Planning a term

We have been trying to come up with ways to get the girls to have more input in our programme planning. This term we had not been able to have a planning meeting before the term started, so I confess this was a last minute thing that I put together on the first night of Guides.

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I gave each patrol a sheet of paper so each of them could put forward an idea for a trip and an idea for fundraising (as we promised we would do some fundraising for the Girlguiding Archives after they lent us some fantastic stuff for our Girlguiding Museum of sorts while doing the Traditions of Guiding badge last term). I also put some ideas of what they would prefer to do during meetings…

From this we discovered they really wanted to have a patrol run theme night again (see last post for one way this turned out), and some wanted to do Go For Its, others badges. Another thing some of them have expressed an interest in is learning First Aid. So we are now looking into how we can do this as a unit after Easter.

At the moment I am in Germany, so I missed this week’s patrol run theme night, but from pictures I have deduced that the girls had a bit of a Thinking Day theme having seen a photo of one of the girls wrapped in toilet roll to look at the country of Egypt which is the message I received via Whats App from the other leader when I arrived at the university here in Würzburg the morning after Guides night.

End on a positive note…

It would be very easy for me to write and share on this blog like I’m the best Guider in the world ever.

Some days I do a great job.

Some days I fall short.

I fell short on Monday night as a Guider.

Last night, myself and another guider went to one of our city’s theatres to see Class Act 2014. Class Act is a project where pupils studying English or Drama get the opportunity to be playwrights. Through a series of workshops they get the chance to write a short play, and then see it performed by professional actors. Two of our young leaders and one of the girls who used to be in our Guide unit had written plays and we got two complimentary tickets to see the performance.

As the pile of pupils, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers (and us guide leaders) piled into the theatre one young lad was having a conversation with one of the young leaders. I think it was to do with being nervous about others seeing his play, I’m not sure. I just heard the following sentence:

“I won’t be mean to you. I can’t be mean to you in front of my Guide leader anyway!”

To which I piped in with: “I would hope you wouldn’t be mean even if I wasn’t here!” and we all laughed (because I just can’t imagine this girl being mean anyway).

But it did make me realise something, that it’s probably another thing in my culture that the girls have picked up on from my interactions with them.

I don’t like people being rude or mean to each other.

So let’s go back to Monday night at Guides. It started off well with us all gathering in a circle to talk about the feedback they’d given to us about what they’d like to do this term and me updating them with some new information about the possibilities of making it happen. There were the usual tangents, but then I had to use my stern voice as a few girls began talking loudly between themselves when other people were trying to contribute or ask questions. It was really rude, and I explained that to them (as I have done a few times before). The girls broke into their patrols to plan their activities for the term – doing Go For Its and the theme night each patrol was going to host for the unit. Some got on great. But then one patrol descended into chaos as two ignored the others in their group planned things the rest of the girls didn’t want to do which as far as I could tell was based around wanting to make a heart shaped carrot cake.

At the end the girls took so long clearing up – one patrol had littered their area of the hall with balls of scrunched up paper on the floor, and the lids of the new felt pens we’d bought them only the other week. Abandoned. One quieter member of the patrol saw it and began to pick it all up – the rest of her group all chattering away with other patrols having cleared and tidied away already. Sort of. Another group hadn’t bothered to put their tables back properly left them, and then other girls could get their tables away.

I was already stressed out knowing I had a research paper due in a couple hours after the meeting still unfinished. And I think finding the brand new pens treated so carelessly got to me.

And so as they gathered in a horseshoe telling me they hadn’t got to play a game (I’d said they could if they got tidied up on time – they hadn’t). I  thanked the three girls who had taken the intiative to clear up what others had abandoned. I explained to the unit how if they had tidied up more quickly and all helped they would have had time to play a game. then I told them that I’d been disappointed at seeing the way they were treating each other, our resources and the hall.

I saw them deflate.

And then the meeting ended.

As they walked out, I felt deflated too. Because I’d ended on a negative note.

I hadn’t told them how so many of them had come up with such great, imaginative ideas for their theme nights. Or how it was great to see one of the patrols working so well together after struggling to do this last term (yay for Teamwork Go For It!).

It must have been so discouraging, and I ‘d broken one of my golden rules. Yes, it’s important to address issues like rudeness, meanness or laziness – why it’s unfair to leave all the tidy up to one person, or to leave a mess for someone else to fix instead of just asking for help or why we don’t sit with our phones making fun of folks from school ignoring others in the group…but it’s also important to find more things to praise that to criticise.

Next week, I’m going to aim to do better. And apologise.

