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Category: Why working on a summer camp is awesome!
Patrick Alvarez is the Assistant Director of TECS Summer Camps. He’s the one responsible for a lot of the year round planning, preparations, and the person who is in charge of all of the recruitment for TECS.
This is a blog of Patrick’s experiences, thoughts and opinions on why working on a summer camp is just plain amazing!
Imagine you are a camper – you have spent the entire academic year in school, and now you’re on your summer holidays… and your parents send you to English summer camp, and you find yourself once again in a classroom, with a teacher and a book.
For this reason, we try to make English class on camp as fun and as dynamic as possible. We ask our teachers to make sure they include lots of games and communicative activities, in order to keep the campers motivated and to make sure they learn as much as possible. To help them with this, we provide comprehensive lesson plans to complement the student’s book. However, some teachers want to come up with their own activities, and it can be daunting to come to camp as a teacher and try to come up with new and exciting games for every class, especially if you do not have much teaching experience. Here are some tried and tested games that are sure to enliven any class, regardless of level!
The simplest of games, perfect for practicing vocabulary. You need some fly swats, and flashcards, and then you are ready to go! Stick the flashcards on the board, split students into teams and each team receives a fly swat. The students then take it in turn to hit the flashcard the teacher or another student calls out. Some control is needed to make sure the students don’t try to hit each other with the swat!
Running Chinese Whispers
Another game that can be played to practice vocabulary – and best played outside. Students line up, relay race style, in teams. They must run to the teacher, who shows them a flashcard. Then, running to the back of their team, they must Chinese whisper the word to the front of the line – and the student there must run forward and tell the teacher the word. It may take a few tries for the students to get the hang of it, but the combination of running and whispering makes them work really hard to remember their vocabulary!
Noughts and Crosses
Students are bound to know this game, and it can very easily be adapted to help them to practice their vocabulary. Drawing the traditional 3 by 3 grid on the board, in each square you stick a flashcard. You can leave it face up, or to make it more challenging, face down. Students, in two teams, pick a card, and if they get the piece of vocabulary correct ( you can ask them to spell it as well), they can draw an x or an o for their team. The first team to have three in a row wins!
These are just three of a plethora of games teachers use on camp – during their planning time each evening, our staff also have an opportunity to share and develop ideas, resources and activities with one another, building a great environment of teamwork and professional development. If this sounds like the kind of environment you’d like to work in, apply now for Summer 2018!
And it’s not just teachers who use games – every monitor needs a game or two (or ten!) up their sleeve. Look out for our next blog about the best games for monitors to use on summer camp.
We here at TECS are incredibly proud and passionate about our summer camps, and how amazing it is to work on one of them! We all started off as monitors and teachers before moving up through the ranks so we have felt this first had. In an attempt to try and describe the many, many reasons why you should make the best decision of your life and work on a TECS Summer Camp I have come up with the following list:
#1 It’s Fun!
I’m not actually sure it’s possible to find a job that is more fun than a job working on summer camp. Honestly, your job description is basically to provide fun! Our summer camps are designed to provide fun for the kids all day long, but as a staff member you get to enjoy it too! The hours may be long and you may not make millions but you will be doing one of the most fun jobs imaginable.
Picture a lot of young people together in a camp setting where they are suppose to be the craziest, wackiest, and most entertaining versions of themselves. All of this in the beautiful Spanish sunshine. What more could you ask?? How about sports, excursions to cool places, cross-dressing guys for evening entertainments, costumes, and staff nights out to name but a few?
#2 Incredibly Fulfilling Work
If you work on a summer camp you aren’t going to be an accountant or a sales person, you aren’t going to do any old job, you really are going to a truly good job that will help the lives of so many young people.
You are going to take the role of being a surrogate parent/older brother or sister/confidante/friend to a group of kids. You will care for them, make sure they are happy, care for them when they are sick or sad, teach them good manners and values. You will be their role model, the person that they look up to and want to emulate. That doesn’t just mean that they want to copy the way you wear your cap backwards or the way you dress – it means that they will want to be like you for good or for bad.
You can and will make a difference! We’ve seen countless cases of kids who’ve come to summer camp and thanks to a great staff member have had the summer of their lives and have decided to come back year after year and push themselves to be better people. Some of them have even come back as coordinators or even camp directors! Check out some of their stories here.
There is literally no better feeling in the world than that feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that you get at the end of summer camp.
