keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

As ever, the challenge is retaining

on November 11, 2014

Noodling about the ‘back end’ of the blog reminded me of a post from a while ago,

So one year on, how are we going, and has anything changed?

The differentiation between Juniors and Seniors does certainly seem to help – you can definitely tell when a kid is getting too old for Juniors, they seem to be decidedly ratty for a term or two before going up to Seniors, when all of a sudden they calm down again and are just thrilled to be there. Its to the point that I almost wonder if our hardline about not moving up to Seniors until you are 10 is appropriate (Australian Guiding is very flexible on ages, and each unit makes its own decisions about such things), but on the other hand, at least having a clear line means that we are on ‘solid ground’ with the kids in setting the rules. They do tend to respond better to an arbitrary but consistent rule, than a flexible one.

Our utilisation of Patrol leaders and seconders is still not as strong as it should be, and its probably not helping retention of the girls who might be in line for such roles, particularly at the Seniors age group where the stability of the group (and the fact that the girls elect, rather than the leaders appoint) has meant that the number of kids able to access formal leadership roles is limited. Perhaps this will open up a little next year though, as a we will create at least one but possibly two additional seniors patrols to cope with anticipated numbers, and we should also have a couple of the oldest girls looking to move up to Rangers towards the end of the year, which should create some change in the kids holding positions.

We are still struggling to do ‘girl-led guiding’ in a way which is useful, although we are definitely being more “there’s the instructions, now sort yourselves out”, particularly with the Senior Guides. I’ve found myself being less directive in recent months with the older girls, and more willing to let them just go for it, which they seem to appreciate, even as initially they protest that “but you didn’t SAY!” No, indeed, I didn’t, but given you’ve been a Guide for three years, I expect you to figure out you’ll need lots of small wood to keep that fire going…! I have noticed that once they twig onto the fact that the adults are stepping back, that they do manage to fill the gaps themselves, so that will certainly be an area to continue with, especially as a few of our Seniors start getting ready to move up further. Ideally, if numbers can keep relatively steady, but the end of next year we would have a functioning system of girls three years of Juniors, followed by three years of Seniors, before moving up to Rangers at 13ish. But we shall see – in our eagerness to maintain a Rangers group, we shall have to be wary of poaching the oldest Seniors too early, and undermining the concept.

Looking back over our member lists for the year, I’m surprised to see how few we’ve lost to other activities – of course there are some, but nowhere near the numbers recent years have taught me to expect. Not sure if we’re doing something in particular that’s improved retention, or if its just luck. Probably just luck!! Of course, having several girls having been with us for years creates its own challenge, of being sure to not repeat things too often (apart from things that have become Unit Traditions which give a rhythm to the year), and it also has the added complication of nostalgia “ohhh but when we did X badge it was waaaaaaaaaaay more fun”.

Anyway, shortly it will be the long summer break, and we shall see if this year’s excellent retention holds up. My gut feeling is that we’ll lose 2-3 kids over the summer, but at this stage, I’m not taking bets on which ones. Sometimes you just know, sometimes its not clear. This year: Clear As Mud!






5 responses to “As ever, the challenge is retaining

  1. Kate says:

    Hello! Just tripped over this looking for something else … but it is a topic close to my heart! I have a Guide who has been 14 terms a Junior Guide and 12 terms a Guide – one more term and she’s 13 and in her second year of high school but cannot go to Rangers in our District till she’s 13.5 (which means she’ll have her 7 year badge on transition) – but the Ranger Leader is also right, the range of age dynamics from 13-17 is huge enough across quite a small group (6-8 in total). Keeping my girl engaged in Guiding has been an amazing challenge in 2014 – perhaps it will be easier now that the first year of high school is done. I find that GGA (NSW) does not really tackle that age & stage issue for that first year of high school very well. Allowing high schoolers to be distinguished within their unit by wearing the navy shirt would help I think and acknowledge their seniority without having to be one of the limited number of patrol leader/seconder positions (we also have elections and a pyramid age cohort meaning a lot of 10 year olds and a couple of high schoolers). In our district we use the dress uniform for Rangers so there is no conflict there. But GGA NSW is quite rigid – despite the fact that – as far as I could see from the last lot of Anzac photos – Qld units routinely use the navy shirt for Guides 10-14.

  2. guideylaurie says:

    Hi Kate –
    That situation sounds tough. Good for you guys in keeping a girl for such a long time though!!
    I don’t think really any unit I’ve seen *really* handles the first year or two of high school well – the kids grow up hugely in the first term or two of year seven, and suddenly they feel sooooo much older than the girls in grade five and six, even if the ages are similar. Without a separate group to move to (which I know *some* areas do, but we don’t have the numbers to do it) (or the leaders!) it can be really hard to keep them interested.
    Its interesting the different way the uniform rules get interpreted between states and between areas – for example my unit uses the yellow for 6-9s, then the orange for 10+, and navy for high school age. But we’ve recently had a girl transfer from another district, only in grade five, and she had the navy shirt, which is interesting, so clearly different areas are doing their own thing. Maybe you could agree locally with your district or whatever to give the navy for high schoolers a trial run?
    We’re also hoping to do a couple of activities just for those older girls, sometimes with the rangers, sometimes just themselves, to help emphasise that its worth staying on after primary school. Lets hope some extra privileges works! 🙂

  3. Kate says:

    Funnily enough we did formally agree on the navy shirt for high schoolers in our district (both leaders team and parent support group) and we were joined in that plan by an adjoining district which does have a separate high-school guide group (we don’t have the numbers either and are always looking for leaders) – but the guiding hierarchy put the mockers on the plan … though they hinted they might concede on 13 year olds, 12 year olds would not be contemplated at all – even if in high school – and despite the fact that the Guiding Handbook for that age group shows a girl in a navy shirt. Given I decline to buy my daughter a THIRD blue/orange shirt (she’s already growing out of her second one), the navy shirt is coming anyway (though she might make it to 13, just). Yet it would be such a simple, easy thing to do for retention and in line with what other states already do – and often for that exact reason! The rigidity bewilders me.

  4. guideylaurie says:

    Its an odd thing to be so rigid about, especially as its clearly interpreted differently across the country… and given that the navy is named the “teen” shirt, I’m surprised its a “hmm” for 13 year olds!

    That said, maybe its a bit of a local rules thing, or just an NSW thing… I did my initial 3 years as a leader in NSW, and there certainly seemed to be more Definite Rules About Things vibe than in Victoria… or maybe I’m just in a relaxed district these days 🙂

  5. Kate says:

    I’m guessing it is a NSW thing 🙂 … we included in our argument photographs of all the Queensland Units in their Anzac Day photos they posted on the GGA website which clearly depicted primary school aged girls in navy shirts … while we have giant adult-tall high school guides in blue shirts … but to no avail! I’m just bemused that’s all.

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