(go out–again) where the wild things are…

Level 3 - Camp Eggs!

Level 3 – Camp Eggs at Lebanon Hills Campground

 

we did it!

this past summer…

we went out, where the wild things are (again)…we went out, to an actual campsite (for the first time)…

this experience is what we now refer to as our¬†level 3 camping adventure…or, how we survived camping with the kids…ūüôā

[levels 1 & 2 were: camping in the backyard (1) and on the lot near an uncle’s cabin (2)…]

think doing everything you do with/for your kids every day, but without the comforts of home (sounds fun, right?)…then, you’ll be close to what we experienced…sure, we only stayed one night…and the campsite we went to was just 20 minutes from our house and just 5 minutes from where our relatives live and tucked neatly into an outer-rim suburb of the twin cities…but, it was roughin’ it, man…

[note: we stayed at a campsite in eagan, mn…at the lebanon hills campground; one of the best outdoor spaces in the twin cities area–no doubt!]

and, it didn’t matter that our kids nearly got trampled by wild things (their older cousins) or lost in the woods (yes, there’s woods in this suburb) or crisp-ed by the campfire…

they loved it!

99.9% of the time they carried the day…meaning that, since they had never done any of this kind of thing before…everything we did was the most exciting thing in the world…which made the experience an “all-around good time” for the family…honestly, it was a lot of work (for the parents) though–even if you’ve got some experience with camping (which we do)…i mean, i felt like taz-daddy…spinning around the campsite like a whirling dervish…my wife was spinning her own circles, too…ocassionally, we would bounce off each other and onto the next task…but, there’s not too much 2 year-olds can do to set up and help out at a campsite…

regardless, their wide-eyed perspectives made it something special…

even when there was a chance for it all to come crashing down, like at¬†breakfast in the morning…the kids recovered in style…

here’s what happened…

my wife and i were getting the kids up, changed, dressed, hydrated, etc (while preparing breakfast)…and, we had thought it all out–the meal plan was ready for the morning…we had picked/packed some of their favorite foods for the trip…eggs, fruit, yogurt, milk, cheerios, and pouches–of course…good to go…

until we served them their eggs…which were a little ‘well done’ due to the camp stove having only one cook setting…hell-hot …right after setting their plates in front of them, the kids were like, ‘i don’t want these eggs’ and ‘these ones have something on them’ – mind you, these kids love eggs–which is why we packed them…and now this?! ¬†i had a few choice responses to their whining that flashed through my head, but i didn’t say them ‘out loud’…instead, my wife and i looked at each other in exasperation thinking, ‘what now?!’ and ‘this is all we’ve got’…

so, after a brief pause, i went over to jack’s plate, plucked a piece of scrambled egg off his plate and swallowed it down…he looked up at me in amazement and disbelief, like he was checking to see if i would survive…i looked backed and said, ‘yummy, camp eggs!’…immediately, he got to work on his eggs and after a few bites he shouted, ‘camp eggs, yay!’ (and grace did the same)…

the night before ‘the camp eggs breakfast’ (which we still laugh about to this day), my wife and i got a few minutes by the campfire before turning in…we had put the kids down in the tent–grace had fallen asleep instantly (like she always does–a nuclear bomb couldn’t wake her), while jack was still awake (he usually takes a little time settling down, even at home, and this was a new experience)…while we sat by the fire, talking quietly and sipping on adult beverages, jack would pipe up (every so often), ‘daddy, are you there?’ and i would answer, ‘i’m here, jack’ (until he eventually fell asleep)…

and i’m glad i was…

kt

i’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of different kinds of people throughout my career herding cats…some good and some bad–but, my good friend, kt, was…hands down…one of the¬†best youth workers i ever worked with…kt is short for katie (christensen)…

we connected at luther heights bible camp in the summer of 1995 and worked closely together for four summers there…at the time, she was the camp program director (the position directly under the camp pastor–who you all know now as big e)…some of my best memories from camp surround the times when big e, kt and i worked together during those days…especially so, in the springs/summers of 1997 and 1998 when kt and i had the chance to work closely with big e in 1) preparing/planning for the upcoming summer programs and 2) sharing responsibility for some key parts of staff training (during this time new/returning staff members would participate in a 2-week training…where they¬†were schooled in the fine art of camp counseling…

