keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

And so we begin again…

Mid January, and my mind turns to planning the guiding year ahead, although we’re still a few weeks from the term beginning!

This year my Guiding “New Years Resolutions” are:

* To figure a way to combine my new family responsibilities with Guiding in a way that ensures I don’t go crazy. (For those of you closely following the wee blog: I now have a Tiny Future Guide in the family!)

* To help my unit have at least one camp in the year – whether that is fully participating or just helping out for a day will depend on the above, but I’m sure I can manage something!

* Get better at asking for help from our parent group – I hate to make people feel obliged to help out with something that is, for me, a fabulous hobby, but for them may well just be “a thing their kid does on Wednesdays”. But I need to remember that a lot of people *love* to be asked to help, and that often they just don’t know how to offer. So more thinking of discrete requests, and being sure to take people up on their offers of assistance, rather than my default response of “oh thank you but we’ll be okay!”

* Improve transition from Seniors to Rangers, and figure out a way to make Rangers a sustainable group.

* Do some recruitment targeted at younger girls, as we’re likely to have quite a few gaps in the Juniors this year… luckily, that is (usually) the age easiest to grow.

* Help RangersLeader get her qualifications signed off.

* Stay on top of the paperwork!! And actually claim my expenses!!

So, hopefully it will be a good year, and I’m looking forward to having Planning And Cake with my excellent co-leaders shortly to get this show on the road!

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Camp survived!

Over the weekend our long-planned Secret Island Camp was held!

There were many girls (27!), lots of fun, little sleep, limited rain, and lovely co-leaders!

Friday night’s bus went well, it really is an easier way to get camp started to have everyone arrive together than coming in bits and bobs (and getting lost along the way!), and I know many of the parents were positively gleeful at saying goodbye to their darlings at 5pm… especially those with only two daughters, both who came on camp!! One of our long-time mums (her elder daughter has been in Guiding 7 years now) barely said goodbye, she was so excited to hand them over and enjoy her weekend! The newer parents were a touch more apprehensive, which was quite cute 🙂

The only major drama on Friday was one of our little ones was quite sick – vomited all over herself, the table, the chair, the floor… poor kid. By the time she was cleaned up etc, it was nearly 10pm, so we decided to see how she went overnight rather than try and get her picked up. This turned out to be the right call, as she was fine overnight (although I was waking up at every sound expecting it to be her!!), and was 100% in the morning, just crazy hungry, as of course you would be after losing all your dinner!

Saturday had the epic wide game I’ve been planning for weeks, which ended up going really well. All the clues and instructions made sense, even the little ones were able to figure what they were meant to do with only the smallest of hints, and they pretty much spent the day working their way through the challenges!

The big hits of the day were using ropes to build a ‘bridge’ over the ‘river’ (extra kudos to the oldest patrol who even took the time to attempt proper knots!); hunting down the butterflies I’d carefully scattered across the campsite; cooking lunch over the fire (we did pizza pockets and chocolate cake in oranges), and finding Princess Rimi. Actually, the poor old Princess was quite the hit, especially with the younger Guides! They tried to love her to death, poor girl, so she had to be re-rescued by me and put back together… I think I’ll have to do some work to restore her skirts, as they were put quite askew!!

In the evening we had an indoor campfire as it had started to rain quite a bit, and given the trouble we had lighting the fires to cook our lunches on (when it was blue skies!)…

Before the singing began, we had the girls do their skits – some were just awful, but others were completely hilarious! The highlight was a bunch of girls dressed in grass skirts and leis who started doing hula dancing which then morphed into an ’emergency’, where they quickly whipped out the slings they’d prepared earlier, before continuing to hula!

Saturday night the majority of the older girls slept outside in tents, with the little girls and a couple of less-keen older kids indoors. MUCH QUIETER indoors without 3 noisy Rangers keeping the tiny ones awake!!

Sunday, usual co-leader and I had just the Juniors, while sister units two leaders took the older girls on a hike into the local state forest.

To keep the Juniors entertained co-leader did a shorter wide game (based on one I did years ago with a spy theme), which they all loved! I think they enjoyed competing against themselves, as they could see quite early in the larger wide game that even with some activities modified to be harder for the older girls that they were waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind the eight ball, whereas with the little wide game, they felt they had a solid chance of winning 🙂

After a quick outdoor lunch of baked potatoes (baked in the oven!!), it was time to say goodbye. It was a fabulous weekend, one almost enough to make me reconsider my generally anti-camp sentiments 🙂

It really does make a difference when you mesh well with your co-leaders. Last year’s camp I had no real issue with 2 of the other leaders, but also just didn’t really *get* them. This year I felt that all four of us were broadly on the same page in terms of our views about what the girls should be getting out of the weekend, and how we related to the kids. It also seemed like the four of us were much more in tune and consistent in how we chatted with the kids, and the rules we put down. So much less stressful!

