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Weekly Discussion: Keeping up with the Flossies

badgemad4

Veteran (100+ posts)
#1
You don’t know quite how they do it.

Most areas have one uber successful appearing unit/s.

They seemingly do everything. Interesting unit activities, at least one big residential and exciting trips and residentals a year, and multiple interesting visitors.

The unit not only has full uniform but the girls are covered badges that seemingly glow at joint events and from the local newsletter.

The leadership team seem the best of friends and go on extra trips together (you can’t even get everyone to the planning meeting). They seem to manage this all and work full time.

They have a healthy waiting list and all the girls in your unit mention “Bessie’s unit are doing X!” (or a parent asks why you aren’t also doing X).

Sometimes no matter how much time and love you pour into a unit it’s still an uphill battle, and seeing a “perfect” unit can make you want to throw the towel in, especially after comparative comments. Yet we all have had a hand in running a unit and know that these things don’t just happen by magic- or else every unit would be like it!

What are your tips for:
  • Dealing with “helpful” commentary from parents (why can’t you do X like other unit does?)
  • Being that golden unit, if you’ve been in a very sucessful unit what do you think made it so, what can we learn
  • Coping with feeling down because your unit doesn’t seem as good as another’s
 

badgemad4

Veteran (100+ posts)
#2
For each point:

  • Parents sometimes need a gentle reminder and don’t think how comments appear. Tell it to them straight, that’s because X unit has four leaders, we only have one, they have a qualification we don’t have, none of our current team can do anything outside of the one night of the week. One of my more blunt UHs tends to simply say “we are already volunteer to do X&Y why do you also think we also do Z?”
  • I don’t think I have ever been in the plum unit for the area but definitely one that offered lots of extras. It often came down to that there were lots of volunteers so there was always at least one person who could go with the small group of girls who wanted to go. We looked busy but very rarely was the whole unit in attendance to all the events.
  • Some units are simply better than others at either promoting themselves or have a better way with words. For example an “I can be anything” evening with Rainbows with women coming to talk about their careers- sounds great on paper as a title but in reality the girls could have been sat fidgeting through each five min talk (but the photos of them playing with some work equipment doesn’t show that…). In my experience (and I do not wish to generalise or offend) units that tend tend to be able to offer longer/more complex residentials have leaders who are either teachers or independently wealthy, so have the time off during holidays/ time to plan- which can be hard for the rest of us to even try and match.
You still offer loads of fun and opportunities to your girls. Try and count how many times you see girls smile during an ordinary meeting. You giving your time that week made those smiles happen.
 

fenris

fenris
GuiderPlus
#3
Without wanting to offend anyone who has appeared in the magazine - I look at the pictures of the unit on their super-duper trip or with their celebrity visitor, or their massive fundraising cheque, and I think 'and the following week was back at the hall'. For that's the thing. Whenever we are asked to describe what our unit does we immediately think of the residential events, the outings, the big challenges - all the big stuff, of which there are one or two examples of each per year. But these take up maybe 6 meetings out of 36? Meaning that there were 30 ordinary ones. Now ordinary doesn't have to mean dull - there are lots of things you can do in an 'ordinary' meeting which are challenging, educational, exciting, fun - but we tend to overlook that, because we are dazzled by the big ticket stuff.

If the Flossies meet up the road from you, there are various things you can do. First is to make sure people know about what you do do. Submit items to local newspapers/magazines/community websites. Keep your unit's social media up to date, so you are making sure that the parents, the community and the local media all know about you and what you are doing.

Next is to sit back and look at your programme. Asking yourself honestly, is it regularly refreshed and exciting, or have you slipped into a bit of a rut? Do you regularly introduce new activities (to yourself as well as to the girls), whether it be new challenges, new games, new skills? Do you regularly gauge the programme each week to judge whether it is too mature and difficult, too simple or twee, or just right, for the current girls in the age group?

