Being a Betreuer (Counselor)
Published: April 2, 2019
We talk a lot on the Waldsee blog about what parents and villagers can expect from one-, two-, or even four weeks at Waldsee. There are a lot of people though who spend quite a bit more time at Waldsee, sometimes eight weeks or more: our lovely Betreuerschaft (counselor staff). What does it take to be a Waldsee counselor? Lots of planning and a lot of Begeisterung (enthusiasm)!
For most counselors, the summer starts at a fun and interactive training with counselors from several other language villages. This not only allows counselors to form meaningful relationships with other staff, but also allows counselors to learn how it feels to be a camper who has never spoken or heard the village’s target language. In the last few years, Waldsee counselors have learned Schwedisch (Swedish) and Japanisch (Japanese) from counselors from Sjölunden (Swedish Language Village) and Mori No Ike (Japanese Language Village). We play the same games that villagers at Sjölunden and Mori No Ike would play when learning basic elements of the language such as colors and numbers and asking someone what their name is. It truly helps the Betreuerschaft understand how intimidating it can be when everyone is speaking a language you do not understand, and we practice how to make it feel less intimidating. On the flip side, it also shows us how rewarding it feels when everything starts to click in the new language.
We have daily staff meetings to organize the days and weeks ahead. From sorting out which Haus (house) or Klasse (class) is performing Weckdienst (wake-up duty) to setting up that night’s Abendprogramm (evening program), being a Betreuer (counselor) requires a lot of teamwork to make sure everything runs smoothly. In these meetings, Betreuer also discuss the best ways to help a camper in a variety of situations, from a picky eater at Abendessen (dinner) to a homesick villager. Our goal is that everyone feels comfortable and happy at Waldsee, regardless of language proficiency.
Betreuer also meet in smaller groups throughout the day to plan Familie (language-learning group) sessions and Veranstaltungsstunde (activity hour). Familie is designed to be more structured lessons catered to a specific language level, so counselors make lesson plans that flow logically and smoothly to help villagers become more confident in speaking and understanding German. Veranstaltungsstunde makes sure these new language skills get put to good use. Villagers can learn archery, kayaking, painting, and much more using the key phrases and questions of the day. Counselors make sure to use a lot of Gestik (gestures) and cognates to maximize comprehension.
As much as Betreuer teach throughout the day, Betreuer learn a lot from each other. With staff from a number of states across the country and native speakers from across German-speaking Europe, cultural exchange happens within the staff. From helping each other with translations to cultural debates on the merits and faults of central air conditioning, the conversations help enhance the quality of the immersion experiences for all villagers.
Seeing the progress that campers make from the minute they walk through the doors of the Bahnhof on Ankunftstag (arrival day) to the end of the Abscheidsprogramm (farewell program) makes the occasional long nights and early mornings planning all the more worthwhile. The Betreuerschaft is so excited to return this summer!