By Kenna C., Girl Scout Volunteer Troop Leader
Remember the morning your daughter said those sweet words, “Mom, I want to be in Girl Scouts”, or when your best friend texted, “Hey, come to this meeting with me so we can be Girl Scout co-leaders”. We all have a story about how we got to that first meeting for perspective co-leaders and we all took that second step towards starting or joining a troop. Now you want to be the best Girl Scout leader you can be!
Here are 10 tips to help you in your first year as a Girl Scouts– NC Coastal Pines Troop Co-leader:
- Pick your team.
You and your co-leader(s) are going to be role models who plan and execute meetings, activities, sleep overs, and service projects. It’s a good idea to make sure you can work with this person. Our differences teach us how to use the tools and gifts we have; make sure one of you is the type of person who will meet deadlines, complete forms, read fine print, and follow up on paperwork. Respect each other for who you are and forgive each other any space cadet moments. Your Girl Scouts will learn how to treat you and each other by watching their co-leaders interact. An incompatibility in personalities seems to be the number one reason leaders leave or transfer to different troops, so it’s important that you can work with and care for this person.
- Get to know your Girl Scouts.
Children need at least one adult in their lives who is irrationally committed to their well-being; this is your chance to be that person. They are the reason you are here, so get to know them. Knowing the personality of your Girl Scouts will help you plan activities to better serve them.
- Get to know your parents.
These are the people who trust you and your co-leader to guide their daughters as they find their places in the world, and it is an amazing honor. Getting to know your parents will help you learn about hidden talents and resources available to you; maybe someone works at an interesting place that would be great for a field trip. One of our Girl Scouts is the daughter of a police officer who came to a meeting and helped us earn our Safety Award. Communicate with your parents. Manage their expectations and be clear and up front with them. Getting to know your parents is so important because it gives insight into their lives and lets them know that you are concerned about them as well as their daughters.
- Find out who you can ask for help.
This is a big one. You are not the first person to ever lead a troop. We have over 100 years of experience to pull from. Your Service Unit Manager will be an invaluable source of assistance for any questions you have. Many areas have a Mentor program where you can work with another troop co-leader. Go to your area meetings, these usually happen once a month and are a great source for information, learning, team building, and community where you are literally sitting in a room with fifty people who were once in your place.
- Ask for help.
You are an active participant in your own Girl Scout experience. Ask for help when you need it. This is something you are teaching your Girl Scouts, and you can do it too. We all know it’s easier to complain about how you don’t understand something; be vulnerable and ask for help. You will make someone’s day to be able to help you and you might make a friend in the process.
- Be patient.
There are forms, insurance, certifications, bank accounts and reports, but once you get past the basics, the world is yours. One of the things I appreciate most about Girl Scouts is the freedom to structure and lead my troop in the way that my co-leader and I enjoy. While Girl Scouts all over the world earn similar badges, say the same pledge, live by the same Girl Scout law, just like our lives, no two troops are exactly alike. Please be patient with yourself, your co-leader, your parents, and your Girl Scouts. Everyone will surprise you if you let them.
- Be forgiving.
There will be meetings that leave you floating on air. There will also be meetings that don’t go the way you planned and all you want to do is crawl into a giant brownie sundae with extra whipped cream. Call me, and we’ll split one. There will be parents who don’t respond to your emails, texts, calls, and carrier pigeons; forgive them, they have a lot going on. There will be forms you forget to submit, deadlines you miss, and things that slip your mind – forgive yourself, fix it, and just keep swimming. Remember, you are learning how to be a Girl Scout co-leader.
- Get a great cookie mom or dad on board as part of your team.
I cannot express how much this one detail will impact your Girl Scouting year. One of the first things we asked our parents at the initial meeting was that we were looking for someone with impeccable organization and accounting skills to take one the roll as our cookie parent. We have the absolute luxury of having the most amazing cookie mom on our team. She is an accountant and handled our entire cookie experience with grace. Your cookie parent needs to be a registered Girl Scout volunteer and complete the cookie training in your area. You can do this yourself, but I completely recommend finding another person to help you.
- Go to Leaderee and take advantage of the trainings offered.
There are certifications you must have to be a Girl Scout co-leader and you can find the trainings offered in your area through CORE and MyGS. Another great place to earn these is at Leaderee. Let me just say that Leaderee is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. (Adult Workshops Everywhere Sleep Overnight Meet Everyone) This is a weekend retreat for adult Girl Scout volunteers (so your parents can join as well) where you will get the camping experience while learning new skills, earning certifications, and making great friends. This is something you shouldn’t miss! You get the vibe you are trying to share with your girls – lots of women sharing an experience and just enjoying each other while having fun.
- Set your own pace.
Gather your resources, plan your first couple of meetings, regroup, and plan a few more. If you find you are trying to cram too much into your hour, change something. If your Girl Scouts are restless, get them moving. You and your co-leaders are the just that, co-leaders, so make this troop reflect what is in your heart and have fun. Set your own pace to ensure maximum fun and learning. Be kind, forgive, and expect to be amazed, and you will have a wonderful first year.
I hope these tips help you in your first year of being a Girl Scout co-leader. The most important thing to remember is that you are learning just as much as your Girl Scouts are and you will guide each other through this fantastic journey.