I know a lot of Senior Section leaders often tear their hair out. We are undervalued, get very little support, communication isn’t great (or very last minute) through national/regional/county level for Senior Section events and we are dealing with a section of Girlguiding members who are undergoing one of the most difficult life transitions – childhood to adulthood.
You are no longer dealing with parents – communication goes directly to the members of your unit and many of them haven’t learned the art of diary and time management. They are learning to do it themselves having all their lives had their parents do it for them. It is understandable that sometimes they make mistakes. They forget when they have exams, or rehearsals or family holidays when it comes to planning a programme that is more flexible.
This year, I had to make the difficult decision of telling one of my Ranger groups that I couldn’t keep running their group. There were only 3 of them, they weren’t able to recruit more members to their group and they seemed reluctant to run themselves despite being aged 17-20. I think the knowledge that this happened made the younger group realise that if they didn’t step up there would be no group at all. Now I’m the only Senior Section leader, and this year I’m working more and later hours with longer commute.
And so when we made up a term programme, I compromised the usual pushing for nights to be more obviously octant related with the fact that each night 1 or more members of the group are in charge of that evening. So in the last month we have had a Harry Potter games night and a Fancy Dress night with Hallowe’en style games. Both organised by the group’s members with me not having to bring anything but the register and the petty cash and receipt book. So far, all the girls have managed to accomplish this.
How did we do it?
Deciding who is best suited to each night – bringing something for Harry Potter games night was good for a couple of our members who arrive late due to other commitments (one attends a dance class, the other volunteers with another section of Girlguiding at a different venue). We could do games brought by other members and move onto theirs once they arrived. Also if the girls know that there’s a week where they are going to be super busy with rehearsals for a school show or university coursework – we’ll note that so they aren’t down to be in charge that particular week.
I set up facebook events through our secret group. On the event info I post who agreed to be in charge of what so they can go back and refer to it. Not all the girls are on facebook, so I usually ask the girls to remind those not on the group if they can. They are very good at doing this.
The girls set up their own what’s app group which all but one of them are members of. They can remind each other, clarify and check things. They added me to it, so I can reply back if they want to check something with me quickly. (From a safeguarding perspective, I prefer a group what’s app chat over being sent a personal text message as it’s obviously being seen by everyone in the group making communication between me as the ‘responsible adult’ and young people as transparent and open as possible). I will also sometimes do a wee reminder 1-2 days before, and on the day if needed.
I thank the girls in charge for what they’ve brought and remembering. I like to try and do this publicly on the group too, so that they know how much their effort is valued by me as a leader. It’s even more lovely when the other members join in with their thanks too.
I think I have an advantage though as I’m also a Guide leader. Many of the girls now have known me as their Guide leader (or friend’s Guide leader) and I now actively try to help my Guides learn responsibility, consequence and organisation so that it’s not a huge shock when they move up to Senior Section. Some of my Senior Section were just told what to do and handed badges during their time in Guides with no idea what it really was they were doing. Others did little to no badges, and many didn’t have things like Patrol Leaders Councils.
It’s also important to remember that young people now have way more homework and extra-curricular activities than previous generations of teens. Schools seem to do a lot of ‘youth work’ now, which means that curriculum work ends up having to be done at home instead of during class time. As much as Girlguiding is about action, for many of my Senior Section girls, they just want to come along and chill out for a couple of hours, meet with friends, make new friends and have a laugh in a safe environment where it’s cool to not take yourself too seriously. Look for the opportunities to help the girls’ – while they were eating doughnuts from string and setting up boxes of slimy things we had talks about school uniforms, recognition (or lack of recognition) for consistently attending and performing well in the classroom, how to write a CV and more. Not because I’d planned for us to have those discussions, but because these conversations were brought up by the members. We are probably now going to have a ‘job hunting’ workshop at some point this year now because of those conversations.
So to my fellow Senior Section leaders – take heart. Your effort is worth it, and it is possible for young people to lead!