions and experiences — notice the challenges, notice the easy moments, notice areas you are growing in, and notice what your strengths are in this unique environment.

This is a growth experience for you too ...

Hey there big kid. Here is my advice to you in no particular order. Don't worry about whether the kids are going to like you or not. Your anxiety will only get in the way of building authentic relationships with them. Just be yourself, they will like you.

Take the time you need for yourself. You can only be your best for everyone else if you give yourself what you need. Don't be shy about advocating for yourself. If you need a nap during rest hour, take it. If you need your alone time to recharge, communicate that to other staff. They will understand.

You won't always get instant gratification for the work you are doing. If you are results driven, this work may be challenging for you because you won't always be able to to see immediate effects of your actions with the kids. As a returning staff I assure you, your work does matter and progress does happen. It's remarkable to see how the kids grow over the years. But during one summer, you may not see that growth firsthand.

Use this opportunity as a growth experience for yourself, too. Be open to feedback you receive, intentional about the feedback you give, and willing to reflect on and learn from the experiences you will have this summer. Hope it’s a great one!

Longacre is about balance …

First of all, coming to Longacre is an amazing life choice and any doubts or concerns you are having will quickly vanish. Longare is a place of growth for everyone involved. There is no escaping it. Whether it is your first or fortieth year, you will leave the summer a changed individual. The way in which you grow is where this advice comes into play.

Longacre is all about balance. You must balance your wants with your needs. You must balance helping the farmers with helping yourself. You must balance coffee with water in the morning. It is very easy to find yourself in an unbalanced situation and this is when you are not able to bring 100% to deck every day. Preemptively finding the space you need to recharge or advocating for yourself in the moment is what you need to do to maintain the intense positivity that Longacre demands from you.

Accept that every day will bring failures. Accept every day will bring frustrations. However, know deep down that what you are doing here at Longacre will have a positive impact on you and every farmer you are able to interact with throughout the summer.

Advocate for yourself ...

You are about to embark on a very intense adventure! Longacre is a place very dear to my heart. As a thirteen year old, I spent my summer here and have just finished my fourth summer on staff.

I think I owe much of the development of my moral compass to this place. I learned to dig in, help out, lead others, believe in myself, to listen, to share feelings, that it's okay to feel uncomfortable, to reflect, to try new things, to love farm animals with a passion, to play games that don't involve cool lights and sounds and a screen, that food grown with love tastes better, that sleeping in a tent amongst the trees and peeing in the woods feels incredibly freeing … the list goes on. These are the sorts of things that I think are becoming lost to our generation and those to come. These are the things that I think children need.

This job is hard. It is often thankless. It is full of moments of stress with little alone time for oneself. I think it is best to be flexible, to ebb and flow with the community's needs, and to self-advocate when necessary. You'll love it here. Welcome to the community and to the Longacre family.

Use your rest hour to catch up on sleep ...

Longacre was the best thing I’ve done and was an amazing experience! The long days in the boiling sun are hard and tiring and it will definitely be a challenge some days, but seeing the kids have the time of their lives makes it all worthwhile.

I would definitely suggest using your rest hour to catch up on sleep so you’re ready for the afternoon. I found it helped me a lot.

Make the most of your time whilst you’re at camp getting to know all the kids and staff.

During deck try to be enthusiastic about your activity as it definitely encourages the kids to take part.

Group is a great way to express how you feel without being judged. It allows everyone to know where you are at and if you need supporting in any way. Uncomfortable feedback is something you should try to take positively as it can really improve your practice.

Don’t ever feel like you can’t go to a staff member or a director if you have a question, problem or just need some advice because 99% of the time they will be willing to listen to you.

Make the most of your time here this summer. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.

Remember that you’ll mess up …

  1. You're here for the kids, but don't forget to take care of yourself.
  2. Prepare for your activities beforehand. They know when you're winging it.
  3. The biggest [mistake] is not admitting you made a mistake.
  4. Bring passion to your activities, the kids will follow.
  5. Let them make mistakes; it's a memorable way to learn.
  6. Helping is not doing the task for them, but gently guiding them to the answer.
  7. The farmers are always watching; be careful what you do and where.
  8. Have small snacks in your locker. For example, peanut M&Ms. Sugary, yet small enough that they'll be fully chewed and swallowed by the time you get to deck.
  9. On your day off, do not come back to the campsite. Prepare by taking everything you think you may need.
  10. Remember you're gonna mess up. Just admit it, fix it and move on.
  11. If a tactic is repeatedly not working, try a different tactic.
  12. Trust and rely on your coworkers, they're here to help.
  13. Some kids are gonna be tough, figure out ways to deal with 'em, then move on.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help ...

Longacre was a wonderful experience for me and totally different to anything I’d ever done before. It’s so different from any other American summer camp — being small and the fact that everyone on the farm shares chores together makes it a unique experience.

Come here with an open mind — be prepared for hard work, mental and physical. Camp life can be exhausting and you may have to put in 14+ hour days. Make the most of your rest hours if you can, you need some time to recharge the batteries.

As a working farm, the camp sustains itself — you and the farmers will have “crews” which are groups doing different chores around the farm. This is a great opportunity to work with the kids and get to know them. You will provide them with initiative and leadership skills, but expect that there may be challenges.

Be present in Group — feedback can have a huge impact for the kids and for you. Hearing [feedback] from someone they see as a role model can make a real difference. Equally in staff group, learn to give and receive positive feedback and open the lines of communication.

Give back as much as possible. This is a community and we work together. Help out where you can.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help — from returning big kids or farmers. You will not be expected to know as much as someone who has already spent many summers here.

Plan your activities as far as possible with Black Book. Gauge interest from the kids and find out what they would like to do, then start getting your materials together.

Eat and sleep well. Take care of yourself and do nothing too taxing on your day off. Use it to catch up on sleep and check in with others in your life.

Be fully present, regardless what may be going on and arrive at deck full of energy!

Be a role model — arrive on time. Come 2nd session, you may feel tired, but remember for some kids summer has just begun. Make it the time of their life. Be considerate of your tent-mates. Don’t be loud or shine lights late at night or early in the morning. Everyone needs adequate sleep, especially at camp.

Keep on top of check-ins with social support. Make mental notes of important incidents. Most of all, make the most of the growth experience that awaits you! Enjoy the rewards, you will be asked to reflect a lot this summer.

Trust that your colleagues have your best interest at heart …

This place is extremely special. When I first got here I thought it was very strange how close returning staff were and I never thought I’d feel as strongly about this place as everyone else. But here I am pretty much in love with everything this place does, the kids, the staff.

It’s really important to trust that everyone has your best interests in mind and wants to see you succeed. Your version of success might look very different from your co-workers — you might not excel at kitchen crew or poop shoveling, but you’ll find your niche and what you bring to this community.

Good luck! Let yourself get crazy tired and crazy invested and you’ll have a great time. Hope to meet you someday!