As the summer drew to a close, I took a picture with the other Nadiv Educator at my camp. He’s a 6th grader now, and he spends his whole year with me. He’s a full-summer camper at Coleman, a camp with mostly 4-weekers, and he’s a student at Davis.
— SBB (@sbbEZas123) August 3, 2014
When I told him he was also a Nadiv Educator, the conversation went like this:
SBB: A, did you notice that you’re a Nadiv Educator, also?
A: What do you mean?
SBB: You spend your whole year with me. You’re at camp all summer and at Davis all year long!
A: Yes, but I don’t *work* at Davis.
SBB: I’m not going to tell your teachers that!
This partnership is fun, and kind of funny.
Fun, because I’m surrounded by dedicated educators, clergy and staff – and delightful children – all year long.
Fun, because I get to do cool things like take the whole 8th grade up to camp for two full days.
Fun AND funny, because people tend to listen when I refer to the Torah as “Our Very Best Friend the Torah” (a nickname for the 5 Books of Moses that I got from a co-staff member at a camp in Wisconsin).
Funny, because I can compare a 6th grader to myself.
Funny, because when you’re the campy person at school, you tend to write lines like this in emails: “I’m totally coming at this from a place of campy ruach in song session (as opposed to Tefillah) which is nearly deafening in terms of exuberance and joy.” May I present to you: the combination of academic nerdery and experiential education.
This job is extremely fast-paced, sometimes excruciatingly so. But as long as I’m working on stuff like Tefillahpalooza, Interfaith Volunteering, and innovative, large-scale educational experiences like Yom Partisans, I’m up to the challenge. I can’t wait to see what kind of cool stuff I’ll get to learn and teach this year!
The summer Torah portion, Matot, opens with Moses giving the following instructions to the Israelite tribal heads: “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do.” In other words, keep your promises and do not break your word.
Our words and promises carry great weight. Not only should we think carefully about what we say and how we say it but we should also carefully consider promises that we make before giving our word in order to make sure that we can fulfill these obligations.
At camp, children have an incredible opportunity to learn these lessons. Living in close quarters, having to make and keep friendships, and having to communicate with peers and staff without the help of parents can be challenging. Our campers must gain self-awareness and develop and understanding and tolerance for all kinds of people. This is not always easy of course.
On the first day of this session, I joined a cabin group while they were creating their cabin brit (agreement) and got to participate in a process by which the cabin created a shared code of ethics to live by during the session. Everyone contributed items that they felt were important to make the cabin harmonious and have a fun time during camp. I’m always impressed by how well campers can articulate what kind of cabin environment they hope to have and how well they understand what they must do individually and as a group to achieve this end; this cabin was no exception. As I walked around camp with a visitor later in the session, I saw that the cabin I had worked with on that first day of camp was awarded the degel yarok (green flag), signaling that they were the cleanest cabin in the village. This is a great indication that the cabin was functioning well and living up to the promises that they made on the first day of camp.
It’s hard to believe that our summer season is quickly coming to an end. However, it is exciting to think about all the valuable skills and lessons that our campers have learned during their time at camp, and the opportunities they have had to reflect on and keep the promises that they made in their cabin brit to create a fun, safe, and inclusive environment over the course of their session here. And hopefully this will better inform how they build friendships and community as they enter into their coming school year.
The following is the third in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.
Summer camp is not only a time to meet new friends and people, your children will have memories and experiences for a lifetime. Many will want to capture them in photos and videos – especially in today’s digital world.
Sharing your summer experiences with friends and family is expected, however when it comes to the World Wide Web, precautions need to be taken.
Over-sharing is a common mistake that many people of all ages make on social media.
Prior to posting videos, talk to your child about things they need to consider before posting each photo and video:
- Setting-up a private group for their camp group viewing only
- Double checking their privacy settings
- Thinking about who is in the photos/videos? Will they mind their picture on a social media site?
- Sharing selectively
- Creating an online photo album entitled 2014 summer camp
The Teens and Screens survey revealed that many young people are still over-sharing personal information. This is a very serious concern that parents need to discuss with their tweens and teens. For example:
- 50% posted their email address
- 30% posted their phone number
- 14% (which is 14% too many) posted their home address
Although 77% said they understand that what is posted online is public and permanent, they are still risking their keystrokes by sharing personal information.
