When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who wore sport coats and ties. It was the 80’s and a lot of the male faculty dressed that way. They dressed more formal than the students. This teacher though, he only dressed like that on top. On the bottom he wore jeans.
He was cool. We all thought so. Teachers weren’t really teaching in jeans at this time, and if they did, they were the kind that went all the way up to your armpits—not the faded, broken-in 501’s that this teacher wore.
Teachers are professionals (or they’re supposed to be). They’re expected to rise to the occasion when they enter the classroom, and part of that professionalism lies in their appearance. When I taught high school, I never wore jeans. Maybe I would have if my teaching jobs were more permanent, but probably not. No matter where I taught, I always seemed to get into trouble, so wearing jeans probably would’ve made things worse. Plus, I was young—not that much older than my students—and I needed them to know WHAT WAS UP. They needed to RECOGNIZE. I may have only been 6 or 7 years older than them but I was in charge, yo—and jeans, for me, wouldn’t have relayed that message.
Jeans worked for my high school teacher though. He was able to wear jeans, teach, and command respect all at the same time.
His clothes were a metaphor for his personality (which was so totally appropriate because he was an English teacher). He personified balance: Business on top, party on the bottom. It was the “mullet” of ensembles. Many of us suspected he had a wild side when he wasn’t teaching, and he had the pants to prove it.
But every day he showed up ready to teach, regardless of what he did the night before.
The work ethic required for a camp counselor is very similar: Work hard, play hard. That’s probably why a lot of camp counselors become teachers.
Like teachers, camp counselors WORK—and they work hard. Being responsible for the welfare of children is not easy. Kids are NUTS and they demand a lot of attention (A LOT) so any amount of time away is both treasured and well deserved.
Hanging out with staff members who are also in the trenches, wearing something nice(er) and getting off grounds is all necessary to keep things fresh. Time off avoids burn-out. It’s also (from what I’ve heard) crazy fun, so the nights can go late.
And late nights equal rough mornings. It’s not always easy when the early bugle blows, but too bad. Being a camp counselor requires respect and whether it’s a day off or a late night in the cabin, it doesn’t matter. When morning comes, it’s Go-Time—presence is not only expected, it’s required.
The camp environment shouldn’t diminish the responsibilities. Being a camp counselor is like any other job. Everyone is expected to show up and be ready to work. And with counselors it’s not just the campers that are counting on them, but the rest of the staff as well. Everyone plays a part at camp, and there are no small parts.
My teacher used to say “In short stories, every word counts.” The same goes for moments spent at camp. Show up for the moments, they all count—and one day they will be great memories.
Plus, you can pretty much wear anything you want, including jeans.