For the past 2 years, I have been volunteering with Girl Scouts as a Troop Leader and my journey has been filled with fun and exciting new adventures mixed with some frustration and aggravation too. But I’m still volunteering with Girl Scouts because I really enjoy the experience and the chance to help these girls grow and learn. I don’t have any kids of my own but each one of the girls in my troop have become my kids.
When I first started as a Troop Leader, I was completely overwhelmed with everything and almost every meeting day I found myself thinking “why did I volunteer?”, “how am I going to get through this?” and “can I just quit already?”. But I knew I couldn’t quit because these girls need me to volunteer or they wouldn’t be able to participate in Girl Scouts so I had to figure out a way to get through it so that’s what I set out to do. For me, I had to do it alone since I had no co-leader or any parent to help me out at the meetings. So it was me against the 11 strong-willed 5-6 year old girls. Most of the time I felt like I was wrangling monkeys just to get through the activities during the meeting. Yes, they were just like monkeys, they were wild and crazy but they were really smart, caring and kind at the same time. Just like monkeys, these girls needed to be kept occupied at all times and I had to constantly switch up the activities since about 10-15 minutes into an activity they would get bored.
Other Troop Leaders would offer me advice and tell me that I need to plan my meetings out in advance. Have an outline of the meeting as a guide with a defined opening and closing ceremony, make it a routine. Get the Parents more involved and make them help. I was grateful for all the suggestions but honestly, none of it wasn’t what I already knew and was trying to do. My parents didn’t want to help out unless they were helping their daughter or they would ignore the request as if they didn’t hear me. Then no matter how much planning I would do before the meeting, everything would be turned upside down and very little went as planned. Some leaders suggested being more flexible. While I was going with the flow and making it fun for the girls, I had to learn to enjoy it. So when I was coated in glitter, glue, marker and who knows what else from head to toe, I had to learn to laugh and enjoy it since it means I had fun with the girls.
Another tip I would offer a new leader would be understanding that each troop is different and finding the balance of what the girls do at the meetings is key. For my troop, that meant we played games instead of singing. We did everything hands on we could even so we would turn a story into a play or we would make the crafts together instead of me explaining what to do. My girls being in Kindergarten and 1st Grade they didn’t like being read to, they would rather read it themselves. My girls enjoyed meeting new people so whenever I could encourage them meeting people for a badge they were working on I would make it happened. Finding what works for your troop is key to having a successful troop experience.
Most of my frustration came from the parents in my troop, I would ask for ideas, suggestions or help and no one would speak up. But as soon as I did something they didn’t like, they would complain to each other. So it was frustrating and aggravating because I felt like no matter what I was doing, the parents weren’t going to be happy. I had to learn that I needed to stop trying to please all the parents but I just needed to make sure the girls were happy and having fun. And you know what as soon as I didn’t care what the parents were saying, I was able to relax and enjoy what I was doing.
Looking back at my first year as a troop leader, I can’t believe I survived it honestly. It was a roller coaster of emotions and it was probably the best learning experience I ever had. We managed to earn all the Daisy Petals and the financial leaves. We also completed a Journey, World Thinking Day, and Global Action. And to top that off, I survived our FIRST COOKIE SEASON! (Don’t get me started on Cookie Season, lots of tears, headaches, fun and learning went into it.) This is just the beginning of this great journey and it’s great to know I am making a difference, even though I still have parents who aren’t always happy but its for the girls, not them.