Now that I’ve been a troop leader for four months, I’m beginning to get the hang of this thing. In the beginning I had so much I wanted to accomplish at the meeting, that I left overwhelmed and disappointed that we didn’t finish everything. I’ve had to simplify my expectations, learn how to estimate the time an activity will take, and become more flexible in the moment.
There are a few things I have begun doing to make our meetings run smoothly and reduce the amount of time I spend planning.
1. Find a system for making meeting plans
When I first decided I was going to be a troop leader, I was invited to the local Service Unit meeting. One kind and thoughtful leader offered to give me a packet of papers that she used for planning her meetings.
What a blessing it was for her to share her tips and hints with me. I took those sheets and when it was time to start planning, I gave them a try. Once I tweaked them a bit for my own use, they were great!
At first I put them in my Girl Scout binder (along with all the odds and ends of my Girl Scout career), but I found that I needed them to be more readily available. Because I use a day planner that holds 8.5 x 5.5 inch sheets of paper, I printed them out in a half-sheet sized version to keep in there. Now I can jot down my troop plans any time an idea strikes.
2. Plan for multiple meetings at one time
I have two wonderful assistant leaders. We get together and plan out meetings for the next couple months.
With Girl Scouts, the girls are supposed to have an input in their meetings and activities, so be sure your plans are general enough to give them a say in how their troop works.
3. Learn how to estimate activity time
The only real way to estimate times for your activities is by experience. Once you get to know your girls, you’ll discover how much they like to spend on different types of activities.
Remember, the younger ones have shorter attention spans for instructional type activities. However, they seem to have endless amounts of energy for playing active games.
Determine if you want to rush the girls to get lots done or if you want to let them set the pace. At the meeting, you can help them along by letting them know what you’d like to accomplish during the meeting so they can self-regulate their time somewhat.
Some girls will finish early and some will want to take their time. Try to give the fast ones a secondary, related project to keep them from the temptation of running around. Encourage your slow girls to finish up quickly and allow them to work on it home if they can’t get done.
3. Bring only what you need
If your meeting is somewhere besides your home, you’ll need to be prepared, but also not lugging around a ton of stuff you don’t need. By planning ahead, you can make a good list of what items you’ll need for a particular meeting.
4. Always have a few simple activities to fill any extra time
Learn yourself a couple games and/or song activities for which you’ll always bring supplies along. This way, if you ever have down time or you finish early with a project, you’ll have something you can do easily.
You can always bring along crayons and blank paper or notebooks for each girl. If you have special troop journals, you can use these to document different badge work or activities and use them for down time as well.
At a recent parent meeting, I used our troop journals to occupy the girls while their parents learned more about selling cookies.
5. Be flexible
The girls do not have to be going non-stop for the entire meeting. Take your time and see what they enjoy doing. Spend more time on projects that they like. Zip through parts that they don’t seem to appreciate. Let them run around for a game in between two sit-down activities.
While you won’t be able to please everybody all the time, you’ll get to know your girls and eventually be able to plan ahead easier and more accurately to suit them best.
At our last meeting, my girls were so enjoying making and decorating paper cell phones and pretending to call each other, that we didn’t get much of anything else done. They all seemed to have a great time, and learned how to use their phones to sell cookies!