Both of my girls, S & K, are involved in Girl Scouts. Also, because I love to be involved with the things that they do, I have been the leader for each of their troops from the very beginning. Either that, or I'm a glutton for punishment, but I prefer to enjoy the experiences as often as I can. With S, we are in our 7th year; with K, it has been 5 years. I have learned many things through those years.
First, I've learned that I was never cut out to be a daycare provider or elementary school teacher. Many years ago, I had my palm read at the Sonoma County Fair (for my Santa Rosa friends, I know you'll remember the "psychic reader" at the edge of one of the exhibit halls, near the midway). She said, while looking intently at my palm, that I would definitely be in business for myself, with another woman, and we would be running a daycare. Bwaaahhaaaahhaaaa! The largest either of my troops has ever been was 17 girls. Generally, I average around 10. Let me tell you, those girls can give me more than a run for my money whether there are 17 or 10 or 6 or even 3. If you get nothing else from this entry, let the lesson be that one should never waste $5 on the palm reader at the fair. ;-)
More importantly, though, I have learned that these girls are really capable of many things. Yes, Girl Scouts is still about camping and badges and s'mores. I'm not that kind of leader, though. Well, I'm definitely a s'mores kind of leader and badges too, but camping? Not so much. That's okay because Girl Scouts is also about offering leadership opportunities to even the youngest of Girl Scouts. Among the many programs that have been available, I am privileged to have been able to start an ongoing discussion with them about the roles of girls and women in the world today.
From those discussions, it is inevitable that the topic of stereotypes is revisited over and over again. We've examined the images of girls and women in the media (photoshopping, anyone?) and what kinds of assumptions we all make when we encounter someone different from all of us. They have had very thoughtful discussions about people with disabilities and people who might look different, but really are just like them. They see K and are able to accept her (as far as I know). She doesn't always say the right thing or act in the "expected" way, but that doesn't seem to matter too much to them.
This year, as my 4th grade Junior Girl Scouts have explored these different topics, one thing has remained true: these girls are growing in a mindset that they can do anything! Isn't that great?!? Some of them want to be mothers, some of them want to be engineers, others want to be bankers or teachers or scientists or bakers. The point is that it seems like they have no idea that women ever had any limits. I love that.
They see themselves as smart, imaginative, creative, strong, and confident. They celebrate their own individual talents - encouraging one another and accepting one another - and then bring all of the personal strengths together to accomplish a common goal.
These girls inspire me. The Juniors have created a skit to bust a stereotype that "Cheerleaders are dumb." You know how they prove it? A math competition, boys against girls. The skit is not just the competition, but in it, the girls are smart enough to hire a coach to help them prepare. So what have they learned? How to look beyond a stereotype, how to creatively work together to create a skit, how to make a plan and execute it, how to work together and incorporate all of the different ideas, how to listen to each other, how to express their ideas, and when to compromise.
I wonder if I would be able to recognize all of their wonderful qualities and talents if I had not been working with them through Girl Scouts. Recently, someone said to me, "Is S still in Girl Scouts? Isn't she a little old for that?" Technically, no she's not; Girl Scouts has programs for girls all the way through high school. My response was something like, "No. There isn't a girl around that is too old to learn about herself and participate in so many great opportunities."
When they are all noted as the movers and shakers in this country from politics to business to moms, I can say that I knew them when...
Oh, and of course, there are the cookies, but that is an entire post all by itself.