Free to be me

A few weeks ago, we began a discussion at Senior Section (this is a Girlguiding unit I run with girls aged 14-25) and body image came up. I can’t remember where the discussion had begun – it may have been talking about gender equality from one of the challenges in the Commonwealth Games ‘Ready, Steady, Glasgow‘ pack. I think we showed this video

We discussed how girls were concerned about being judged by other girls on how big their breasts were or their body size or what they were wearing.

You want to say it doesn’t matter.

And then you remember what you saw fill your twitter feed the morning after any film or television awards ceremony. And you realise that most of it is to do with what the women wore to the event more than how amazing their art work was that they were being nominated for an award for. I can’t help but cheer on Sarah Millican (who incidentally I think looks lovely in her dress from John Lewis that she wore to the BAFTAs in 2013) when I read this article she wrote in the Radio Times. And be raging at shows like Lorraine who spent time slagging off her outfit the next day.

When will this change?

I still remember a day sitting in a church office chatting the wife of one of our pastors. I ended up helping her with some simple admin stuff while I was in there and I loved having that opportunity to speak with a woman who had a bit more life experience than I. It was lovely to chat until a moment where she said out of the blue ‘Oh, you know if you did X, Y, Z with your hair it would look so much better’.

I smiled and nodded. But inside I felt so disappointed. Yep, I know my hair is mental and messy. Sure, if I got up an hour earlier every morning I could probably do something to make it look slightly more presentable. But really? Does it really matter what my hair looks like? Does my worth come from how good my hair looks? How clear my skin is? How put together my outfit is?

Quite frankly, my hope is that people look past my mismatched hoodie that I’ve shoved on over my outfit to keep warm or the messy tangle of frizz that I’ve tried to get out my face by pulling back into a bun or ponytail that has started falling out while I ran for the bus…I want people to care about the levels of wisdom, intelligence, kindness or compassion I show over how good my wardrobe looks.

I want to be able to do exercise to feel healthy and socialise with my friends rather than to look like an airbrushed photo in a magazine.

And I never want to be one of those people buying magazines or watching television which is just tearing apart my fellow women.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has teamed up with Dove to run a programme and challenge badge for Brownies and Guides called Free Being Me. As I watch some of my Guides walk in with their face hidden in heavy make up and telling me they think they’re fat – I’m seriously considering suggest to my fellow leaders that we should put it on the programme after the summer.

I feel sad that my old pastor’s wife felt the need to comment on my looks that she couldn’t see past them very far to what really counted. I like making the effort to make my nails more colourful, or my hair more tamed and enjoy wearing some crazy shoes every once in a while. But the majority of the time – sleep and comfort have a higher priority, and the highest priority is how beautiful I can make my character over how beautiful the package my character comes in…

I want to be free to be me, and I want my fellow Guides – adults, young leaders, rangers, Girl Guides, Brownies and rainbows to feel they can be free to be themselves too.

I want to be part of creating a world where that can happen…who’s with me?

**This post is also published on my other blog, The Girlguiding Life, where you can find out more about what I do volunteering with Girlguiding UK**

One Promise for All…

Well, I was about to do a ‘Quote of the Week’ post inspired by my amazing Senior Section and other Girlguiding ladies, but apparently there’s a demand for people to speak about an article that appeared the Telegraph on Wednesday. You know, the last day of term for us as Senior Section was the day after the new promise announcement. Several of our girls were hurt by the things said by outsiders about Girlguiding in the press as they were so excited about the wording change and asked me if they could remake their promise. I know I was hurt by it – especially by some of the things I saw on being said on Twitter. I spent 2 days defending Girlguiding and trying to explain what the press had warped and gotten oh so wrong. The one thing that encouraged me was the lovely feedback I got (especially from some nay-sayers) who read my post about the new promise and said they’d found it really helpful. Thank you for being willing to listen!

