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?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Welcome to Daisy's! (soon)

As a volunteer, I think it's just part of our nature to be giving and empathetic. Those qualities get me into so much work!! But, that's okay. You know what the Bible says about idle hands... there is no worry there for me. HA!

My lovely ladies are Cadettes. I have been with them for five years and I won't leave them. They are my girls. With their quirks and habits and craziness...they are my girls. I think I mentioned we brought together 4 troops this year to form our current Troop 70258. Out of 7 girls, I have 3 girls the have been with the troop for more than a year. My stepdaughter is the only "original" member left. So, it's a work in progress. It's been a little bit of a struggle. The girls have varying personalities, maturity levels, and thoughts on what is acceptable behavior. 

We have been thinking of ways to help them bond. I've also been looking for ways to get them excited and more involved. In comes "the plan". 

Each year we have a few Daisy's that for whatever reason aren't able to get into a troop.

Either troops are full, leaders are no where to be found, or there aren't any established troops at their school... all sad, right? I've been toying with this idea for a year. It started as a "we'll just start a Daisy troop" comment to my co-leader when I was frustrated with 5th grade Juniors and their 'tudes. It grew into thoughts about "look at the Daisy's... they are so happy with the smallest thing" and "give me back the days of glitter and glue and singing". All those thoughts were swirling for months in my mind. I also have this crazy heart that goes out to little girls that just want to be in a troop and just want to be Girl Scouts and no one will say "okay! come on!". Yep... I fantasize that I would have been there with Juliette selling my pearls and recruiting girls.

I mentioned "the plan" to my husband and his response was "I think you do enough, but I'll support you no matter what!" That's close enough to "great idea" in my book. I talked with my amazing co-leader and she was like "hmmmmm... you are asking if I will go from Ambassadors to Cadettes to DAISY'S!!!??" Then, I explained the plan and she was like "oh... that might work!!!" Again, close enough to "I'm in!". Then, I spoke with my Cadettes. I will say their response was definitely the most positive and engaged and excited. "Can we be like their leaders?" "Do we get to run the meeting?" "Can we like work with little groups and be in charge of certain girls or things?" Yeah... they were in without much persuading, though I have to say it's all in the delivery and tugging the heartstrings. 

The idea? I'm sure you are dying to know. We are starting a Daisy program. They have their own Troop number and will have their own "stuff". We will gather up the girls that need a troop (up to 10-12 girls) and start having meetings once a month, 1 hour long, immediately following the Cadette meeting. I requested all Kindergarten girls, because of the plan. The first 2 meetings, I will plan and explain to the Cadettes and they will help. In the Fall, our Daisy's will be in 1st grade.We'll get them their petals and have a great time in 1st grade. Then, when they bridge to Brownies... their parents have to step up and become Leaders for the troop. We will evaluate the program and possible gather up another group of girls and go again. But, next time, we'll start in the Fall. We'll do petals in Kindergarten and a journey in 1st grade. We are not taking on a multi-level troop. We are getting parents comfortable and ready to take over once they get to Brownies. That will be made clear from the beginning. Parents need to learn to fly, too. 

The bottom line... be watching for some Daisy "stuff" to show up on Girl Scout Leader 101. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Amaze Session 4

This was by far the EASIEST session we did. It was also the most eventful meeting... a girl was eating popcorn off the floor (WHAT?!), a girl lost a tooth, a girl didn't make it to the bathroom... then again, maybe it wasn't the easiest meeting we had. Ha!

For Amaze Session 4 we did a few activities that you can find right in the book and then.... we watched a movie suggested in the book.

Test Your Gut (pg 58/59 girl book) - on own
We did this while having a snack. I do that alot. Pick an activity they can do while munching on carrots or popcorn or whatever you are having. The girls are getting older and I have found that they are conscious about what they eat and they actually prefer healthier snacks, rather than the sugar loaded crap they used to beg for. 

