The Value of Discomfort

Our stellar Moorelands Camp Director, David Borsook, recently published an article for the American Camp Association on the value of discomfort. In his article, he touches on how people can grow from uncomfortable situations, and how to teach camp staff to see discomfort as a learning opportunity.

David states two goals when hiring camp staff:

  1. Encourage staff to be open to trying new things
  2. Show staff that we are here to support their growth

This can start even from the interview process. David explains that when hiring camp staff, he puts in applications that camp is a place for learning, growing and developing leadership skills, and staff need to be open to this experience.

Then, when interviewing camp staff, he describes being a camp counselor as a growth experience. He asks candidates to explain times of personal growth, as this is something they will go through during the camp experience. Watch one of our camp staff, Clover, talk about the growth she experienced at Moorelands Camp.

When undergoing staff training, David mentions the importance of learning the difference between being unsafe vs. being uncomfortable. Learning new ideas beyond our current understanding is what leads to growth, but if we confuse feeling unsafe with being uncomfortable, we will not want to keep learning. He encourages staff to talk about the difference of feeling unsafe and uncomfortable, and how they can model this behaviour for campers to support their own growth.

A key component to discomfort is debriefing. Having the opportunity for staff to talk and reflect on these situations, and check-in with how they’re feeling mentally and emotionally, demonstrates that they’re being supported.

Finally, so taking the time to check in throughout the year on their growth is essential.  Setting time aside during staff meetings to discuss difficult situations they’ve encountered with campers is a great way to continue learning the value of discomfort. This change will not happen overnight, and will take some time to develop, so take the time to check in throughout the year on their growth.

Demonstrating to staff the value of discomfort and being open to new situations is especially important with the values taught at Moorelands Camp. Moorelands Camp programming is based around the Positive Youth Development framework that builds on personal leadership skills and creating self-confidence. Throughout camp, campers are being asked to navigate new situations with their peers, so it’s important for camp staff to model the behaviour we are showing to campers.

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