Trial by Fire: Reflections of a First-time Guider. Part V

Several months ago I put a post up 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 my fifth in a series of posts about my first year in Guiding. Don’t forget to read my earlier posts: First Impressions, My First Unit Meeting, Girl Guide Cookies, and A Week in the Life of a Guider.  —————————————————————–

Girl Engagement — the what now?

Way back last spring when I had my screening to become a Guider, I first heard the words girl engagement.  To me, overwhelmed as you may remember by a lot of terms and a huge amount of information, girl engagement was pretty meaningless, add it to the list of terms I didn’t really understand and would figure out later.  I assumed it was just a fancy term thrown at all of us when we first sign up for this gig as Unit Guider.  Explained quickly as letting the girls choose some activities, develop their interests, work on some leadership skills but ignored as I jumped into meeting planning, cookie-selling, badge-testing, camp planning, wine-drinking after meetings.

And to be frank, I’ve actually been dreading this post a little bit since Talya (GGC staffer) sent me the suggested subject list for this series.  (Let’s use that as an excuse as to why I’ve been so pathetically slow in getting posts to her this winter, k?)  Since I saw the subject staring back at me from my screen, it’s been nagging me a bit at the back of my mind at the end of each meeting.  Was there anything today that I could use as fodder for the girl engagement post?  Maybe next time I’ll remember to let them choose a game.  When did we last let the Brownies decide on what we were doing… was it in September?  Oh man.  What about the Sparks?  Yeah, right… girl engagement and Sparks (hah!).  I’m in serious doo-doo here.  Think… think… I know!  I’ll let the Brownies decide what streets were selling cookies on!  Yes.  Brilliant.

And then today I went back to some of the documents I read when I first joined last spring (honestly, I highly recommend going back to read those things occasionally.  It was rather enlightening!) and I realized that we’ve been doing rather well on girl engagement. 

I just had forgotten what it was all about.

Turns out it’s not just about letting the girls choose a Key or badge to work on or to plan a camp theme or meeting.  Yes, that’s in there but there’s a lot more too.

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From Orientation to Guiding, revised July 2011

Girl engagement

Girl engagement is the process of putting the words of our Mission in action to enable girls to become:

  • confident [check… we’ve worked on that by encouraging them to try new things and go beyond what they’re comfortable with]
  • resourceful  [well, the Guiders have been resourceful when a guest speaker didn’t show up….]
  • courageous [I’m courageous when I show up to meetings some days… .]
  • and to make a difference in the world [ooh, we could really work on this more.  We’ve been sadly lacking in community/international involvement, a goal for next year!]

This is done by engaging girl Members actively in making decisions about as well as implementing their plans and activities based on their interests and developmental ability. [Yeah, like I said SADLY LACKING.  This is the stuff that I was a bit nervous about but wait… down there… at the very bottom… things are looking up for us….] Beginning from Sparks through to Rangers, engagement evolves and expands as girls grow older, gain maturity and experience, and thus increase their share of the responsibility. [Phew… off the hook with the Sparks.  Sweet.  Also, interesting… this was the case I was planning on making in my mental blog post that would be ripe with excuses.  At the Sparks and Brownies level, delving into deep girl engagement is challenging.  Sparks don’t have the maturity yet to make plans for the unit or direct our activities and the Brownies still aren’t quite there yet either, although they can have a say in what Keys we work on.] 

[AND THEN THE CLOUDS BROKE OPEN AND THE SUN SHONE DOWN….]

Girl engagement:

  • involves the girls in planning their program.
  • gives girls the opportunity to learn by doing.
  • builds leadership skills and allows girls to set their own goals and to challenge themselves.
  • fosters partnerships and communication between the girls and Guiders.
  • can be adapted to meet the needs of the girls in the Unit.
  • is appropriate to the developmental needs/requirements of girls of different ages.
  • focuses on developing a personal sense of accomplishment in addition to earning external rewards, such as badges and crests.

It was this last bulleted list that made me realize that we’ve done better on girl engagement this year than I thought we had.  While we haven’t allowed the girls to do much on planning their program (again, this is difficult with Brownies compared to Pathfinders or Rangers, I think), we’ve done really well with giving the girls the opportunity to learn by doing.  The girls I work with have learned to sew by hand and machine, they’ve taken a cooking class, learned some basic first aid, gone snowshoeing and skating, tried out different musical instruments, they’ve used drills and hammers, played with microscopes and lasers, they drew a still life drawing, they made plaster masks and painted them, they learned some folk dancing, made pop-up cards, did rubber-stamping and will soon go bird-watching, hiking and camping.

Through the Brownie Interest Badges and the Sparks Challenge Badges, the girls have been able to set goals and challenge themselves.

After meeting with these girls almost every week since September, we’ve grown close with them and have a bond that allows us to communicate well.  They tell us all sorts of things and feel comfortable sharing their lives and thoughts with us.  And vice versa.

And I think the girls in both groups will end this year with a decided sense of accomplishment.  They’ve had fun, tried new things, challenged themselves to get over fears and hesitations, accepted some limitations, and gotten to know themselves and each other better.

My Sparks will continue to rely on their Guiders for making the decisions for their group.  And that’s okay.

My Brownies are about to dive into the world of Girl Engagement in a more overt way (I won’t admit that this was largely due to the fact that this post was on the horizon for me).  Over the next couple of weeks, my Brownies will be planning a meeting for the Sparks and then run that meeting.  Girl Engagement 101… for both the girls and the Guiders.  And following that, we’ll present them with a few options for camp themes and let them choose the one they like best.

That’s what’s called playing catch-up.

But today, re-reading the information about Girl Engagement, I realized that I didn’t have to make an effort to get ready for this post by shoving Girl Engagement activities down my Brownies’ throats.  We’ve been doing it all along.

Because in Guiding, engaging girls is something we do daily, whether we realize it or not.
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Guest Blogger and Guider Karen

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.

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Do you enjoy reading our blog? We really need your help to keep sharing amazing content! It isn’t hard to write a post, or send in an idea for one. Try it! You’ll love being involved as a guest blogger!

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2 Responses to Trial by Fire: Reflections of a First-time Guider. Part V

  1. Jade says:

    Karen, I have enjoyed everyone one of your posts. As a Guider for the past 10 years, it’s wonderful, and helpful to see a new set of eyes on the things we’ve been doing for years. Thank you so much for what you do for the girls!

  2. I enjoyed reading your blogs. As being a newer Guider myself (3rd year) and also being a new District Commissioner as well (first year)(our District pretty much runs itself, we have an awesome support team), it shows me and all new Guiders that we are not alone in our journey, and that we, as well as the girls, are growing and learning throughout the year. I hope you enjoyed your first year, and look forward to your first camp with your girls.

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