I attended the ACA National conference last year in Orlando and sat in on an interesting workshop. It was run by camp directors (Director's Roundtable). The workshop was on the last day of the conference, but may have been the most thought provoking session that I attended. Staff at camp are employees only while they're at camp. In the off season, how can camp directors influence returning staff or former staff to continue to act in a responsible role of a counselor, not a friend to current or former campers? The Roundtable discussed how it is basically impossible to control what happens on Facebook, who staff and campers befriend and any communication through Facebook or other means. At Maine Arts Camp, we have a policy where if a camper and staff would like to communicate in the off season, such communication needs to be approved by the parents of the camper and by the camp director. In theory, this is a good policy, but parents and camp directors cannot possibly know everything that goes on with such communication. I have talked with another camp director who feels that campers come back to camp for their friends and staff, so healthy communication is a good thing. As camp directors, we want campers to return and feel like camp is their second home. The same director is often on Facebook, checking his staff's pages to make sure that nothing inappropriate is on the page. Should camp directors be Big Brother? We have let our staff know, both in staff training, in the Staff Handbook and in the off season, that even though they are not employed by camp except during the summer, in parents eyes they still represent our camp. That is a scary thought for a camp director as any communication is out of his/her control. We also remind staff that they may need a reference for another job, so they should keep their professionalism in all aspects of their lives. In fact, after this blog, I need to write a recommendation for a former staff. She is applying to grad school to be a teacher. If you're looking for a workshop on this topic, Chris Thurber is available. We have a local lawyer (to Maine) address our staff, but Chris travels the country.
owner of Camp Finders & MySummers
owner/director of Maine Arts Camp