‘Queen Whitney’ goes to camp
Throughout my many years in school I have never learned so much in a week as I did attending Woodleaf Outdoor School. As a councilor to multiple Sierra Mountain Middle School sixth graders, I was taught more valuable ideas and learned more lessons than I think I ever have in such a short period of time.
Recently, I lived through what many high school students might consider a nightmare: I was responsible for 10 sixth-grade girls for a whole week. I ate with them, put them to bed, sang silly songs with them, played ridiculous games with them, made sure they were paying attention when they were suppose to be, taught them manors, and was not only a friend to them, but also a role-model, an older sibling and a parent.
As the huge charter busses pulled up, I couldn’t help but be scared. When they got off, there were so many little 11 and 12 year olds running around I didn’t know what to do with myself. I waited for my cabin group to be called and became more confident when I saw a number of “my girls” smile with glee when they were told they were in my cabin. Lugging their stuff up to our cabin, I began to see that these girls were just as nervous as I was. I decided I had to take control in creating a happy and welcoming environment. We began to play games and sing songs as I showed them around where we would be living for the week.
Throughout that week, I learned that songs and games could probably make the world go ’round.
We became a family. They were dependent on me to tell them the time, where to go next, what to bring to their class, what we were eating, how to deal with friends who were mad at them, to brush their teeth, and so much more. At the same time, I became reliant on them to not only help me carry out the food at mealtime, but also to keep me cheery and remind me that when you are late, singing “We’re Off to See The Wizard” (and skipping along with it) will help you get to your destination four times faster.
The girls began to call me most anything but Whitney. I was called “Winter Whitney,” “Winter,” “Whit-Whit,” “Queen” and I found out later from some of the other councilors that I was also known as “The Girl With the Curly Hair” and “A-Boom-Chica-Boom girl” (a song that, at one point, I led the whole sixth grade in singing). One of the girls in my group even began to call me “Mom,” which was a honor that I can not express with words, knowing that her mother had passed away some time back.
From her I learned the effect one word can hold.
Mealtime was a circus. I was not only in charge of serving the girls, but I also had to make sure the girls were using their manors, get any girls seconds when they asked, stack all our dishes, carry the dishes to the back, make sure all 10 girls were eating, get the girls dessert, clean up any spills, fill out the mealtime papers, and a whole lot more. After the first meal, I learned exactly how fast I can really eat.
Everyday we had a special time to be quiet, which was called 40/40 time. During the first half of this time, we could play games, have a group meeting, and take showers. The second 40 minutes were dedicated to the students being quiet; they could read, write in their journals, sleep, or do any silent activity. During this time I learned how short 40 minutes really are.
The students also got to have recreation time each day where they were able to choose an hour-long activity. The councilors were assigned to help lead and watch the activities. There was soccer, basketball, volleyball, Frisbee golf, multiple Woodleaf made-up games, and even fishing. The students taught me that any activity can be fun if you tell yourself that you are going to enjoy it.
At Woodleaf, I was up at 6 a.m. every morning to take a shower before I had to get my “sleeping beauties” up. Then, I powered all day – running around, leading activities, and keeping things positive. Finally, at 9:45 p.m. it was lights out, but I was never able to get to bed until long after 10 p.m. Throughout the week, I learned about the power and need of sleep.
Unfortunately, while we were at camp, multiple students had to go home due to illness. My 10 girls took turns asking for cough drops, wanting throat spray and needing pain-killers. By the end of the week all but two of my 10 girls were getting sick. I learned how fast germs really can spread.
The night before our last day, many of my angels began to talk of how sad they were to be going home. I reassured them with a smile that we would always be close and I would always be there for them. That night, as I drifted off to my few precious hours of sleep, I thought about how funny it would be if some of the girls began to cry the next day. In spite of my thoughts, when the time came to say good-bye I began to bawl. At that moment, I leaned that the “crying chain” could happen even faster than the food chain.
I experienced so much that week. I was taught everything from the latest sixth-grade gossip, to the power you have when you are standing in front of more than 200 sixth graders who are waiting for you to lead the next verse of “A-Boom-Chica-Boom.”
On the way home, I was too tired to move, my voice box was no longer working, and I couldn’t wait to get home to my warm, soft bed. As I looked back on all I had learned that week, my daily lessons jumped out at me. Because I was exhausted, the negative things popped in my mind first: how frustrating it can be to have three girls crying at the same time and how the lack of food and sleep can affect you. Then, I recalled how easily the girls made friends with one another, how close they had become in such a short period of time, and how much I got to see them grow in one week. I would have to say that one of the most important things the week taught me was how fast you can go from not knowing, to then liking, and to finally loving a person.
So, if I could give anyone advice right now, I would say: Listen and learn from a child; if you search, you will find that they have a lot to teach you. During my time as a counselor, I searched, listened, and learned as the sixth graders taught me lessons that led me to find out something about myself that I will probably strongly affect my later life.
They taught me that I one day want to become a teacher. I only hope I educated the children a fraction of how much they educated me that wonderful week at Woodleaf.
Whitney Prosor is a senior at Tahoe Truckee High School. Her column also appeared in last month’s “Fresh View.”
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