Don’t get jealous just yet, but I had the chance to spend six weeks living in Whistler during summer 2007; being outdoors on the water every day and teaching children from around the world how to kayak. Through my fourth Co-op work term teaching at an outdoors ESL summer camp for Tamwood International College Ltd., I got my fair share of biking, kayaking, swimming and exploring; but what left the strongest impression on me was the self-initiative I was required to learn throughout this Co-op experience.
My job presented me with quite a few challenges. Aside from the heavy lifting, moving, and maintenance of seven kayaks and gear, my main role was to teach five hundred children, with varied backgrounds and levels of English language skills, how to kayak. Four days a week, I taught kayaking all day. The other days were spent accompanying overnight camping trips, downtown Vancouver excursions and airport runs to pick up new international students.
Learning How To Be Assertive
As a part of these daily activities, I found myself in a role which resolved conflicts between the youth, and sometimes even between co-workers. Being the easy-going person that I am, I never thought I would have conflict with a co-worker, but it came up -- and I had to learn to deal with it in an appropriate manner. I learned how to be honest, yet at the same time remain sensitive to the issue at hand and the feelings of those involved. This became a skill that is both useful and quite valuable to me both within and outside of the work setting.
To teach kayaking on a daily basis also presented challenges. Because the children in each session were of different ethnicities and had varied English skill levels, teaching the same activity to all children as a group proved to be challenging. I had to make up my own kayaking program and adjust it on the spot. I developed a series of simple words and used body language to demonstrate the basics of water safety and kayaking, and incorporated children who had kayaked before to assist me in the demonstrations. If the weather was not adequate for a day of kayaking or a different problem arose, I had to juggle what I was doing to ensure that children on the beach and in the water were properly supervised and having as much fun as they could!
At the camp, only a handful of leaders had the credentials needed for particular tasks, and the rest of the tasks were left for everyone to pick up. I had to step in and do a lot of things I never thought I would have to do. For example, who would have thought I’d drive a van loaded with ten bicycles, seven kayaks, and over thirty lifejackets?! I took the initiative to do it and, as one staff member put it, we just had to “figure it out!” It was really rewarding to step up and take the responsibility and as a result see the success of my teaching, my friendships with the kids, and my growth as an individual.
I would recommend this summer job to others in an instant. I learned so much about myself, my limits and my strengths. My leadership skills and ability to take initiative has since increased, and I also built up my shoulder and back muscle strength in the process! Whether you are a Kinesiology major like I was, or just enjoy the outdoors, a little culture, and a lot of fun with children, I would absolutely recommend working at an outdoors ESL summer camp like this one!