Here’s a picture of the “beautiful” Princess Rimi, for your viewing pleasure!

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Camp preparation and quiet games

Tonight was a pretty quiet sort of a night. Originally planned as a games night – and our list of games to play had quite a few noisy/running around ones – we somehow ended up with an unsually sensible sort of an evening.

We began with our usual start to the night – we have a box of balls, skipping ropes, small rounders bats etc that we put out each week and the kids raid the box and play as they want to start, or stand around and gossip, or whatever. Usually after a minute or two we get kids wandering up going “what are we doing tonight”, checking out the notices on the table, sticky-beaking into whatever we’ve got set up.

But somehow tonight, the box just worked. The kids started spontaneously organising proper, organised games – we had a skipping game in one corner, keepings off sort of game in another, a hand ball activity going on elsewhere, and others playing tiggy. It was like some sort of weird, idealised version of children playing at recess!

So we let it go on a little longer than usual (no need to interrupt when they’re having fun!) before doing step in, and then getting started on ‘Stacks’, which was new to a few of them (kind of funny having our tallest Senior seriously worried about squashing our littlest Junior) (funny because while that Junior might be little, that is one tough little kid, believe me we’d hear from her if there was a problem!).

We followed up stacks with “double kim’s game”, a great variation co-leader found in an old guiding book from our stash. Double kim’s game has the girls put into pairs (we went with mixed-aged pairs chosen by the leaders, which was nice to break up the usual sets of friends), and two separate trays of items, that are matched, but not quite.

So both trays had scissors, but on one tray the scissors had yellow handles, on the other blue handles. On one tray there was an empty glass, on one a glass with water. One tray had a fresh match, the other a used match. Etc. There were ten sets of items. So one half of each pair had 3 minutes to look at one tray, then they came back together as a pair and had to both list the items, and figure out what was different between them! Clever!

After that, we sent the not-camping kids into the foyer to do World Badge Beetle game, while we had a chat to the camping kids – reminders about packing, rules, what the order of things will be etc. Lots of questions (only 3 current crop have camped before), so that was good. I then proceeded out to chat to the parents about camp for about 20 minutes (joined by co-leader for most of it), while guide helper ran the activities.

Most of the parents were pretty relaxed about it all, although one dad was a bit unsure. His little ones are only 9 and 7, and have only been with us for a couple of months, not even long enough to go on sleepover, so I can understand him being a bit unsure. Hopefully what we went though, and the lovely comprehensive notes prepared by the camp’s leader-in-charge (sister unit’s main leader) will reassure him.

And that was pretty much it. I think I ended up spending 50 minutes of the available 90 talking about camp!! Fingers crossed though that the time put in now will reduce the potential for dramas next weekend!


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What do we teach?

Earlier this week, a post, by a local blogging guide leader had me pondering. The post  noted that a parent had commented/complained that she wanted her daughter to “learn something”.

This got me thinking – what is it that we aim to teach through Guides?

We’ve had a few girls leave in recent times – a couple just before Christmas, and then two sisters not returning this year. The reason was “oh they have so many things on”. Well, yes, but they’ve chosen to do basketball or netball or music instead of Guides, even though they were enjoying Guides. Why is this? My feeling is that with these other activities, parents can really see the change in the skill level of their daughters. You can see when someone has progressed from chopsticks to Mozart, in a way that our skills don’t really show.

As a leader, I generally feel like a kid is developing in Guides when she grows in confidence, is able to interact with both her patrol and the other girls well, when she’s able to take on a leadership role without fear. And sometimes, for the more outgoing girls, when they’re able to calm down and focus on intricate tasks without complaint.

These are, in many ways, skills of personal development, rather than tangible progress. Helping to grow girls through fun into good people is not a linear process, and I suspect that many parents – particularly ones as achievement oriented as many of ours are – can struggle to see the true value of what we are doing, when compared to being able to boast that their daughter had moved from seconds to firsts in their basketball grading.

I suspect I need to get better at identifying what we teach, and selling it both to the parents and to the girls – coming up with a bite sized way of saying “we will help your daughter grow into a good person” without being preachy. Tricky!


Tickling the memory

Summer holidays.

Should be a time of rest, and relaxation.

But for the paranoid-about-numbers Guide leader – not so! The long six week stretch of no Guides is traditionally the time when we have the biggest drop off in numbers. For girls (or often more importantly, families) who are weighing up what activities to do in the new year, the long break can get them enough out of the habit that they simply don’t return.

In an effort to keep us ‘top of mind’, I’ve decided to use the power of email to keep in touch a little – sending out information about the option to participate in Australia Day events with another unit, and, just this week, sending out our first ever “yearbook”.