#3 TECS believes in it’s Staff
For TECS, our staff have always been, and will continue to be, our number one prioity– as it is very true “happy and productive staff” make possible the happy experience for our campers to grow in. For this reason we have always sought hard to provide our staff with what they need to do a great job.
Nurturing a work environment of support is also a top priority for TECS. Nearly all our camp managers were once TECS camp staff, meaning we have firsthand experience of how tough a staff member’s job can be. For this reason we strive to work with our staff; supporting them when they have problems, guiding them and advising them whenever they need help, and do whatever it takes to make our staff be the best they can be.
#4 Personal and Professional Development
Working on a summer camp will definitely take you out of your comfort zone and make you try and do new things! Ever stood up on a song and sung songs about Moose in front of loads of people? Ever cross-dressed on stage? Ever painted yourself from head to toe? All of these things and more will help you go home a more confident person!
Training has also always been a top priority for us and over the years we have dedicated considerable time and resources to developing the best training programmes we can. Whilst we know no training can ever prepare someone perfectly for the start of camp, we also know that extensive skills training, “mentalization” (as we call getting prepared for the challenges of camp) and plain important information giving will give most of our staff the starting point they need to approach the challenges of camp life with confidence.
We are incredibly passionate about the personal and professional development of our staff. Not only do we see it as the greatest investment we can make to improve the quality of our summer camps but all of us at the top have it has one of our top life passions to help make people better, be it in their jobs or in their lives.
We put a lot of time and effort to ensure that our staff are constantly given feedback, given every chance to develop within their jobs, and assisted and pushed to do so by our management teams.
#5 The Friendships!
On TECS Summer Camps you can truly make lifetime friendships. You will be thrown into this unique (and weird) summer camp environment with anywhere between 25-60 other like-minded people from all over the world. You’ll spend an intense amount of time together in the “camp bubble” where you will forget about the outside world and where time goes different (I swear knowing a person on camp for a week is like knowing them for a month!).
With just one summer you can make some of the closest friendships, or even relationships.
#6 Team Work
Like working with other people? Well then summer camp is for you! Summer Camp work is all about working together with people all the time. Whether it’s running sports sessions with other monitors or it’s all of the staff together for the big evening entertainments or it’s all of the camps coming together to run the famous Intercamp Competition, you will be working with people all summer!
#7 Sunny South of Spain
To top it off, not only will you be having loads of fun but you will be doing it in a place famous for it’s 300+ days of sunshine each year. You could be on one of the many beautiful beaches or in the most breathtaking mountain camps. Whichever camp you want to work in you will be guaranteed to have great weather and get a great tan!
#8 No Costs!
Summer Camp jobs may not pay as much as a lot of other jobs but they also cost almost nothing. Unlike some of the American summer camps there are no upfront costs, no need to pay for a visa or to pay €1000 on flights.
Your accommodation and all of your meals will be covered by us, we will organize your uniform and laundry, all of your transport and anything else needed so the only thing is if you want to by yourself some €1 beers on your nights out!
#9 Staff Events
If having one of the most fun jobs wasn’t enough we do also like to invest in our staff so that they, as well as the campers, have the best summers of their lives. We organize weekend trips, and put on sports and game competitions during camp to liven things up (as if camp ever got dull…). At the end of the summer we organize a special night called which we call the “final meal” where we all get dressed up and have a beautiful dinner and a few (many!) drinks. We give out special awards and make sure to appreciate all of the hard work and contribution that our staff have made to camp that summer.
#10 Returnee Rate
Numbers like don’t lie. Depending on the summer about 60% of our campers and at least
50% of our staff come back to our summer camps as returnees. We’ve had loads of campers who’ve come back so long that they’ve ended up working on camp. All of our managers have once been staff and moved up through our structure and we’ve had staff who have worked up to 20 summers!!! Check out here what some people who have worked with us before have said!
#11 These Celebrities say so!
And if all of these aren’t enough reasons then check out what all of these celebrities have to say about working on camp:
What is the first thing you think of when you think of summer camp? A lot of activities and kids screaming and yelling as the sun is scorching down on top of your head while covered in sunscreen constantly sweating and blowing your whistle at your kids as it echoes across the mountains. Well not exactly everyone pictures a summer camp like this, but this is what I thought Summer Camp meant when I first read my job profile ¨¨ As a kid we may or may have not have attended a summer camp before? Maybe some of you have either in the USA, UK or Ire. I personally grew up in the states and have experienced camp life. Every summer camp is unique in its own way. If you can’t relate well let me first tell you how I remember Summer Camp as a kid..
