I find myself in all sorts of conversations about programs, awards, trips, and camp. It is interesting to me, because too frequently I hear why this and that didn't or doesn't work and it all rolls back to the adult involved. It doesn't have anything to do with the girls. When GSUSA moved toward high capacity councils, one of the many facets of their new business plan was to focus more on the GIRLS and less on the adults assisting. Don't get me wrong, the adults that are assisting are critical to the delivery of the mission. But for us to be and remain relevant, we must be GIRL LED.
What does that mean if you are a troop leader with a group of Brownies? I was talking to a really good leader awhile back. She said she had tried very hard to get two things out of each meeting that took a lot of time. They were talking when they all arrived and coloring. She thought both took a lot of time and she had things she wanted to accomplish. In her wisdom, she had decided that talking was important to the girls. At any gathering affording the girls free time at the beginning to share what is going on, often shapes the interaction to follow. One of the values of the Girl Scout experience that I hear from alumnae is the relationship with the other girls of their troop. When I meet with alumnae group their focus through the years is with their fellow Girl Scouts.
The issue of the coloring book with this leader was an interesting one. She didn't see the value of it, but she said the girls insist. If they don't get to color, they aren't happy with their meeting, no matter what they did that day. I suspect this is more of the same. Coloring is a time when they can enjoy themselves, talk with their friends, and enjoy their own creativity. It is what the girls want. This leader decided she would simply have to plan her meetings in relation to what the girls' needs and preferences were, not hers. If they didn't earn all the Try-Its, that was fine. The girls simply want to have fun.
One of our board chairs always emphasized the fun of the program. Early on, she was always chiding me to be sure whatever we were planning, the girls were learning while having fun. And what I have seen is sometimes the adults get in the way of what the girls really want. Do you ask? I used to work in student affairs at a university. For years and years we saved the yearbook. The students wouldn't get it done; someone from the professional staff would "fix it." Things went much better at our university when I allowed the students to fail at some things. It was expensive, but it improved their learning. The students were telling us something about the yearbook and we weren't listening.
There is a very fine line between encouragement and discouragement. I find that I am not too old to learn from children. Their world is different than mine and when I can see through their lens, I find some of my views change, for the better. Are we deciding for the girls or asking? Are we involving the girls or telling? Do we need control or are we flexible enough to allow them to make decisions, even though we don't see the wisdom in the decision? Are we coaching and nudging or pushing and demanding? Were they given options or told what to do? Trust them and be prepared to be surprised.