(This is the last of a four-part series about keeping girls interested in Scouting as they bridge to Cadettes. This series was inspired by a couple leaders who were looking for help with their girls, and spawned a 5-way email chain that had some great ideas. Thanks again to Barb Christensen and Tara Offenberger for their help: I tried to give them the credit they deserve!)
We've talked about keeping Juniors interested in Scouting as they bridge up. We're going to end by talking about leaders and parents.
Tara Offenberger had a great comment: "...what should a leader
do if she feels more comfy with the younger girls than the older? Perhaps there are teachers who are much better at teaching elementary
school than middle school and for very definite reasons. The leaders
who are excellent at corralling a dozen girls who are 7, 8 or 9 years
old, teaching them crafts, small service projects and the 6 out of 10
step badge work are not necessarily going to be excellent at working
with older girls. These girls are transitioning to young women - who
need a real shoulder to cry on at times, who need someone to help them
work out conflicts with friends, who are dealing with divorce in their
family or even in choosing the right high school to attend. Cadette
thru Ambassador aged girls need ADVISORS who are comfortable with these
kinds of issues and who can let go of controlling the meetings and
simply GUIDE them in the right directions. If their leader can
transition to a new style, those girls are very lucky."
Well, these leaders are probably going to own a Cadette aged girl, whether they're ready or not! And isn't Girl Scouting a safe environment for the leader to take the opportunity to learn with the girl? How about suggesting they all take the Amaze Journey? This is a great tool to use with 1st year Cadettes who are just starting middle school. These girls are going to be living the peer pressure, betrayal, bullying, jealousy, cliques and frememies issues that Amaze takes up. How about the not-comfy-as-a-Cadette-leader working with girls thru that Journey and supporting their girl-led efforts?
This is also a transition year for girl planning, where the girls learn to run their own meetings (if they haven't already), be responsible for their own troop money, and start working on the Silver award. As Barb says, make it look different! Move the meeting time and place - let the girls vote on the choices. I'd say, make it different for you, too! Maybe get a new co-leader? Maybe merge with another troop and get the best Camping Mom in the council! Learn to let go of the old and embrace the new. Your daughter has to, and you want to support her, right? Maybe you can do it together?!
One of the comments from before, was that the parents see Girl Scouting as a little girl activity, not an older girl one. Time to tell the parents what the girls are learning! Start now, in Juniors, so that when you get to Cadettes, the parents are seeing more of the changes that you're talking about. I liked a comment in training, where a Dad watched his 7th grade daughter helped to set up a family reunion weekend. He was amazed, and asked where she learned how to do all that organizing. Her response, (thank goodness was not a shrug of the shoulders!) "in Girl Scouts, of course! We do this all the time." The Dad got a refreshing glimpse into what his daughter had learned.
We need to show this value to parents all the time! Another leader said that in Cadettes, every quarter, one girl was responsible for taking notes of the meeting. The leader took the girl's notes, and typed them in an email to all the parents, giving credit to the girl. Another said she had girls doing a quarterly newsletter in powerpoint with photos and words talking about what they were doing/learning. We need to keep that info flow moving! It can only benefit the girls!
And to Barb's point, we need to stress to the parents (and girls) the flexibility of the program. It's not like Brownies, this is something bigger and better. Girls can choose what to do. Girls can choose how to participate. And girls can decide what they want. Okay, not all in one day. It's a process!
I'll end the series by saying thank you, to all you leaders out there! What you do is so valuable to the council, the girls and the world. You make a difference in a girl's life everyday. I hope you want to continue to do that for your lifetime. Old Girl Scouts never die, because what we have done for the girls who follow us, and who follow them, lives forever.
But what if YOU've had enough? What if the thought of
taking these happy Juniors to Cadettes and having to deal with those hormonal, moody, enthusiastic, know-it-all girls to the
next level is overwhelming? What if your daughter is gung-ho and you
aren't? How can Cadettes keep your interest and keep you in
Scouting with a happy heart.....
What if you've had enough of the same old thing? I'd say this is a great opportunity for you to MAKE A CHANGE as well. Turn it over to the girls, and let them do it. Instead of worrying all the details, let them. Let them make safe mistakes in a safe environment. Let them take charge of their own Girl Scouting experience.
Yes, I know, this won't happen overnight! But you have 3 years of Cadettes, so start now! As a 4th quarter Junior, give those girls some reins. Use language that lets them know they've earned the opportunity to lead meetings, if they aren't already. Let them make choices, and emphasize that they get to do it all in Cadettes. The girl chooses how she would like to participate in Scouting.
