Teach and Be Prepared to Learn at Work and in Business

I returned to my roots during my Fourth of July vacation this year.  For the first time since I was a teenager, I was a camp counselor at an overnight camp for kids going into their fourth grade to senior high-school years; and I participated in a theater group.   My husband Joel was one of my co-Counselors, teaching art to the high school division; our son Noah attended as a camper in the younger division; and I was Theater Counselor-in-Training for the high school division.

We all had a great time, and it was my best camp experience ever.  Partial credit goes to the quality of the camp, Ferry Beach UU Camp; the high school division Coordinators, Mindy and Donald; our lead Theater Counselor, Eric; and the talented Theater Track campers.

While I coached, encouraged and co-taught, my learnings simultaneously were rich and profound.  For most of our week together, Eric had me participate as a student, similar to a graduate student.  So I often partnered with our students in acting exercises, learning along with the students.  Here are some of my lessons learned:

  • With the confidence of an adult life lived (career, family, business, etc.) unlike my uncertain teenage self, I could now perform without bursting into a self-conscious and fearful fit of giggles every time I was asked to act in a role.  I was able to consistently and completely focus acting any given role, because I cared more about the learning moment than what the other kids thought of me, or not.
  • I marveled at the abundance of acting / musical talent and confidence displayed by our students, which inspired me to take more risks and stretch myself out of my comfort zone, including but not limited to re-engaging my love of singing while accompanying myself on guitar.  I’m proud to report that my guitar calluses have re-emerged after a long hiatus.
  • Love is the answer.  The values and structure of our camp consistently lifted up our students and their creativity, creating a safe foundation which allowed them to soar.  I went on a couple of rides with them, so to speak.
  • It was okay to experiment, fail and try again.  In fact, it was mandatory.  And the talents of our students were burnished and shone even more.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  It builds confidence, not necessarily perfection.  And that confidence is where creativity and often leadership flourishes and expands.
  • We felt the fear and did it anyway.  We wrote monologues and performed them for each other, with varying degrees of risk and discomfort.  How important it was to express and witness each other’s internal music.
  • Whether we pursue theater as a career or not, everything we learned together last week was applicable.  My gift to the students was to create a crosswalk between our theatrical lessons and their potential application in business, e.g. presenting to business groups, interviews, sales pitches etc.  No lessons wasted here, every learning is applicable for future success.
  • In order to learn and renew vocationally and creatively, it’s important to get out of your routine and environment.
  • The most important lesson:  every opportunity to teach is also an opportunity to learn something new from your talented students / team.  A wonderful symbiotic gift.

What did / will you teach and learn on your summer vacation?




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