Inclusion and Our Approach to Bullying

How we practice inclusion at Blue Star…

Co-Authored by Dana and Matt “Fish” Eisenman (of our Leadership Team) 

As we reflect on summer 2016, we cannot help but consider how the 2016 theme guided our daily experience at camp. Our theme, “We are One,” helped us towards our goal of attaining an ideal: a harmonious and inclusive summer camp community for all of our campers and staff. We are one cabin, one unit, one camp, one Blue Star, one community and one human family.

Sometimes the task of community building can be challenging, even at camp where our traditions and core values easily lend themselves to creating a cohesive, caring and inclusive community. We know, as part of growing up, our campers and staff can be met with challenges as they navigate various aspects of their social lives in myriad settings. Testing the accepted social boundaries to establish one’s role in the group is a developmentally appropriate behavior, but when bullying becomes part of a group’s dynamic, it can erode the sense of security, well-being, and safety that we hope all campers and staff experience at camp. At Blue Star, we define bullying as repeated unwanted aggressive behavior that involves a power imbalance.  

Empathy is a key component of our approach to resolving these issues at camp. We avoid labeling campers and work to help all campers identify their role in the social world of camp, providing opportunities for them to make their own positive changes.

By employing empathy as a powerful tool for understanding, campers exhibiting bullying behavior are able to see the impact of their words and actions. In the tech-heavy lives of our campers they often do not have the opportunity to see how their behaviors impact others. At camp however, the responses are immediate and personal, and with guidance from a staff member, campers are able to feel the impact of their actions. As the people who are directly responsible for campers’ social-emotional well-being, our camp leadership team and counselors encourage campers to take ownership of their camp experiences by providing guidance as they navigate these social challenges. The real work of camp is to scaffold and support all children in coping with these challenges and learning from the experience to help them discover their best selves.

Our ongoing theme also teaches inclusion. Inclusion requires campers to go beyond tolerance and encourages them to learn about others, empathize, and become part of one community. Camp is the ideal place to reflect on and learn from all experiences and return to home and school with a renewed sense of self and the compassion and love of a caring camp community. We are always One…

*For more information on bullying, see stopbullying.gov

One thought on “Inclusion and Our Approach to Bullying

  1. The biggest error in judgement I observed during my tenure as a 1977 Senior Girls, Unit 1, counselor, was the psychiatric labels provided by two sets of parents demanding I treat their daughters, respectively, as suffering from attention deficit disorder (compelling Ritalin) and obesity (over-eating) which undermined both girl’s positive self-expectancy for acceptance and self-determination to capitalize on the inherit self-awareness. We are all our gifted with these two pillars of psychological winning to help us combat pejorative, externally imposed judgements which inevitably detract from our emotional and intellectual processing fluency. I did not enjoy spending my summer in 1977 decomposing the internal conflicts these two preteen women were enshrouded in from the artificially constructed “labeling” industry derived from the psychotropic drug trade to alleviate the responsibilities of their parents, whom were undoubtedly uninterested in looking for environmental toxins, common sense shows us are both agitative and the root cause of endocrine disruption (ADHD and obesity) While CBS draws upon a global constituency, the southern regional pharmaceutical industrial base has imposed a set of values and valuing processes on parents and grandparents which makes empathy between campers difficult to obtain and sustain if a camper arrives with the internal message “I am not normal.”

    As a camper, in 1967, I did not feel “normal” one year because I did not have a “white lace” jump suit to wear to Saturday night socials. That year, my best friend was the camp cat, a gray marbled domestic beauty, whom I named “Kismet!”; I was horrified my parents would not let me bring Kismet home for the winter. My point is that labeling your child with a psychiatric diagnosis is bullying and sending your child to camp with haute couture to establish their financial wealth, breeds bullying and undermines the notion of building core competencies in emotional resiliency, physical prowess and fine tuning solution-driven self-analysis that allows each of us to be our best self.

    Emotion is defined as energy in motion. Labels stop positive energy from expanding. Love is defined as “Looking for good.” These two pillars of true empathy are of no value, without compassion reduced into practice. Roger Popkin and I had a conversation about this, not too long ago. I told him I identified with the field mouse in “Of Mice and Men” to explain the absence of a personal strategic plan (something I have created for our nation for several decades in several prominent global initiatives). The empathetic response with compassion would be “What can I do to help you put a new plan that works for you in place ASAP?”

    This is what counselors are challenged with when our campers arrive with labels. For starters, I’d give everyone their own special “Kismet.” Friends come in many forms. MIne was soft, furry and beautiful and curled up with me in my bunk when no one was looking. It’s been fifty years since I last saw Kismet and I still remember him as my best friend from 1967. When I see a cat today I prayer that Kismet lived a healthy and safe life with the camp caretaker while I was off-duty obtaining my various degrees and challenging the powers-that-be to allow me and others like me, to be our best selves. The bottom line, is that Self-empathy is the greatest gift we will ever learn at Camp Blue Star. And when it comes to psychiatric labels: just say No! I’ve been doing that since 1977: that’s the new 2017 strategic plan for the nation, Roger! Shalom.

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