Sainsbury’s Active Kids Scheme

Last year, we got on board with Active Kids voucher collecting. I’d tried to find out about it in 2012 and not really succeeded, but in 2013 as soon as I saw the vouchers appearing I was on the internet getting us registered!

I’ve collected vouchers for years. A few of my friends are teachers, after school club workers and one used to be a Beaver Scout leader so there was always a group to collect them for. Over time a few of my friends give me vouchers knowing I would have a group to pass them onto! In 2013 though, more stepped up to help collect for our Unit.

Active Kids Vouchers 2013

The power of social media meant that I could say thank you and keep friends updated – several friends posted me vouchers after they’d finished collecting, and our unit was so grateful. We ended up with over 1000 vouchers, and on the last night of term, I’d copied down what we could get with our vouchers and how many vouchers each item would cost. The girls then took this and by the end of the night gave me their ‘shopping list’. We felt it was important they decided, and they did this with very little input from the leaders.

It was a good month or so into the term that a package arrived at my house. In fact I think it arrived at my neighbour’s house as I was at work the day it was delivered…

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We got some training tracks, hurdles, a ball pump and two dodgeballs. I did add a kitchen timer to the list (as it required hardly any vouchers and we had some leftover) because the girls cook a lot and have a habit of forgetting to remember how long they’ve had the oven on for. The girls like making obstacle courses and creating new team games, so I hope that over the next few years we can take care of what we’ve got and add to it by collecting more vouchers.

I’d really encourage anyone who’s not done this to get involved either by registering their unit, district or division with Active Kids and get  collecting, or make an effort to collect vouchers and give them in to a group who will use them. It’s starting up again soon and you can find out more about how your Guide Unit can be involved here.

A wee tip – always ask the person at the till if they have any spare vouchers. Some staff will keep aside vouchers not claimed by customers to give to the next person who is collecting. All they can say is ‘No’…but I’ve often got extra vouchers this way, and sometimes people in front of me in the queue will give me their vouchers too.

Guiding interruptus

Guides started back this week (Senior Section having started back last week). And I was going to write about it. Only I got home from Guides at about 10 p.m., and 10 hours later I was standing on a station platform as I do every morning after Guides waiting for the train to Glasgow.

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The reason for the non-writing, non-finishing and non-publishing of blog posts I have in mind is because at the moment when I have a day off work that isn’t filled with Guiding I have a bed or a table in a café that looks like something like this (imagine a bag full of books or pile of books on the floor next to me).

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My experience working with a Guide unit in Leith when I was 16 got me a job as a Youth Advice worker when I was 19 and still had plans to become a Geography teacher. Instead, I discovered that there was another job that suited me much better called a ‘Community Education Worker’ (now more commonly known as a Community Learning or Community Development Worker). After spending  6 years working in counselling and health education, last year I finally got the resources I needed (inspiration, finances and a course timetable that was doable while continuing in employment and girlguiding) to start doing my postgraduate qualification in Community Learning and Development.

In a few weeks I head out to Germany where I’m going to be part of a lifelong learning winter school intensive programme with students from other universities around Europe. Exciting stuff!

It’s not been easy juggling everything, but so far I’ve done better than I thought. And I’m now considering the possibility of upgrading my Diploma to a Masters of Education. The reason being is that I’m realising that uniformed youth organisations like Girlguiding and the Scouts often get a bad rap from outsiders. At one of the biggest international community education conferences in the world, Girlguiding is not participating – likely because the organisers don’t consider the work we do to be community development.

But the more I’m learning, the more I’m realising that Girlguiding fits right into the principles of community learning and development.

And so some thoughts are percolating into how I can use my degree to help me be a better Girlguiding leader, but also to show how Girlguiding can be a great tool and forum for community development and lifelong learning models.

For now though, I’ve got to finish some research and a paper due in for Monday. And some work due in for Tuesday. Because I spent today being a godmother to try and make up for my lack of godmothering in the midst of this crazy season of my life juggling work, church life, girlguiding and university.

Don’t worry though. I’m pretty sure that procrastination from university work will lead to plenty of posts here over the next couple of months. I mean this post gives excellent evidence to that possibility. 😉

Parents, Guiding and all the extra stuff…

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This little image has been doing the rounds on Facebook (and if it’s yours, I hope you don’t mind me using it…I don’t know where it originated from to be able to properly give it credit!)

Every day, many Girlguiding leaders turn to our sort of self-run closed facebook group to share ideas and questions about our activities. What makes me sad is that several times a week during term time a leader comes on very discouraged or upset because of parents making their life as a volunteer very difficult.

