"When the world is sick, can’t no one be well. But I dreamt we were all beautiful and strong.”
I began director’s training last year still grappling with the idea that I work within a system that isn’t doing everything it can to truly meet the needs of all students. I teach first grade at a public charter school. Working for a system that demands and depends on data to determine the “wholeness” and the “worth” of a child, while seeing day-to-day that such a system deprives a child from truly becoming whole and from recognizing one’s own worth, becomes exhausting. I struggle daily with the regimented system of schooling while actively conforming to perform my job. I work in a space and structure designed for the success of a select few students where conversations often center on what kids cannot do, versus what they can. So often in schools, fear for the unknown allows adults, school workers, to claim kids as unfit for a classroom. I often find myself challenging that notion and pushing back, if a kid’s place is not the classroom, after all, where is it?
When I got to camp, I felt comfort knowing I was once again in a community where love and spirit drive decisions and campers sit as the intention. During training week, I posed four questions to my staff: Why are you here? What words will campers use to describe me? What experiences do I want my campers to have? And What is the long-term impact of those experiences? We reflected quietly for some time and then shared together. I modeled by sharing my long story of why I come to camp and why I am the Director of St. Andrew’s. Not wanting my staff to feel forced to share too many personal details, I also shared what impact I hoped would bring this summer, “I want campers to recognize and own their gifts. This can and will empower then to advocate for themselves.” As my one-hour session transformed into a two-hour session, I sat overwhelmed and grateful listening to each of their stories. After all, only when we can be honest with each other about who we are at the core, can we truly begin to impact change.
During camp, I watched my staff lead with love, compassion, and grace as my campers experienced, hikes, art time, and canoeing. I watched them prioritize camper interests through Camptivity (the St. A’s version of free electives) and specialized chaplain’s time centered around creating personalized character cards. I watched campers engage daily in the intentional noticing and naming of each other’s strengths through the DLP framework (describe, label, praise). I watched our campers collaborate and lead joint activities with every camp on the mountain. I watched brave spaces being opened where campers described God as “a perfectly autistic being” and questioned why humans so often divide each other into groups and judge. But mostly I watched my campers being campers and doing camp. After all, regardless of diagnosis, camp is a place where all kids can be successful. Yet in an institutionalized setting, this often breaks down.
As I reflect on what the bridge is between camp and a classroom, I am drawn to the combination of high expectations, patience, and love. I wonder what it could look like for a school to be so grounded in mission that a child comes first and a test score comes second.
This summer, I sat through day one of professional development at a different school in a new city. As a district, we grounded ourselves in a shared school wide mission. Then we grounded ourselves in our personal “whys”. As I wrote mine down, I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance to why I so
whole heartedly believe in the mission of St. Andrew’s and Shrine Mont Camps. While I still don’t fully understand how to bridge the gap to create a more natural classroom that serves all students, I know my camp experience grounds me in my work and my “whys”:
1. To help kids discover, understand, and own the unique gifts they bring to the world and empower them to advocate for themselves through those gifts;
2. So that every child feels loved and valued;
And only then, after grounding myself in the whole child, can I begin to address my third “why”
3. To provide a strong educational foundation early on that drives a passion for learning
Come find out how camp can change you, your life, and your perspective! Apply today.
- Katie Franzel, St. Andrew's Camp Director
“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you."
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.