Accomplishing Communicative Goals
This section highlights my ability as a leader to work with others to co-create goals and collaboratively problem solve situations. I also explain how I evaluate and improve my own communication strengths and weaknesses.
Co-Directing Kids Day Camp
One summer I helped direct a summer day camp for kids in a Hispanic community. I had been volunteering at the community center there assistant teaching English as a Second Language. For the first time in the history of opening the community center, our director wanted to have something for the kids to do on their summer break. Because I loved the kids there and had the summer flexibility of college student, we decided I would be a good fit to head up the camp.The director and I sat down to brainstorm ideas about how we would pull something like this off. The problems were that we had limited resources, limited volunteers, and a LOT of kids. We decided to have the camp three days a week (rather than five) and would organize it by having rotations of indoor and outdoor activities. We began the volunteer recruitment process by asking everyone already involved at the center and posting announcements.
The first week of camp was full of fun and excitement, but also led to many questions about logistics and procedures from our volunteers (as well as a personal meltdown as I wondered if I was really the right person to be doing all this). Logistically, we had to figure out how to best equip and prepare the volunteers for what they’d be doing on a given day, as well as how to keep track of who would be coming and when. I realized the importance of following up with volunteers. If they signed an “I’m Interested” list, it was our responsibility to call them and ask them how interested they really were and then sign them up for a day and time. If they signed up to actually volunteer, I needed to call or text them to verify they’d be coming. I started asking the volunteers to come about twenty minutes early each time they came, that way we could go over the “game plan” for the day. This communication allowed us to anticipate any issues that might arise, as well as create cohesion among us since sometimes we had not all met each other before the game plan meeting.
I discussed the sources of my meltdown with my director. We determined that I felt overwhelmed by having to “be in charge” of so many kids at once. I was used to babysitting four kids max, not directing the activities and being responsible for the safety of twenty to thirty. My communication would need to change in two ways. The first was my communication with the volunteers; In order to best help me, we should place them in rotations they are best suited for (ie. athletic/sporty people can direct the outdoor activities, crafty people can lead art inside). The strategies I previously mentioned were also helpful in this respect.
The second was my communication with the kids. My director helped me see that I was “too soft” and “too afraid.” I felt intimidated by telling so many kids what to do and that came across in the way I talked to them. They saw me as a casual friend, rather than a friend who also had authority over them. I would need to develop my “teacher voice,” as my dear director called it. As my confidence grew, I would also become more assertive with the kids, assuring that they were safe AND having a good time.