L’Amoreaux Collegiate Summer Camp 2011 Registration Issues

This will be the third year my Little Weed will be attending the Boys 2 Men Institute Summer Sports Camp, here in Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Overall the camp has been very well run and my Little Weed has had loads of fun. While the last 2 years the camp was held at Stephen Leacock Collegiate, this year the camp was moved to L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute, which is still close to our house. The worst part of this camp has always been the first day, when the kids need to be registered. Happily, today’s registration for the 2011 camp was relatively painless. Three cheers for the organizer, Hugh Keane.

The B2M Institute Summer Camp is wildly popular because it is well run, the kids have a great time, it keeps the kids busy from 09:00 to 16:00 and because there is no registration fee. Grants from the Federal government and sponsorship by the Toronto District School Board and others, allows this magic to happen. lunch is provided to all kids, and the food is excellent. Sometimes my Little Weed would return home bragging about the lunch he had at summer camp. Maybe I should up my game plan for family food prep?

As a business analyst I enjoy analyzing the workflow of complex processes, and registration for a summer camp, while seemingly simple, can become complex due to certain human traits, some of them laughable now, but while you are in line they are not as funny. The registration is as follows. Before the end of day school, forms were sent around to parents. Parents were to fill out the form and return them to their public school, where they would be collected. You arrive on the starting day of camp. The organizers have all your info and you’re ready to go.

The intent of the preregistration, I believe is that it simplifies the first day of camp, identifies that only kids that go to the Toronto District School Board get admitted, and it gives the camp organizers precious time and information for forward planning. Registration the start day of camp for over 500 people would be total chaos. The Toronto District School Board is a major sponsor of the camp.

Last year registration took 2.5 hours in a very hot and unventilated high school, even though the kids were preregistered. I was not the only parent grumbling about the lack of organization. They eventually got it right.

This year registration took one hour, and I arrived about 30 minutes before the start of registration. Thus, there has been marked improvement in the registration process since last year. Still this year there were still many issues, some of which are the responsibility of the organizers, Boys 2 Men Institute, and some of which are the responsibility of the parents.

Many kids missed the preregistration of camp, causing havoc in the parking lot. It is difficult to determine on exactly is to blame, so there is blame all around.These issues include:

  • Parents not reading the form and following directions: If parents were more interested in their kids and knew about the camp, they would have called the school and ask about the camp in advance. Camp registration forms for the little Weed’s school only went out on the second last day of school, after I called the organizer and asked him how to register. Parents did not read their form, which clearly stated the forms were to be returned to the school. Instead parents brought the form to the first day of camp and are told they would join a waiting list. In actual fact their kids will not attend camp. All 300 spots are already filled with those kids who followed the registration process.
  • B2M Institute did not provide sufficient forms for each school and more importantly, did not provide the school administrators with processing instructions. Our school administrator had no clue as to the purpose of the form. no written documentation was provided and administrators were clueless as to the process. Further more, 25 forms for over 180 kids is not sufficient. I had to phone the school, go into the school office, read the form, identify that this was the Boys 2 Men Institute summer sports camp, and phone the camp administrator to seek clarification as to how to register. He asked what school I was calling about, and my call started the ball rolling. A week later and on the second last day of school, forms were sent home to parents. Organizationally, this was too little too late, leaving precious little time for parents to comply.
  • -The registration form by B2M was clear, easy to fill out and had written processing instructions included. On the negative, when the forms were sent out to parents, this form looked physically different from the first form I filled out, had different schools, but looked like last year’s form. As a parent I was confused enough to contact the B2M administrator yet a second time to ask him if I needed to fill this form out again. Consistency of the form would have been better. The second form was the better, because the form was shorter and left camp instructions for parents (start time and date, location of camp) after the form was ripped off and handed into the school. The first form took up the whole page, was to be completely handed in and left no information about the camp to parents.
  • -The B2M administrator was quick to return my call and emails. This is very good, and he clarified the process quickly.
  • -While the camp is held in unilingual English, 95% of attending kids are of Chinese background. Many of these parents do not speak much English and would have difficulty with the form. I, however, do not lay blame on the B2M Institute, but on the parents. We live in Canada. The camp is held in English. Either have the child read the form in English or find someone that can help you with the form. B2M Institute has no moral obligation to translate the form into multiple languages. They are a charity, not the civil service.

