I started my first night at Sly Park off in the gymnasium, surrounded by 200 screaming kids doing relay races and tug-of-war. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into but was suddenly facing flashbacks of my own childhood that I had since blocked out. Kids can be mean and I myself was bullied for different reasons during my elementary school years. Sly Park Environmental Science Camp is an educational school and it's my job to chaperone, lead and teach. As I stood in the back corner of the gym, I questioned how I was suppose to control this group of youth when I myself never felt like a kid when I was their age.
In the planetarium and by using the telescopes outside, the students get to see Orion's constellation. They see his belt made of three stars in a row. They see his sturdy shoulders and his wide knees. Orion is a warrior. He chooses his battles. He respected the people and animals around him. He never judged anyone and he kept an open mind. That is why, every week here at Sly Park, I go by the "camper name," Orion while the students are around.
Every week, a new group comes in and now that I've been here for 5 weeks, I know the drill and I'm feeling more comfortable. I'm beginning to have real conversations with the 5th and 6th graders and finding that talking to them like they are adults works well and maybe even instills a bit of responsibility and encouragement. The students each week are completely different, as are their parents, their teachers and the communities they come from.
This past week, my boys in my Fox Cabin really respected me but had hard times respecting themselves and each other. I took it upon myself to teach them about the harm that their words and actions can cause, how to calm down, be the bigger person and to chose their battles. I felt successful, especially with a one or two students who specifically needed guidance. But on the last night, I had to spilt up a fight between two of my boys. One sprayed Axe body spray in the other's eyes and punches were thrown. I had spoken with the sprayer, one-on-one style, earlier in the week about the repercussions of teasing. The puncher had been in my class all week and was an angel.
I played my part by splitting up the fight and getting teachers involved. By that point, it was out of my hands but I laid awake for hours thinking about how respect is the universal language. I shared many of my thoughts with my cabin boys and also my team, Green 7 the next day...
Sly Park is a privilege. Going to school in general is a privilege because in other countries, they aren't as lucky to even have the chance.
I have absolutely no tolerance for fighting. I have no patients for it and I don't feel bad for the horrible decisions students can make in the five days they are under my watch. I am here to support and encourage behavior that others want to follow.
Hitting someone is not okay. Its not cool and it doesn't make us stronger. Fighting with words and fighting with fists will get us no where in life and will gain us absolutely no respect. We need to chose our words and chose our actions. Think before we speak and think before we act. Our negative actions will only get us negative reactions in return.
I asked my students to remember to respect the people around them and treat others how they themselves want to be treated. We need to listen when people talk and work out our issues like civilized human beings. There are over 7 billion people in this world now and too many of them are negative. It is up to us to be better and make a visible change in our attitudes and in our behaviors. We need to check ourselves. We need to learn from other's mistakes and not follow their lead. I strive to be a leader of positive.
We will all make mistakes in our lives and we need to learn from those mistakes. Fighting is a serious mistake and easily avoidable. We are all fully capable of treating others around us kindly. I saw all my cabin boys treat others kindly last week and I saw some of them do the opposite as well.
I'm here at Sly Park for 9 weeks. I have 9 groups of kids and I work with 9 different Sly Park teachers. I don't have to be here but I choose to serve here and after March, I don't have to come back here ever again. At this point in my life, I don't plan on a career revolving around children, however, I'm learning to like the company of them. I'm learning how to reward them with surprises, share some of my stories and am beginning to feel comfortable being open with them. I don't pick favorites, I believe in equality but believe me when I say Week Five was filled with amazing experiences and incredible young'ins. I appreciated every one of them because as much as I tried to teach all of them something, I gained knowledge from them and I thanked them for that.
Orion and Nectar (Akina)
"Here are the values that I stand for: I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people how you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values, and that's what I stand for." - Ellen
We need to think before we speak. Take a deep breath and choose our words. Choose our words and be the bigger person. Use the words "I'm sorry," "Thank you," and "Please." Don't tell someone they are wrong, even if they are, just tell them your own opinion and let it go. We are all equals. Be strong. Be proud and make others proud of you.
Things will get better.
On Friday, the students return home but while they are still here in El Dorado National Forrest, I need them to live in the moment, learn about science and respect, have fun, make good choices, be good, keep smiling, be kind to them selves and be kind to others.
Keep shining like a star but be the constellation that everyone wants to look up to. Be a better version of yourself everyday and remember we are all right where we belong.