My Camp Philosophy in the Classroom

In the 50s, I worked for the Los Angeles Board of Education. At any time, I would be called upon to hold a concert and be a folksinger, or storyteller, open a counseling office in an Elementary school, or (and this I enjoyed the most) take over a troubled classroom of 6th graders. 

The principal was thrilled to have me take over a 6th-grade group of out-of-control 6th graders. They were bright and difficult individuals brought together due to a history of indifferent behavior. The assignment was to be their teacher until they left for Junior High.  These 6th graders ruled the elementary school and playground.

Within minutes of introducing myself as Mr.” O,” the recess bell rang, and 25 boys and girls rushed for the doors, pushing and crowding each other. The two doors were locked by me when I entered the room, so the rush came to an unmovable wall. I quietly said, “sit down,” and they (with murmuring) did. I said, “stand up!” followed in seconds by, “sit down. Is this how you want to spend your recess?” I asked. There was a minute or two of silence, and I said, “line up!”

All 25 went to the doors and quietly formed a line, making room for anyone to move in. They filed out and played for about 30 minutes, and when called, they quickly lined up.  When seated, we talked about what they expected from school and me. I told them they could call me “Sy” in class but “Mr. O.” outside our room.  They never failed to do so. We built an entire city on a 4×8 piece of plywood with freeways and parks as a group project. Individuals went to the project whenever they finished classwork. Also, those who did well in math, reading, etc., became mentors to those with problems. And when their classmates did well, they were given public awards for their help. They became a community and grew to hate weekends.  Why? Because of the “caring for each other” philosophy.


Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

One thought on “My Camp Philosophy in the Classroom”

  1. Loved your story of the sixth graders, especially the “build a city” project. That brought back memories of finishing the cabins at Camp Shasta, nailing up the wood plank sidings and creating our unique rock lined border to our cabin with a sign announcing the name of our group. Those memories are still clear

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *