I feel bad that it has taken me so long to start writing these posts. Job hunting is a full-time job in itself. But now that that has ended, I am happy to get back to the blog.
PCC is a 6 week advanced studies program for bright and gifted high school students. It is a detailed program including 2 morning classes with a master teacher and intern(s), downtime, afternoon REC and an evening core course which features a guest speaker or performance promoting some form of an educational lesson.
That is the basic outline that people are given before the program starts. But there is so much more than that. Even in training for proctors, there is little preparation for what will actually occur in the 6 weeks which come to follow.
My recent assistant program director I think put it the best, “PCC is a place where you learn to grow up. You learn how to mature and become a young adult. And while you are learning all of this, you get to be a kid. Because what is so hard to understand in today’s world is that you can grow up and still be a kid.”
I never got to go to PCC. When I was of age to go, it was too much money. As detailed and thorough as this program is, it costs quite a bit. A good amount of my friends went though. It was hard to say goodbye at the beginning of summer and then come back to school in the fall to them talking about the best summer of their lives. I listened to it for years and never got it. No one who doesn’t go to the program ever will. After my sophomore year of college, one of those close friends went back to PCC to work there. Again I said goodbye to him at the beginning and came back at the end to hear how this was this best summer of his life. I didn’t get it. And then he came up with an idea.
“Why don’t you work there with me next summer?” It was such an odd concept. Could I even do that? I didn’t go to the program, could I work there? But a few months later he forwarded me the application info and said do it. And it was the best decision I could have made.
Now I have the pleasure to say I’ve had two wonderful summers with PCC. I’ve cried more than I ever thought I would, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people I ever could have imagined and I have learned some of the most important lessons of my life.
Things I know now that I didn’t know then.
I have done lots of different kinds of work. I have worked in the food industry. I have done international service work. I have been a designer, a writer and a speaker. No work is as rewarding as working with young teens. I pinpoint on that age group for a reason. When I look back at my life at that age and look at the kids I have worked with in the past two years, I have seen how imperative that age is as a growing stage. I consider myself blessed to witness the transformation of so many young gentlemen and ladies. Working with teens is so rewarding because while you will teach them so much and give them all your time and energy, they will teach you more than you could ever imagine. Whether it’s how to make a friendship bracelet, how to do a card trick or how thankful you should be for the blessings in your life.
If you don’t cry, that is a problem. Not really. But after 6 weeks, possibly 12 if you have the chance to see a student go through the whole program, it is amazing how much you invest in them. What is so hard is that when you say goodbye, for some it is goodbye forever. There is no security or guarantee that your relationship with them will continue and that is hard. These kids teach you so much about yourself, and you teach them all about growing up and act as a role model. So as the program winds down and the realization that your relationships with these students has an expiration date, it becomes a very emotional process.
A good teacher has no shame. I once had an English teacher who was trying to help my class analyze a poem. There was a word representing a sound and none of us knew what it meant so she stood in front of the class and made the sound. It was a horrifying growl that startled all of us. When she was done we all stared and she looked disappointed. She then told us that a good teacher has no shame. They will do whatever it takes to teach. Working at this program, you must have absolutely NO shame. Part of growing up at this age is learning to be comfortable with yourself. They can’t learn that if they don’t see a staff who is comfortable with themselves. And you have to be really comfortable with yourself. Nobody told me of the things I would do while working at this program in front of 500 teenagers.
Nobody told me that I would pretend to be sexy sax man
Nobody told me that I would wear spandex
Nobody told me a guy would kiss me in a kiddie pool
Nobody told me I would do any of those things. Some of my friends outside the program ask how I am so comfortable with my life and I don’t get awkward or anything. I worked at this camp for two years and these are only 3 instances. But if you could see the look on kid’s laughing faces when you make a fool of yourself. If you could hear them crack up and scream at your ridiculousness. If you could hear them say things like “If someone could do that, I could do anything.” If you could witness their growth because you were just being silly and having a bit of fun, you would have NO shame too.
There are so many stories to be told and I’m sure explanations will be wanted for the above photos, and I continue to share. What you have to understand at the beginning is that this is no ordinary summer camp. There is no job like it and no experience that can be related to it. It is something completely different. Keep reading to try to get a glimpse.
I am dedicating this post to Ms. Nguyen for her birthday!