Planning for next term of Guides

As the Girlguiding members gear up to return for a new term and the new promise is about to come into action, a ton of us leaders were disappointed to see the Telegraph article appear. (And surprise, surprise, a photo with the old uniform!). And then today apparently we were discussed on The Wright Stuff and referred to us being a religious organisation?!!

A few things to say.

First of all, Girlguiding and Scouting is different from the Girls and Boys Brigade. God has never been at the ‘core’, and the promise reflects an era where there wasn’t as much cultural diversity and more people participated in religion because it was what you did, not necessarily because you actually believed. We have never been a Christian organisation.

However, a lot of Parish churches have welcomed and accommodated Girlguiding units (who often don’t have ‘Guide Huts’ – we don’t have the same money that Scouts do!). Just as they’ve accommodated Mother & Toddler groups, Women’s Institute groups, fitness classes and many other community activities. We so appreciate this!

Second, is the idea that a leader should encourage young girls aged 5 or 7/8 to continue to use the old promise when they might not believe (or know what they believe yet) is in my mind, spiritually abusive. And it might not be what the parents want! I don’t think that the new promise excludes Christians at all, or Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or any other faith groups. In fact, it encourages girls to make a commitment to exploring their personal values and beliefs.

Third, is the idea some have made about having two promises. I’m against that, because I think this is the big area where Christians historically have made a real mess of things. I remember having a conversation with my Pastor about one of the saddest sights in Edinburgh: Holy Corner. At a crossroads stands 4 churches on different corners of the intersection. Why do you need 4 different churches in one place? Because of disunity. Let’s find the things we agree on and be united with One Promise for EVERYONE! One that everyone can say truthfully, and make an honest commitment to! That’s what Girlguiding has done.

The Telegraph quoted a lady called Jem who said: “The pack leader’s insistence on keeping the old promise excludes me and any atheist girls from the troop, or asks us to lie when making the promise, something that surely goes against the Guiding principles.

That second part there is what bothers me most. Because lying when making a promise is not just against the principles of Guiding and Scouting (part of the Guide law is that ‘A Guide is honest and can be trusted‘). It also goes against what I understand, as a follower of Christ, to be against the teaching of the bible too.

We had our first day back on Wednesday at Senior Section. All 6 girls made a return and were so excited to be back (or they did a really good job of pretending to be if they weren’t – ha ha!). We had a new seventh member coming for the first time. We had an eighth new member apologetically e-mail me saying she couldn’t come this Wednesday but really wanted to join. A ninth girl e-mailed me last night after meeting some of the girls asking if she could join our group too! I’d made the girls folders to record their progress with the ‘Look Wider’ programme and used this is a base for planning their activities for the coming term.

Senior Section prep

Here’s some of what they decided to do:

A Pizza and Pyjama Party (they want to make the pizzas themselves)

Tie Dyeing t-shirts

Hallowe’en party

Diwali night

and…they want to go back on the Ferris Wheel at Christmas time, and re-do their Promise. I’m going to have to gear myself up for that one because this is what happened last year!

Some of the girls are thinking about exploring their beliefs by going to church as part of the ‘Personal Values’ octant of the Look Wider programme, as they asked Jenny and I what sort of things they could do for that octant. As I’ve said before, some of the girls while we were discussing the promise confessed they weren’t sure what they believed, or that they’d like to go to a church because their families do but they find the teaching there irrelevant or disagree with some of the messages being put out there by prominent people representing Christianity which takes stances on social issues such as homosexuality or women’s health they disagree with. I have girls who are intrigued by other faith beliefs or realise they know little about them. I have girls who regularly go to church and know they believe in God. I have girls who respect people’s belief in God but have looked into it all and know they don’t believe in a God at all.

And we all get along. We might have different beliefs about some things, but we’re ONE UNIT. We’re proud to be members of Girlguiding.