I was about 11 years old I vividly remember the car coming up over the ridge of this long muddy and mountainous range setting. The rain was coming down there were multiple cars going up the road. I was with my sister in the backseat with my Gameboy in my hand. As my dad shouts from the front ¨guys were here¨ We were arriving to a place called ¨Camp Tadmor¨ This is what I remember to this day as a kid. A big wooden facility with lots of multi colored shirts on people telling us where to go and welcoming us. We parked and I hopped out of the car grabbed my duffle bag and sleeping bag in the other hand and wobbled away to my arrivals table. I got my check in done fast and headed to the cabins/resident hall to drop my stuff off. Already met some new friends on the way having previously kissed my parents good bye I shuffled the tears off my cheeks and begin to hold my smile as I could tell there were already some cute girls walking around. If you haven’t had this experience before you might not be able to relate but when arrivals day comes at summer camp I think about every minute those campers arrive and go through the same feelings/motion as I did once at their age.
As I jump forward some years ( Sad I know I may have some of you nearly in tears or scratching your head like where is this going ) Just wait.. You will understand. Now, going on to my 3rd summer working at TECS Summer Camps in which I can cherish those memories and reflect back on them when I see those campers arriving in tears and full of excitement because it is such a big deal to be alone from the parents, for these campers!
Summer Camp is a time to build and grow as a person. We put effort 24 hours a day ( unless we are recovering with sleep ) and do our best to give the kids the experience some of us may have had or expect to have if we were in their shoes. Working on a summer camp isn’t just fun it’s impacting. To the first time you meet a group of kids bombarding you with a million questions up close breathing in your face, until the last moments of saying your goodbyes (constantly holding back tears). You will share a bond with these kids in some sort of way whether it be sports in the evening’s bbq on the beach. Meal times. Singing class songs. Making a fool out of yourself. This is camp life and it takes a special kind of person to grasp this type of lifestyle!
Working a summer camp is one of the best decisions I’ve made as a staff member. I met loads of new people and kept friendships all over the world. People come and go in life but working a summer camp you never are this close with the people you work with like you are in a camp. You cry together, laugh together, work together, dance together, fall over together, yell at each other and most importantly make memories together. It’s a time to make a fool out of yourself to get that extra bit of laughter out of a kid that may not be having the best day or maybe he or she is just homesick, you are the person that responsible to making a better summer for a camper. As I conclude this random article of why Summer Camp is what it is. I could vouch for anyone and say Summer Camp is fun you have to experience it once in your life and look ahead and see what positivity you can influence on a child in a matter of just a few weeks it will be such a rewarding feeling and box full of memories to share the rest of your life!
One of the weirdest things about camp at the very beginning are the songs. all of the time. But then you go home at the end of the summer and you can’t stop singing them all the time!
#2 Camp Chants
What’s the difference between a song and a chant you say? Well….. I’m not really sure! I guess in a song you at least pretend to have some musical ability, whereas with a chant you just scream with all of the passion you’ve got for your colour, house or camp!
#3 Dressing Up
So there is one thing that happens in every summer camp ever in the entire world, and that is dressing up! Be it face-painting, costumes, whatever. In order to be a summer camp you must have some form of dressing up – by the kids and staff. If not, then you’re just a summer school (that is the official difference).
Not just dressing up, but at some stage every summer there must be a male staff member who cross dresses. Ever year! What is it with guys wanting to put on a dress???
Family Camp Staff
Maria painted Jamaican
Staff Dressing Up
#4 Being Messy
Well you get a set of 4-5 Colour War t-shirts and your 3 pairs of beige shorts and you where them day-in-day-out. Well you get a used to just being a bit messy! Look how happy everyone is though!
Patrick covered in shaving foam
Staff in the mud
#5 Gunk Night
Gunk night is literally the best thing about summer camp ever! The kids vote everyday for 2 weeks for one staff member to have a big bucket of gunk poured over the heads. Bit by bit you see your name getting more and more votes and the pressure builds up. Staff start launching “Gunk for______” campaigns. Then is the big casino night evening ent when the final votes when the kids get to get their own back on one unlucky staff member (usually their favourite). The big moment comes and the staff member gets gunked AND RUNS AFTER EVERYONE LOOKING LIKE SOME KIND OF SLIMY MONSTER!!!