One of the things we talk about in the Cadette training is, how to make it more girl led? How to have the leaders (now advisors) sit back and let the girls figure out what they want to do. This is a HUGE step for many, and they are often just amazed at how much the girls WANT to have the girl led experience. One leader said her daughter was so excited, that after the first girl/parent meeting, she took her new Cadette Guide Book to bed with her, so she could write down more ideas of what she wanted to do for the year. Another leader said it was scary! This leader wanted to be in control and determine what was going to happen. She vowed to change, because she understood that the more the girls became engaged in doing it themselves, the more they would want to stay in Girl Scouting.
How about combining with another troop? Instead of being the 01 for 8, become the 02 for 15 or more. Work with the 01 to find the place that fits you and how you want to participate. One leader talked about how after two troops merged, she didn't need to be an 01 or 02, but still wanted to participate. So she became the Silver Award Advisor for all the girls in the troop. What a great way to still be involved! That way, if not every girl was working on the Silver, there was an adult who could host meetings outside the regular troop meetings and work with the Silver girls.
Maybe you want to be the camping Mom? So get trained! Only take on the 2 or 3 camping trips a year. Perhaps you're the one who can work out a training schedule for skills the interested girls will need to do the camping AND participate in Cadette O Rama.
How else could you support the troop without burnout? Or perhaps a better question is, how can you step away for a while or forever, and keep your daughter involved? Are there other adults that you can ask to help? Is there training you can take to teach you some new skills? Or can you participate within your service unit to do some "group think". Instead of each Cadette troop doing the same thing separately, partner up! Have the 3 troops work together. Encourage the girls to work cooperatively, taking leadership pieces as they learn by doing to accomplish their task. This could be for one event or activity a year, or for more.
Girl Scouting offers all sorts of opportunities for leadership for the girls AND the adults. Sometimes we have to ask for help, and sometimes we just have to go out and find it.
Our last post left off with the question, "What else could you do to keep the girls engaged in Cadettes?"
You're a Junior leader, and you're looking forward, to when the girls bridge into Cadetttes. Perhaps you're asking yourself if you've done Juniors right!? Have the girls made steps to lead the meetings? Plan the overnights? Make their own decisions? Choose their service projects? Execute a Bronze Award Project? If your answer is "yes" to all those questions, kudos to you and your adult leadership for bringing the girls along so well in the GS Leadership Essentials Program!!! Your girls are prime for Cadettes. They might just not know it yet!
One of the best things about Cadettes for the girls is that THEY MAKE THE CHOICES! They get to use the leadership skills that they've been developing all these years and steer their own course. The girls need to know this, and you need to tell them AND their parents. The girls take in the money, write the checks and keep tabs on the budget, with adult supervision, assuredly. The girl gets to have her own ledger account of cookie money to fund her GS experience. That's music to the ears of the high achievers, to be sure!
As we say in training, these Cadette girls want to be in charge, and they want to be told the sky's the limit! If they work hard, do their due diligence, they can achieve anything!! Small steps to take in Cadettes include leadership in Day Camps, participating in destinations, being a Lookie Lou at GAM, and then completing a Journey and determining their own Silver Award Projects. Plus having the opportunity to have a leadership role with in the troop is a big deal. If your troop is large enough, the girls can experience troop government in patrols or with a Court of Honor. All these great things are in front of them, and they need to know it!
But what if they "know it" or at least have been exposed to it, but are still thinking they might not have time for Girl Scout's monthly meetings or camping or Award and Journey work? Well, Barb Christenson rightfully says, this is the time to be flexible!
"I think the key word for working with older Girl Scouts is flexibility. We advisors need to be able to change how we run meetings to fit what the girls want. We need to make the meetings look different from what they have been doing for the past six years. (I often compare Daisy and Brownie meetings to birthday parties – craft, song or game, activity and a snack and also planned by the adults.) We changed our meeting date, place and time to give it a different feel; instead of Friday afternoons right after school, which everyone knows isn’t going to work once they get to high school, we started meeting on Sunday evenings and included dinner. I do know that half our Cadette meetings the first year looked a lot like an evening at the nail salon with a lot of chit chat, nail painting, and not a lot of anything going on. But, that may be exactly what the girls need their first year! Many of these girls are over-programmed with sports, church/temple, homework, and whatever else they participate in. Granted, their parents may not see the value in that, but the bonding between the girls is priceless!
Because of the girls’ busy schedules and their many interests, advisors need to be willing to be flexible about how girls participate in the troop. Establish what this flexibility looks like. For example, I had girls who only wanted to participate in day camp; I never saw them at troop meetings so I didn’t charge them any dues and I kept them informed about day camp meetings and annual renewal dates. I also had a couple of girls who only wanted to earn their higher awards; they would come to meetings when we worked on pre-requisites, and once those were completed, I would only see them at Silver/Gold meetings. I did charge them dues for the years that they were attending the troop meetings. Lastly, I had girls who only wanted to travel so they would come to the travel meetings. Did that take more time for us, the advisors? Absolutely, because we were basically running meetings every week (two troop meetings, a travel meeting, and a Silver/Gold meeting) but it was well worth it and it only happened one year in Cadettes and one year in Seniors.