Then consider your Leadership team - might you benefit from swapping jobs round so different people broaden their experience, or get the chance to try new/different ways of doing things?

If you are the unit considered to be the Flossies, the first thing is - don't cut down what you are doing. But consider how you might be able to share. If one of the neighbouring units has inexperienced Leaders, or doesn't have qualifications yet - could you offer a joint outing or camp/holiday? Or offer their Leaders the chance to come with you for experience? Do you share your contacts for activities or sources for equipment?

The other thing to consider is, amongst all you are doing - are you definitely covering the section programme? Are the girls involved in choosing and organising as much of the programme as they could, and getting to do as much as possible unaided? Are the girls definitely covering all the clauses in their challenge work?

A Flossie unit needn't be a threat or seen as a threat to others. Indeed it can be an asset. So long as everyone is being positive, and not jealous.
 

Burghilly

Veteran (100+ posts)
#4
I think the current set of girls you have in your unit is also going to make a difference. Like any teacher will tell you there are groups when everyone gets on brilliantly then there are other periods of time when the mix of girls just seem to grate - no matter what you do or how hard you try.

My unit had a sudden influx of 10 year olds, just as most of the 13 & 14 year olds left. That's made a big difference as I feel this particular group of girls are very open to try new things and are all by & large very keen to be guides. A few weeks ago after a very articulate unit debate and ballot they decided that as a unit they will now sew their badges on their uniforms. And so they have. This is not something the previous set of girls would have dreamed of doing as it just 'wasn't their thing', and it wasn't something I 'made them do ' it just wouldn't have worked.

I also gave them 2 GFI's to choose from for this term. With Easter coming up I offered GFI Chocolate and Animal active thinking they'd all go for the Chocolate one, only to find the Animal Active one won by a huge margin!

To echo Fenris I think you need to really understand your girls, their like & dislikes and help to choose activities they can genuinely get excited and engaged with. If the girls are having fun and eager to come each week and get involved then no matter how low key the activity might be I think you should count it as a success.
 

Quack

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#5
I think every District has a Flossie unit, but they can change over time. Fenris is right though, we only ever see the successful nights, not the ones where a Brownie has a meltdown and throws glue over the floor...for all the great weekends away, how many girls are alientated because they can't afford to go on everything...

We all have to strike a balance, if we can only go on one residential a year, we make it the best residential that we can.... if we do a craft it is well thought out and not this weeks special offer at Webb Ivory...if we have a 'dysfuntional' unit, it's because we welcome all the girls we can, whether or not they have particular needs or need more attention than others, their parents trust us and we are happy to see them grow and develop, gain confidence in a supportive atmosphere. If our girls misbehave, it's because they have spirit and are not disciplined within an inch of their life. They may not have every badge or challenge under the sun but they haven't created the badge yet for lying back and looking at the stars or watching the creepy crawlies under the rocks. Our girls don't need the reward or gratification of a badge for having funds and making friends.

Sent from my SGP712 using Tapatalk
 

partygirl

Veteran (100+ posts)
#6
From the outside, I suppose, I'm that unit in a whole Division like it. I've got 36 girls with a huge waiting list and all the other units in the Division are full as well. We do lots of trips, from visiting the fire station for free to Alton Towers sleepovers etc. Lots of day trips, visitors in to visit, whole Division events etc.

I do say from the outside though. Anyone who knows me will tell you I constantly fly by the seat of my pants and feel I'm failing if they haven't done something exciting every week/finished their BP/getting on with their yearly challenge badge etc, etc, etc. Although I have 4 leaders, I'm the only "full time" one and I end up doing all the paperwork, planning etc and constantly feel overwhelmed. I quite often feel I'm not getting anywhere, the girls are not learning anything, I'm not getting to know them properly as there are so many of them, can't get enough leaders to offer camps. We might look fantastic from the outside but we have huge problems too, the same as everyone else.