Family Camp Staff Gunking
(Candeleda, Spain – July 14, 2011) – Family Camp Gredos finishes Thursday classes. They have Casino Night and gunk one of the staff. Photo by Will Nunnally / TECS
#6 Colour War
Ah Colour War……. Ever felt national pride? Or pride for your club or school or whatever it is? Well multiply that by a hundred and you’ve got Colour War! You’re either on the White Team (scum) or the Blue Team, and once you’ve got a team you’re with that team for ever. This will be my tenth summer on camp and I’m still Blue Team. Wait. I’m a manager and I’m neutral. Ya right! COME ON BLUE TEAM!!!!
Colour War Monitors
#7 Jokes that are only funny when you’re there
I don’t know if it’s the sleep deprivation or whether it’s because you’re with the other staff all of the time and become way too close. But you just become a bit wacky and some jokes are just not funny in the real world.
If you haven’t been to a summer camp don’t you judge!!
#8 Camp Band
Why people decide to make a boy band or girl band together camp I couldn’t tell you! But they do! And they’re not good.
Except for Ella and the Dreamweavers… They were actually great!
#9 Weird Games
So you’re with these kids all day long and you need to keep ’em entertained, so you end up being pretty inventive!!!
Random camp games
Yoga on the beach
Miss summer camp, or want to let out your inner child?
One of the things that can be difficult in any working environment is that it seems like everyone is out for something different. Take your typical office for example:
You’ve got a receptionist who aims to give off a good company image to clients so that they are more likely to buy whatever the company is selling
You’ve got the intern just trying to work hard and keep their bosses happy so they can get a good reference and go onto bigger and better things.
You’ve got the salesmen who are just out to sell the product
You’ve got the manager who wants his staff to work harder and more efficiently to get result (usually meaning sell more)
and finally you’ve got the boss/owner who might really believe in the product and wants to get out to the world so that it can enrich the lives of others (or maybe he just wants to make money, depends on the person i guess)
In summer camp it’s so much easier!! On summer camp each and every person has the same objective: to give each and every child the best possible experience (learn English, make friends, have lots of fun, develop new skills, be happy and healthy, etc.).
It doesn’t matter if you are a monitor, a TEFL teacher, a welfare coordinator, a driver, or a camp director. Everyone on camp works towards the same goal all of the time. We all want the same thing, we all want to give the kids the best experience possible, we all want them to be happy, we all want them to learn English, we all want them to have fun. And we all play a role in achieving it.
Obviously some people have a more direct affect on it like the monitors and teachers, but we believe that everyone on summer camp not only has an effect on those how great the experience is for those kids, but that everyone has the same goal in mind. No wonder it’s such a great place to work!
Summer camp creates a really unique environment where people are actually less selfish. All of the staff who work on camp always put the needs of the kids over their own. All of our managers put the needs of the kids above their own, and they put the needs of their staff above their own too. All of us work long hours, in the Spanish heat, not exactly getting mega bucks, but we all do it together. We all do it together to do something so morally and ethically great; to ensure that a kid has the best experience possible with the hope that not only did they have fun, but that we taught them something that will allow them develop into better people.
There are so many things I like so many things about working on summer camp (believe me you’re going to hear about them on this blog!)….. The kids, the activities, the smell (yes camp smells different!), the great weather, but one of the things I really love about summer camp is the people! The staff that work on camp just weirdly wonderful and wonderfully weird!
A lot of you might have noticed that I’ve been asking a lot of returnee staff to put up testimonials about their time working on camp, or if they’ve been campers then what being a camper and a staff member is like. Reading some of these amazing words about people like Ben, Flo or Marta had to say about their years on camp and what TECS meant to them was my inspiration for this post. Not because TECS is awesome (It is!) but because it got me thinking about how many amazing people I’ve met over the past 9 years!
The kind of people who work on a residential summer camp are pretty amazing. They are the kind of people who decide” hey, instead of going on a beach holiday or working in a restaurant this summer I’m going to work 24/7 to care and educate some kids, so that hopefully they have the summer of their lifetimes and it enriches the rest of their life”, they’re the kind of people who think that cross-dressing is a fun way to make kids laugh, they’re the kind of people that put the needs others (the kids) above themselves, they’re the kind of people who don’t shut up about camp, they’re the kind of people who make a music video in their spare time……. They’re just a bit mad (my kind of people)!
I’ve had the privilege of meeting people like Ben, Flo, Marta, Javi, Jenny and so many more thanks to summer camp. Each one of these people are so different, so unique, so interesting, and all a bit nuts (in a good way!), and the thing is that in “real life” I probably would have never gotten the good fortune o meet people like them (Except for Ben maybe, who is apparently my estranged brother).
