Years ago, the necessary gear of summer camp in the Poconos included a few pairs of cut-off shorts, worn-in Jack Purcell sneakers and my Jack Kramer tennis racket (wooden). My trunk fit neatly into one-half of the back of my parents’ car trunk, alongside my older brother’s belongings.
As the mother of two teenage kids who have devoted many summers to sleepaway camp, I am no longer amazed by today’s camp paraphernalia. This summer I was surprised by something different. I did go to camp this summer, but not as a camper, or even as a parent. As part of a My Learning Springboard team, I tutored four boys, ranging in ages from eleven to fourteen, attending Camp Greylock, a boys’ residential summer sports camp in Becket, Massachusetts. What surprised me was their healthy attitude about summer study.
Campers came to their weekly tutoring sessions, each lasting 45 minutes, ready to work. They interrupted their daily regimen of water-skiing, soccer, baseball and lacrosse (to name a few) for one-on-one sessions in vocabulary building, test preparation, book discussions and creative writing. I expected foot dragging, but I witnessed surprising productiveness. I was astounded.
I wish I could say that I had something to do with it, but I didn’t. My kids were four of twenty-one campers working with a group of tutors at Camp Greylock, and all twenty-one were equally affable. How to account for this? Was it a kind of mental momentum that accompanied the physical? A healthy respect for authority? A can-do attitude, both on and off the playing fields? I’m not sure. What I do know is that years ago in the Poconos, I wasn’t thinking much about building skills while shuffling around in my Jack Purcells.
We expect more of kids today than we did decades ago, and that’s a good thing. But tutoring at Camp Greylock this summer taught me that it’s not about working hard during the academic year and playing hard during the summer. It’s more about keeping fit throughout the year and having a good time doing it.
By Rachel Barany, Private Tutor