"Last night Michelle said the scuttlebutt is that several of our terrific (Junior) scouts are thinking of dropping out after this year. They say their schedules may be too busy and they may have other interests."
This was the start of an email I received from Shellie Massick, Volunteer Development Manager a couple days ago. Shellie shared this, knowing we'd be really interested in the topic. Retention is key, and something we talk about in all our trainings, starting with a hard push in Juniors. We know that if we can keep them interested and successful in Cadettes, we have the best chance of keeping them in the program through Ambassadors.
"My girls are having a fun year with lots to do & Michelle verified that everyone thinks that GS is exciting for now."
Happy Juniors! So what do they need to know to want to become happy Cadettes? How can we engage them now, as Juniors, to WANT to stay in Scouting? How can we show that there is more to Scouting after Bridging in San Francisco? More than camping, crafts and cookies? More that they can do as older girls that will be fun and make them feel good?
Barb Christensen suggested a way for the girls and their parents to see the successes of older girls: "We have a plaque ceremony for girls who sell 200+ boxes of cookies. We have Daisy through Ambassador families there and we use this opportunity to highlight the older Girl Scouts so the parents know there are Girl Scouts beyond elementary school and we ask any of the traveling troops to share where they are going so not only the girls hear what the older girls are doing, but the parents of the younger girls hear what is possible. Other Service Units run a service unit-wide bridging ceremony and start with the oldest girls first and they recognize all the Gold and Silver award recipients so that the parents of the Daisy, Brownie and Junior troops get exposed to the information." What great ideas!
"I also believe the parent perception is that GS is for elementary."
Unfortunately a common misperception! All the parents of Junior girls need to know what their girls are learning NOW, and they need to see the benefit of the program for their girls. The parents AND girls needto see successful older girls. Perhaps this is an opportunity to have Ambassadors come in and lead a couple meetings? Have the older girls come in and talk about how much fun they had in destinations, or how much they enjoyed being a Council Delegate to the National Convention. Perhaps have some favorite camp counselors come in and teach/lead some camp songs. They could talk up the benefits of being an older Scout. Or get solicited by the Day Camp Committee in their Service Unit to be incoming Cadette staff at the camp.
What else could you do to keep the girls engaged in Cadettes?
And what could you do, as a leader, if you really don't want to be a Cadette leader, but your girl wants to stay in?
What else would resonate with the parents to show that there is a value to Scouting, and that the girls benefit?
We talked about the Adult Role last post, so for this one, we'll talk about the girl role. Again, Karin and Lesley's role description is coming in handy! Commercial plug: if you haven't taken the Silver Award Training yet, and your girls are getting ready for this step, DO IT! It's a couple hours, but truly worth it!
The girls need to.....
Hear the Take Action message; take responsibility for the quality of her project. Be sure the girls understand that this is not about running a day camp! This is about identifying an issue in the community that they care about and addressing that need.
Ask for help when needed. If she's stuck, the girl needs to know that you are a resource for her. You're not there to solve her problem, but to give her clues/leads on where she can look.
Be willing to make mistakes. That's a hard one for many A-type personalities! But an important skill to learn. It could be that the girl has found her issue, but missed the mark on how to address it. Admitting the error, then going back to the central issue and re-thinking it takes support from you.
Educate herself and others on current issues. As you've heard me say before, start with the ISSUE not the project! Be a resource for the girl as she examines local issues and picks the one that resonates with her.
Practice public speaking. Role playing in a safe environment, like Girl Scouts, is a great tool. Maybe you've already practiced this in your Breathe Journey? Or maybe the girls have had some practice at school? Build on what they know, and let them practice. On whom? Maybe each other? Maybe a sister Brownie or Daisy troop? Or maybe with a Senior/Ambassador troop who can make suggestions on ways to improve. Use your leadership role here to have it be a good experience all around!
Define what leadership means to her. That's a big one! Management of time and resources is not the same as leadership, and the girls need to (start) learn that. They need to learn that leadership is about the big idea, gathering others of a like mind, educating them, and empowering everyone to take action. Management is about the schedule, agendas and divvying up the work load. A tough concept for many girls (and adults). It would be great if they learned it here, so that when they interview with us for their Gold Award Projects, they'll be clear in explaining how they will lead and who they will lead.
Have fun! This whole Silver Award process needs to be engaging and fun. I think it helps if the girl is passionate about the issue and project, and while there's work to be done, she's excited and enthusiastic about getting it done.