Listen up, 80% of teens and tweens have had conversations with their parents about online safety.
So where are we losing cyber-ground?
We have to lead by example.
Studies have revealed that parents are the number one influence on their children. You may think they aren’t listening to you; they are and more importantly they are watching you.
Many parents are over-sharing.
As parents monitor their children online, kids are snooping on their parents – virtually. Have you thought before posting your pictures and comments?
What some parents share online:
- Party pictures that you would caution your kid’s not to post
- Swimsuit pictures that may not be appropriate for public viewing
- Personal family conflicts that could be embarrassing to your child
- Online contention with a friend (when threads turn ugly, and a parent engages in it)
- Mixed messages or quotes such as, “If Box Tops for Education were on wine labels, my kid’s school would be rich!”
- Sexual innuendos, profanity and content that simply is not what parents should be modeling as digital behavior
- Dating escapades of single parents
Using the excuse that you are an adult is not good enough. First and foremost, you are a parent. Your keystrokes matter. Your actions speak louder than words. Watch this important video:
Raising smart cyber-citizens start with parents. As I’ve said before, digital citizenship is a priority in today’s cyber-world. It will determine your child’s future, from their college to their employment and possibly their relationships.
For a final thought, keep in mind, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Clean-up your friends list on your social networking sites
- Keep an open digital dialogue open with your child
- Less is more. If a photo seems questionable, don’t risk it. The 15-minutes of views is not worth years of humiliation – convey this to your child and remember it for yourself
- Think about how your children will view what you post before you post it
Back in October, we tried something new at the day school half of my job: Tefillahpalooza. You can read the post I wrote about it on the Canteen.
In conversations about how best to
#nadiviate (it’s a thing!), bridging my work between camp and school, my Coleman colleagues became enamored with the idea of having our own Coleman Tefillahpalooza. Another conversation about revitalizing tefillah at camp led us to creating a program called Hot ShoTz (a Sho”Tz is short for Shaliach Tzibur, the title of a service leader who represents the community by shepherding people through the prayer process.).
Our Assistant Program Director Scott Gellman, an HUC Rabbinical student and a Coleman person for decades, helped to develop all of the answers, and he had his work cut out for him. First, what was Hot ShoTz going to be about? Who would do it? How would we develop skills, not just as a ShoTz, but as an emerging leader in camp? What kind of materials would we present to our Hot ShoTz? And, what would be their final project?
Hot ShoTz consisted of our programming staff, songleading staff, and assorted volunteers. All were interested in developing prayer and leadership skills. Some had just arrived at camp for the first time in May, many were seasoned NFTY/youth group/camp graduates, and some have been counselors and programmers for years. Formulated and led by different clergy, under the watchful eye of Scott, Hot ShoTz sessions on Shabbat helped teach skills and examine the meaning and intention behind our services at camp.
As summer was drawing to a close, we knew the Hot ShoTz were ready to shine. Each participant was asked to choose a buddy and to prepare a Tefillah experience to be offered to a small group of campers, in their final project: Tefillahpalooza. In addition to 6 faculty offerings, there were 9 Hot ShoTz services to choose from at camp that morning!
The logistical challenges of sending the 650 members of our community to 15 different services were many: Campers are always supervised by staff at camp, even on a simple walk to another location. Locations were strewn all around camp. Campers needing to get to the lake or the pool after being out in the ropes course. What if it rains? But with careful work by Scott, and with the help of sign-ups with “Concert Stickets” (ticket stickers with name of service, location, unit and bunk number), everybody distributed with ease.
For 50 minutes after breakfast on Thursday morning, our Hot ShoTz (and our faculty) showed their stuff, and offered equally engaging experiential Tefillah programs in areas as diverse as playdough prayer, writing their own stories prayer, Cold-Pray (a Coldplay service), Improv, and “The Theatre is Our Temple,” where campers had a chance to examine and discuss movie and TV clips that portrayed Judaism.
After a summer of hard work and learning, everybody in the Coleman community got to see just how hot our Hot ShoTz are. And we can’t wait to have another Tefillahpalooza next summer!