reflecting back, i think that the time was so special was because we were all on the same page–we all had similar passions, work styles/ethics, faith perspectives…and importantly…we all had the same philosophy and approach about working with kids…what it meant for us…and ultimately, what it could mean for campers for the summer and beyond…

one year, before staff training began, we actually wrote down our philosophy about working with kids–it was something that we also passed on to the counseling staff during training and something we tried to live out during the summers…it’s even something that i think about in my work with kids today…

here’s what we put down on paper:

camp counselor philosophy and focus

1 – put the KIDS first

  • keep it safe (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) , keep it fun (kids will be bored sometimes and that’s o.k.–but, do what you can to keep a positive attitude–for you and for the kids you work with), and don’t forget God (there’s something more going on here than just what you’re doing)

[safe, fun, and God were dubbed the big three]

2 – be a POSITIVE role model

  • lead by example–children/youth remember more of what you do and less of what you say
  • play the ‘put up game’ vs. the put down game (westering, 1990)–affirm, appreciate, compliment and encourage their legitimate achievements and victories…do not give empty praise…

i know that kt still uses this philosophy and focus in her work with youth and families as a congregational minister today–more importantly, it is something that emanates from her…if you’re around her, you can’t help but feel it–her enthusiasm, her commitment, her faith, her love for youth and families…it is unstoppable and contagious…because it’s the real thing…let me put it this way, she has been doing this kind of work in churches for nearly 20 years–and she’s still fired-up about it–that’s not something you see every day!

so, if you’re a parent or teenager or child…and you’re looking for a high quality church youth and family program…and you happen to live up near Alexandria, MN…you should check out the church she just started working at (calvary lutheran) as the director of congregational ministry for youth and families…introduce yourself and have your kids meet her…you’ll see what i’m talking about…furthermore, if you’re a wannabe youth worker…it would do you well to intern with her there, to walk alongside her for a while…she will school you…and you’ll be better for it…

because when it comes to church youth workers…she’s the best of the best

cheers, my friend!

tradecraft…the “ten attitude” part II

in the weeks before summer comes, i get that old feeling again…

wouldn’t it be great to work at camp again?!

it’s a thought that bursts into my head every single time, as i drive out to work, during the ‘pre-summer days’…because the road i take to work goes west and west is where camp is…in the sawtooth wilderness of idaho (one of the most beautiful outdoor areas in the united states)…and when i’m ‘aimed in that direction’ i think, i could just drive a little further, a few more miles–out to camp…then, i remember that i have a wife and twins…

ūüôā

the camp i’m talking about is luther heights bible camp…and i worked there for six summers (to the chagrin of my parents:)…i remember my thoughts going into my first summer there…i’ll just work here for one summer–yeah, right…

in my summers there, i worked as a counselor, travel staff director (for day camps), and finally as an assistant program director…and–in addition to working at skyhawk’s sports academy (summer soccer camps), my time at luther heights was instrumental for me…in developing my skills and abilities herding cats

this was especially true when we had kids attend our on-site programs…where we would be with them for 24 hours a day/six days a week…during these intense on-site weeks, it was impossible not to learn a lot about talking to, relating to, and engaging with kids (from the elementary level to high school kids)…

the days would include a morning/evening worship, games, crafts, bible study, nature activities, singing, skits, campfires, storytelling, hikes, challenge course activities, etc…

during these summers, i had the pleasure of working with such amazing and fun people…living and working in community together…kt, adam, chris & chris, e.j., beth, kari, kate h., hilary, nathan, matt, mary, debbie, nat, megan, holly, aaron, mark, jp, eric, jeff, jordan, brian, steve, heather, jon, maren, chelsea, laura, carol, and–of course–big e [see post titled, big e]

working at luther heights doubled-down on the importance of the ten attitude…i realized pretty quickly that my attitude could make or break the week, it was a counselor’s most important tool–especially, during those weeks when the kids didn’t go home at the end of the day…

because…

why should the kids care about what we’re doing, if we don’t?!