So to all of the staff over the years that I’ve gotten to know better in a few weeks during the summer and who I probably got to know better than a lot of my friends and family, I thank you for making each summer awesome!
Oh, I didn’t explain why they’re wonderfully weird? Check it out….
To say summer camp has a special part in my heart only begins to do justice to what i feel. 20 continuous years on camp tell you I became an addict. At first as a monitor/counselor it was about being outside doing sports and bonding with the children. Later as a coordinator it became about creating spectacular activities and evening entertainments, then as a Camp Director it was about the buzz of making it all come together no matter what. However it has been as Director of Language Camps that my mission in life was revealed.
There is only one feeling that i have encountered that is more inspiring than educating a child to be a better version of them-self and that is motivating other staff to believe wholeheartedly in that mission. The most soul inspiring moments in my life have happened when the people I trained put into action those skills and attitudes and committed to making sure children had a summer of a lifetime. To lead, motivate and develop people in the skills needed to educate children is quite simply a wonderful thing.
Summer Camp offers individuals the chance to develop in ways you just can’t comprehend until you’re on that journey. The fact all staff share the honorable goal of looking after and educating children offers an unique framework to bond together with a shared “purpose”. With this security of knowing you do something that matters, the opportunity for professional and personal development is limitless. The development i have seen of individual children and of staff during a summer (and over many) is quite simply incredible. As one parent put it, summer camp can and does “mark the life” of those it touches.
So when someone asks me why have i worked 20 years on summer camp? Although my thoughts and emotions are numerous, my logic is clear: “I’m addicted to the feeling of pride and accomplishment i get from playing my part in creating an environment which does really make both children and staff better people”. Staff and children who are validated in their sense of worth, who have hidden talents revealed and nourished, staff and children who want to be kinder and nicer versions of themselves.
Summer Camp is a place where you can find a purpose, a place where you can become a better person and most inspiring of all it is a place where you can help others to believe in them-self more.
Hey, for anyone who doesn’t know me my name is Patrick Alvarez and I’m the Assistant Director of TECS Summer Camps (Programme, Staffing, and Structure) – I know right? What a mouthful! I like to just say I’m the Assistant Director of Summer Camps Pss….. What that means is that I’m the one who works all year round planning our summer camps, the activity programmes, etc. I am also the one who is responsible for the recruitment of up 200 summer camp staff.
Obviously this blog isn’t about me, but I thought as a first blog post I’d introduce myself, what I do, and why I got into summer camp work!
When I was a kid I went to a few summer camps (Not TECS ones, other ones). I think I went to Camp Rockwell, some tennis camp, and a random camp in Riaza to “name” a few. I was always one of those kids who wanted to go away from home, and I think my parents must have been happy to ship me off to camps/family/exchanges/anything-that-would-get-me-out of the house.
However, I’d never really thought about working on a summer camp but when I was a student in my final year in school and looking for something to do in the summer one of the Spanish students there (thanks Peps Moreno!) told me about TECS. He’d actually been a camper, crew member, and camp monitor on the summer camps. He sold it to me by saying that I’d have an awesome summer in the sunny south of Spain, you’ll meet loads of great people and have a really fun job. So work in a shop in rainy Ireland or get a job on a summer camp in Spain? Easy decision.
That summer I worked as an assistant monitor for one month in July and I honestly had THE BEST SUMMER EVER!! Not only did I meet a whole pile of new people, great kids, had loads of craic (fun for you non-Irish people), some of the most randomly hiliarious moments, but I also got so much out of it personally and professionally. At the time I was an 17/18 year old teenage boy about to go to university to study engineering and whose sole focus was himself. Something magical happened that summer which I can’t quite explain….. Working on TECS Summer Camps that first summer in 2008 changed something inside me, and sparked some sort of desire within me to not be such a selfish self-centered teenager, but it drove me to want to be a better person. I know a bit weird sounding but you have to experience it!
Anyway long story short I was hooked! Working on summer camp has become some sort of drug! I returned to work on camp every summer while at university, each year moving up: monitor, assistant coordinator, activity coordinator and then camp director. TECS obviously saw something special in me and wanted to keep promoting me, and then eventually asked me to join their year round team when I finished my degree to do what I do now. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to work on summer camp all of the time.
If you’ve never worked on a summer camp you MUST do it at least once! Put on it on your bucket list! It’s the experience of a lifetime, it’s so much fun, and it might just make you a better person.