And these girls are AMAZING. The four of them who were in S4 and S5 kicked serious butt in their exams before the summer, one is now in college, the other three are still at school and looking into university options. One is doing her Duke of Edinburgh Award (she says the expedition was the worst experience of her life…but she sucked it up and got through it). Two of them have just finished their Baden-Powell Challenge Awards as they’ve come up to Senior Section. Six of them volunteer as young leaders and have a great rapport with the kids/young people they work with each week. One of them is volunteering to help tutor younger pupils at her high school. All of them are involved with a range of different extra curricular activities from playing instruments, to costume design for drama groups, to singing, ballet, badminton and being a first aid cadet…

They are caring, compassionate and stand up for injustice. Don’t tell me that not believing in God means they have a dodgy moral compass or that because they promise to be ‘true to themselves’ means they act selfishly. Their actions prove otherwise, and to me actions always speak louder than words.


**Update: I have since watched the segment on The Wright Stuff televised this morning on Channel 5. I was totally shocked by the lack of research and tweeted as I watched, totally understanding why my facebook had blown up with raging Guiders and volunteers wanting to throw stuff at their TV screens!

Some points:

1. Girlguiding did not change the promise ‘to gain more members’. It did so after a consultation which happened after many existing members expressed their discomfort about the wording of the promise, and their wish to be able to mean the promise they were making.

2. The logo shown  is not our current logo.

3. The oath is not usually said at the beginning of every meeting, though certainly it is discussed through the activities we do in all sections. This oath is known as ‘The Guide Promise’ and is said at a ceremony when someone joins a section of Guiding. For example, I made it as a Brownie, a Guide, a Young Leader, a Ranger and as an Adult Leader.

4. We don’t have ‘troops’. We have ‘units’ or a ‘Brownie Pack’ or a ‘Guide company’. Troops are what the Scouts have.

5. We had a consultation, and we wanted ONE promise that could include everyone rather than having 2 (or more)

6. We did not ‘get rid of the Queen’. Our new promise changed the line ‘to serve the Queen and my country’ to ‘serve the Queen and my community’ – which incorporated a line from the promise that Rangers and Young Leaders make.

7. ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ is encouraging girls NOT to be ashamed of what they believe.

8. We were not losing members. In fact in the last 2 years 16,000 new members have joined Girlguiding in the UK. And there’s more on the waiting lists.

9. Girlguiding and Scouting was never a recognised ‘religious organisation’, though true Christian principles were (and still are) the influence on the core of Girlguiding and Scouting (caring for creation, treated those as you’d wish to be treated). Robert Baden-Powell always incorporated other religions as Scouting and Guiding spread as a worldwide youth movement. He didn’t keep it limited to Christianity.

I am sad that the producers and people talking on the show didn’t know anything of the history of guiding, the Consultation, not to mention that this debate is being shown like…9 months after the consultation began, and 2+ months after the new promise was announced. **

Guiding 101: The wonders of boxes, scrapbooks & planning sheets

When I first came back into Girlguiding, I wasn’t sure what the history of our unit was, wanted my fellow leaders to like me and did not want to tread on any toes. I really spent the first 2 terms watching. And trying to work out things like Go For Its, the new badges (there are so few now!) and the G-File. We had 5 girls who were getting older and I watched them struggle with the younger ones. There was a lot of disrepect (the younger ones to the older ones). Sometimes the older ones just did it all out of frustration.

Once I’d got myself a G-File (I use it as a reference) worked out what a Go-For-It was and had chatted with leaders, we discussed ways in which we could improve the overall atmosphere, interactions and encourage the girls to take ownership. We wanted the girls to get as much out of guiding as possible. We observed who brought the best and worst out of each other, and organised the patrols accordingly. We also wanted to have a mixture of ages in each patrol.

Then, at the beginning of this school year, we brought in something from my guiding days that I hoped would help the girls work better as patrols.

Patrol boxes.

Patrol Boxes

Now, one of our Guides came up to Senior Section, and this apparently is a  highlight memory. “Awww! The boxes. I loved my patrol box”. (never mind when we had the Jubilee Beacon night, or went rock climbing. The plastic boxes I got 3 for £10 in Poundstretcher were the highlight – ha ha!)

