In my previous post I told you how I became a Girl Scout Leader trainer, and how that episode of my life ended. In this post I will explore the valuable life-lessons I earned in my time as a Girl Scout Leader Trainer.
As you can imagine, being a male trainer in the GSUSA can be a very lonely endeavor. While I was a trainer I attended the Michigan state-wide trainers’ conference. This annual event brings trainers together to refresh their skills, learn new techniques, and enjoy fellowship. The first time I attended there were about 300 other trainers present. Exactly one other person there was a man.
The reactions I got from the ladies varied. The majority of the women were warm and welcoming. They liked the idea that there were men interested enough in their daughter’s Girl Scout experience that they would volunteer their time to help train leaders. Others were standoffish. A few were downright rude. It was at that conference that it dawned on me what one of my biggest lessons was to be from this experience. Namely, that I would end up with a clearer understanding of what it felt like, and what it meant to be in the minority. And, to be in a somewhat unwelcome minority at that. Now, I am not going to sit here and tell you that because of a few weekends where I was the only dude in a sea of women that it somehow qualifies me to know the true plight of minorities. But, I will tell you that it gave me a taste I would not otherwise have ever had.
There were other things I learned in those five years. I found out that I have a true passion for teaching, and in those years I had opportunities to gain confidence in front of the classroom, a skill I put to good use a few years later in another training environment.
Another thing I learned was to check my facts before using them. The classic example was when I was at that first weekend of Troop Camper training. One of the well-intentioned trainers was trying to explain why you should not wash your dishes at the pump. The actual reason is quite simple. You don’t wash dishes at the pump because it makes the pump area a muddy mess. It is rude to other campers, kills the nearby grass, and creates problems for all of the other campers.
Rather than citing that simple, rational, easy-to-understand answer, she went a different way. She told the class that the reason for not washing at the pump is that whatever goes down into the ground in the immediate vicinity of the pump comes back up in the water being pumped out. She used as her proof of this an incident where a girl was pumping out water, and a piece of carrot flowed out of the spigot.
To anyone who knows anything about how wells work, this is a ludicrous set of reasoning. First, the water coming out of any potable well in Michigan is probably from a depth of at least 150 feet, and can be as much as 600 feet depending on the area. Between that well head and the water table there is sand, clay, rock and a host of other materials both organic and inorganic. The chances that a piece of carrot dropped any time in the last few hundred years could descend to those depths, then be pumped back up and be recognizable are zero. That just isn’t how a well works. Second, if a girl pumped a piece of carrot out of a well, it is because someone else shoved the carrot into the spigot. And third, by her reasoning the first mammal to come relieve itself in the area of the well would render it useless.
You may wonder why it matters that she got the facts of this so wrong. It matters because if a person in her class uses that reason to try to convince someone to not wash at the pump, and that person has even the most basic understanding of how a well works, they will scoff at the example and go right on with what they were going to do while laughing at the silly Girl Scout leader’s ignorance. Also, if the person happens to be at a hydrant which is pumping water through a pipe from some distant location, then the example has even less credibility.
It is because of this that I learned to check my facts, read my sources, and know whether what I was saying in front of a classroom was accurate.
All in all I had a great time as a Girl Scout Leader trainer in those 5 years. I got to meet quite a number of really interesting people, and I felt like I made a difference in the lives of my class members, and of the girls who they went on to lead.
But with all that said, the most important lesson I learned, and one that you can take away from this is to find ways to be outside your comfort zone. It is only when we leave the warm cocoon of our everyday lives that we can experience true growth. More on the expansion of my comfort zone in my next post.