I hear from Leaders quite often that they feel they are making it up as they go along. They aren't sure they are doing what they should be doing. They don't know if they are fulfilling this mystery of a Girl Scout experience. They think they are failing.
My response, depending on the level of anxiety I'm hearing from the leader in question, is "You are probably doing a lot better than you are giving yourself credit." That is the case 99% of the time. Unless you are habitually cancelling meetings, ignore as they scream the whole time, and never give any of them one single word of encouragement... you are probably alright.
As I sat in the first troop meeting of the school year with my 8th grade Cadettes, my mind
started to wander. They need guidance to stay on track at times. They need mentoring for a little help in understanding that you can adjust activities to meet the need. But, they don't really need me to figure everything out for them, well at least not most of the them.
My mind was wandering back to the first few years of being a Troop Leader. I would plan over the summer what we would be doing. I'd make the phone calls to set up this or that. I'd try to see what badges they said the Spring before to complete the upcoming year (That was always part of our May meeting... let's choose a few badges you want to do next year).
Let me let you in on a secret. Let's be real. Leading a Girl Scout troop isn't easy. There are going to be times you feel like you have no idea what you are doing. There isn't a clear path that I can give you. There isn't a set list of badges you must complete or activities you have to do. The only requirement is that you listen to your girls and try to make what they want to do happen. That's it. It's that simple. (Insert chuckle, because listening to the wants/needs of girls is never simple.)
Sure, when they are in the younger levels (Daisy/Brownie) you are doing most of the prep work for meetings and you may be doing most of the picking of badges, too. But once they get to Junior level, they can definitely let you know what they do and don't want to do. Oh, can they let you know.... They can help plan the badges and they can help decide which activities to complete. Yes. It can be more work at times with this mindset. But, it turns your meetings into girl-led. No. They may not want to do the Inside Government badge or the Screenwriting badge ("12 page script? Are you kidding me?" --- Yes, actual girl quote) But, that's okay. I've always told my girls there are a few badges that I feel they need to complete at each level and we're going to do those. The rest are up to them. (What badges, you ask? Girl Scout Ways and First Aid... those are my "must do" badges")
So, if you feel you are lost or failing... talk to your girls. Be honest with them. Tell them you aren't sure what the troop wants to do this year and you need them to help you plan. The answer is right there in front of you. As Juliette Low said, "Let's ask the girls". I really feel GS USA has moved away from that in some regards and that is a reason for decline in membership. Take out of the badge list. Go through the badges with them. Get their input. Pick out the badges for the entire year. There is your direction. You found it. Now, decide if the girls are going to be responsible for badge activities or if you are going to take care of it (the older the get, the more they should be doing... Personally, I think Cadettes should be leading their own meetings and I have gotten to the point of just sitting in the chair and waiting a bit before saying "We probably need to open the meeting, right? Is someone going to do that?" It's my passive aggressive way of reminding them they are in charge of their meeting.)
One last comment to hopefully put your mind at ease... I would say 98% of our Leaders ARE Leaders... Sometimes, it's hard to balance leading and mentoring. It takes patience and determination and the ability to "let go"... delegate some simple tasks to the girls at first and then build it up... they will give you direction. They know what they want to do... just ask them.