A couple of months ago I put a post on my personal blog about becoming a Guider. The GirlGuidesCAN blog picked it up and after a short series of emails back and forth, I was asked to be a guest blogger, blogging about being a first-time Guider. This is the second in a series of posts about my first year in Guiding. Don’t forget to read my first post: First Impressions.
My First Unit Meeting
First meeting? When was that, again?
It feels like a lifetime ago.
I am so immersed in the work of Guiding right now (I’m the Brown Owl for a Brownie Unit and a Guider and treasurer with a Sparks Unit in Ottawa) that I scarcely remember ever being nervous or worried about that first meeting. Running a meeting now seems second-nature.
Learn by doing. Turns out I was right about that. Who knew?!
And yet it loomed SO LARGE.
My fellow Brownie Guider, Julie (aka Chrystal Owl) and I met several times through August and September to plan for the year and what we decided early on was that our first meeting was going to be completely stolen from Guiding with Jewels.
Oh yes it was. And oh yes we did.
We pretty much followed it to a T, right down to the songs and crafts and games.
And you know what? I’m so glad we did. I was a total newbie, never having even stepped into a Brownie meeting before (remember my unfulfilled desire to become a Brownie?). Julie was a seasoned veteran but had been out of Guiding for a while and had never been a Brownie leader. We needed a crutch for that first meeting. With everything else to think about – getting the girls rounded up (admittedly not that hard when there’s only four of them), talking to parents, getting paperwork handed out, controlling excitement and watching the clock to make sure you have enough to fill the 90-minutes (turns out that’s never an issue) – we were both happy that we could graciously steal borrow from another Guider.
And I highly recommend it.
That first meeting consisted of introducing the girls (and me!) to the weekly Brownie elements – the opening and closing songs, our Brownie names, reading the Brownie story, starting to learn the Promise and sign. We played a couple of energy-burning games, we made two crafts (squirrel bags and name tags).
When I think back, what had me most nervous, surprisingly, was the songs. I didn’t know the tunes of the opening and closing songs (and some had changed since Julie had been a Brownie) and I have a pretty low tolerance for poor singing so I came up with what I loudly proclaimed as one of my most brilliant ideas (you must loudly proclaim them when they come… because for me, it’s rather rare that I have a moment of brilliance). I recorded each song on Garage Band on my iPad and then I played each song for the girls before we sang it. Not only did this let them hear the tune before they sang it, but it gave me a little more confidence that if we needed help, the iPad would come to our rescue.
Thank you, Steve Jobs.
From that first meeting and those we’ve had since, I have learned several things that have helped me improve our meetings (from the Guider’s standpoint – I’m sure the girls think the meetings are perfect in every way. Please don’t tell me different. I don’t know if I could handle it.):
- When running an after-school Unit that ends at 5:30, bring a snack. (You’re gonna get hungry. Ha! Okay, okay, it’s really for the girls.)
- It takes several weeks for the girls to learn the Promise (and you, too). Find ways to help them (and you) remember it. Our squirrel craft (okay, the squirrel craft from Guiding with Jewels helped with that.
- Let there be time for free play. We have free play at the beginning and, if there’s time, at the end.
- Girls this age love games. We try to make sure to play at least two per meeting.
- Keep on top of forms from parents. Reminders will be needed.
- Use a clipboard for your meeting plan so all Guiders can access it easily.
- If you have to bring your “stuff” to every meeting because you don’t have storage at your meeting place (which we don’t), have a separate small bin for the craft – that way you’re not digging through a giant bin for small bits of paper and glue. Duh. Only took me three weeks to figure that one out.
Since that first meeting, we’ve set our own path and haven’t returned to Guiding with Jewels….much. For the second meeting, I started using one of the meeting plans on that website but adapted it quite a bit. I’ve started writing our meeting plans into a table so that we can see the activity, materials, Guider and time needed for each activity. We really like this method and it works well for both of us… and plays right into our obsessive need for organization and organizational tools. We draw from all kinds of sources for our meetings. We use the Brownie leader’s guide, the girl’s guide, games books, the Provincial and National websites along with other sites.
And now we’re humming along several weeks later. We’ve increased our numbers to seven girls (hooray!) and are really hoping for one more so we can have two circle groups. We had our enrollment last night and it was wonderful.
And guess what? I was enrolled too. And the very best part was that my lovely, wonderful Chrystal Owl gave me a Brownie badge from her collection from long ago so that I could have one of those long-ago sought after triangular, brown badges.
I already have a spot picked out for it on my camp blanket!
By guest blogger and Guider Karen. Karen will be offering her thoughts on being a new Guider with Girl Guides over the next few months. Read more from Karen on her personal blog Virtually There.