I had the girls do this and share only if they wanted to. A lot of this journey is on opinion and what is right for one girl, may not be for another. They are really good about reading into the scenarios and such, too. So... I just wanted them to have some time to think about how they felt and how they prioritize things. This was a goo activity for that. 

I-Statements (pg 62-67 girl book; 55/56 leader book) - in pairsWe talked about these in length. Use your I statements to resolve conflict. If someone upsets you, you need to explain why, because they may not understand what the big deal is. One friend may be able to "take a joke", while another may be upset over the same comment. You can't be mad at someone or end a friendship, if you haven't given them a chance to understand why it was upsetting. So... use your I Statements. 

I feel _____ when you said/did/whatever. 

This is a good activity, even if you aren't doing the journey. Tween/teen girls often get feelings hurt and upset with one another. They are growing, changing, and turning into young women and let's face it... we are NOT all the same. Thank goodness!!

Movie: The Clique
The rest of the meeting was huddled around my laptop watching a movie. I will tell you, so you aren't caught off guard like I was. They use the "B" word a few times in the movie. I think I was more phased than the girls were, though. It actually gave us the opportunity to talk about language and what they have heard. How they felt about it and how it reflects on you when you use it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Amaze Session 3

Sorry it's been so long since my last Amaze entry. Girl Scouts start up and well... if you are a Leader, then you know what I mean. We are in the midst of cookie season now and that is always crazy busy, too. But, I have a little time to breathe. So, I'm going to try to get this caught up to where we are. (We finished the journey! YAY!!!)

To finish up Session 2 in the book, we had one activity left.

Stereotypes (pg 22/23 girl book) - Draw circle in middle and little ones around. Name in the middle and characteristics in the smaller ones

The girls really didn't have much trouble with this, except that we learned that some stereotypes that were present when we were kids no longer apply. Apparently, no one thinks blondes are dumb (I'm happy about that) or that wearing glasses makes you a nerd. So, in some ways I guess the world is better.

With that, we began Session 3
Where do you stand (pg 52/53 Leader Guide): This game has you mark out a number line on the floor. You give the girl scenarios (A friend is drinking, but swear they have it under control. You tell an adult.) The girls then have to stand on the line between 1 and 10 to say how much they agree with that scenario. I have to admit I was shocked on a few of results and floored by the level of maturity in their reasoning. Yes, I made them give a reason why they did or did not support the statement. I learned a lot of good things about the girls and feel they are going to be okay in this crazy world.

Cliquish (pg 54 Leader’s Guide; pg 56/57 girl book)
This activity made the girls think. They were shocked to think a Girl Scout troop could be a clique, if not kept in check. A couple of the girls actually questioned about groups they were in and thought they might have clique-like tendencies. Always good to make sure you are excluding people. Never good to just overlook and accept it.

What Really Matters (pg 31 girl book) - on own
A little quiet time and snack. I don't know the results on this, because the girls didn't have to share how they ranked anything and chose to kept it to themselves.

10 friendship tips (pg 33 girl book) - group
As a group the girls came up with tips on how to be a good friend. It ranged from being nice to standing up for your friends to listening. Yep, these girls are growing up. It didn't consist of having everything in common.

Back To Back - Friendship game (pg 51 Leader Guide)
This has got to be the most fun I have had watching a game in a long time! HA! I had the girls start by lining up shortest to tallest. It's important to have 2 girls that are similar in height or else it's more difficult.

They stand back to back with arms linked and then together work to sit flat on the floor and then stand back up. Easier said than done. 

Then, we had all of them stand in a circle facing out with arms linked and do the same thing. It was quite comical and the girls learned to start communicating and working together.

Shoe Factory - (pg 51 Leader Guide)
Another game to finish our day. Everyone takes off their right shoe and puts it in a pile, then they have to grab a different shoe, put it on (or slightly on if it isn't big enough), then place both their feet against the other people with their matching shoes... it ends up in a tangled mess. The girls thought it was too easy, though, so we put a timer on it and made them race to get it done. 

All of these ideas can be found in the packet we are using and in the books. The page numbers refer to the girl's book or Leader's Guide and are marked.