The Importance of Flexibility

No, I am not talking about the kind of flexible where you can stretch your body really far and bend and contort into weird shapes. That’s not the flexibility I mean. I more mean the kind of flexibility of accepting change and even being excited for it.

Last week on Friday, my supervisor pulled me aside to talk to me. She started it off with, “You’re not in trouble, but I want to make you aware of something.” The first thing that went through my head was, What did I do?!?!? Come to find out, however, that I hadn’t done anything. One of her other interns quit earlier that week. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she was scheduled to work a camp the next week (this week). I was scheduled to work the other camp, and the third intern was working that week. She told us at the beginning that she doesn’t schedule people to work camps in consecutive weeks. So, with the other intern being gone, she was now short-staffed in the camp. Her solution was to have me not work one, but both camps this week. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I am in the short-staffed camp, and in the one I was supposed to be in originally on Thursday and Friday. The two camps are Eco-Explorers (exploring nature) and Culinary Arts (I was originally scheduled for this one). As if this weren’t enough, I was told that day as well that I would be a counselor for the camp. The first camp I worked, I was pretty much the second to the main counselor. However, for this camp, there was no second.

I told my supervisor that the changes were no problem. I’m at the museum to work, and that’s just what I was doing. However, inside, I was definitely a little nervous. I’m so much younger than most of the staff that I’m closer to the age of the kids than to my coworkers. I was worried that some of the campers wouldn’t listen to me because I’m, at most, twice their age. I’m also about five years older than the oldest kids. My sister is five years older than me, and when I was the campers’ age, I probably would not have listened to her very well if she were my counselor for something. Also, this camp is about nature, plants, and animals. I’m a social studies education major!! My weakness is nature, plants, and animals! I haven’t studied these topics enough to know enough to be comfortable about them.

Camp this week has definitely been interesting. One person being in charge of nine to ten kids at a time can be seriously stressful, especially when the boys don’t want to listen and you have to raise your voice while in a museum gallery. However, my group of kids are, for the most part, pretty well behaved. They get a little crazy at times (but what 8-13 year olds don’t?), but I’m glad I have the kids I do. They named themselves the Predators, but don’t let that fool you. These kids are so sweet, and even in just the two days I’ve been with them, they help each other so much. For example, we did a search in one of the galleries, and even though I never said one way or the other, most of them worked in pairs or groups to help each other out, rather than doing it by themselves.

Each day, we go on these “habitat hikes” (different places downtown close to the museum to in a sense give an idea of different types of ecosystems). This morning, my group went out to Military Park behind the museum. The day before, we went to a place where there was a trail; but today, while there were paths, there weren’t any trails that I liked. So I told them I was basically turning them loose, but just to stay in my sight and voice range (which, if you know me, is pretty good for both). Now, I know what you might be thinking: “How could an 18-year-old girl be in charge of 7 kids about half her age and just let them walk by themselves in a large park?” Well, I’ll tell you. We went about 9:30, which is too early for most people to be in that park, except for the maintenance people and a few people walking through. I also was prepared to go running after at least one of my kids, scolding them for going too far or doing something they shouldn’t have been. However, what actually happened surprised me. They broke off in groups on their own (without my guidance). I also never had to get on any of them. They would find something interesting and come running back to me to show me. They stayed where I could see them pretty much at all times. Towards the end of our time out there today, the group of boys went out a little too far for my liking (but still in the park and I COULD still see them), so I started walking over to them, trying to put myself equal distant between them and the girls. Then, the girls saw I was walking a little bit, and they went and ran to join the boys. So once I was close enough to be okay, I leaned against a tree and watched them. Once I called them to get ready to leave, they all listened and didn’t complain. As we walked back to the museum, I told them I was proud of them for doing so well in the park, and I meant it. They did what I asked and worked together without my prompting.

I know I’m not obligated to talk about some of the things that go on in or before camp, but I say all that to come to my point: It is so important to be flexible, especially in the workplace. Things may not always happen as you plan (trust me, I had no intention of being a counselor in Eco-Explorers Camp). However, you can either complain about it, or you can embrace it. I’m in charge of nine amazing kids, and while it wasn’t my original plan, it is still something I enjoy because it’s so similar to what I want to do as a teacher. I get to watch these kids learn, grow, experience, and do things that they’ve never done before. I honestly expected Diggin’ Camp to be my favorite (it was archaeology themed, which relates the most to history), but Eco-Explorers has passed that camp. I know I still have two more camps I’m working at this summer (including Culinary Arts this week), but counseling this camp was nothing I planned, nor expected to enjoy this much. And this all happened because an intern quit.

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