Week one of Eureka! camp has come and gone, and with it went a number of my expectations for the next three weeks. I’m not exactly sure what I expected when I took the position of summer camp facilitator, but the behavioral tendencies of middle and high school girls certainly slipped my mind. Before arriving and even during training for camp (AND despite our program leaders’ constant reminders), I genuinely forgot what it’s like to be a teenage girl and failed to realize the consequences that come with teaching a group in grade school. Despite the Girls Inc. no tolerance policy, bullying is real and prevalent amongst the girls.
Whether explicit with directly hurtful words and actions or implicit through tone of voice and condescension, middle and high schoolers especially have a tendency to patronize anyone they deem unlike them or weird or uncool or whatever mean excuse a bully uses to validate their actions. I never realized a number of the girls we work with may be on the autism spectrum, and that they’ll surely encounter social difficulties because the effects of their condition are only heightened by the immaturity of their peers. I never realized how much the bullying I hear about from the girls would not only affect each of them, but also myself and my fellow facilitators. A couple of campers are easy targets for their classmates, because they don’t fit in the box of a typical teenager. The way they speak and the way they act are understandable from an adult’s perspective, but to kids that aren’t aware of their condition, they’re different. This is where the problems begin.
After the first day of camp, discernible cliques were blatant and those left out were left independent. Time will tell how interactions between girls change, but as a facilitator I realize more and more the importance of actively stopping bullies before they even begin.