“You’ll see, he won’t want to leave in the end,” my wife, Cynthia, said. “He’s going to have the time of his life.”
“Not if his soon-to-be bunkmates see him crying?” I replied. Cynthia and I were in the process of putting our son, Jonah, on the bus to Camp B’nai Brith (CBB). CBB is a little more than an hour drive north of our home in Montreal and the plan was for Jonah to be there, if everything went according to plan, for three weeks. It would be, by far, the longest he’d ever been away. All we could do was speculate—and we figured to do a lot of speculating in the next twenty-one days—on how he would fare.
Incidentally, Jonah wasn’t the crying boy. In fact, our son headed straight for a seat at the back of the bus as soon as we arrived at the drop-off point. I didn’t even have a chance to hug him. I had to mouth my “have a great time!” through the tinted glass of the closed window. In return, I received the most cursory of acknowledgements. As if he was saying: “Let’s get this show on the road.”
Cynthia, however, boarded the bus in order to get a proper good-bye. She insisted Jonah hug her. I got on the bus, too, to watch and glimpsed something I don’t think I’ve ever seen on my fifteen-year-old son’s face—the hint of a blush. Jonah is on the autism spectrum and one of that complicated disorder’s mixed blessings, in Jonah’s case anyway, is obliviousness to embarrassment. This has served to make Jonah a uniquely sweet, open-hearted individual; it also means he can miss signals from others, emotional signals he’d be well-served to pick up on. In fact, this was one of the main reasons we were sending him to sleep-away camp. We hoped he’d learn to understand other people a little better, pick up on their cues.
Meanwhile, the crying boy, who was twelve or so, was also oblivious—to the pleading of others. And a lot of pleading was going on. You could barely make the poor kid out from behind a gesticulating crowd of relatives. Still, I could see his head shaking vehemently and hear his spluttering voice. He was repeating the words: “I’m not getting on the bus.” The more he cried the more relatives seemed to gather around him, all trying out different, often conflicting strategies, to reassure him. Eventually, a SWAT-like team of CBB counselors appeared and did an impressive job of liberating the reluctant camper from all that overwhelming love and concern. Their mission was clear: they were going to get the show on the road.
We’re “helicopter parents,” research studies and thinky magazine articles are always reminding us. When it comes to the parents of special needs kids, like Cynthia and me, this is an especially tone deaf judgment, but it’s kind of a slam at most parents when you think about it. In the case of summer camp, in particular, who can blame us for projecting onto our kids a little of our own childhood experiences? For Cynthia, this usually means remembering how “interesting” (the quotes are hers) summer camp was. For me, it means wondering how I would have fared at camp seeing as how I never went. My guess is I would have cried myself to sleep nightly. Then again, maybe not. Fortunately, the camp cliché persists, especially for worried parents, about how the kids who make the biggest fuss about going end up not wanting to leave. But that doesn’t make those childhood complaints any less real or any less eloquent. I have a friend who came across an old letter she sent to her parents from summer camp when she was probably seven or eight. It began with a description of her day and proceeded to a detailed list of grievances. She signed off with this lawyerly appeal: “Please consider my case.”
Camps nowadays are good at considering the concerns of parents, at least. CBB does a wonderful job with its daily online postings of dozens and dozens of photos. I search for Jonah, first, of course, relieved to find him hanging out with his fellow campers in the pool or playing basketball or out in a canoe with one of his counselors. But after I’ve assured myself that it looks like my son is having a good time, I can’t help looking at all the photos. There are kids waving, hamming it up for the camera, others lost in play. The photos convey camaraderie and mischievousness and, most of all, a spirit of fun. So much so I wish I knew more about each of their personal stories.
“That’s him?” Cynthia said the other day, glancing over my shoulder at the super-slow slide-show I was watching on my computer. I looked for the latest picture of Jonah but didn’t see it. “No,” Cynthia added, “the boy who refused to get on the bus.”
She was right. It was him: in his floor hockey gear, smiling widely in one shot; with a wide circle of new friends surrounding him in another shot. He was the happy camp cliché personified: he looked like he never wanted to leave.