I’ve signed up to be a Troop Leader. Now what???

Congratulations!  You did it!  You volunteered to be a super important part of not just your own daughter’s life, but also the lives of a dozen or so other little girls.

You volunteered to be a Troop Leader.

DON’T PANIC!

First thing I want you to do is get a binder.  A big one, with good rings that click together nicely.  This is going to be the start of your Girl Scout Leader Binder, one of the most important tools you will have, so choose wisely – or know that you will be getting a new one every year.  And if that works for you, great!

Then, print this out.  Using the worksheet, write down a few things you really want to do with your new Troop:

  • share Girl Scout traditions from your childhood
  • go camping
  • sell cookies
  • go on field trips
  • learn something cool
  • make new friends
  • keep the old
  • have an adventure
  • see things through another girl’s eyes
  • the list goes on and on and on!

Then, think hard about why you signed up.  The positives.

  • I had so much fun in Girl Scouts when I was a Brownie.
  • I’m a teacher and love working with kids.
  • I already know all of these girls, and they’re wonderful.
  • I want to be a mentor.
  • I want to help guide someone from Daisy to Ambassador.
  • I want to teach girls how to lead.
  • I want to learn how to lead, myself.
  • I want more self confidence.
  • I’m great at arts and crafts.
  • I think more girls (and kids) need to spend time outdoors.
  • I want a way to meet other adults with interests similar to mine, and maybe create a network for myself.
  • I really really really like s’mores.

These are all great reasons to become a Girl Scout Troop Leader, and I’m sure your reason is just as great!  Write it down.  Because you are going to forget.  This enthusiasm you feel right now.  In about four weeks, when you are actually looking at a dozen smiling cherubic, demonic little girl-faces, you are going to forget why on earth you ever volunteered to do this.  All you are going to remember is the negatives.  Maybe you felt strongarmed into volunteering at Rally Night (it shouldn’t be done, but I know it is).  Maybe you feel unready, incapable.

Put this sheet with all of your reasons and goals into a sheet protector and stick it in your binder to remind yourself why you volunteered.  Take a picture of your Troop, print it out, and put in the same same sheet protector.  This is your WHY.

Next, let’s get to work on the HOW. 🙂

Oh, and some other goodies for your binder?  Here you go!

Argggggggggggggh!!

You know that meeting?  The one that was all planned and was super easy, and all the girls had to do was DO IT.

Yeah that one.

The one they didn’t do.

No matter how many emails, how many texts, they didn’t do it.  And you can’t make them.    I mean, there are some days when you can barely get your own daughter to do her homework, right?  To get someone else’s daughter to do homework that doesn’t even count for a grade???  Impossible, if they don’t want to do it.

Argh.

Obviously, this happened at our meeting last night.  The girls said they wanted to finish the last two steps on the Cadette GS Way Badge.  We did not finish the last two steps of their Cadette GS Way Badge.  Nobody actually did the work.  And I told them that.  My co-leader pointed out that there would be an empty space on their vest, because of their lack of action.

Let them fail.

Your Older Girls need to realize that you are there cheerleader, their supporter, their friend, their Troop Leader.  But we’re not here to do it for them.  By the time they are in junior high/middle school, your girls are well aware of what responsibility means, and how they can take responsibility for what they say and do.  Now is the time that they learn how to take responsibility for what they DIDN’T do.

Shiver me timbers.

So what does a Troop Leader do in this circumstance?  Well, we could have canceled the meeting, which would have certainly put the message out there, and next time we might just do that.  But it seemed a little passive aggressive right now, and we did need to meet in order to:

  • pass out the bridging badges I forgot to pick up last week for our ceremony.
  • pass out Fall Product Sale materials and explain it to the girls who hadn’t been in Girl Scouts until last year.
  • remind the girls about the garage sale we are hosting this weekend.
  • have my daughter do a run through of her Destinations presentation she will be doing on Saturday.
  • finish constructing and decorating the bucket sit-upons from our first meeting this year.

It turned out to be a good meeting, if not what was on the schedule.

Also, Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, mateys!! 😉

Why Form a Multi-Level Troop?

We’re gearing up for Rally Season in my Council.  Signing up new Girl Scouts, forming new Troops – this is what September is all about for Girl Scouts.  GSUSA has started making Registration really easy using its online tools, and I’m going to let you talk to the staff and other volunteers at your own Council to figure out any issues you might have with registering for Girl Scouts online.

But let’s talk Troop structure.