So, how do we look so good? Teamwork within Division mainly. Every year we take it in turns to organise stuff, we constantly tell each other what we have been doing, share resources and contacts and generally support each other. Every year for the last 10 years we have taken it in turns to organise a sleepover to somewhere like Alton Towers, Think Tank, The Deep and other cross Division events. It doesn't have to be a huge event either. Last week a Brownie unit had organised a drumming company to come in and invited a Rainbow unit to join them. It spread the cost and it helps with transitions too. We did a Barefoot Walk last summer that just involved 3 of us getting some boxes which we filled with various bits like leaves, oats, cornflour etc and the whole Division came. Total work for each leader involved in the planning/organising was about an hour, plus the running within our usual meetings and we catered for 300 girls who loved it.

I think all the above comments are right. We keep "looking good" by encouraging each other and picking up the slack if someone is having a bad time and that's the key, I think. We don't all get on because we are nice people (although I think they are), we get on because we work at it and work together. We are not in competition with each other, just parts of a whole team.
 

chopperchick

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#7
Such a variety of reasons - similar to looking at other people's families or relationships. We all have *that* friend who seems to have the perfect relationship, 2.4 children, good job(s) that allow a decent work / life balance etc etc. But how much of that impression is based on their Facebook posts of a happy family on a day-out etc. How many folk are actually posting about the fall-outs, the money struggles, the threat of redundancy, the undiagnosed illness.
So yes, we see the cheque presentations or famous visitor or days-out ......... but no-one tends to publicise a bog-standard, normal meeting. That standard meeting being one which is perfectly good in terms of reflecting the programme, the choices of the girls etc ....

In an ideal world, a DC or DivC would know how to get leaders & units together so there's not any disparity - but we're only volunteers. We're not a franchise with every branch rolling out an identical service.

A lot also boils down to what's on offer locally. Simple example - a guide unit I knew met the same night the local firefighters met for their training, so often got an invite to participate in exercises. It was great playing injured folk waiting to get rescued! But because the firefighters are also volunteers, there was a limit to how many other nights through the week they'd be able to accommodate visitors.

A simple idea, if folk were up for it locally, is to compile an address book / contacts list ...... people you've used successfully, prices / contact details / recommendations for certain age-groups ...... particularly if it's a none-too-obvious idea who doesn't advertise . That way, we get to benefit from each other's contacts.

Another reason might be historical finances - if units have benefited from large donations in the past, they may still be using interest / capital to supplement subs. I heard of one unit who did Webb Ivory very successfully donkeys years ago before everyone jumped on it, and when there were fewer guiding units (and other clubs / sports groups) in the area. Something like may easily make some activities more affordable for a unit. A bit like me getting a lottery win and you thinking I was a bit flash!
 

NosilaC

Regular (50+ posts)
#8
We did a Barefoot Walk last summer that just involved 3 of us getting some boxes which we filled with various bits like leaves, oats, cornflour etc and the whole Division came. Total work for each leader involved in the planning/organising was about an hour, plus the running within our usual meetings and we catered for 300 girls who loved it.
Ooohh! LOVE this idea - do you have any tips on what worked well, anything you'd change, anything to avoid, etc that you could pass on. Am hoping to do a fun day (hopefully with other units in our District) in the autumn, and would love to include this. Plus it would be a brilliant way of helping the Brownies earn their Growing Up Wild: Textures and Shapes paw print which we're planning to do!
 

Trinny

Veteran (100+ posts)
#9
As a leader without long-term adult help (we currently have a uni student who's here until June, but then leaving), I can't do residentials or trips at the weekend etc. So the girls ask for a sleepover, and I say "To do a sleepover, we need another adult. So you could ask your mum/grandma/aunt if she would like to help and then we can do one". But we've never had an offer of help because the girls want a sleepover without their parents there, so it really only disadvantages the one child who parent stepped up! So we did a district residential last year, but no plans for this year.

