Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to Troop!

It's BACK TO TROOP season. 

I decided to be a little nice to myself this year and wait a couple weeks after school started to start up our troop meetings. In theory, that was to allow me time to get several pieces of the puzzle together and be all prepared and planned out and such. In actuality, it's because I have issues with saying "no" and I'm adjusting to a new position of Service Team Manager for our Service Unit. Don't get me wrong, I haven't done anything I don't want to do. I just sometimes want to do too much. 

Anyway... on to the purpose of this post. It's Back To Troop time and I thought I'd discuss what I do at the first meeting of the year. I know as a new Leader I had no idea what to do or what to expect. I'm surprised I didn't lose my mind that first year, because you really are presented with so much information to process that it's possible to hear brain cells exploding. Don't fret, though. It's fine. You're fine. You'll be okay. Promise!! Just take it one step at a time and remember to breathe.

So.. First Meeting of the year... here are the basics:

  • Paperwork
  • 1st Meeting Plan
  • Parents Meeting


The paperwork is what I want to focus on first. Here is the list of "stuff" that I have ready in packets at my Parents Meeting. (Yes... you should have a Parents Meeting! They need to know what your plan is and what your expectations are for the year. We'll get to that in a moment. ) I actually email all this out in advance and ask them to have to done and sent with their daughter to the first meeting. Returning girls are covered until October 1, so it gives me a little time in case they forget. New girls can't attend until I have all of this.

I have my parents fill this out each year. I stress the importance of not rushing through it and to make sure I know everything I need to know! I learned by experience after multiple conversations with a Mom why certain people were not allowed to pick up her daughter and why. The year was almost over before she told me... my heart skipped a beat, because it was information she should have included on the form. Same Mom made sure I knew her daughter had food allergies, but didn't tell me allowing her Dad to pick her up could be a horrible mistake... sigh. I ask more questions now and review forms closely. I suggest you do the same. You never know when custody issues, abuse, etc. may be present in the young girl's life. You need to know!

Registration form (This is VERY important. Unregistered girls should NOT be in meetings! It's a liability for you and for Girl Scouts. If something happened and they aren't registered, you are on your own! This also puts your meeting place at risk. Make sure you have registrations for each and every girl! Also make sure any parent hanging out to help is registered. They are a liability, too, if not. Our Council started online registration this year, but I registered the whole troop. Because of that, I have to get a signature on a registration form for their files to show consent.)
* Health History form (Each council is a little different. We have one we can get off our Council website and that is the one I use. Check with your Council for this form.)
* Girl/Parent Information sheet (I am blessed to have found an experienced Leader in the very beginning that shared her sheet with me. I have tweaked it some, but the basics are all Ms. Jill.)
* After School Permission Slip (Since we meet right after school, the school office needs a permission slip for each girl to release them to me for meetings. They also get a copy of our schedule for the year.)
* Internet Safety Pledge (Our troop does research on the web. Read this over with the girls and talk about the importance of being honest and safe.)


At the first troop meeting, I explain to the girls what my expectations are and discuss our goals for the year. We also discuss their expectations of me and what they set for goals for the year.

With my 2nd year Juniors this year they will be given a list of badges we haven't earned and a questionnaire about what they expect and what they want to do and their goals. This helps set the pace for which badges to do, what activities to plan, and how we focus our time. Now, I do plan out troop meeting dates, a couple fun activities that I know they want to do, and have a set of goals to encourage them. But, we are transitioning to a complete "girl-led" experience. As Cadettes next year, I have high expectations for them. It's time they are kicked out of the nest.

We talk about what we want to accomplish and go over different badges we haven't earned together. The girls get to fill some stuff out, too.

* Troop Rules (As a group, we decide what are rules for troop meetings and activities should be. We write down all the ideas and then narrow the list.)
* Kapers (When the girls were younger, I set the Kaper Chart. Now that they are older, I want them to think of what needs to be assigned and what should be everyone's responsibility and how to keep track of it. Don't let them skip over clean-up. Again, we write down all the ideas and then narrow the list.)
Badge List (Give them a list of badges and go through them. Have each girl mark what she wants to earn. Remind them even if we don't do it as a troop, they can earn on their own at home and present it at a meeting.)
* Short Questionnaire (What do they want to accomplish this year? Where does their heart lie? Service Projects? Badges? Bronze? Camping? Games? Songs? What do they want to do?)


I actually hold my Parents Meeting after the first troop meeting. Now that the girls are older, they are to be there, too. When they were little, I had my Assistant Leader entertain them while I talked with the adults. I'm planning for the girls will be more involved in the meeting and present different things they have decided upon.

Basic rundown:
* Introductions & Welcome
* Collect any forms that weren't turned in by the girl (Have extra blank forms for those that forgot)
* Girls' decisions on rules, kapers, and goals (Have the girls present these.)
* Expectations for the girls and the parents
* Cover how troop money is spent
* Have information on events with registration deadlines
* Talk about registration deadlines!
* Go over any "big plans". This year, we are going to talk about the Bronze Award.
* Answer questions they may have