Most units charge about £25 per term these days. Out of that money we pay for…

-Guiding resources – like Promise certificates, badges, Go For It packs

-First Aid training which all qualified leaders must do (this costs £25 per leader, though I think refresher training afterwards is less?)

-Cost of hall hire

-Trips or subsidising of trips

-Equipment and craft supplies

And every year we have to pay a census for every girl and leader in our unit which in our area is about £30 (always joyful when you get  a bunch of girls starting RIGHT before census!).

This isn’t counting the squillions of times that other leaders and myself have paid for things out of our own pockets or unit funds. I think I spent about £100 on ink cartridges printing out letters, programmes and so on last year before my Mum’s printer officially packed in. Then there have been times when we’ve bought decorations, stuff for Hallowe’en parties (have you ever had to clear food out your fridge so you could have four mixing bowls filled with jelly and plastic frogs, eyes and bats?). And I’ve lost count how many times the girls have realised that they need some flour or a box of eggs or a carton of juice or ball of string they don’t have with them for whatever activity they have done and have had money from one of us to nip to the Sainsburys or Scotmid round the corner from our hall!

I have to say that the parents at both my guiding units have been great. I’ve only once in my 2.5 years had a parent really get into me about something, which we settled and actually that parent used to always make sure we knew how much she valued what we did for her daughter after that. There’s always a couple that forget subs and need several reminders. And yes, I dread trips which involve other units for impatient parents wanting to get home so grab their child before we have a chance to acknowledge that they are leaving with a parent and tick them off a sign in/out sheet so we know they are safe.

But when I see messages about parents grumping about a subs increase of a couple of pounds a term, or constantly being late, or not bothering to let leaders know if their daughter is taking up a place in the unit/going away for a month and then just coming back with no communication…

…I wonder if they realise how many hours we put in.

The tagline of this blog is ‘only one hour a week’ – a running joke because often it is the recruitment phrase that volunteering is just an hour a week of your time.

But truth is, we have to type letters, do training, go to the Guide shop, be a treasurer for the unit, post vouchers to Sainsbury’s, work out how the heck we can print off the resource Girlguiding has only created for download, plan programmes, attend meetings…

…and we don’t get paid a penny for it.

We do it because we love seeing the girls achieve things. We do it because we were once their age and know how challenging childhood and teenagehood can be. We do it because we want to give kids and young people in our community a great outlet to be productive citizens. We do it because we do have fun. We do it because we can make friendships for life in Girlguiding. We do it because we see it a privilege to watch these girls grow from little girls to inspiring, wise women.

And truth is, behind every leader of a growing and happy unit is probably a whole bunch of family and friends that have been supporting her. I know that none of us would be able to keep things going without husbands to print things out at work on the sly, or mothers that will turn up to be an extra pair of hands when the new leader fails to show up yet again or be an extra person on trips, or friends that will come to fundraisers or collect newspapers/magazines/glass jars/supermarket vouchers. People we share a home with getting used to cupboards/tables/rooms filled with Guiding stuff.

If you’re the parent of a child of guiding – please thank the leaders. Especially the young leaders – who are juggling teenagehood, school, part-time jobs, college/university applications, extra-curricular activities on top of the work they do volunteering with Girlguiding!  Find out if there’s something you can help with if there’s something you can offer (it could be as simple as offering up the use of a printer twice a term!). We get that you’re busy. Just remember that we’re leading busy lives too. We’re attempting to be good bosses, employees, wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, sisters and friends at the same time as attempting to be the best Girlguiding leaders we can be.

Thank you to the parents of the two units I’m part of. You are fantastic parents and working with your daughters is a lot of fun and a real privilege. 🙂

I’ll finish off with this great video a girlguiding member created and posted on National Volunteers Day last year.

Hello 2014, Senior Section has welcomed you!

20140108-232324.jpgTonight was our first meeting of Senior Section in 2014 and we began with one of our members turning Sweet Sixteen.

Two of the girls were on birthday cake duty  as part of the Look Wider programme. Because we all know that the ability to make a cupcake is a very important life skill. 😉

I started the tradition of making sure we had cakes and candles to celebrate all of our birthdays right at the beginning of setting up our unit. At first I always made the cupcakes – I wasn’t juggling work AND university back then so it was easier. Now the girls are starting to take responsibility for bringing the cakes  which I really appreciate. Jenny (my partner in senior section leadership crime!) has always brought some kick ass baking to the mix as well. I always bring my birthday candle box (which you can see in the left hand corner of the photo). We try to do this at the meeting closest to their birthdays (so anyone who has a birthday that occurs during a school holiday still gets it celebrated even if it’s a bit early or late). I suppose this is just a personal value I’ve brought from my own life where I like to show people that we’re happy they were born and now part of our lives! We stick candles in the cupcakes, sing happy birthday, blow them out and then eat them – the cakes that is, not the candles.

