Monday, February 13, 2012

Advice for my Sister

My younger sister was recently called as the YW president in her ward. She expressed some concerns about strong personalities - holdovers from the previous administration. I offered her this advice:

If you want your counselors to step back, a good way is to clearly lay out your vision for the girls and how they can help bring it about.   Strong personalities will resist this, but hold firm; exhibiting strong but empathetic leadership will go a long way (edit: easier to write than to do).

Put the girls in charge of their meetings and activities, and instruct the advisers to simply advise. Presidents preside, advisers advise.  Who was set apart as class presidents?  NOT the adults.  Teach your youth leaders to lead, and then stand back and let them.

Harder than doing it yourself? Yes.
More beneficial to your girls? Absolutely.
Resistance from those who've "always done it this way?" Undoubtedly.

Mistakes will happen, at all levels, but that's where the best learning happens. So long as health and safety (edit: and testimony and salvation) are not threatened, let the girls do it.

Good luck!

Later, I sent her this letter:

For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on your new opportunity. It's something I've given a lot of thought to over the last year or more, and I even bounce these ideas off a co-worker, a beehive adviser in her ward, she seems to like it.

One thing I have learned from my Scouting training in the last year and a half, is that the techniques are not unique to Boy Scouts. I strongly believe that most of Scouting’s methods can be readily adapted by a YW program. Let me ‘splain:

Scouting’s aims are to develop young men (and women!) of (1) strong moral character, (2) Personal fitness (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental…), and (3) participating citizenship.

It accomplishes this through eight methods, seven of which go hand in hand with the YW program:
  1. Patrols (class groups to belong to, identify with, work with and play with) 
  2. Ideals (Scout Oath, law, motto slogan – YW values) 
  3. Leadership Development (Personal Progress) 
  4. Personal Growth (PP) 
  5. Adult Association 
  6. Advancement (PP) 
  7. Outdoor activities (why can’t girls go on an overnight camp or a hike?) 
  8. Uniforms – not applicable
(notice how “getting eagle” is not an objective, but a method to accomplish the objectives)

As you’re aware, I work with the 11YO Scouts - boys (and parents) just starting out. I tell the parents that I don’t worry about ranks, because if the boys are having fun and learning in their patrol, ranks will take care of themselves. I also tell them that I’m building men, and my standard is this: what kind of individual do I want this boy to be in 15 years, AFTER high school, after mission, after the early milestones of adulthood are over and gone? It goes back up to the Aims: a man of character who recognizes his place in society and who is well-rounded. (I also tell Mom that Scouting did not fail [our brother], nor he Scouting, Eagle notwithstanding, because he exhibits those characteristics.)

By empowering youth to make the program theirs, instead of yet another sit-down, shut-up, fold-your-arms-because-another-adult-is-talking-to-you “class,” they will take a more active role in their own development. The idea is that we’re training our replacements. Find out what the girls want to do, then help them make a plan to do it. Give them control, and let them make mistakes. So long as they’re safe, those mistakes are learning opportunities. I heard someone say it this way:
“If all we were concerned with is successful activities, we wouldn’t need the [youth] to be involved in making them happen. Since our goals are not activity-focused, we can afford to step back and let mistakes happen, as long as they’re not health and safety issues, and we coach and counsel those involved so they learn what went wrong and how to avoid them in the future.” (Scoutmaster Jack, on a podcast I listen to)
It's important to have the bishop on board. Whatever you decide to do, present your plan to the bishop. In all likelihood, by simply having a plan, he'll get on board. If you decide that what I've written has merit, just tell him that you’re co-opting the successful techniques that the boys use (should be using?) to plan their year, and that the girls will have full ownership and accountability of their program. By contrast, I have read that by taking the youth out of planning, the youth will take themselves out of the program (paraphrasing Elder Charles Dahlquist, former YM General Presidency member).

For example: One requirement my boys have is to plan a nutritious meal, secure the ingredients and appropriate cooking utensils, and on a camp out, handle the food properly, cook it, clean up, etc. This requirement on its face is about cooking, an excellent skill to learn. But cooking is merely the vehicle to teach planning and execution as a group, a vital ability to function as an adult.

Above all, make sure it’s fun. I always try to cap a hike or a camp out with a 1-3 minute spiritual reflection, usually based on something that happened during the event itself. This often goes farther than a 45-minute fireside, because let’s face it, we’re working with kids, and they suffer from short-attention-span-itis (the boys suffer from testosterone poisoning as well, but that’s another issue entirely).

If what I have said makes sense and is something you want to utilize, find someone in your ward who went to Wood Badge (likely a current or former Scoutmaster) and pick their brains about youth leadership and other useful information (you can pick my brain, too). Good Luck!

The bottom line is, we want the same results for our daughters as we do for our sons. Scouting is a wheel that's already invented and tested. It works. It's adaptable. No (re)inventing needed!

Prepared. | For Life.™


Fishgutts said...

Great advice! I am still trying to get my daughter's YW leaders to hand them back their program!

Tory said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

I have an outline I scribbled out one night in the borders of my journal entitled "What the Young Women's Program can learn from Scouting" that has several of the same points you make.