keeping track of my adventures in guiding!

Musing and moaning (just a little)

So, I’ve barely blogged this year. And having barely blogged, I’m out of practice, and feeling guilty that I’m out of practice, and it just becomes a big shame spiral.

The thing is, this year I’ve felt a little funny about blogging my adventures. With my awesome co-leaders taking on more of the load, I don’t feel as able to tell the tales of “my” unit, as it seems a bit weird to talk about the marvellous ideas they’ve come up with, even though I know from comments etc that people enjoy hearing about my team’s ideas as much (or if perfectly honest, more!) than they do about mine. But still, it feels like I’m stepping on toes somehow.

And more generally, I think I’ve lost a bit of my guiding mojo these last few months. Not so much in my enjoyment of the girls and the activities, but somehow my confidence that I’m putting together a program worth sharing, or ideas worth telling about. Our units are doing great – heaps of kids, growing at almost every age group (we’ve even had now 3 new-to-guiding teenagers join us, which is some sort of miracle), and a great team of leaders who are all gelling.

And yet… somehow my confidence is down. I think it started when a couple of big ideas and offers to do specific things for “higher ups” went unanswered… it makes you start to shrink in on yourself a touch, and wonder if possibly previous ideas that had been favourably received were done so more out of politeness…

So, my aim this term is to return to blogging properly – perhaps writing down the great things we’re doing – me and the whole crew – will reassure me that we’re broadly on the right track. Or, of course, it may convince me that it’s time to move on – either from the blogging or the guiding or possibly both. We shall see.

To those of you who’ve been reading and following – stick around despite the whining of this post – I’ve got about four wide games to publish in the next few weeks!



Paying it forward

As regular readers will know, I have often spoken about the necessity of maintaining a reasonable life/guiding balance, and not letting the guide leaders natural tendency to say “of course!” overwhelm me.

Well, lately I have failed miserably at that, with this last month involving Guiding commitments on three weekends in a row (Sunday, then Saturday and Sunday, then Sunday again…), plus a Thursday night out with a group of seniors, plus running my unit, and Rangers (although only one meeting so far), and helping out at Sister Unit for the last three weeks! Luckily these extra sessions all ended up being with other crazy overcommitted leaders, so at least I was in good company!

So how did I end up in this Guides overload pickle?

Well, firstly, a bunch of the Senior Guides wanted to try going to a local competitive outdoor camp. *In theory* the preparation for this camp shouldn’t be too onerous, as girls should gradually learn the skills required over their years in Guiding, and only need a bit of time to refine their menus and theme.

*In reality* (at least the reality of my quite-urban-not-very-outdoorsy-unit) the girls required a crash course in old-school camp skills, including cooking A Proper Meal over the campfire, putting up and taking down tents (without the leaders closely directing things!), making wood-and-string gadgets, first aid, camp hygiene… et cetera!!

So the journey started last term with a pre-meeting for potentially interested guides and parents to let them know what they might be in for, followed by a short meeting to confirm who would be attending, elect the patrol leader and second, choose the patrol name, and agree to a basic schedule of training.

This term, we then met at a local pizza/pasta place for planning – the girls had to agree as a group what they would cook (being sure to manage the food desires of each of them with the required menu balance), and the broader menu and thematic elements – and try and negotiate what “bits” they would all organise! It went quite well, and I think it was easier to do an extra night than to try and tack it onto a usual Guides night, especially as the group was a mix of girls from my unit and Sister Unit. Next up, we had two full days of training – the first day was campfire cooking, followed by tents, and a bit of “campsite planning”, which involved the CUTEST little set of campsite/dolls furniture which SisterUnitLeader had found through the magic of ebay. The second day involved cooking on campstoves, gadget making, and drilling in first aid and food/campsite hygiene and safe practices. Both days were long and exhausting, but the girls did seem to learn a lot, and hey, given the kids had to learn to do it all independently, there were also substantial periods where myself, SisterUnitLeader and RangersLeader were all able to sit in camp chairs in the sunshine and merely supervise, which if you’re giving up a Sunday, isn’t such a bad deal! The camp they were preparing for was this weekend, and apparently they did very well, woohoo!

I also managed to get myself talked into helping out for a few hours on two separate Saturdays this month for district shenanigans – once at a sausage sizzle at a local hardware store, and once at a farmers market where we had a (vastly unsuccessful!) promotional stall. Phew!

Annnnd of course I’ve also signed up to help at SisterUnit for a few weeks, as poor SisterUnitLeader doesn’t really have any backup at the moment. I’m just doing the “assistant leader” type role of turning up and being an extra pair of hands and eyes, but I know how much of a difference that makes compared to having to be THE responsible adult. I’m in constant awe of SisterUnitLeader, she’s managed to keep her wee little unit going through thick and thin (even managing to keep the unit going while she was working several hundred kilometres away!!), and is always happy to pitch in and help our unit whenever needed, so a bit of share and share about is only fair!

Finally, had my last day of crazy over commitment to weekend Guiding yesterday, teaming up with AParentHelper, YoungCoLeader and RangersLeader to take a group of kids from my unit and sister unit to Scienceworks, which was actually really fun. We went to the planetarium, and explored lots of exhibits – the ones on town construction and science fiction/space were particularly intriguing. The girls also loved the sports exhibit, which had them testing their balance, strength, speed etc.

