Improving leadership skills with a simple Brownie evening

There are few activities we repeat year after year. Recently we’ve been Bowling each year around Christmas, and the last week of the Summer term is always a joint barbeque with the Guides, but this activity is something that goes back to before I was a Brownie myself. This week we held our infamous chip walk!

The chip walk consists of a walk to our local park, feeding the ducks, playing in the playground and walking to the chip shop for a bag of chips each. Simple, but the girls always look forward to it.

As you can see, there isn’t a lot of prep needed. We call the chip shop the day before to inform them and they are always great. This year I had to get a quick email out to inform parents that we can no longer feed the ducks bread! Next year we will figure out an alternative earlier on. So I had a think about my role as a leader and came up with a couple of targets to achieve by the end of the evening:

1. Have a conversation with each Brownie.

2. Avoid constantly freaking out on the walks along the roads.

I recently came across a Girl Scouts campaign to ‘Ban Bossy’. The idea behind this campaign is that while a boy taking charge is called a leader, a girl taking charge is called bossy. This negative word used for girls can put them off taking leadership roles. I’ve read some criticism of the campaign, that banning words doesn’t work and this campaign itself is ‘bossy’ but these people miss the point. The website has some lovely resources for girls, their parents, teachers and unit leaders to help boost a girl’s confidence and encourage leadership.

BanBossy

The first point under the unit leader resource is ‘Develop Relationships With Your Girls’.

THE SITUATION
Relationships empower girls. When they feel connected to the adults in their life, they are more resilient and courageous. Younger girls in particular are likely to look up to their Girl Scout leaders, so make your interactions with them count!

THE SOLUTION >
Build personal connections with the girls in your troop. Ask them how school is going or what they’re
listening to, reading, or watching. Use girls’ names when acknowledging their ideas. When girls feel
comfortable and connected in a group, they are more likely to take healthy risks and try new things.

So inspired by this first tip I looked to ensure I held a conversation with each girl. Some girls run up to me on their arrival and start retelling the stories of their days, others are easy to talk to when I approach them, and a few (like I was as a child) generally respond to leaders in very short answers. So this task was a mixed bag, but on the whole I believe I had the opportunity to chat to each girl. I learned a couple of girls are participating in Race For Life, another really doesn’t like ducks, one is off to the Olympic Park soon and many are already looking forward to next year’s Brownie holiday.

My second task was to not freak out so much on the walks around town. It can be pretty overwhelming to have a large bunch of small girls walking around you along the pavement. And they don’t always listen. “Brownie A, keep up as we cross the road!”, “Brownie B, move over from the side of the road”, “Brownie C, SLOW DOWN!”. That is usually all the girls hear coming out of my mouth as we walk along the streets, but like my more experienced fellow leaders, I’ve come to realise it doesn’t have much affect! I gave the girls the rules before we left, I spoke directly to the girls who were not following those rules, and I just kept calm. A little bit of the Road Safety badge may be required though!

So, overall it was a lovely evening. We had plenty of time in the playground, and lots of chips! We weren’t even very late returning to the hall this year either!

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The words that hurt

I love the FineBros and their YouTube shows: Kids React, Teens React and Elders React. As the titles suggest, the FineBros take a YouTube video (and are now experimenting with technology and TV shows) and show these to a given age group to see their reaction. Every week new shows are uploaded with new interesting ideas to ask everyday people to react to.

Their most recent video, Teens React to Jonah Hill Controversy, is one of those videos with a deeper discussion and has ultimately given me the inspiration to write. Please take a look at the video first:

Extended version:

There is a shorter version at around 10 minutes long if you prefer, but as I watched the extended version this post will be commenting on the above video.

First, I respect all the teens in this video and nothing I comment on is a personal to these people. By appearing on the show, these teens are giving the public an insight into the thoughts and feelings of this age group during this day and age. I’m commenting on the situation as a whole.

In case you haven’t watched the video, the teens are reacting to Jonah Hill using a slur for homosexual. The video then shows his public apologies for using this term. I see this as a very genuine apology for some words that slipped out, he goes on to use his mistake as a warning to young people on how they should not behave.

The video then discusses many issues surrounding paparazzi and celebrity, but the main aspect for me was the teens reaction to using homosexual terms as derogatory. The teens seem to mostly agree that the term f***** was not okay to use, some however stating Jonah Hill didn’t need to apologise as he was antagonised into saying it. However, the discussion turned to using the word ‘gay’ as a slang term for bad.

I haven’t grown up in a world where I am gay, or my brother, best friend or someone close to me is gay. I had a couple of friends at college who were gay but this isn’t an aspect of the world that really affects me. But I do believe wholeheartly that the word ‘gay’ should never be a substitute for the word ‘rubbish’ or ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. And there was a little shock to find some teens don’t agree.

I feel for these teens who don’t agree that their opinion may change as they grow. Those who have used it and continue to use it seemed in agreement that if you say it around close friends it won’t have an affect, or that by saying it you’re not being homophobic. While I understand what they mean, the teens may not realise they are being homophobic and may be 100% okay for people who are homosexual, but by using the term they continue this cycle that it is cool to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory term. It may not offend anyone in his or her close circle of friends, but one of those friends may be influenced by hearing that word used and then use it themselves in a different scenario. You may believe that the close circle of friends around you are not offended by that word in that way, but one or more could have their confidence knocked, thinking that you may not accept them, believing that being gay is bad or wrong.

Using the word ‘gay’ as derogatory really came to my attention when I was around 17, similar age to some of these kids, and I was in Psychology class at college. A girl was giving her opinion in a class discussion about a topic I do not remember and called something ‘gay’. Our teacher, who wasn’t strict but showing authority, quickly shut her down on her use of the word. “But I’m not homophobic, I just meant it is rubbish” my classmate’s naïve response went. And our teacher, in a far more stern tone than we were ever used to, quickly explained that use of that word in a derogatory way was wrong. I felt the whole class took note of that moment and we all learned from it.

When I first heard in this video that one of the teens uses ‘gay’ to mean ‘bad’ I thought she may try to backtrack or realise it was wrong. But many of them believe it is okay. I really hope these teens learn otherwise. For these kids though, they hear other people use it and it sounds ‘cool’ to use it too. You can’t just tell a kid to use ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’ instead, like wearing the right trainers it isn’t ‘cool’ to use those words as a slur. But we really need to stop kids using ‘gay’ as one.

I hope schools are quick on their students they way my Psychology teacher was. I know I’d step in if I ever heard a Brownie say something like this.

On a side note, I found this video on YouTube this morning:

Being a girl should never be a slur either. While a lot of this video seems awfully scripted the sentiment and message is there. As a kid, if someone said to me ‘you throw like a girl’ I would respond with ‘I am a girl’. But as you get older you realise this is a slur, a belittlement, and I hope Always bring this campaign to a larger audience. I cannot #LikeAGirl. I don’t tweet. But I certainly do run like a girl.