Today, the first day of camp and registration day, was more chaotic than necessary. Much of the problem was with the preregistration issues, but many were due to the parents. The B2M Institute handled it as best they could:

  • -The B2M Institute administrator blocked the door to all parents, letting in only 20 kids and parents at a time. This is excellent crowd control. He also told people trying to cut the queue to line up, at the END of the queue.
  • -The B2M Institute administrator was collecting forms for all the kids that missed preregistration. This is good because it gave the parents direct feedback, input and acknowledgment that the form was received properly. Parents and kids dispersed, reducing the size of the lineup. Unfortunately he was also telling them that all 300 spots for kids were already filled by preregistered kids.
  • -The B2M Institute administrator was also trying to explain the process to many parents, but was not able to explain himself because parents largely spoke Chinese and he spoke English. Nor did he acknowledge that there was any language issue. When a Chinese parent offered to translate he stated that no help was necessary. The reality is that not everyone speaks English sufficiently to understand the registration process, so a Chinese translator would have been very helpful.
  • -With no explanation forthcoming to the Chinese parents that they could understand, Parents with forms in hand continued to stay in line, not knowing that could not register their kids that day. I could see them getting more impatient and angry. A healthy and happy mood there was not.
  • -Do Chinese people not know how to join a queue? They certainly do. Even with other Chinese parents giving explanation, many Chinese parents tried to jump the queue and push themselves in. Some were able to push themselves in, bypass the B2M Administrator, only to be blocked inside the building because their kids were not preregistered. While I admire their persistence, there was no way their kids were getting in without the proper registration process. Simply being pushy and rude to those around you may work elsewhere.
  • -The traditional way for Chinese parents to jump the queue is as follows: Look at the line and try to identify a friend. Engage your friend in Chinese. Hopefully your friend will invite you into the line. If others complain that you are queue jumping and they speak to you in English you feign that you do not understand English. If you are told to not queue jump in Chinese, you tell the Chinese person to mind their own business. Because of this Chinese trait the queue gets fatter and more funnel shaped the closer you get to the entry.
  • -A more innovative way to jump the queue is to engage the B2M Administrator at the door. As he is explaining in English you feign you do not understand and push your way into the line. Once others see that this tactic does work, a flurry of other parents from the queue all try to do the same thing, again making the queue more funnel shaped. While it worked for a few parents, the B2M Administrator wisened up and told these parents to go to the back of the queue.
  • -I really do not think that language was the issue today. Parents did not or could not preregister their kids, and the result was chaos. A Chinese mob mentality was starting to occur. Selfishness showed its ugly face, as it has for the last 3 years of registration day. We are human.

With a little more forward planning, project management and a touch of Chinese translation the registration process and Registration Day could be more streamlined. Thankfully parents did not revolt, though I know some of them wanted to. Each year gets a little better, but they seem to be a little slow in learning their lessons. While there was a marked improvement over the previous two years, further improvement is required.

Addendum July 02 2013: I am happy to see that the registration problems of past years are now solved. This year the administration had two signs and two separate lineups: one for preregistered students (in front of the cafeteria) and one for not yet registered (pool entrance). As the lineups were physically separated, this demarcation forced parents to choose. This is a good thing. This year they also limited the number of students they let in to 10 at a time, also a good crowd control step. To their credit the parents stayed in line and waited patiently, while their kids were as impatient as ever. Overall, this was the best registration in the last 4 years. Kudos to the organizers for 2012.

Positives: Separate lineups in two independent locations. Signage for each line was clear and large. There was a staff member that answered questions and directed parents to the correct line. Before the start of processing the head administrator explained the registration process. The process was quick. The registration person told us Little Weed’s group number, reminded us of the pickup time, and told us we are registered. What he did not mention, because he did not know was where to go after registration, which was to go to the gym.

Possible Improvements: Some young staff did not know the pre-registration process at the schools and were therefore unsure of the definition of “Registered”. This is a staffing issue, and caused some very mild confusion with parents. One staff asked parents in the registered line to join the unregistered line, but we parents stood our ground and stayed in the registered line, which was the correct thing to do.

There was no Chinese translation provided. As most of the staff was black or Canadian this is not surprising, but 95% of the parents were Chinese. It would have been nice to provide translation during the registration process, but as we are in Canada, no obligation to do so.

Registration staff failed to tell us where to go after registration, probably because he did not know. We finally walked somewhat directionless to the gym, where we found his group and supervisors. This is a minor training oversight and was probably corrected after the first few dozen students.

There were still a lot of students that did not pre-register, partly due to the lack of parental followup and partly due to the lack of registration process explanation to the schools. Forms were sent to schools the final week of school, on the Monday. These forms were not enough for all students. As there were no instructions to school staff I had to call and specifically inquire about the camp form. The school admin did not know they arrived, and once opened there were no instructions as to their processing. I, as a parent, had to explain the process to the admin person. As a result Little Weed got a form sent to his specific attention, through his teacher. On registration day only 5-6 students preregistered from his school, out of ~180 possible students. This is quite low.

At our local school there were many parents who said they did not receive the form and therefore missed preregistration. It is in the parent’s best interest to personally find out about the registration process and stay on top of the issue so their kids can get registered. Failure to do this has resulted in their kids not attending camp for the 2013 summer, and that is sad for their kids. Relying on the system processes may work in some cases, but in this case it did not. Even though I tried to explain the process to the parents they did not follow up with their school.

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