Problem with brownies' behaviour

(27 Posts)
Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 15:15:47

I would like to say first of all a huge thank you to people who volunteer to help with guiding at all ages. I am absolutely going to volunteer when my youngest dc is old enough to be left at the near bedtime that seems standards time for the units round here.
Given that, I would really like some advice on what to do about an issue that's arisen at dd1's brownie pack.
She's only just joined and after the first session, the leaders sent home a letter about how unsatisfactory the majority of the girls' behaviour is/was. It was really very strongly worded and although it acknowledged that it wasn't all of the girls, it had quite an unpleasant feel to it. Some of the parents who've had girls there longer said it was the first they'd heard of any problem.
Roll forward to last night which was dd's enrolment ceremony. The last one I went to was my own a few years ago (!).
We were invited to arrive at six fifteen, a bit after the start of the meeting. When we did, there was no acknowledgement that we had arrived apart from being casually waved towards some chairs. For the next half an hour, the brownies and leaders were organising who would do what, whilst all of the girls sat on the floor. When, after a while, some of the girls chatted a bit they were shushed and the shushing carried on from there.
The ceremony itself was chaotic. There was no introduction or welcome to families. I could see from dd's face that she was confused about what was happening. They did the questions, but you couldn't hear either the questions or the answers and most of the girls had their backs to us.
Then there was the bit with the toadstool and the mirror lake. Dd and the others didn't say "myself" very confidently because I don't think they really knew what to do and were brusquely and a little sarcastically reminded.
The promises were said in the middle of the ring and we couldn't see or hear. Then there was fifteen minutes of trying to organise badges and books for the new brownies and others. After that, a few of the established brownies brought round cakes for the adults while the other brownies sat still in their horseshoe. Lots of shushing. No one told us they were doing their hostess badge. After that they did the farewell song, Brown Owl really briefly thanked us for coming and all the girls had a cake on the way out.
All in all it was a shambles and I'm concerned that if the usual meetings are like that then it's hardly surprising that behaviour is poor. I thought they sat beautifully under the circumstance.
What should I do? It's the local group and dd is keen to go there because lots from her school go, but I don't want her to go to a group that is so poorly organised. I am kind of feeling its up to me to volunteer to help. We really appreciate them giving up their time, but it seems its no fun for anyone at the moment, girls or leaders.

PhyllisDoris Tue 07-May-13 23:31:14

It's important to remember that Brownie leaders are volunteers with no particular training in managing a group of as many as 30+ girls. Don't compare how a Brownie meeting is run with how you'd manage a class at school.
The leaders could be a couple of women who have been persuaded into running the unit to prevent it from closing (Guiding is desperately short of Leaders in most areas), and are probably doing the best they can.
I bet they'd be really grateful of an offer to help from a primary teacher, who would have all the right skills to offer. Just remember that Brownies isn't school, and Leaders aren't teachers.

ryanboy Thu 02-May-13 21:02:55

If that was a typical meeting there would be no Brownies there!
You do realise the Brownie promise, is a solemn promise and not a theatrical performance for the nenefit of the parents

ah, Roses, it was just an idea so she wouldn't have to approach her directly grin

I think she could still send information even without pretending she's official.

DeWe Wed 17-Apr-13 14:01:03

Hmm. It could be a little "chicken and egg" senario.

Some (maybe just 1-2) Brownies are misbehaving, They didn't get the full rehearsal before because she was dealing with the said misbehaving Brownies who declared the Promise ceremony was "boring" and wouldn't join in.
Brown Owl feels very nervous in front of parents in case they criticize her for how she handles them, so she goes very quiet and forgets things she would usually remember when not being watched, and she didn't have the stuff ready to give the new Brownies because she was still trying to keep the misbehaving ones on task...

In all honesty, having watched many Brownie promises, the "myself" is often said very quietly and often with prompting even after lots of rehearsal simply because doing the actual thing sends everything they've learnt out of the window.

I used to help frequently with a Rainbow pack. Two children joined who were an absolute pain. Things like the leader would say "can everyone be quiet please" and they'd look at each other and both scream as loudly as they could. Personally I'd have said to their parents that they didn't seem to want to be there, but the leader managed to deal brilliantly with them.
However, I know from being there and seeing the planning, that the amount of time they wasted was huge, and some activities were altered at the last minute so that they would do some semblance of behaving and not causing problems for everyone else. Our leader was very experienced, and I doubt most people realised the situation because of how well she managed it. She said she'd never had a problem like that in 20+ years of doing Guiding.

DorisShutt Tue 16-Apr-13 19:11:02

Unit helpers are anyone who helps, but doesn't make their promise - iirc even men can be unit helpers; they are still counted in the adult:child ratio, but a guider must always be present.

Guiding is fun, and quite addictive and you end up with a loft full of "stuff" I miss it, but as I have a DS, I can't see me getting involved with guiding again. Scouting on the other hand...

See how it goes, but I'd get stuck in; you never know, they might love you forever, worship you and get you a damehood (Disclaimer: I may be exaggerating a tad!)

starfishmummy Tue 16-Apr-13 19:02:35

It does sound a shambles but it could have been a one off so perhaps see what happens over the next couple of weeks? Maybe someone had planned the night but was taken ill leaving the others to wing it?

Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 18:24:52

A sashful!

Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 18:23:41

Well, I'm a "resting" teacher at the moment-dd2 is still quite little. Dh and I have discussed it and I think he's right that we should watch and wait at the moment and I might volunteer from September. He feels (and I can't argue with him) that I would find it impossible not to step in! I know one of the mums of an older brownie and yes, it seems nothing has changed since her dd's enrolment. I guess I don't want to jump ship altogether. The other thing I'll do is proactively encourage dd to do badge work. If she does some of those then she'll have gained enough to make up for the slightly wasted hour in meetings. Love her, I pointed out some of the badges she could do and she was really fired up. The syllabus for them is nicely challenging I think-really meaningful. Perhaps she'll have a dash full (was going to say armful-out of touch!)

Rosesforrosie Tue 16-Apr-13 18:05:06

^^dont send information pretending to be 'from districts'

Districts are not that big and she WILL know it hasn't come from there.

Try Doris' chat technique. And consider being a unit helper

Good luck!

maybe you could send some information by post to the Brown Owl, pretending that you're from District, with some ideas and activities (with instructions), and also link this guiders' forum?

Put in loads of information about it, and state how District is always there when they need help on planning etc.

then she need never know, and will (hopefully) think it's just a generic mailout.

BranchingOut Tue 16-Apr-13 17:49:58

A bit shocked that the children spent all that time sitting down and that there was no activity planned.

But seriously, do you want to get involved when you are already a teacher? I suggest waiting a couple more weeks and finding out how the meetings go from your DD, then maybe a discreet comment to the district if it all still seems shambolic.

mrs2cats Tue 16-Apr-13 17:42:59

Hmmm, difficult one.

Leaders are volunteers and some leaders don't work with groups of children on a daily basis. Sometimes groups are only able to carry on because well meaning volunteers step up although they don't have a real clue about what to do as they've never done anything similar before. Sometimes they have experienced leaders available to direct them, sometimes they just have to get on with it.

Is this a common impression amongst parents? Does this seeming lack of planning happen all the time? Could it be that the one night just went a bit wrong? Sometimes plans go out of the window due to other leaders not being able to attend or running late etc.

I think that Doris' approach is a good one. Just a friendly question or comment or the 'it was mentioned to me by someone....' approach.

There is always a place for volunteers and new ideas.

Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 17:35:42

Thanks again, Doris! I find it really hard when adults are passing off their incompetence, however well meaning, off onto children. It's like in schools-children first, staff a bit behind, however much you want to help. Oh, lord. I think I might be becoming a guiding volunteer!

DorisShutt Tue 16-Apr-13 17:28:45

HTH!

I'm a great fan of the "it was mentioned to me by someone, and I'd rather not say who, but..." approach wink

I've been out for a while, but still have folders of crap ideas that I'm happy to share if you want to ask anything if you do volunteer. And don't worry about them thinking about ulterior motives; my only thought when people volunteered was "thank god! Someone to help!"

And as an aside, we did planning meetings towards the end of term for the next term in the pub so we never went back into the term cold; and we found having a pow-wow with the girls before this to get their ideas also meant they felt more involved and less likely to muck about.

Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 17:20:40

And I'm going to do what Doris said, verbatim!

Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 17:18:51

Is there a place in the volunteer structure for people to help out at meetings, organise activities and things and could I subtly improve the discipline from within this role? I tell you, if this were a class in a school I taught in there would be capability procedures starting. But these are well meaning, albeit completely ineffectual people who would no doubt be crushed if there were a big complaint. But the parents were laughing at their expense afterwards. Not good. I'd like to do something more positive than laugh.

ooh, Doris's post is very good.
very good indeed.

it definitely sounds like they aren't getting stimulating meetings.
if it can be so half-arsed when they've got important guests!

and why weren't they scripted beforehand? why weren't the ones who were doing their hostess badge told how to treat the guests?

sounds truly shambolic.

Newbrowniemum Tue 16-Apr-13 17:10:58

There was a brief letter home last week asking us to pay for brownie adventure book and badge book and that we could attend if we wanted to. No mention of hostess badge, no invitation from the brownies.
Dh and I are both teachers and tbh I was on the edge of bad behaviour myself. It was toe curlingly embarrassing to see the adults at the most public event they do so poorly planned and suggesting that the girls should have behaved better and I felt really cross on the Brownies behalf. Honestly, they were being so good under the circumstances. It felt like the worst observed lesson I've ever done and I wasn't even really in the right position to criticise/comment.
Do you think they'd work out why I was volunteering? I want dd to be able to go to that pack because her friends are there but I can't send her there under those circumstances every week. And yet I fear I might say too much if I did volunteer.
It's so hard-I feel like complaining to the district commissioner but I'm so conscious that that would really upset well meaning volunteers who just aren't up to being in charge of a biggish group of girls. I can't see how it's enjoyable for them though. A bit like when you just know someone isn't cut out to teach and they plough on anyway. Aargh!

jennybeadle Tue 16-Apr-13 15:31:25

I'm surprised to hear the older ones were doing their hostess badge, but you didn't know. When DD2 and DD3 joined, the ones doing their hostess badge sent invitations to the parents of the new Brownies who would be doing their promise, saying what the event was etc. etc.

I'd be really disappointed it is such a shambles, and wonder really if there is any point in going. DD3s Brownies is very relaxed, but the leaders have a clear purpose each week, and though the girls are (very) high spirited, I don't think it would ever be referred to as bad behaviour.

Is there another pack you could look at joining? (I realise that there may not be that option!)

DorisShutt Tue 16-Apr-13 15:28:03

Difficult one. As an ex-leader I've never had to resort to a letter home about behaviour, but my meetings were very organised and enrolments practised for a couple of weeks so everyone knew what they were doing.

Similarly, everyone in the pack was aware of the hostess badge - we usually combined it with the entertainer badge - so it was a whole parents evening IYSWIM.

Could you bring it up with the leader in the form of "my DD was a bit confused with the ceremony, did she miss a rehearsal?" which might be enough to let them think about it. Or a diplomatically worded phrase about your DD's friend saying she mucked about coz she didn't know what she should be doing; and naturally you don't want to mention what friend.

It's really tricky. Of course you could always volunteer to help as well? wink

YokoUhOh Tue 16-Apr-13 15:25:46

Wow, it's a wonder the girls keep going back!

It sounds like the whole thing is being run on a wing and a prayer, and the leaders don't know how to organise and engage the girls. They also sound under-prepared and a bit disrespectful. Short of volunteering, I don't have any ideas about how to change this.

As a teacher, I would hand some responsibility to the children; perhaps your daughter and her friends could offer to 'host' the parents next time, showing them to seats and doing some baking beforehand...?

Floralnomad Tue 16-Apr-13 15:21:04

What does your daughter say they usually do ? Do they send you a programme for the term home ? I was a beaver and cub leader for several years and my pack nights were always great but I'm sure a lot of parents would have thought my induction nights were a bit disorganised as TBH I was never that comfortable with all the 'ceremony ' involved with scouting . Ultimately it was one of the reasons I left .

CurlsRUs Tue 16-Apr-13 15:20:51

Newbrowniemum, I have a feeling our daughters attend the same pack....

Groovee Tue 16-Apr-13 15:19:12

How is dd enjoying brownies?

I dislike being on "display" and tend to do a quick promise ceremony with the girls and it seems to work fine but I'd hate to think that people felt ill off me for the way I do a traditional ceremony.

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