Following second semester of freshman year, I returned home to the town in which I was raised, and I spent the summer as I have every summer since Kindergarten: at the recreation department. This week, I finished off my fifty-hour-a-week position as a day camp counselor for third, fourth and fifth graders (seven years old through ten years old).
I do it for the glory. I do it for the acclaim. I do it for the money.
While fortune and fame are not exactly byproducts of my summer job, I am absolutely in love with being a counselor. Sure, there are some downsides. I work a ton of hours and have to be “on” at all times. Some kids have behavioral issues. My tan lines are awful.
But, when you work with kids, comedy is guaranteed every single day. There was the kid who wore a bathing suit on a humid day because his mom told him that “there would be water in the air.” One kid cut his own hair (his mother told us that she “chooses her battles”). The kids (hopefully affectionately) nicknamed me “Lexi-poo” and convinced the whole camp to use it on occasion. I managed to convince them, after hours of argument, that I was dating Ariana Grande (until they dropped that, concluding “she’s too good for you”). On my twentieth birthday, we asked every kid to guess how old I was. Most answers were between 35 and 40.
Every day is a circus, but it was hard to top one spur-of-the-moment activity from the last week. We attempted to teach the kids how to write haikus.
Explaining the concept of a haiku was difficult enough. It’s an easy concept: three-line poem, five syllables for the first line, seven for the second, five again for the third.
However, these kids are young and haven’t learned the way of the world yet. We had to explain the definition of “syllable,” and we had to make up many examples, and we weren’t good at coming up with them on the spot. This confused them further. We had easily-distractible kids without a solid concept of a haiku or even a syllable.
Okay kids, go to work!
With our help and the leadership of a few of the more intelligent rising fifth-graders, they wrote some hysterical haikus (whether on purpose or not) and some legitimately good ones. We gave them three topics: ice cream, geese (which had recently taken over our park) and lunch.
Ice cream had some interesting responses. “Ice cream is funny!/Can you find the cherry? No?/It is in my ear!”. It has correct syllabic structure with an excellent plot twist. How else could ice cream be funny? Some of the other ice cream poems bordered on the existential: “Ice cream ice cream yum/I want to be an ice cream/Ice cream ice cream yum”, while others touched on the absurd: “Ice cream is chewy/I like ice cream for dessert/Ice cream is dessert” (we ignored the fact that ice cream is in no way chewy). Kid logic rules when nut allergies come into play: “Rocky road is great/But I am alergik so/I have to hate it.” Her spelling is similarly flawless.
The children seemed to take particular issue with the goose poop. In fact, the geese’ poop was the only topic that any of them wrote goose haikus about. “Geese poop every day/Goose poop is disgusting, yuck!/I don’t like the geese.” One kid made excellent use of onomatopoeia when fulfilling the syllabic requirements: “The geese like to poop/They stay together and poop/They go honk honk honk!”
Lunch got a more mixed response. Some kids were still focused on the goose poop. “Geese poop on my lunch/I am not crazy for that/I do not like geese.” Some however, were very focused. “I eat lots of food/Lunch is eating time for me/Eat, eat, eat, eat, eat.” Some focus on the exact food. “Yum lunch is real good/I hope mom didn’t pack ew/Lunch? I stuff my face.”
The top poem from the day, however, combined them all. “I ate a dead bird/It wasn’t yummy at all/Curse that no-good bird!”
While the kids were writing, I wrote one of my own. “I love summer camp/But can’t wait for school to start/Almost back at Tufts!” See everyone in two weeks!