\ All Things Girl Scouts: What should NEW leaders know? PART 1

August 30, 2016

What should NEW leaders know? PART 1

Girl Scout 

Being a Girl Scout is something you DO, and it is an EXPERIENCE that no girl should miss!

My posts thus far have largely been cultivated from my own on the job training, and gained knowledge, as well as research I have done online and in person.  *I* decided to try something a little bit different.  I created a google form, and asked leaders across the nation to contribute to it.  It had four (4) questions.  They were:
  • What is the #1 thing you wish you knew as a new leader?
  • What kind of leader resources would you find most useful?
  • What is something you want to ask other leaders anonymously?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to note here?
I received over 100 GREAT responses to this and am compiling them for general use for new leaders, seasoned leaders - really any volunteer that is looking for answers. THIS particular post is going to be what new leaders should know - part 1. 

The first season of scouting as a leader can be very hard.  I spent my entire girlhood as a girl scouts, and still was completely unprepared for the politics between moms, with dealing with difficult guardians, with knowing what exactly the service unit or council was there for - a slew of things.  So I want you to know - when you are there, in the trenches, and its not the unicorns and butterflies you imagined, there are many many MANY seasoned leaders out there that are rooting for you, cheering for you, and standing behind you.  We all want you to succeed.

Some answers were repeated time and time again by seasoned leaders, and I will highlight that when discussing those points!  Without further ado, here are the first couple of things that all NEW leaders should know!
  1. How much time I would invest in it.
    1. This one was repeated over and over again - it was included in probably 20-25% of the answers.  And I concur - it is SHOCKING how much time you invest.  But what is MORE surprising? Realizing that it doesn't (usually) even feel like work.  For many leaders, molding and guiding little ladies in their endeavors is a passion, and girl scouts is the perfect outlet.  You are intimately involved in the lives of your girls, becoming a mentor, a confidante - someone they trust. Someone they enjoy. So yes, it is time consuming. Sometimes it's a complete time suck.  But it is VERY rewarding.  You will find that you love your girls, and they love you.
    2. Something else that came up was - I wish there was something for just average leaders.  But here's there thing.  There is NO SUCH THING as 'just an average leader.'  So maybe your girls don't earn EVERY SINGLE badge.  Or maybe you just don't have it in you to spend more than an hour planning meetings each week - pinterest just isn't your friend, and so you show up, the girls have fiun and you call it good.  Maybe you don't sell eleventy billion cookies, or go camping every weekend.  That doesn't make you average, or sub par.  As long as you love your girls, and work hard to make girl scouts a great experience for them, you are an amazing leader, and YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.
  2. How to keep everything organized.
    1. Every leader does this differently.  My current set up is this: 
    2. As you can see, my method is not the most organized.  I am a person who struggles with ADHD, and I find it easiest to have everything at my fingertips - when I find my focus waning, I can choose another item to work on easily.  Basically, I prefer to have all of my girl scout stuff in the same area, and then I choose what I need.  I have a 'craft corner' as well, and each week, I stuff what craft stuff I need into my scout bag to take to meetings.  THIS MAY NOT BE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU LOL!!  Something other leaders have mentioned finding great success in is using a bag meant for scrapbooking supplies, or (oddly enough) hair dresser or cosmetology supplies.  Something that looks something like this:ArtBin ExpreSS Rolling Upright Arts and Crafts Tote BagPro Aluminum Makeup Case Zebra 4 Wheeled Spinner, only $169.95 plus free shipping! #makeup:
    3. In the end, you'll need to figure out what works for you.  It will be a process.  It may take some time. Be patient with yourself, and try a few things out. You'll get there.
  3. The more you let scouts get involved with the planning of meetings and camping early on, the more leadership skills they will gain. 
    1. Girls of ALL ages are great planners.  The very young girls often need some guidance but they are ABSOLUTELY able to plan meetings and events, and to have some self empowerment in terms of decision making.  I DO find that with younger girls, it is easier for them to process it if you present an 'either or' choice.  Such as we are going to do such and such petal next week - we can do *this* activity OR *this* activity, and ask them to choose which to do.  I have a blog post on event planning with younger girls and how to help/guide them and to empower them to lead.  You can see that post here!  As girls get older, you can hand the reins over more and more to them until you are in the back seat and they are driving the meeting planning.
  4. What the SU was, how they can help and that they had monthly meetings.
    1. Your SU is your service unit and they are an extremely valuable resource for you!  Sometimes in onboarding, the information you receive isn't as comprehensive as it maybe could be.  A service unit is a subdivision of your council that includes girls, volunteers, parents, and community members.  It serves as a unit within the community to work together to achieve community and scouting goals.  Your service unit has a variety of roles they fulfill.  They recruit girls and volunteers, provide training, host activities and have a series of administrative duties, such as monthly meetings and identifying delegates.  You as a volunteer are expected to participate in your service unit, whether that is by volunteering on your SU, attending monthly meetings, attending trainings or even just networking.  Your SU is the go between with YOU and your girls, and the council.  Something that *I* think, and was reiterated to me by my membership specialist, was that leaders sometimes feel an overwhelming disconnect with their service unit.  This is nothing short of tragic.  But it is so easy to change - many leaders aren't completely aware of all of the help, training and service that a SU can provide, and knowledge is power.  When I posed this sentiment to my membership specialist, this was her response: "I think it starts with you and me and sharing this info with others.  I know that change is a hard pill to swallow for many of our volunteers (and council employees) across GSUSA, but if we can let go of how things used to be, sometimes we can share the joy of positive energy that makes the difference.  We can be the change we want to see."  And really, isn't that the crux of it? WE CAN BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE.  If you have any other questions or need information regarding your service unit, please please PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me.