I just try and think, yes, but I'm also working full time, studying for a post-grad qualification and planning a wedding. I only run this unit because it was going to close 2 years ago, and I've kept it open since then despite being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I do (local) trips during meeting times, and all girls earn Adventure badges and interest badges. They're doing just fine. And even if I never did guiding again, I would still have made it possible for over 40 girls to be a Brownie, who wouldn't have otherwise. That's ok with me.
 

Fox

Brownie-induced madness
#10
I've been a neighbour to a Flossie unit and it can get very dispiriting. I have taken lots of ideas from them but I do worry that they have too many girls - 40+ Brownies, 50+ Guides - the leader in question says they cannot turn girls away because a) they just can't and b) girls are used to having X night as their Guiding night so wouldn't go to another unit.
I am interested in the point above about girls not being able to afford multiple opportunities - they do seem to do a lot of quite expensive things, as well as just "a lot" generally - so that is a worry.
 

partygirl

Veteran (100+ posts)
#11
Ooohh! LOVE this idea - do you have any tips on what worked well, anything you'd change, anything to avoid, etc that you could pass on. Am hoping to do a fun day (hopefully with other units in our District) in the autumn, and would love to include this. Plus it would be a brilliant way of helping the Brownies earn their Growing Up Wild: Textures and Shapes paw print which we're planning to do!
We just got some of the fruit boxes from Tesco, an old paddling pool, a few groundsheets, a couple of the flexible round storage tubs and some washing up bowls (basically, whatever we had around). They had to walk through stones, leaves, oats (one pot dry, one pot mixed with water), slime (cornflour mixed with water and a bit of paint), compost with water, mint and lemon balm (they were good, as they were really smelly and one of the ladies had some in her garden), water, sand, hay, bark and bubblewrap. We ran it on 2 nights the same week, as our groups mainly meet on those 2 nights. Each group was given a time to come, which we organised round which section they were (so Rainbows/Brownies were early, Guides/SS were later). Our only problem was that the girls wanted to go round again and again. We put the "cleaner" stuff at the beginning so that they didn't track the dirtier stuff through all the cleaner. We also had some other feet related activities to keep them busy if they had to wait or were finished quicker than we thought.

We used it to collect old shoes for a local charity and ended up with 600 pairs which was good for us and for the charity.
 

morris minor

Veteran (100+ posts)
#12
RE:barefoot walk.
We did this a while back using disposable roasting dishes (the foil kind) filling them with things like cornflakes (cheapest possible), oats, flour etc
The one that generated the greatest reaction was the jelly (chopped up in the dish). One of the Brownies put her finger in it and tried eating it after 23 others had put their feet in!
We had blindfolded the Brownies and they were sitting on chairs and we slid the trays along to the next girl. We did it outside to make cleaning up easier:)
Thanks for the reminder, it was great fun.
 

NosilaC

Regular (50+ posts)
#13
We just got some of the fruit boxes from Tesco, an old paddling pool, a few groundsheets, a couple of the flexible round storage tubs and some washing up bowls (basically, whatever we had around). They had to walk through stones, leaves, oats (one pot dry, one pot mixed with water), slime (cornflour mixed with water and a bit of paint), compost with water, mint and lemon balm (they were good, as they were really smelly and one of the ladies had some in her garden), water, sand, hay, bark and bubblewrap. We ran it on 2 nights the same week, as our groups mainly meet on those 2 nights. Each group was given a time to come, which we organised round which section they were (so Rainbows/Brownies were early, Guides/SS were later). Our only problem was that the girls wanted to go round again and again. We put the "cleaner" stuff at the beginning so that they didn't track the dirtier stuff through all the cleaner.
Mega thanks, this is really useful, and a great activity. Hope our girls enjoy it as much as yours obviously did! Good idea re starting with the 'cleaner' stuff and moving on to the 'dirtier' ones - though am thinking of ending with the plain water, followed by towels laid on top of bubblewrap to get feet clean (and then dry) before they have to replace their shoes and socks. Do you think this would work, or did you have chairs and bowls of water laid out for them to do a more thorough job on the footwashing...