Buckswood Summer School – Activity Leader Orientation

Posted on June 20, 2011 by

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On Tuesday we met at Republic Square – the area right in front of the Radisson Blu Iveria – at 13:00. With fourteen of us and all of our luggage, the minibus that came to take us to Tskneti was crowded. The driver took backstreets through Vake – past the school where President Saakashvili sends his kids, down to Abashidze street where all the overpriced restaurants sell overrated food to people with lots of money and no taste, and then finally around to Chavchavadze Avenue. I think the driver would have saved at least fifteen minutes by taking Vera Ravine, but maybe minibuses aren’t allowed on that road? We drove past Bagebi, where I currently reside, and then up into the mountains just west of Tbilisi.

We were greeted on our way into the school by a British gentleman named Tony. Tony was wearing a suit and tie – and speaking in a British accent – and all of the sudden I felt underdressed in my worn-out jeans and my Aqua Teen Hunger Force t-shirt. He quickly put us at ease, though, telling us about what a great time we would have (“What is it you Americans say? You’ll have a blast”) and how excellent the kids would be and whatnot. Tony will be the Buckswood Headmaster for the first group, who are really lucky because working with him is really great.

Lunch was served – a very typical Georgian large-kitchen meal of boiled sausages, lots of bread, and some kind of stew. This would be the general rule for food at Buckswood – sometimes embellished with french fries and/or khatchapuri – and I will say that while the food is adequate, it’s the only thing I’m not really excited about.

We were told to select rooms – the rooms were huge and had six sets of bunk-beds. The facilities were a little worn – the bathrooms weren’t really clean or in good working order, the floors were kind of dirty, etc. – but as the week progressed, various staff members began working on all of these issues and by yesterday everything was quite nice. I gather that the building was used for other purposes during the year – I think there’s some kind of full-time school, maybe for younger kids – and that certain things, like shower repairs, had been left until the regular students had gone.

Last, we were given a staff manual and some more information, and then told to go have fun. We went on a beer run and gathered on the deck to get to know each other.

Over the next few days, we settled into a routine – breakfast at nine, a meeting at ten, activity planning and setup throughout the day, breaks for tea and cakes, lunch, and dinner, and socializing with each other and with the Georgian women who will be teaching English during the program. We set up a quiz game, a treasure hunt, and rules posters for the hallways and dorm rooms. Activity leaders in the first stream made badges in their house colors for their students. We learned cricket and played a few games – it’s actually a deceptively fun game despite what you may have heard, and we all had a blast – and everyone got along really well.

I can’t emphasize that enough. I was in the treasure hunt group, and it was easily the best team effort I’ve ever taken part in. Everyone contributed, the arguments that we had were short, productive, and easily settled by consensus in favor of the idea with the most merit, everything got done on time, the final product was really cool, and afterwards we all had nice things to say to each other. It was a really nice and positive environment to work in and I think that came through in the end. And I’m sure we were all happy to work with a group of other Westerners for the first time in months – the importance of communication and a shared ethos in teamwork has never been more clear to me than it is after Buckswood orientation.

The Buckswood facilities include wi-fi and a computer lab, so we were all able to stay connected to facebook and stuff. Overall, the pace was pretty relaxed, but we got a lot done in terms of preparation. By the end of orientation, we were all ready to receive the first group of students. The building looked excellent, the decorations were cool, the activities were set up, the Activity Leaders knew what to expect, and we were all excited to start. I had a great time and went home happy.

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Posted in: Summer Camps