One Sunflower

the voice

on June 12, 2012

A month ago I was passing by one of our interns as she led a class to the library when I heard her use “the voice.”

You all know it.  It’s our teacher voice.  Of course we are all unique in the ways we talk to our students but there is also a similar quality to this voice – and while I know it isn’t just our profession that has this voice – when I hear it in a new intern, I smile and remember when I got my voice.

I was 18 and beginning my first job that had a pay check – I was working as a counselor at Girl Scout Camp.  I had been attending camp for the past eight years and had been a C.I.T. (counselor in training) the previous summer but this time, instead of being at camp for 4 weeks, I would be there the entire summer and get paid.

It was the summer I had graduated from high school. I was younger than most of the staff who were already in college. I felt immature and was shy and watchful.  Some were returning staff – in fact, they had been my counselors when I was a camper.  It felt odd to join their ranks in the staff room and be privy to inside jokes.

Pre-camp, the week before campers came, was spent readying the camp and rehearsing work we would be doing with kids.  We hauled equipment from cobwebbed storage sheds, swept out dusty cabins and cleaned latrines.  We practiced swim and canoe trials, kitchen capers, flag raising protocols and campfire songs.  It was hard and sweaty work but really fun.

Part of our training included partnering throughout the week as a way to get to know each other and find good combinations for leadership.  We were hired with general job responsibilities: “unit leader,” “assistant unit leader” or “waterfront staff,” but our unit assignments would vary throughout the summer.  Each unit of campers would have 4 staff members: a head counselor and 3 assistants and we usually moved at the end of each session.  The camp director wanted to be sure to balance old and new staff as well as personalities.

Our assignments were to come on the second to last night of pre-camp.   It was  customary for unit staff to prepare a skit for the last campfire before campers arrived with the goal of unifying each core of staff and generating some unit spirit.  My first assignment was Totem Landing, a  junior high canoe unit.  The three other women working with me were some of the most vivacious and hilarious counselors of the entire staff.   We gathered together in our camp kitchen after moving our gear into the cabin and started to work on the skit and song we would present at campfire.  I was right there in the middle, planning and participating with zest.

It wasn’t until the end of the summer at post-camp packing everything up for winter that I was told “the rest of the story.”  Apparently I was so quiet and shy at pre-camp the camp director decided to  partner me with some live-wires on that first assignment because she worried I wasn’t going to be able to carry my weight leading the unit.  I surprised them all on that first night we worked to plan our skit.  “You went KABOOM,” she told me, and another said,  “You really turned it on the minute those campers came.”

That was the summer I found my voice.

Do you remember when you found yours?  Who helped you find it?

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4 responses to “the voice

  1. Betsy says:

    I found my voice among good company as well. I started out as a student aid at a preschool in my college town. Those ladies were great mentors and modeled each of their distict voices as I found my own. Love your post.

  2. Terje says:

    It must have been interesting to hear the story from another point of view. I can imagine this slice being in a book about teacher voices.

  3. Amy Rudd says:

    The voice- my teacher voice was found in fourth grade when I was speaking for my teacher who had laryngitis! I developed it more as I began to do teacher- like things like aid at safety town, work at daycare centers, and volunteer on church council…Fun thinking back about these things.

  4. Love this camp story. Love thinking about where I found my voice.
    Love the teachers who helped me find and refine it.

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