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SEL Series – Impactful Staff Orientation

Why Creating Impactful Staff Orientation is the Best Way to Program Success

The most essential professional orientation I have experienced in my career was at the Cardinal Sheehan Center in Bridgeport, CT. The orientation was focused on camp counselor training and consisted of intensive week-long training sessions that aimed to acquaint staff to the program culture and the structure and organizational mission of the program. 

If I’m being completely honest here, after learning that it will be a week-long training, I thought “Ugh boring”! However, as I reflect on the overall experience, I came to realize that this orientation ultimately ended up being the most engaging, informative, and structured training I have ever attended.

The training was beneficial because it set the stage for us to learn about our job responsibilities. Throughout the week we learned about the program schedules, expectations, policies, and protocols.  I remember sitting on the bleachers and listening to the director who explained the focus of the day’s training as he outlined the purpose of each topic and demonstrated the importance of taking on each job duty responsibility. The emphasis of the training centered around giving the children in your care the attention they deserved and needed and ensuring that prioritizing the well-being of each child. From the training I was able to see just how serious the program was about fulfilling their mission.

 Ian Baxter, the camp director, clearly explained our roles as a counselor. His motto was ” you will be the reason why a student went home having a great day or not”. He stressed the importance of running a high-quality program and that staff engagement is the key to the campers’ overall experience.  During that week we played kickball, tag, and several racing games, to help model what involvement should look like and feel like for our campers. The orientation was successful because it not only centered on what we were supposed to do and be responsible for- but it truly engaged the staff and made us feel like we were just as important as the children we would be caring for during the summer.

Although my camp course training was incredibly influential, I think one area for improvement could have been a segment which incorporated behavior management guidance. I remember during the summer that I often had to yell or single out children for their “bad” behavior, and I remember feeling frustrated with many situations where I thought I failed because I lost control. I believe more training in that area would benefit all of us “newbies.” Thus, I believe a greater emphasis on classroom/group management would help us better plan and execute our activities.

Overall, the training was exceptionally productive because of its focus on helping me understand the roles and expectations of a camp counselor. The trainers were knowledgeable and reasonable with their instructions.    I am grateful for this experience because the training allowed me to get a feel of my new surroundings, it helped me cultivate relationships with other staff members  but most of all it informed me of what to expect and what is expected of a caregiver to young children.


Tiana Brown is the Assistant Director of the Norwalk Housing Authority Learning Centers


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