I was also really pleased to hear that two of our girls have started part-time jobs. Several of the older girls who are close to leaving high school had asked for advice in hunting for jobs, and I’ve offered to be a reference for them and been e-mailing them details of any job I’ve seen advertised. We’ve offered encouragement too I hope as they’ve talked of their struggle to find work experience placements, places willing to take on school age teens and so on. One girl I did her reference, the other girl got a job that I’d seen advertised and let them know about it months ago – and they finally got back to the girls who had sent in their CVs. I’m so proud of them for keeping at it, and know that they’ll be assets to their employers. Plus the hours of job searching and learning how to fill in applications and write their CVs has gone towards their Independent Living octant!

At our next meeting we’ve got THREE birthdays to celebrate, and we’ve got a friend of mine coming to talk to them about the work of our local Food Bank.

We’re also waiting to hear back from a guiding unit in Australia who we hope want to be pen pals with us, and we were thinking about what sort of things we could send them with the letters. One of our girls has completely taken on the task of organising the contact (again, for part of Look Wider – the ‘International‘ octant) and is doing a great job. We’re hoping the delay is because they might be on summer holiday at the moment and it isn’t that they don’t want to be pen friends with us. 🙂

After 3 rubbish days at work and uni, I’m so glad that the first day back in guiding has gone so well! Phew. Guides next Monday…

Happy Birthday Brownies!

2014 is a big year for the Brownies, as it marks 100 years since the Rosebuds were started for younger Girl Guides. The name ‘Rosebuds’ didn’t last for long though – very quickly the name changed to ‘Brownies’.

I became a Brownie in 1991, with a lady called Isabel Downie as my Brown Owl. I remember being so excited when I turned 7 and going to Brownies as soon as I had my birthday. To be honest, I remember already being a bit bored of Rainbows the same as I was bored at school. I wanted more of a challenge and could not wait to join Brownies, have a uniform to wear and to earn as many badges as I could!

I have such fond memories of being a Brownie. I was a proud member of the Pixies. I got to meet girls from other primary schools in the area and made new friends. A couple I met again in later years when I ended up in the same dance school as them. I remember us all tramping out to a furniture store car park after it had closed to do our athlete and agility badges. I remember us learning how to make pots of tea and frying bacon, sausage and egg for our cooks badge. I remember serving tea and biscuits to my Nana for my Hostess badge when we invited parents to Brownies for an evening. I remember reading books (no problem) for my Booklover badge. Visiting the Fire station. Learning First Aid. Having to get my Mum to show me how to clean the bathroom as part of my House Orderly badge. I remember going to Thinking Day parties with Brownies from all over Edinburgh. I remembering singing and dancing around toadstools, and the excitement of being the person who collected subs and put all the 20 pences into the shape of an owl or trefoil next to the Toadstool.

I’m sure some of that sounds very ‘un feminist’ but actually, I would likely have never learned those skills until much later in life. Having gone to university since then and meeting 18 year olds who didn’t know how to cook, clean or do their own laundry, I’m so thankful for my time as a Brownie and Guide – because I did learn skills for life! As a child of a single parent, I’m pretty sure my Mum wouldn’t have taken the time to teach me some of these things had she not ‘had to’ for my Brownie badges!

I wish I had pictures from my time as a Brownie, but it was usually my grandparents that took me there as my Mum would be at work. There are no pictures of me in my yellow and fawn uniform or of me making my promise as a Rainbow, Brownie or Guide. 😦

I have fond memories of being a Young Leader with the 64th City of Edinburgh Brownies with my friend Fi. I think we were bigger kids than the Brownies were and we love them, and they loved us. In fact, the Brownies organised a surprise party for me when I turned 16. I still have a little cuddly toy dragon from Mulan one of them gave me as a present (they knew how much Fi and I loved Disney!). It was really sad that Pack eventually folded (and the reason why makes me so thankful our current Division Commissioner I volunteer under is so fantastic). The Brown Owl always included Fi and I with the planning of the programme, and gave us the chance to try out our leadership skills by leading games and activities from the first few weeks.

My friend’s daughter became a Brownie two years ago now. I got to be there to see her make her promise which was a real privilege, and a couple of months ago watched her perform in the Edinburgh Gang Show as part of the Junior Gang.

I almost wish I was a Brownie leader this year as I know that there are lots of fun celebrations for the Big Brownie Birthday planned!

Meanwhile, there is a great video on the BBC website with a lady called Ann Phillips remembering her involvement with the Brownies! Check it out here.