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Great Camp Counselors Are Like Dragonflies

By Jennifer Speir | Published: February 20, 2018

A blue dragonfly.
Dragonflies, a common sight during the 
Minnesota summer, embody many of the 
best qualities of  Concordia counselors.

We encourage staff at Concordia Language Villages to consider dragonflies as they embark on their daily Village routines. To remind them of the importance of their transformative influence on the children in their care, each staff member receives a small dragonfly token to hang on their nametag. It’s an unusual metaphor, but dragonflies are fascinating creatures and the ideal model for a Language Village counselor.

So what is a “dragonfly counselor”?

Consider for a moment the flight of the dragonfly—a common sight in the summer months in the Minnesota North Woods. It soars gracefully over the smooth surface of a lake, sunlight shimmering on its elegant long wings. Our staff also fly from all corners of the earth into the Minnesota North Woods, alighting once again to bring magical moments to our community.

Dragonflies use 80% of their brain to process visual information—a benefit of having 360-degree vision. They efficiently maneuver up, down and sideways; they hover effortlessly and can even move backwards mid-flight. This ancient helicopter is completely aware of its environment and is constantly on the lookout for dangerous obstacles and safe landing spots.  

A counselor coaches villagers along a suspension obstacle.
Dragonfly counselors create opportunities for their villagers
to take risks and succeed.

Similarly, camp counselors are constantly challenged by on-the-spot problems that require high energy and creativity to maintain morale for their charges and support for each other. A dragonfly counselor practices real-life skills that hone leadership and management expertise. There is tremendous responsibility in caring for someone else's children and providing ample opportunities for them to develop greater self-awareness and self-confidence. Counselors use their whole hearts and brains to build their campers’ self-esteem.

As with dragonflies, visual fluency is critical: a dragonfly counselor must understand what’s behind a sullen face or a mischievous smile. Savvy counselors consider the feelings, thoughts and actions of their campers—some obvious and others not. They are responsive and learn that they may need to drop their plans, hover and create a new activity on the spot. This requires not only keen attentiveness, but thoughtfulness and flexibility.

And though a dragonfly's life is brief, spending about ten months in the larvae stage, it has just two months to fulfill its adult life. Every moment is important!

Villagers at the Arabic Village learn to belly dance.
Counselors, like dragonflies, have only a few brief
weeks to make the summer magical.

Dragonfly counselors must also make every moment count. At camp, a single day can be transformational:  campers make friends, think of home, try new games and foods, make mistakes, and succeed at new things. Counselors may not always be able to see what the next moment may bring, be it a new obstacle or the rewarding success of going one step further, but they are ready to respond. Dragonfly counselors model the effort of going further, trying out that crazy dance move or simply getting back up after an embarrassing fall. In that sense, counselors help campers experience the challenges that come with growing up. They help make every moment count.

Dragonflies fly masterfully, and their Concordia Language Villages equivalents gain awareness and help others as part of our own metamorphoses. Through the great and joyful work of “playful learning,” Language Villages counselors practice mindfulness and leadership. They learn to gauge the danger of obstacles and choose safe landings, but still give opportunities to brave the great challenges that will help others fly. Keenly aware of their surroundings, incredibly agile, and always engaged in the moment during an all-too-brief summer, dragonfly counselors know that camp is a life-changing experience. They inspire courage among villagers, giving them skills and confidence to take on the world’s challenges—wherever they choose to fly.

About the Author

A portrait of the author, Jennifer Charlotte Speir.

Jennifer Charlotte Speir is the group director for French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish Language Communities with Concordia Language Villages. Charlotte has 30 years of experience in honing her skills as a camp counselor. As a former dean of Lac du Bois, the French Language Village, and now has a group director, she has guided and supported others in perfecting the camp counseling skills that ensure that each summer is a magical one for the thousands of young people who join the Villages for language and cultural immersion experiences.

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