teacher mojo

having kids changes you…more than you can possibly comprehend at any point prior to the instant that they show up in your life…

one of the changes that i’ve experienced in regards to this–has happened on the job…working with and teaching high school students…more specifically, in how i work with and teach students…

i now refer to “the change” in this way (originally coined by my wife)…

having kids messes with my teacher mojo…

look, before my kids came along i thought i would be¬†hell at work, less patient, and have a shorter fuse¬†with the students in my classes…but, surprisingly, what’s happened has been the complete and total opposite…honestly, “the change”…caught me off guard, knocked me down, and rocked my world in ways that i never knew were possible…who would’ve thought?!

take the example from the hard lessons post…in the past, i would’ve been harder on those guys that we’re giving me trouble–i would’ve been less patient and understanding…and quick to drop the hammer…my patience might have lasted one or two months, max…not a full semester…

but that’s not me today…

i’m different…i’ve been changed

when i talk to my students in class…all i can see¬†are my own children¬†in them, i see my students at one or two years old…so, it’s changed how i do things in my classroom…how i handle bad behaviors and challenging issues–because it’s harder to drop the hammer on a one-year-old…

now, some critics might say:

hey, d., you’ve lost your edge, man…

while i can see their point, i would disagree and say:

no, my edge is just different…it’s grown…it’s expanded…

i still ‘call kids out’ and hold them accountable, i just do it differently…my well is deeper, my heart is bigger…nowadays…i have a greater capacity to be compassionate and understanding–to be patient and merciful…

i have more grace to give…

quiz song

i wasn’t formally trained as a high school teacher…

many of my friends and family were–and they have the degrees and licenses to back it up…i got my training¬†from¬†the school of life…working as a soccer coach, camp counselor, juvenile justice worker, church youth director, and community college instructor…my educational background is in sociology and criminal justice…

at the school where i’m a criminal justice instructor, ¬†i’m allowed to teach under a ‘community expert’ license…meaning, i can teach in a career and technical setting because i have work experience and education that is directly related to my subject area¬†(and¬†because there isn’t a minnesota state license for those who teach criminal justice at the high school level)

all of my past experiences working with kids come to bear in my current teaching role…my history impacts everything i do in the classroom–from my philosophy¬†to my¬†methods…

i approach every class like a chef might before making a great meal…you have to have just the right ingredients…this is a bit more challenging because we have students who want to misbehave and we have an insane daily schedule–as an example, block 1 may include three separate arrival times for students + two separate departure times…so, you have to be a bit creative, to say the least¬†(see my schedule in the above menu bar for the full breakdown)

one of the things that i use to spice-it-up, or to change-up the classroom vibe is something i call a quiz song…basically, what happens is…i say something to the class like, this quiz is as hard as this song…so, to intimidate you…i will introduce you to this quiz without smiling or laughing, because you know me to be the most serious person you’ve ever met…then, i ‘press play’ and hold up the quizzes to the group (and try not to smile or laugh)…but, i always do…then, they laugh too…

this is the kind of thing that a colleague and i call edu-tainment…ridiculous? absolutely! does it keep kids engaged? absolutely!

sometimes when you’re getting schooled¬†by¬†a group of students and they’ve got you on the ropes, so to speak…you tend to get away from what makes you the teacher you are–you pull back and lose that spark…it’s during those moments…when you’re stuck, when hard times come…that you need to get your mind right, press¬†resetgo to the well…and, find a way back, find a way to laugh…¬†

so, press play

quiz song catalog (jean jacket included): eye of the tiger (survivor), live wire, kickstart my heart,¬†and¬†dr. feelgood¬†(motley crue), whiskey in the jar and enter sandman¬†(metallica), ¬†you’ve got another thing comin’ (judas¬†priest), crazy train (ozzy¬†osbourne), in my dreams (dokken), thunder struck, money talks, and who made who (ac/dc), we’re not gonna take it (twisted sister), round and round (ratt), and symphony of destruction (megadeth)

tradecraft…your voice (part I)

i¬†remember inviting my parents to come to a soccer¬†game that i was coaching…

i¬†had visited my parents at their jobs, and i¬†thought it was ‘pretty eye-opening’¬†to see them in action–they worked hard, enjoyed what they did and had the respect of their colleagues…nowadays they’re retired and living in a retirement community¬†that caters to veterans/ex-service men and women–so they spend their days driving the posted speed limit-“13 mph” (they live in one of the colonies), drinking margaritas at the daily happy hour event, and loungin’ in their soft clothesūüôā