The ‘yearbook’ is adapted from previous annual reports/district reports – but its longer, and full of photos of the girls throughout the year. Its a good way to actually use all the photos which had been lurking on my iphone, and will hopefully give the parents and the kids a reminder of all that they love about Guides, and get them ready to go for 2013!

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Questions on some other blogs, and on the GGV facebook page, have had me pondering how I feel about the uniform.

Not so much its appearance (which broadly I don’t mind, certainly I prefer it to the older style of pale blue), but its role in the organisation. Discussions on the Guiders UK forum have indicated that in the UK, uniform is optional but encouraged in the girls, and that there is quite a diversity of options, particuarly at the ‘Guide’ age group. I’m honestly not sure whether that is also the case in Australia… most likely it is, as we can hardly forbid girls to join in without uniform…

My pondering has been more about what are we trying to do with uniform? Our girls seem to spend half their lives dressed like their peers – school uniforms (and most of ours go to fancy private schools with very particular rules), basketball/netball uniforms, dance uniforms. I suppose its not unreasonable therefore for there to be a Guides uniform, but what are we trying to achieve with it?

I suppose we are trying to create an ‘in group’, very distinctly.  My former unit had excellent compliance with the (old) uniform, to the point that girls who were trying out the unit – and who almost always turned up in pink the first week – would be dressed in blue the next week, just so they didn’t stick out quite to much. My current unit does not have such a clear cut look, but that may also be in part due to the fact that its winter – as much as we encourage long-sleeve tshirts under their uniform top, many just throw on whatever jumper/hoodie/cardi they have around, and with it being so cold (even with the heater on!), I can hardly fault them for that – so we look a lot more rainbow than we should be!

There is one time I feel uniform is really valuable: when we have an out-of-hall activity, particuarly if we go on some sort of excursion. Those uniforms are bright, and being able to spot the girls from a distance as “mine” is really useful! Less useful at a Guide event though….

This has also got me thinking about what I tell our parents when they’re signing up their daughter. When asked about uniform, I almost always say “well, its not compulsory to start with, but she’ll need her shirt and sash for her promise ceremony” – implicitly, I’m saying that to become a full Guide, you *must* have uniform. But that clearly isn’t the case, its the Promise that makes a girl a Guide, not her shirt or sash.  I wonder if I should change my words?

And yet, and yet. I suspect I will continue to encourage ‘proper’ uniform in the girls, as it does have one really useful marker for the leaders – it shows that the kid definately prepared for Guides (or at least remembered in time to grab the uniform before getting in the car!), which hopefully, at least, means they’re ready to begin, and actively choosing to be there.

So, after all that: pro uniform, although I shall watch my phrasing around ‘compulsory’ – no need to send people astray.


Worlds cheapest babysitting!

Well, of the seven newbies from this term – one from week one, six from last week – five have not only returned, but have signed up!! Forms, payments, everything!

It turns out, offering a sleepover – aka, worlds cheapest babysitting – is the way to make parents commit! One of our newest sign ups is not only joining, but will be at the sleepover, and she didn’t even come last week – her little sister did, and her best friend did, so she (or at least her parents!) just taking it on spec!! Unprecedented.

So, its looking a bit more positive, numbers wise.

In terms of activities, tonight we did some mothers day type crafts, which were probably a bit too complex for our youngest ones, but it kept them reasonably occupied. Once again, we split up the Juniors from the Seniors & Upper Seniors, which worked well – made it clear that there is a gap in the program, and that we have different expectations of the kids in grade one versus year seven!

Looking ahead to the sleepover, we’ve got 10 kids attending at least, and the week after that, two kids making their Promise. Its lovely to have the group growing again after our minor panic after the Easter break 🙂

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The great land grab

Tonight I was a bit sneaky. We’re not meeting tomorrow (public holiday), so it occurred to me that I should pop up a sign outside the hall, just in case anyone forgot and turned up.

Fair enough, I think.

However, it had occurred to me late yesterday that we struggle to keep the parents in the loop about major things coming up… no matter how many notes we put out, I swear we’ve NEVER had a successful event where all the forms/money etc came in on time. Usually the story is “oh I didn’t realise…”.

Well, no more! At least, not for those who pick up their kids from the hall!! I have launched a land grab for pin-board space out the front of the hall, and put up a copy of the program, and brightly coloured signs full of exclamation marks about our upcoming sleepover and camp – right where the parents lurk while waiting for us to finish the meetings!

With any luck, this strategy will INCREASE time-appropriate enquiries, and DECREASE the ‘oh I didn’t realises’! I shall have to evaluate success at the end of term.

Problem is, I’m technically not entitled to the pin-board space, and only have permission for a single poster… Hence the land grab. Oh well, here’s hoping our good relationship with the hall owners continues and they view it benignly!! If I don’t get any push back, I’m going to claim it properly and put up photos and biscuit posters for some more colour and movement!

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