Helping Campers Challenge Problematic ILTs

On each of our four normal activity days in a camp week, half of the cabin staff meets during cabin cleanup time for morning meeting in their respective campus groups. Normally, this time is reserved for problem solving cabin issues and informing all staff of relevant camper issues to ensure that we are all on the same page. However, for our last morning meeting of this session, Kate Miesle, our staff week trainer, returned to observe us for a few days and lead this morning meeting.

Kate’s morning meeting with the girls’ campus challenged us to help our campers fight their own biases about the way that they should act. She first placed a set of cards up with phrases such as, “Take care of others,” “Don’t make waves,” “Be small,” “Be kind,” and “Smile.” After looking at the first set in signs, we talked in small groups about how we interpreted these phrases in relation to both ourselves and our campers. My group talked about the first set of cards as actions that we often are expected to portray because of the expectations of those who hold biases about our roles in the world. When we came back inside, she had flipped the set of cards over, revealing phrases on the other sides like, “Take care of yourself,” “Take up more space,” “Be brave,” “Show how you really feel,” etc. After seeing the second set of phrases, we talked as a whole group about how to empower our campers to feel comfortable implementing both sets of cards in their lives, rather than just the first set, even among those whose implicit biases may hold them to the expectations of the first set. This was especially applicable for a few of my campers this session who have struggled to find their voice against other campers who have put them down and would benefit from learning strategies to feel more comfortable with the second set of phrases.

I found this exercise to be an interesting application of Implicit Leadership Theory and insight into how camp acknowledges Implicit Leadership Theory, as the first set of cards are biases that people often hold about what a female leader should look and act like. While everyone may have their own ILTs, I appreciate that my workplace acknowledges that exist and works on empowering kids to challenge the ILTs of others. I’ve worked a lot in the last session with one of my campers on her ability to believe in herself as a leader, and I’ve found myself utilizing many of the second set of phrases with her to shift her mindset. That being said, we only have our campers for a few short weeks, so while we can see a tremendous amount of growth in themselves and changes in their biases over that time, many ILTs still prevail, as the outside world and camp are not always alike. Hopefully, in this time, we are able to give our campers the tools they need to simultaneously challenge the problematic aspects of other people’s ILTs and empower themselves to grow as leaders.

One thought on “Helping Campers Challenge Problematic ILTs

  • July 11, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Really good to hear that the camp is actively discussing implicit bias (whether it refers to it as that directly or not). Can totally see why this activity would bring you back to Theories & Models:) Again, I would encourage you – as you think about theory as it relates to experiences at your internship – to dig in a bit deeper. I’d also be interested to hear if a similar kind of activity was facilitated with the boys campus and if so, how it may have been similar to or varied some from the activity with the girls campus. Do you have any idea if the same type of activity and discussion occurred with the boys campus? Going back to your discussion about the division between the girls and boys campus, the question of preferred pronouns, etc. – I would imagine that camp does tend to be very divided around gender. Good to hear that there has been emphasis on the boys campus to empower them to express vulnerability, but would be interested to know how they discussed bias.

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