By Guest Blogger Linda Grooms, Troop 8064 in Princeton, Missouri
Linda Grooms is beginning her third year as troop leader for her daughter, Elizabeth’s troop. As a seasoned leader, Linda has some tips and tricks for all our new troop leaders!
Now Junior Girl Scouts, Linda stepped in as leader when the girls were beginning their second year of Brownies. Prior, she was a den leader for Cub Scouts.
“I did not have the opportunity to be in Girl Scouts when I was a child so Scouting was new to me, but I’ve loved working with the kids and also attending Scout events and camps!”
Her philosophy of leading Troop 8064 in Princeton, Missouri is to help the girls discover new adventures and skills, participate in activities that may not otherwise be available and provide a fun and safe environment.
Their troop structure has been very flexible, working around girls and their schedules as well as their interest levels. The have regular meetings twice a month on Monday nights that a majority of the girls attend and then offer multiple “optional” activities and outings that are inspired by interest of one of the girls or something that she has seen on the GSKSMO website.
Tips & Tricks for New Leaders:
Girl Scouts is very flexible so every troop and its activities are different. Plan based on what works for you and your troop, not what an outsider thinks it should be.
Training is a good place to start, but keep asking questions all year long. Our Membership Manager is great about responding to my questions. I also communicate frequently with the other leaders in my county. The Internet is a great place to find answers and ideas using Google and Pinterest and of course Troop Leader Central on the GSKSMO website. Learn how others would handle a situation, find out what works well and what doesn’t, expand beyond your own ideas, and share resources with others.
Take advantage of the Community Partners, especially if are close to your location. If they aren’t, plan a road trip! Last year we drove the 1 1/2 hours to St. Joseph to attend a wonderful workshop for Juniors at the Robidoux Theatre on a Saturday morning. We prearranged with Bode Ice Arena to use a conference room to eat our sack lunches, then spent the afternoon ice skating! This was the first time many of our girls had ice skated!
4. Resources in Your Community
There are so many resources in your own community; all you have to do is ask! Our Missouri Department of Conservation Agent will help coordinate fishing, archery, and other educational programs as well as supply the equipment, and assist in the activity. Also, my neighbor recruited friends to host an evening of quilting where the girls have tried different quilting projects. The director of the ambulance service taught the girls first aid, showed them the inside of the ambulance, and let them test how many Girl Scouts could be raised on a powered ambulance cot. I could go on and on…
5. Personal Skills
If you have a special skill that you would like to teach, then by all means, do so! Ask your parents if they have something they could present. Contact leaders of older Girl Scouts to see if they will work on a badge with you.
6. Know your girls
The girls in my troop do not want to come to meetings to read, write, and listen. They’ve already spent a good part of their day doing that. They are eager to learn new things, you just need to shake things up!
7. Keep your eyes and ears open!
Lots of fun, educational opportunities come up that can be tied into badge work. Last Spring we were able to attend a small opera company’s performance of Cinderella. It was Gioacchino Rossini’s Opera “Cinderella”, a comic opera written in the 19th century, not the version of Cinderella we normally see. When asked, they offered discounted tickets to any Girl Scout troop interested in attending even though their rates were already very low.
8. Work with other troops in your area
What’s more fun than a cookout, games and crafts? Doing it with lots of other Girl Scouts! This could be another troop that is the same grade level or it could be troops of various grade levels.
9. Utilize Council Properties
Take your troop to a council camp for a day event (even if you have to drive 2-3 hours!) This introduces them to what a Girl Scout camp is like and lets them meet staff. Invite parents to come along if possible. Then they will be more comfortable going to a summer camp program.
10. Always be prepared!
I jokingly refer to myself as a “bag lady” when I arrive for meetings and outings. I’ve got items for different parts of the meeting tucked into different bags so I can quickly get to what I need at each point. I’ve usually got some kind of backup activity in case something doesn’t go as planned or we need something to the girls busy in the car. It’s also a good idea to have backups–an extra driver in case one cancels, an extra first aid certified person, an extra pair of socks or jacket for a girl who forgot hers, etc. Being prepared is an extra time investment, but it helps ensure that you leave the meeting/outing laughing and smiling with the girls instead of pulling your hair out!
Linda’s troop just finished their registration and new year kick-off event. “We had a great morning fishing and doing a stamping craft with the other troops in our county. Spending time with all of these girls and seeing their excitement makes me enthusiastic for another year of Girl Scouting!”
Thanks for sharing with us, Linda! Do you have words of advice or other tips and tricks that you would like to share with new leaders? Leave them in the comments below!