So, that should be pretty much it for weekend bits for me for a while. And shortly this little blog will take a wee hiatus too, as I’m soon to be having a break from Guides, even a bit longer than the usual summer pause, as I’ll be on “maternity leave” from Guides (although *really* dedicated leaders tell me there is no such thing!). All going well, I think I’ve got three weeks of Guides left that I’ve committed to, but I guess we’ll see if mother nature agrees with those plans!! 🙂

And that is probably the other reason I’ve been madly saying yes to all requests – paying the karma forward a little so I don’t feel guilty about taking a step back for a while 🙂

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Shop for service

Short Guiding interlude to my Sunday – one hour of service, with five keen kids, wandering about our local Kmart, finding gifts for the Wishing Tree –

Its a service activity I was introduced to back when I was a Guide – the first year it started, my unit walked down to our local shops and bought gifts for the Tree. It must have made a deep impression on me, as every year since, its been part of my Christmas tradition. Since going back to Guides as an adult, I’ve extended the tradition to the two units I’ve worked with. Hopefully it will stick with my Guides as well as it has stuck with me.

This year, we did it as a weekend activity, rather than a unit night activity, just because we had too packed a term!

As for the activity itself – its very girl-directed. They’re given a set amount of money, and allowed to walk around in a group, staying broadly in the same area as a leader, but don’t have to explicitly stay with us.  As a group, they have to work out what age and sex of person they wish to buy for, and then set about deciding on gifts. The girls were given $30, and they decided to split this into three gifts – for a 3 year old boy, a 3 year old girl, and a 9 year old girl. They looked at books, and stationary, and toys, and sports equipment, and ended up – after much discussion, checking of prices, and negotiating! – deciding to get a mix of things for each gift, including a soft toys, crayons, colouring books, play-doh, and soccer balls.

It was a very guidey activity – building teamwork, negotiation, decision making skills, while being oriented towards service and helping others. And they had fun!

This week – final Guides and Rangers. Should be fun!

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Scone service!

Fun day today – the Church where my unit meets was celebrating a major anniversary, and had a fete type event to celebrate. So my unit helped out with serving scones and cups of tea – a nice and easy way of being visible and providing service.

Service of course is one of the seven fundamentals of the Guide program, and I find it can be a tricky one to integrate well into the program, so opportunities like this are good to seize when they happen. I really like service activities where the girls can see a clear link between the work they’re doing, and the recipient – rather than, say, raising money for a distant “good deed”. Today’s activities also had some useful skills training – learning how to make cups of tea properly, cut up the scones, whip the cream etc. The girls also helped with the cleaning up – gathering plates and cups, stacking the dishwasher correctly, and wiping up as we went along.

But it wasn’t all hard work, with seven Guides helping out, there was really too many to help in the kitchen at any one time (three was the maximum, really, to be useful rather than in each other’s way), so they were able to go off in pairs and groups and check out the other activities – a jumping castle, a reptile show, mini golf etc. So, it was a fun day, just a couple of hours, and raised our profile as well – at least a few kids and parents seemed interested in Guides, so I guess we’ll see if anything comes of that 🙂

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Feminism and Girl Guides

In recent months, I have come to regard my role as a volunteer Girl Guide leader as probably the most feminist role I have.

And Girl Guides as the most feminist organisation I know.

At Guides, girls and women can be themselves. They can be quiet or loud, shy or confident, interested in traditional home skills or really invested in camping and outdoors activities. They can mosey along doing whatever badges happen to be included in the program or they steadily work their way through the books and cover their sashes in brightly coloured mementos of achievement.

The history of Girl Guides is a history of girls and women actively choosing to be part of the program, and of doing more than just asking nicely. At the famous Crystal Palace Rally which started it all, girls were not expected. Lord Baden Powell had called together his scouts, children who had been reading “Scouting for Boys” and had started to put the plans into action. Up the end of the rally was a bunch of girls, who had decided they too would be part of this new movement, and insisted they had the right to be there. So right from the start, girls were there by choice, and making the movement fit them.

With each unit operating semi independently, and each leader having different interests, there is of course a wide variation in what Guides can and does offer each kid. But regardless of whether the unit tends to do a lot of baking or a lot of building, each one does it with women, and for women. There is no question whether a girl can be a patrol leader, or treasurer.  No question of whether its ‘right’ for a girl to be interested in the building or the baking. Because of course she can – there are examples all around.

I know that volunteering isn’t always regarded as “feminist” – surely giving time for free is not the best road. But I don’t care – I’m lucky enough to earn plenty of money in my day job, Guides is what I do for pleasure. On the nights where I realise I’ve helped a kid learn something new, conquer a fear, or suddenly feel accepted, I come home glowing. Of course, the flipside is, when a kid decides to leave, I’m devastated! But that’s growing, and caring.

This week co-leader and I will be talking to the parents about the upcoming camp. While we do that, our 13 year old helper will be running the games and activities. A girl who is sometimes little too loud, and a little socially awkward has found a way to grow as a person, learnt to soften her edges, and ask nicely for others barely 2 years younger to please follow her instructions. And they do. Perhaps she would have learnt these skills elsewhere, who knows? But for her, she has taken the skills given through Guides – to cooperate, to lead, to help – and they have helped her grow.

So when people say to me “oh, Guides is so old fashioned”, I think, yes, perhaps in some ways it is. But given the history of Guides, and the fabulous pushy little girls who started it, I really hope that it is, and remains so.