Denise Montgomery is a Junior troop leader in San Diego, California, who runs a consulting practice focusing on youth development. In this post, she shares how intentionality helped her young Girl Scouts learn to use the power of their voices.
One of the great joys of leading a Girl Scouts troop is supporting the girls as they grow. It has been particularly fulfilling to see girls who were shy as Daisies now, as Juniors, initiate projects, lead activities, and share their points of view.
Before forming our troop, my co-leader and I talked about the troop culture we wanted to nurture. We also shared insight from our professional lives, including books and research on group communications, that could inform troop culture. For instance, we learned that in any given group, about 30% of people tend to dominate, and by being aware of that subset’s tendency, we know that we must be intentional about ways to hear from all girls.
As an extrovert, it has been helpful for me to understand introversion and extroversion in terms of how people become energized. Introverts get more energy from within themselves and tend to do best in less stimulating environments, whereas extroverts are energized through interactions with others.
As troop leaders, we create a safe culture and include many types of opportunities for participating, speaking out, and assuming leadership roles. We don’t label girls and would never say something like, “Don’t be shy” or “Lindy is shy.” We don’t force girls to do things. Just as we take a “challenge-by-choice” approach for adventure activities such as zip-lining or a climbing, the girls choose when they are ready and want to more visible, vocal, or bold within the troop.
Here are my favorite tips for creating a space for girls to express themselves.
Transformations occur gradually and through a culture of acceptance and respect. My co-leader and I are intentional about ensuring that all girls’ voices are heard and that they, whether shy or outspoken, have a range of opportunities to lead.