When I joined TomTod in December of 2019, like everyone else I had no idea what was in store for 2020. I was eager to not only be in the classroom but to participate in the well-known summer camps that TomTod offers every year. Fast forward to mid-March and suddenly all of our plans (both professional and personal) crumbled around us.
It was time for TomTod to do what we do best—innovate for the good of middle schoolers. Adhering to our mission of giving middle schoolers space to be themselves was never the question; it was more “How?” How will this work in the midst of a pandemic when everything is uncertain? We pivoted quickly into Daily Adventures and delivered quality, developmentally appropriate content for middle schoolers, caregivers, and teachers, but the question on everyone’s mind remained—what about summer?
The thought of being 100% virtual challenged me. My professional life as a mental health therapist, health coach, and adventure curator has centered on cultivating genuine and meaningful relationships with those that I work with, so I couldn’t help but wonder, how would that play out in an all-virtual setting, especially with middle schoolers who are so relationally driven?
If You Build It…
We diligently worked as a team to ensure that building rapport with the campers was as important as the curriculum we created and yet, I was still uncertain of the outcome.
Well, I am happy to report that I was wrong. Very, very, very wrong. We were successful in curating relationships and camp curriculum and just plain old fun! For three weeks, campers laughed, shared stories, hung around to talk with camp counselors long after camp time ended and everyone else logged off. And of course created impactful ideas to better their communities.
I was honored to have the chance to spend three weeks with some amazing middle schoolers. It was inspiring to see them grow in their own ways as time passed. For some it was being courageous enough to turn on their camera during group after only using audio for a week. For others, it was sharing their ideas with community leaders. And for others it was that a-ha moment, “Wow, I have an idea that matters!” My hope is that regardless of what the change looked like, they all walked away with a sense of belonging and empowerment and had fun in the meantime.
Middle Schoolers are the Best Schoolers
So while the world continues to adjust to the pandemic, I suppose the one thing that remains consistent is that middle schoolers are still middle schoolers. They laugh at poop jokes, like jamming out to music, hold strong opinions about food, sports, music, politics, and clothes, and have ridiculously insightful ideas when given the space to share them. I’m so grateful that a virtual option exists so they can still be themselves and do what they do best—shine!
Amy Harrison has been hanging out with middle schoolers
at TomTod since December 2019. As a Licensed Professional
Clinical Counselor and Certified Health Coach, she brings experience
with adolescents through the delivery of mental health services,
basketball and health coaching, and substitute teaching. You can usually
find her drinking coffee on her patio with Elliot, the goodest doggo.