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How I Survived Summer Camp

June 13, 2012

Being the youngest here, I haven’t had many jobs, at least not official jobs. I’ve done your carnival face-painting gigs and moving furniture, character meet and greets, baby-sitting, teaching kindergarten art classes but my paid, resume-building jobs have been far and few in between due to a bad economy and a constantly changing location.

Survival jobs are usually the kind of jobs you pick up to afford working in theatre. My survival job story is short and about the job that I struggled to survive a summer working at. There’s an old show business rule along the lines of never work with children or animals. That summer three years ago, the children were animals as far as I was concerned and I, as the day camp counselor, was the zookeeper.

In a perfect world, working as the Arts and Crafts counselor would actually be fun: there’s scrapbooking, magnet making, jewelry projects, sun catchers, dream catchers, eye of god toys, collages, picture albums…you name it, we’d make it. And there were trails we could walk, outside play time while the glue dried.

Except the kids didn’t want to be there. When I was a kid and went there, we were allowed to have fun and play dodgeball but these days, the Health Department deemed it “too dangerous” and now we had bored, bratty children with very little for them to do. We were supposed to be working with children only aged 7-12 but somehow we ended up with four and five-year-olds who are simply too young to keep up with the program yet they are old enough to ask me questions about my sex life? Don’t even get me started on the brats who whine and refuse to play with the other kids and then try to run away—you can run, but you are half my age and can’t out-run me and I will catch you but I’m not allowed to discipline you with a time-out, so it doesn’t matter anyways. And if the kids (or my co-workers) weren’t bad enough—we were robbed and vandalized by some local teens. I got to sit and watch the security tapes with the other counselors to identify them for the police. Then there was the lice epidemic. 200 kids shrunk to less than 40 by the end of summer. Luckily, I stayed lice-free, much to my relief as I was working on a show at the same time (which also had children, much better behaved children then the ones at the day camp. I find children who appreciate theatre are by far, much better behaved).

In short, that’s my survival job experience. A summer of minimal wage and major drama (not the theatre kind) and not one I plan to repeat. Thankfully, I start my new job for the summer working for a theatre where the only children are in the audience and with an adult.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2012 9:26 am

    I have mixed feelings about working with kids. I entered the aupairing program, because I wanted to learn English in the, I believe, best way possible and that is going abroad and live with locals. Not only you learn English, but you learn so much about the culture and the way things are in that country to a certain extend.
    Now I don’t want to sound like I take sides or judge countries. I’ve had awesome time both in USA and UK, met a lot of great people I stayed in touch with, even though I now returned home to work on my acting full-time and one day I’d like to return to L.A. when I feel like I’m ready to do so.
    As for the hostfamilies, I really have mixed experience with them. It would be a really long story as I’ve done it over the past 4 years with breaks and lived with 7 hostfamilies (due to the economy and financial problems of the hostfamilies – they often needed to “get rid of me”).
    In USA the program had many rules preventing the families make us work more than we were supposed to. We also got a scholarship and went to college. Unlike in UK where you just effing do what you are told or they get another girl.
    As for kids, in USA all the kids I looked after were very nice, sweet and I really enjoyed the work there. I had them home and all the activities we did together I found very helpful in acting. As for their parents, mixed feelings about that, with the exception of my first hostfamily.
    Then I went to UK and I felt like a servant, kids were talking about me as “that aupair we have now to tidy up after us and that is god knows where from, but it doesn’t belong to Britain anyway” – would you believe that 6 year olds talk to each other in this fashion in the 21st century?!!! That’s something that really got to me and that’s when I realised how harmful it is to work in such environment where you feel like a piece of sh*t every single day. And to talk about the way the adults (as for kids parents) were, that would be another long story. But in short – you suddenly realise where the kids have it from…
    As I said, of course I don’t judge the whole country by that, I’ve met a lot of nice people in UK and I feel like I’ve left part of my heart in London and I will always be happy to visit, but I also know that I NEVER want to work with kids again. Not if it has this kind of effect on me.
    So when I read this article and the rule there about never working with kids (I don’t understand the one with animals), I totally get why…

    Otherwise, I wrote about working kids (in USA) on my blog too http://lenkasilhanova.blogspot.cz/2011/03/survival-job.html

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      June 13, 2012 9:53 am

      Lenka: the animals are because they have a tendency to make messes onstage and don’t realize they can’t jump off the stage (speaking from experience!). That being said, I’ve been lucky enough to work with two great dogs in shows before and some wonderful kids too. Besides, if we never had animals or children onstage, then we’d never have Annie or Gypsy!

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      June 13, 2012 9:55 am

      Teaching kindergarten art on the other hand is one of my favorite things that I ever did. Gosh, those kids LOVED being creative and making stuff. But that summer camp job was definitely the worst.

  2. June 13, 2012 10:04 am

    Oy vey! Hats off to you. I couldn’t do it. I was a substitute teacher for a little bit and I admit a first grade class once made me cry during my lunch break. PS I’m very embarrassed I just admitted that to the interweb .

  3. June 13, 2012 10:16 am

    Oof. This made me tired just reading about it.

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      June 13, 2012 10:20 am

      Thanks all! I’m very glad to not be (ever) working there (again) this summer. But what I am doing this summer is another blog for another day. I should have that up and ready soon!

  4. California Triple-Threat permalink
    June 13, 2012 1:09 pm

    Awww, this makes me sad because I have worked several summers of theater camp and I think I had more fun than the kids did! BUT, so much of that depends on the camp leaders, and I’ve found day camps to be better than over night camps because you can tell the parents which child wasn’t behaving when they come to pick them up.
    All the best to you with your new summer job!

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