Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's that new troop smell...

Last time I began the journey as a Leader for a troop I had inherited them from another Leader who was no longer able to coordinate the troop. How many of us fell for that one?

It takes someone special to say "Sure! I'll start a brand new troop!" Especially when you are talking about a troop of Kindergarten Daisy's that may or may not know how to tie their shoes, blow their nose, or work their clothing that their parents so proudly picked out for them to wear. It's intimidating. I get that.

That isn't the reason for this post, though. The reason for the post is to take in that new troop smell. Don't get me wrong... it's a pleasant smell! It's a "I'm 5 years down the road and if I had only known then, what I know now... I would do ____________ differently". I've been having several of those moments the past couple weeks.

Like what, you ask? Oh, volunteer! Let me tell you a few. :)

1. Make sure the troop number is set up and you are registered as the Leader (my Council that means I'm an 01). Then, make sure only the girls that are active and actual come to meetings are in your troop. There is no reason to keep girls on your roster that have confirmed they have quit. No. Reason. It just clutters things and then Council thinks you have 15 girls and you only have 6.

2. Set up a Troop Email account separate from your personal email account and USE IT! That way, for whatever reason, if you do decide to stop being the Leader you can just turn over access to the email account to the new Leader and they have all the history (not that I would think they would read all that, but... rainy day/snow day project? IDK). But, then parents of the other girls in the troop don't have to do anything. They continue to use the same email and they are happy. You can also set up that email to be shared with your Assistant Leader and then you aren't the only one responsible for answering and following up and knowing what is going on... I recommend Gmail, because it rocks!

3. Set up a Troop Share Site with Shutterfly. It's free. You can share photos there of troop outings and meetings and have Event Sign Up Sheets and Snack Sign Up Sheets and upload the documents and permission slips and all that you will need. Make sure your parents USE this website and are members. I don't allow any "non-parent/guardians" membership on the site. Did I mention I use the calendar here to schedule Troop Meetings and Events and it will send reminders for you? Oh, yeah! Time saver!!

4. Talk to your bank about a Troop Checking account. Most likely, your Council will have some requirements and some sort of structure to follow when setting up this account. Do it right the first time! Make sure you ask the question "Is this a FREE account with NO minimum balance and NO fees?" Trust me, deplete a troop checking account over a summer and you will wish you would have asked that question (I didn't do that, my predecessor did and I got to clean up the mess of a negative balance... no fun!)

5. Make sure you are clear with parents that you expect them to be involved and help and gain Girl Scout knowledge WITH their daughter. Get the adults invested and they will make it a priority for their girl. 

6. Clarify you are a VOLUNTEER. You  aren't a free babysitter. You aren't paid to "deal" with their child. You are there because you want to be and because you see a need. In return, you deserve and expect respect and help.

7. Be clear on expectations of girls AND parents. Yep... I have a Code of Conduct for the girls in my troops and I have a Troop Leader/Parent Agreement for the adults. It's basic "be nice" common sense, but then you have it in writing if/when problems arise.

8. Get a binder. Trust me. You will be thankful. All the paperwork (health history, parent information, event registrations, etc.) need a home. So, just suck it up and get the big binder... or a filing box if you have a LOT Of girls to track. Just remember you are required to have the Health History forms with you at all meetings and events.

9. Have fun and learn from the girls!!! I'm not sure how many times I have told newer leaders "If the girls are having fun, you are doing your job". That's really where it's at. That doesn't mean you allow them to run around screaming for 2 hours. It just means to follow their lead. What are they into? What do they want to explore? Watch. Listen. Have fun.

What would you add to the list?

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Thanks!!