A Letter from An Motivational Leader
Senior Troop #326, Co-SUM Hobart/John Wood SU#14
Drifting Dunes Girl Scout Council
I really love being a leader, but I do not want to mislead you into thinking that it is absolutely all sweetness and light. Nothing of any value ever is. Today's sue-happy world insists that we do an inordinate amount of paperwork. Some people, not including me, regard the trainings as unnecessary. I feel, however, that as a parent I want to know that the people I entrust my daughter to are fully trained and competent to handle situations that may occur.
I work full time+ at USSteel in Gary Indiana. In my "spare" time, I run my troop, Co-manage my Service Unit, etc. My house does not look like house beautiful -- it's clean enough not to be a health hazard, but not clean enough to pass mother in law inspection... I love it. My girls are always hanging around or calling to ask questions. Several of them are working on Gold Award projects and one of them is the girl member of the Council Board of Directors.
It has not been all sweetness and light. Do not expect the girls to sit there like perfect school girls, especially if they have been doing this all day at school. Set your level of discipline early on and make sure it works. A good set of rules will take you a long way. Be flexible with meeting times, especially as they grow older. You will not win if you insist on butting head to head with sports and jobs. There will always be some conflicts but be flexible. You must be consistent, however. Meetings constantly cancelled spell doom for a troop. Sometimes you can get a parent who cannot otherwise help you to babysit your other children so you can be the leader. Try to plan at least one meeting ahead so that a substitute can take over if you have a family emergency. You must mandate parent PARTICIPATION from the very beginning because there are parents who will regard you as little better than an unpaid babysitter. If a parent checks a skill on one of the forms you send out, be SURE to use that parent skill, even if you have to make up an activity to go along with it. Make the parents feel that it is their troop, too. You will find out that if you issue a general call for parent help, that it will go unheeded. If you ask specific things of specific people you will get more help. When someone does say no, have a second, lesser thing you would like them to do ready to ask for.
Council field execs can be your lifeline if they are good. During a few of the times I was considering quitting, two of mine took me out for coffee and really made me see that the result of what I was doing was infinitely worth any hassle. If you find that your field executive is not as helpful, attach yourself to a more experienced leader whom you respect. You can learn so much from them. GO TO SERVICE UNIT MEETINGS. Some will be boring; get the information you can there. Talk to the experienced leaders who will be there. Get your trainings as soon as you can. Call your trainers and pick their brains for suggestions when you are stumped. They will be complimented that you think them useful. Use the skills and information your Troop Consultants and Level Consultants offer you. Pick up the phone and call them. Don't wait until you have a problem festering to look for a solution.
Don't run a craft club. The girls love crafts, but make sure that the craft goes with some part of the program you are dealing with and is not the program itself. Don't make the craft the reason for the meeting. Parents will come to believe they are supposed to get a craft in return for their dues. Don't get caught in this trap. Besides too often, the girls outgrow the constant crafts and the leaders don't see it coming until it's too late. Middle school is the toughest time to keep the girls. They get such a peer pressure there. If you can offer them something they need, they will stay with you. Later into high school, they get a better sense of self and no longer give a darn what others say. Don't keep asking if they are going to quit. It gives them the feeling that you expect them to quit. Use spring early registration, if your council uses it and let them know that you will be there next year. If you cannot continue for good reason, please find a new leader for them. I get so upset when a troop of girls gets dumped like that. Don't let your troop revolve around your daughter. It will crush your troop.
Be a self starter. If you need something, find out how to get it. My council had no effective older girl program, so I made it up myself. We went on trips all over the Midwest and Eastern part of the country. Other leaders ask me how did you know that you could stay at other councils? I picked up the phone and asked. Now that computers are a part of life, the information is even easier to get to. Make friends with the on line people at the Scouting Forum or the WAGGGS-L listings. Many of the people you will connect with there are excellent and will help you if they can. So will I.
Girl Scouting is a sisterhood. Sometimes the most unlikely kids are the ones that really need you. Try not to make this a group for the convenience on your daughter. I have known leaders who did not pass out information for upcoming events because their daughters could not go and they didn't want them to feel bad. I got into Girl Scouting because my daughter wanted to be a Scout. But I stay in it because I want to be a Scout. She and I have been together in this troop since Daisies, but even if she quit tomorrow I would still remain. I do this for Girl Scouting, for all my Girl Scouts.
Go for it. You will be standing up for girls everywhere. You will be helping young girls make their way to womanhood. Daisy would be proud of you. If you need any help, call me or e-mail me. My baby sister, who always swore she could never do any of this stuff has just taken her training and will begin a Cadette Troop this September. GIRL SCOUTS CAN DO.
I'm sure that this is much more than you ever wanted to know, so I'll close for now with this. I keep it posted on my refrigerator and read it whenever I get stressed:
If you ever have to ask yourself why we do all the paperwork, aggravation, and effort, consider this -- When people of good ambition can't find the time to help girls find the right ways in life, you can be very sure that those with evil in their hearts will do it. Drug dealers and their ilk never worry if the floor is vacuumed or the dishes washed. Put your time where your heart is and you'll never go wrong..
Take care, and have fun. I love it!!!!!