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Friday, June 06, 2014

Woes of the patchy type

Learning outdoor skills together with troop #118

Going into this prior school year as a novice girl scout leader, I knew there would be serious learning curves-the art of running a troop, the girl scout rituals and patches. The prospect of ordering and handing out patches was the thing that I was most  concerned about-because some of the other leaders are very passionate about the patches and doing activities  for the chances to earn cool  patches. I could intellectually understand the importance of the patches in girl scout tradition, but sensed perhaps an overemphasis on the patches.   Experiences are experiences. Its the time together, the conversations shared, the knowledge of the world gained…not always the $1.50 sent patch that gets sewn onto the vest.

With Brownie troop #118 this past year, I did the best I could with patches. But it was by no means the focus of my troop or meetings.  We had time together  identifying birds, navigating trails, compass use, fire starting, tent skills, etc. I ordered a couple batches of patches and my co-leader ordered some as well. The girls weren't patch-neglected which I felt proud of and I called it good.

Until the phone call.

Several nights ago I returned a phone call from the regional girl scout council leader, Susan*, who checks in periodically with the local leaders in her region. This phone call was an end of the year phone call to help wrap the year up. The conversation was going along as expected until she brought up a concern several of the parents in my group had about the patches. Evidentally 2 of the parents had "complained" that I didn't give out enough patches this year. I was aghast and in shock that grown adults would "file" such  a complaint about a first time scout leader with 22 girls in her troop!

A wave of great sadness and disappointed washed over me after I heard about the patch complaints. I said to Susan, "Maybe I'm not cut out to be a girl scout leader if patches are the only thing parents care about." Tears welled in my eyes.  When leading such a group, you never want to feel like anyone is disappointed. But then, as Susan and I talked, I realized that with a group of 22 girls, there is ALWAYS going to be something that 1 or 2 people aren't happy with.

Susan emphasized that with girl scouts there is no requirement for patches or uniforms. She informed me that a girl can be a girl scout without a uniform or a single patch. It was reassuring to my soul that I hadn't broken any girl scout laws, at least! ;-) By the end of the conversation, Susan and I were laughing together and I was not feeling as let down by the patch complaints.

This next year, I"m limiting my troop to 12 girls which will help make the mechanics of my troop much smoother. And parents have offered their help, which I'm taking folks up on. A friend of mine will be the "patch" mom and in charge of ordering the patches. I"m also considering having patch ceremonies where the process of handing out the patches is really honored and time is spent on it as opposed to handing them out when they arrive in the mail.

I"m leading the troop again because I love all the fun things I can do with the troop-especially outdoor adventures. This next year there is going to be 2 local brownie troops, which will ensure my troop is smaller and make the big adventures like camping more do-able. And I'm looking forward to getting to know the girls better with the smaller numbers.

My goal is to keep the "outing" in scouting and the rest is just details…..


*Susan is not her real name...

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