  5. I wish I knew how much flexibility there was, and there is no one *right* way to do everything.
    1. This is so so so important for new leaders.  YOU can take the reins.  The girls can take the reins.  Things do NOT need to be completed just as described in the journeys, or girl guides.  You have such leniency - many of the books in girl scouts offer a specific way to complete the steps to a badge. And this is a perfectly acceptable way to obtain your badges.  However, sometimes you might come across something and think, wow that's lame. OR think, wouldn't it be so much cooler to do something like x,y and z? And that's the beauty of girl scouts.  You can change it up as much or as little as you like!  And remember, there is NO one *right* way to do anything - as long as you meet the general requirements, you have plenty of flexibility and empowerment to something your troop genuinely enjoys.  Some of the ways we completed our Daisy work is here.  Some of the ways we completed Brownie work is here.
  6. There were MANY comments from leaders who are clearly frustrated and exasperated, to the effect of parents not wanting to help, not reading correspondence, and a general feeling of uselessness for them.
    1. I think it is important to speak to this.  Please don't underestimate your parents.  Sometimes, parents suck. They just do - that's the reality of it.  You don't know their lives, and there may be more going on than what meets the eye.  Or maybe they truly just suck.  Either way, you don't know, so do yourself a favor and assume and err on the side of forgiveness and understanding.  Now - it is SO important to be clear and succinct when dealing with your parents.  Give them clear, and easy to understand expectations at the beginning of the year.  You can see the parent letter I use here.  Parents are your greatest resource during the scouting year.  There are a lot of roles that they can fill - cooking mgr, fall product mgr, treasurer, drivers, etc.  The most important thing to remember when dealing with your parents is that sometimes they just don't know how to bridge the gap.  They may want to help, but not a the level or capacity they *think* you expect. They may not want to step on toes. They may not even realize you *need* help!  What I find works best in terms of parent involvement is to jot down what I need from parents.  My current list looks like this:
      • Fundraising Ideas
      • Drivers for overnight
      • Outdoor Skills training
      • Brownie lead
      • Daisy lead
    2. My way to approach this is to select TWO (because someone may say no, or fall through) parents that I feel will be able to help out in these areas.  I selected more involved parents for the leads, less involved for the fundraising ideas.  I will approach the primary person for each of these roles on my list, and privately (in person or on the phone) speak with them, and basically implore them to help lol.  I am honest, and let them know that I can't do it all (no matter how much I'd like to) and that their participation will offer a more rounded, easily enjoyed experience for our girls, and that is really everyone's goal.  This approach allows parents to see roles in a smaller light, and makes them less overwhelming. It's pretty easy to say yes when someone comes to you and says, listen, I need 5 age appropriate fundraising ideas in 2 weeks.  Can you take some time to jot some down? To that same point, it is pretty easy to turn someone down when they say, I really need you to chair the troop fundraising. Parents WANT to help - they just need guidance.  Also, remember to make sure you are IN PERSON (if possible) or on the phone.  It is much harder to say no when presented with having to turn a person down to their face. 
    3. The other conflict leaders frequently experience is trouble in paradise.  Dissent, disapproval, frustration or any other number of emotions you may encounter with the parents of your girls.  A resource my own council gave me, and that I find SO incredibly helpful is the F.A.I.R. method when talking to parents.  
    4.  I have expounded on this previously in my blog, and you can find further information on this method here.
    5. Lastly, if you are being harassed, threatened, demeaned, bullied, etc by parents, and are unable to self resolve it, please please PLEASE reach out to your council. They will step in and help you.  Trust. I have personal experience with it, and if you have questions on my experience, feel free to email me!
  7. Girls sometimes have a SHORT attention span - be prepared, and be flexible to keep them engaged.
    1. My last piece of advice for this post is about keeping those little ladies involved.  This is pointed more towards the smaller girl scouts, but it can sometimes happen with older scouts as well. Just be flexible and understanding - they are generally very excited to be at girl scouts and to be with their friends and sometimes have a hard time reining that in.

That's all for today's post.  It is only PART 1, and there will be more to come.  I hope, as a new leader, you found this information useful.  I hope more seasoned leaders read along, nodding and also found something useful here.  If you have anything to add, or a different method for any of this, please comment on this thread and SHARE!

Remember - Girls can do anything they set their minds to...especially when given the right opportunities!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome! Definitely felt a few of them were meant for me.


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