Smart vs. Good – Our Philosophy

John Dockendorf12 Jun, 2013
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Counselor Orientation Exploring the local hike up Black Balsam.
Counselor Orientation Exploring the local hike up Black Balsam.

One of our themes for counselor orientation this year is Smart vs. Good.

If you as a parent actually had to choose, would you choose for your child to be a smart kid or a good one?  Of course, it’s a ridiculous question; we want both for our child! But if we had to make an absolute choice, I would imagine most of us would choose “good” without too much regret.  But if you look at parental priorities in our country, many of us parents are actually prioritizing the smart, over the good.  Just take a minute and look at where you invest the most time.

By smart, my definition doesn’t mean only focusing on grades, SAT scores or admission to elite colleges. It also includes asking our child to become exceptional through their extra-curricular achievements such as soccer, dance, drama or a similar activity.  If we put as much effort in focusing our child towards being exceptionally good rather than exceptionally smart, we might be doing our child (and the world) a greater service.

Rather than focusing on outcomes (like soccer scholarships or eventual admission to an elite college ), Edward Hallowell in The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness relies on research to prove that focusing instead on creating good habits during childhood will best help our children succeed. Creating habits that build joy, self-esteem, social achievement, self – efficacy and optimism in youth equips our kids with the tools to experience greater success later in life.

Assuming that your child’s spring (like mine) has been filled with standardized tests, recitals and soccer tournaments, we are readying our Camp Pinnacle counselor team to be eager to engage your child through play.  We are excited to get kids away from the fast moving, achievement oriented “digital wonderland”in which we live and immerse them in nature. We are going to give them a boundless choice of exciting activities and games.

We surround our kids with optimistic and larger than life role models.  We have specifically designed our counselor orientation this year to help give our team the tools to focus on building confidence and self-esteem, social achievement and optimism in our campers.  This begins by creating a comfortable and cohesive community that appreciates and recognizes both joy and play. We give children opportunities to sample many new activities, some of which they will come to love.  From trying a “scary” waterslide to climbing a rock or mountain, kids get to practice and gain new skills.  Their “mastery” and hard work (not achievement) will be acknowledged as they earn stickers for improving specific skills.  These genuine accomplishments build competence which is reinforced through public recognition in our evening meetings.  Competence begets confidence and repeated success builds optimism.  Breaking skill attainment down into small and fun measurable goals builds the belief that one can be in control of their eventual success. This promotes self-efficacy.  Meanwhile the “Good” is constantly being reinforced through modeling and recognition.

In our focus on “Good”, we emphasize our five R’s:  respect, responsibility, reaching out to others, reasonable risk and resilience through both language and example.  This is easy because we begin with good kids, really good kids.  And, I know as a parent, it’s always better when life lessons and parental values are reinforced by someone my children perceive as “cool.” (And that’s definitely not me, according to both my 9 and 11 year olds, who will also be attending Camp.)

We will break a lot more of the theory behind the fun at Camp Pinnacle down in later blogs throughout the summer, but I wanted to give you a brief overview of some of the philosophy and substance that is permeating our staff orientation this year.  I am incredibly impressed with our counselors.  They are an exciting and impressive team of role models.  The caring and inclusive camp culture they are forming will serve as a model for our campers as we build our camp community.

We are getting very excited for your child to arrive. We know of nothing that is as fun or as good for them as camp.  Camp might even be better than “eating your vegetables!”

Have your child arrive ready for fun and play, and while he or she is focusing on the play, we are going to throw in the seeds for resilience, optimism and confidence. We will let the “Smart” take a break for a little while, and foster the “Good”! After all …it’s finally summer!

See you at Camp,

Dock

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