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**Everything I write in this post about what is required for training, is according to my council, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. If you live outside of Southern California, you would need to check the council that governs your area. What I say could be different for your area.
What does it really take to be a Girl Scout troop leader? I have been asked that several times and the answer is always the same, it takes your heart and your time. How much of both of these you put into it is up to you. In this post, I will honestly discuss how much time it takes from me and offer some helpful tips.
The great thing about being a Girl Scout leader is that the troop won’t meet unless you are there, so you can work the troop meetings into your schedule and have it fit around your life. It is the same for most of the required training. Most of the training is in a recorded webinar format and you can watch those on your free time. There are some live webinars that you may need to take, but those are usually in the evening time, after normal business hours so you can add it to your daily schedule.
To plan meetings, it can take me anywhere from 1 hour to several hours to plan. It really depends on what activities you have planned for the meeting that determines the amount of time you need to plan for the meetings. For example, it took me about 1 1/2 hours to plan a meeting on introducing the girls to camping and earning their camping badges. But for our meeting on the environment and recycling it only took me an hour. And when planning their camping trip, we had the girls help plan and that takes more time and several planning sessions with the girls. Then I set up a Camp Planning Committee including the co-leaders and a few of the parents who volunteered to attend and help with Camp and using what the girls decided, we organized and planned the camping event. This was a one time meeting that we needed but you can have as many as you feel necessary.
So you see, its all up to you and how much time you want to put into your experience as being a Girl Scout leader. It is also dependent on how much help from the parents you get. My troop is a multi-level troop. We have Daisies (1st graders) to Juniors (5th Graders). For each level, I require to have a volunteer to help plan the activities. These volunteers must, MUST be registered and pass the background check (GSGLA rule). Actually, any adult that will be a constant helper at the meetings or outside events, must follow this rule. They must also go through the level training needed for the level they will be working with.
Having these separate co-leaders is very helpful for me because, it is their responsibility to develop an activity plan for the girls, the older the girls are, the more input they have. I also have what I call Assistant Leaders, these are volunteers who still go through the same process as the Co-Leaders, but I don’t put the responsibility of having them be my backup should I be sick and can’t make an event or meeting. My Co-leaders are my backup at meetings when I am sick or can’t make a meeting.
I meet with the co-leaders and assistant leaders during the summer. We go over what the girls enjoyed that we did last year and what they didn’t. I go over their badge voting tallies too. Then we generally plan out the year with themes, then fill in activities appropriate for the theme. In this planning we also include any field trips the troop will take. It really helps to have others come up with their level activities so that I don’t have to think of everything. It is a mental and physical relief for me. I work with the other leaders to bring our planning together and have it work for all levels.
The first year of our troop, I started with two other leaders and it started out great, but then I lost those other leaders due to moving out of the area and job promotions (which I am so glad for them.) But during this time, I did struggle. I struggled with having to come up with activities for all levels to do in one meeting. I had some parents help, they became registered and background check so that we can have the right adult ratio to girls, but they didn’t want any part of the planning responsibility, so for a while, I was on my own. Thankfully, I had two co-leaders that volunteered with my troop who understood my needs and were able to understand the leadership team I was striving for. I am so thankful for Ms. Alyson and Miss Helen!
So here are some tips that I would suggest to new leaders.
- Before you start your troop, go online and research being a girl scout leader. Find what others have done.
- Along the same line, go on Facebook and join girl scout groups. There are lots of them. This is a great resource for ideas.
- Attend your Service Unit meeting religiously. This is the best way to network with other leaders and to pick their brain on how they did things in your area. Your Service Unit Manager (SUM) and other Service Unit team members are also helpful and want you to succeed as a troop leader.
- Get organized! As a troop leader of one level or as a leader of a multi-level troop, it is imperative that you are organized. You can have a troop binder or you can go digital, but either way, you need to have your information organized. (A word about digital organization: Check with your council, although I’m mostely am digital/electronic, I am required to have copies of the Health forms with me at all meetings and events so I do have to print some things out.)
- Communicate with parents and keep them updated. There are many different ways to communicate with parents other than emails and texts. Our troop just started using BAND and I love it! At the end of the year, I will poll my parents to see how they like it and make changes if necessary.
- This last one, I add with a caveat. Search on Pinterest for ideas on everything Girl Scout. My caveat is, DO NOT compare what you do to those ideas that you find on Pinterest. If what you do does not come out as it was shown on Pinterest, don’t think of it as a Pinterest Fail. This of it as finding out a way NOT to do that project.
I hope this helps future Girl Scout Troop leaders out there in starting their new troop. It is a very rewarding venture. Your life will be very full, full of young girls smiles, hugs and growth. Your heart will be happy as mine is!
Have a great day!
Patricia has been creative since she was 8 when she built her own puppet theater (with the help of her older sister) to put on a show for her mom and younger sister. She loves fiber embellishments, embroidery, photography, planning and Happy Planner products, and crocheting. Patricia also is a genealogist and volunteers as a Girl Scout troop leader, and as a webmaster for several non-profit organizations.