PICT0041.JPGSingle Level Troops

This is by far the most common Troop structure in my area.  And judging by the way the Volunteer Toolkit tools work from GSUSA, across the country. What this means is that your Troop only has girls from one grade in it.  These Troops typically start at Kindergarten, and the girls just move in lockstep: Kindergarten to First to Second, Daisy to Brownie to Junior.  Single Level Troops tend to be have between 6 and 18 girls in them, with 2 Leaders.  More if you’re lucky.

The big advantage to this structure is that everyone is literally on the same page.  You have one level of girl, all doing the same activities, earning the same badges.

Multi-Level, Multi-Troops

This one is hard to summarize in a neat little heading.  But what I’m talking about is what used to be fairly common, though I don’t know that it still happens.  Using made up Troop numbers to make it clear, when you begin Girl Scout, your daughter joins Daisy Troop 101.  After two years, she bridges to Brownies, and then changes Troops to Brownie Troop 102.  Again, after two years, she flies up to Juniors, and then changes Troops again, this time to Junior Troop 103.

This structure has the same advantage as a Single Level Troop, everyone in the Troop is the same level.  It also has the advantage of connections with Troops of different levels for those all important Leadership opportunities (Junior Aide, LiA, Volunteer in Training, Service to Girl Scouting Bars, etc.).

The disadvantage, of course, is having to learn a whole new Troop number every time you change levels.  And if you are the Leader, you tend to stay with the Troop (level) rather than your daughter.  Which is a plus if you just LOVE working with Brownies!  And a minus if you just LOVE doing new things! 🙂

IMG_6281.jpg
Cadettes and Brownies making hummus together, for Snacks and New Cuisines badges

Multi-Level Troops

And then, the reason we’re here: multi-level Troops.  These can be so hard, and yet so rewarding at the same time.  Here are some situations in which multi-level Troops make sense:

  • Sisters.  You have more than one daughter, and you know that your local Community/Service Unit is going to look to you to run a Troop for each of them.  Or you just can’t imagine having two or three or more Troop meetings to shuttle your daughters to.
  • Church/School Based Troop.  This is the scenario I have seen multi-level Troops in most often.  All of the girls at a particular church or school (usually private) are put into the same multi-level Girl Scout Troop, which is supported by the church or school.
  • You can’t say no to girls who want to be Girl Scouts.  This is my situation. After 8 years as a Leader, I could not look at those eager 6th and 7th graders and tell them they couldn’t join my 8th grade Troop, they couldn’t be Girl Scouts.  There were only 4, so they couldn’t form their own Troop.
  • You think a multi-level Troop has so much to offer the girls.

This last one, most people will not actually have it as a reason they started a multi-level Troop, but I want you to consider it.  In a multi-level troop:

  • you typically have way more girls than in a single level troop.  More girls = more parents = more possible volunteers to help you out.
  • the older girls have easy access to Leadership opportunities.  Juniors need to earn heir Junior Aide?  Create a schedule which allows each Junior to help the Daisy portion of the Troop for 3 meetings (and make life a little easier for the Daisy Leader).  Don’t want to run that Junior Journey? Have the Ambassadors do it, with help from the Cadettes and let them earn their ViT and LiA in the process.
  • younger girls SEE what older girls do every meeting.  Last year, my Daisies were so bummed because they could not spend the night at camp with the rest of the Troop.  But, now that they have bridged, they know that is one of the things they get to do, and they know from the Brownies and Junior who DID spend the night, that it is totally worth it.
  • girls see how connected the skills they are learning are, they see the progression that we feel is so important. They see that while they may only be crawling now, if they stick with it, they will be running in no time.
  • you can stay with your daughter as a Leader, as she climbs from level to level.  Or you can choose to stay with your level.  Or both.  My Father-in-Law was his daughters’ Leader until they got to middle school, when he decided to stay as the Junior Leader and let them start scouting without him as a safety net.

There are so many great reasons to start a new multi-level troop, and reasons to make your single level troop multi-level.

Do you have a multi-level Troop?  Why did you decide to lead a multi-level Troop?

Bridging Ceremony Prep

Our next meeting for my multi-level Troop will be our Bridging Ceremony, and Back to Troop Party.  We were supposed to have an End of the Year Party last year, but it was rained out, unfortunately. So we will be using the s’mores making supplies for the upcoming meeting.  My girls wanted to see which Girl Scout Cookies make the best s’mores, so they saved a box of each variety.  This was, of course, before GSUSA announced that we would be selling s’mores inspired Girl Scout Cookies this year, but it seems like an appropriate way to start the year in light of the announcement.

Now the bad thing is that I won’t be able to be at the next meeting – I will be on my next personal adventure to New Mexico.  I mentioned this to the adults, my new Level Leaders and other parents.  Which meant that it would be more than a month before the Troop would be able to really get started.  I thought that kind of stunk, and so did they.  There were tentative questions – “So, what exactly will they be doing?” “Is there something that tells us what to say?”

