I was extremely excited when I got hired to work as a sailing instructor at the camp I had attended as a kid, I had always looked up to the instructors and I was happy I finally got to be a part of that group. The camp was on an island up north and every day we had 70 kids to monitor, which was more stressful than I had anticipated due to the fact that there were always kids running around and playing in the water. As a camper I never thought twice about playing near the water, but now that I was in charge of the safety of the kids I had a whole new outlook on the situation.
As a way to keep the kids the safe we had a rule that lifejackets had to be worn on the docks, and in the boats at all times. The instructors, myself included did not have the same rule to follow which sometimes would cause the campers to backlash, saying things along the lines of “if you don’t have to wear lifejackets neither do we”, which honestly I probably said as a camper as well.
As an instructor I was always very attentive to make sure all of the campers had their lifejackets on them when required, however due to the large amount of campers and not nearly as many instructors I also had to rely on the campers to follow the rules.
One time, when we were in a rush we asked the campers if they all had their lifejackets on before taking off on the boat, to which they all responded “yes” and we left the dock without double-checking. We were on our way to drop the kids off on mainland and thankfully we had barely left the dock when we realized one of the kids had forgotten his lifejacket on the island. We were very fortunate that nothing bad had happened in those few moments and that we had realized before we were too late, but it was a huge reality check that we needed to be more aware and to be setting a better example ourselves.
According to the Life Saving Society, I now know that nine out of 10 people who drown in boating-related incidents are not wearing lifejackets, and as instructors we want to keep the campers as a safe and avoid preventable injuries. Looking back on this whole situation, I realized that the kids looked up to us the same way I used to look up to my instructors and that even though we didn’t have to wear lifejackets all the time, we should be so that we set a good example for the kids. I realize now by not wearing a lifejacket I was putting myself at the same risk we were trying to prevent the campers from.
The main idea that I’ve taken away from that experience that I will apply to future jobs is to lead by example with safety precautions for not only my own safety but for the safety of the others.
-Contributed by Alexandra