anyways…back then…i wondered what they would think of me as a coach…

they showed up before kick-off and stayed for the whole game; afterwards, my mom said (wide-eyed), they really listened and responded to you?! …it was a compliment, but she sounded incredulous, almost like she couldn’t believe what she saw:)

truth be told, i¬†didn’t know i¬†had it in me either…i¬†didn’t know that i¬†was capable of¬†“coaching”¬†until i started doing it…interestingly, she identified one of the most important tools¬†available to someone who herds cats for a living…

communication

at that moment, i¬†realized that i¬†had this tool in my toolbox–i could talk to kids, i could encourage them,¬†i could motivate them…i could use my words, i could use my voice–to influence them (and i liked it)…

i think apollo creed liked it too…

the fountain of youth…

on the flip-side¬†of the recent “ten attitude” post…

(most) kids bring an amazingly fun spirit to the settings that they’re in…sure, kids can be mean, self-centered, ‘checked-out’, unmotivated, defiant, irresponsible, irrational,¬†delinquent,¬†etc…

but they can also be caring, thoughtful, invested, inspiring, motivated, fun, funny, positive, etc…they can (and do) bring their own version of the¬†“ten attitude”–to¬†people that they meet…one that affects and changes you…for the better…when you experience it…

while¬†they can give you a few gray hairs…

most of the time, working with youth is the fountain of youth!¬†(for a long time¬†i thought it was the¬†jack daniel’s that made me feel like that–young and invincible…little did i know;)

q: what do you see when you see kids???

tradecraft: the “ten attitude”

one of the¬†first paid youth¬†positions i¬†held was¬†as a soccer coach with skyhawk’s sports academy in washington state…(it was a summer sports camp organization)…

i¬†was nineteen when i first started working with this organization, and at the time…i didn’t know jack¬†about working with kids…green as could be…a complete and total rookie!

looking back, i¬†realize that¬†this was a great place to start what has now become a life-long career for me, what has become my profession…honestly, i¬†owe a lot to this organization and to the people i¬†worked with during those summers (4)…it was soooooo influential for me–it still impacts my work today…more than 20 years later!!!

i¬†had played soccer since i¬†was five, i loved it, so this job was fun¬†for that reason¬†and¬†also because i¬†worked with a lot of guys i¬†played soccer with in high school…i¬†worked with¬†quite a few¬†friends…jeff, tuan, “ghandi”, john, hugh, ben and others–guys who loved soccer and loved the job!¬† we would travel around the state together, lead soccer camps (to kids aged 5-12 years old), scrimmage after camp times, and hang-out…what more could you ask for in a job?! working here (6 hours a day, 5 days a week), i learned how to motivate, inspire, encourage, train, coach,¬†listen and talk to kids…i also learned a lot of great games and stories and “how to tell stories” (each day after lunch,¬†the camp director would tell crazy-funny stories to the entire camp of kids–anywhere from 20-100 kids–keeping their attention and entertaining them for up to 30 minutes–so great)!!!

of all the things i¬†learned working here, the most important was “the attitude you bring to the job”…i still remember the first time i met the vice president of skyhawk’s…his name was dave…and he led us in some games and drills (just like he would do¬†if he were leading a group of kids) and he was extremely positive, enthusiastic and engaging…and in leading us in that way, he¬†was teaching¬†us about the energy and enthusiasm that¬†he (and the organization)¬† expected us to bring to camp each and every day…

and he asked us, “where are you, on a scale of 1-10, today?!” (ten being the highest, best/most positive¬†attitude you can have)…”do you have a ‘ten attitude’???”…the lesson here was simple…your attitude matters; it is vitally important¬†to¬†how you relate, motivate and coach these young people–it is a choice, choose¬†to be a ten!!!¬†

further reading: if you have an interest in this kind of thing, attitude and motivation…you should check out the book in the side-bar titled, “make the big time where you are” by frosty westering…one of the most successful college football coaches (ever) and a great human being!

cheers!

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