I’ve been M.I.A. these past two weeks as I was working at the S.P.E.A.K.S. camp in Columbus Ohio. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had so far, but it was also very draining for me on a personal level.
I was the Film Instructor and helped the campers make and edit their own films. I also worked with the theater camp closely and made a ‘behind the scenes’ film for them. The videos they made were easy “how to” ones such as “how to make chocolate milk” or “how to go on a trip”. The editing process was a lot of fun and I learned everyone loves adding sound effects to movies. (Michael Bay, I’m looking at you.)
The reason why the camp was so difficult for me was, in a large part, due to my inexperience of teaching. I’ve always enjoyed helping people learn, but being actively involved in the learning process for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week is a lot of work for me. Some days, it was difficult just to get my TA, freelance, and graduate work done.
Despite the exhaustion, rewards of the camp far outweigh the energy loss. For me, having the campers ask me about the next movie we will make made my heart glow. Seeing them pose for pictures in front of the sets they painted themselves with such pride is a feeling I can’t describe. Hearing stories about these kids having behaviors and quitting other activities, yet they stayed for the entire two weeks in camp every day was really eye opening for me.
This was a camp run by Autistics for the disability population. We found ways to help support each other in self-regulating while helping solve some of the communication issues that will always come up while working at a camp. It was such an open and accepting environment. When someone would do something or get upset, we’d just let them know it’s fine and we ALL understand getting overwhelmed.
At a personal level, it took a couple of people saying things (sometimes repeatedly) to realize how far I have come in just a short year. I’ve been able to handle complicated and urgent crisis with a grace I never knew I had. Solving problems quickly and effectively while making sure everyone feels safe and taken care of is not something I think I could have done as well last year. It’s been eye opening to see where I am now and how much I have grown.
This also completely sets me up for my next two weeks. I’ll be getting a chance to talk about why art really matters and how it can help people communicate. Needless to say, the universe hand delivered some answers to me. As one parent said to me, their child learned more than just the film or theater skills we set out to teach.
They learned so much more.