YES!  They’re getting it!  I don’t have to be there, they CAN DO THIS!  I am so proud of these women!

I said, all we would be doing is a bridging ceremony and then making s’mores.  Easy peasy.  And of course, I can get you a script for the ceremony.  No one expects you to make this stuff up off the top of your head.  So then I went home, and was quickly reminded how few resources exist for multi-level Troops.  All of the multi-level bridging ceremonies I could find were really old (as in before there were Ambassadors, when it was Studio 2B); or really preparation intensive; or only involved a couple of levels (D,B,and J but no Older Girls or vice versa); or was geared towards and entire Service Unit/Community and therefore required too many girls.

One thing I have found is the best way to scare off a new Leader is to make Leading a new Troop too complicated, too time-consuming outside of meetings, too jargon heavy.  Which is why my original Co-Leader and I just spent one year letting the adults of the Troop sit in on meetings and absorb what it means to be a Girl Scout, what it means to be a Troop.  Get the jargon absorbed without the pressure of leading.  I think this is truly one of the benefits to a multi-level Troop situation.  Experienced Leaders can mentor the new ones.

Back to the problem at hand, though: No ceremony that really fits our Troop.  Okaaaaaay.  Guess I’ll take some existing ones, modify them, and whip up a ceremony that fits our Troop.  And because I’m hoping some of you out there might need this help, too, I’m attaching a PDF of our ceremony (made generic as far as Troop number, and names).

Then there was the issue of certificates.  I like having pieces of paper to pin and staple patches to.  My favorite way of handing out patches to new Girl Scouts is to attach them to a drawing of a uniform, placing them where they should be – with fun patches stapled to the back of the sheet of paper.  It makes it easy for parents who may not know where all the bits and bobs of the uniform is supposed to go.  So, I needed certificates to attach the girls’ membership stars, bridging patches, and Brownie Wings to.

Cue internet search.  Never try to reinvent the wheel in Girl Scouts.  Just take an existing wheel and file it down to fit your axle.

Do you know how hard it is to find a decent looking, non cartoony bridging certificate for EVERY LEVEL???  I mean, besides a generic “Bridging Certificate”.  Which I didn’t want. I actually really like the look of the ones GSUSA makes, with the level-colored bar across the bottom, clean lines, and not a lot of ink splashed across the page so that by the time I’m running the Cadette certificates I still have ink left in my printer.  So I tweaked that and made my own version.

And then I realized that the girls who aren’t bridging this year will feel left out if they don’t get a certificate, too – at least the Daisy and Brownie will.  So I also had to make Certificate of Completion for their first year in a level.  The new girls that have just joined our Troop will have to wait until our investiture/rededication to be the center of the ceremony.  We will wait until December for that, after our Community rallies for the year.

So I’ll be heading into our Troop Committee meeting with badge books, packets for the ceremony, and patches and pins for them to assemble.  Since we have more than two weeks until the meeting, and there are four of them, I don’t have a problem delegating the rest of the assembly to them.  I’m not sure if they’re going to love me or hate me for this; but I think of it as part of the learning to be a Leader process.

Click for my Multi-Level Bridging Ceremony PDF. Feel free to modify as you need.  We only have Daisies through Seniors in our Troop, and none of Cadettes are bridging to Seniors this year.

Some other Multi-Level Bridging Ceremony Sources (most of these are either multi-level packets or ceremony packets):

Another Voting Method

I’ve talked about the different ways of voting that I used this year for my Troops to plan their year.  As I was cleaning out my old Troop binders, I found the remains of another method that I particularly liked for my Cadettes.  At that age, it seems hard to get girls to stop talking, and even harder to get them to tell you how they really feel – especially if it goes contrary to the herd . . . ahem, I mean Troop.  Blind voting using the heads down, hands up method works great for Brownies and Juniors, but once they hit middle school/junior high, it’s whole different ballgame.

So, before I went high tech with online surveys, I used stickers. I would hang printouts around our meeting space and give the girls a restricted number of stickers.  Then I would let them go swarm around, look at the different options and put stickers on the ones they wanted to do.  There was usually small conversations going at each sheet, but knowing that they had a limited amount of time limited that, as well.  Time limits are VERY important at this age range.  Cadettes can talk and talk and talk and talk . . .

You can see some of the voting sheets I made during last year: a set for events going on in our Community, a set for songs we would teach at the Girl Scout Ways Badge Workshop (the girls voted “yes” to that one!), and a set for the badges we would try to earn.  The badge voting sheets were actually passed around the table as I explained what each of the badges actually were (Night Owl is pretty confusing, and the term Netiquette needed to be explained).