The other brilliant idea that joined the patrol boxes was scrapbooks. Jo found some bargain ones in Ikea, and bought one for each patrol.

The idea behind these patrol boxes, is that the girls had a place to put their patrol things – bits of unfinished work, the Go For It or Badge resource they are working on etc. In each box I gave them a copy of our Unit Guidelines (which the girls work out and decide on together at the beginning of each year), The Guide Promise & Law and their scrapbook. We may in future put some pens in each one too! I think the night I went to get felt pen packs the shop only had one pack left.

I also made sure the boxes were exactly the same – I knew our Guides would fight/go in huff if one colour got preferred over another, so I bought 4 purple boxes.

The scrapbooks have also been great. Because of the recent ‘anniversaries’ and events like the Queen’s Jubilee, the girls have seen and heard about the history of Guiding. I’ve been encouraging the girls to document their history through the scrapbooks, explaining that one day future guides can see what Patrols did ‘back in the 2010s’.

This term I made sure to take pictures of what all the patrols were doing, and then printed photos so on the last night of term they could use the pictures in their scrapbooks however they wanted.

The difference we see in the girls since we introduced the patrol boxes has been incredible. Like it was something so simple, but the girls seem to like having their own box and it’s brought some extra unity into the patrols. It also means we leaders aren’t finding as much scribbled bits of paper and half finished work and trying to work out which patrol it belongs to!

The last thing we introduced was something I found on an old Guiding website totally by accident. GFI planning sheets.  We usually get them to pick by laying out all the Go For It and similar resources (e.g. On Your Marks) on the stage. We ask the patrol leaders to take a couple at a time to take back to the patrol and help their patrol decide which one they’d like to do. Once a patrol has picked a Go For It, we give them a planning sheet, so they can plan their 4 weeks of Go For It activities. The sheet is then kept in their patrol box. This is especially great if we have a break from usual patrol nights in the middle for an activity outside the uni or there is a bank holiday – when they ask ‘What are we doing next week?‘, we can say ‘Where is your planning sheet? What did you write down?

I have fuzzed out writing to protect identities of the Guides

We’ve also seen a notable improvement in their organisational skills, though we still need to make sure they’ve remember and written down what they need to bring – or check if they need the leaders to bring anything for them for the following week.

One of our ‘graduated’ guides is now working in our unit as a Young Leader, and she has testified to other members of the Senior Section who were in our unit that ‘the girls are so much better now’. The best thing is we’re seeing the girls take ownership and gaining confidence in leadership skills. We’re still struggling with the teamwork aspect at times, and that’s something the leaders will be taking into consideration when we have our planning meeting before the start of the next school year in August.

I hope this helps some other Guide leaders, and if you have any questions, please just ask. We’re always looking to learn as well as share the things we’ve found that work well to run a unit relatively smoothly!

A memorable week of guiding…

The Christmas Wheel

The Christmas Wheel

The end of term has arrived. The last few weeks have been long and tough. Winter is never easy, with all the bugs that fly around, and people in the western world running themselves into the ground with a million social activities, shopping and working. I was off work for almost two weeks in the end, having to do what I could from home because I wasn’t sleeping and literally couldn’t speak! My Mum has also been off work…and having everyone at home developing cabin fever has NOT been fun!

The worst part about being off was that I was still not well enough last week for Guides, our Senior Section promise night, visit to Christmas Market with friends from MBC and a Christmas gathering with the lovely Weatherfolk.

Weeks ago, the Senior Section girls asked if Jenny & I would come and see them in their Christmas Concert. We got tickets. In the end, Jenny got ill so couldn’t come. My Mum and I went along and cheered them on. They did a fabulous job, and it was great to see them perform.

And then Wednesday night came…our rescheduled promise night.

I checked the weather in the morning and BBC weather forecast told me it would be some light cloud, but remain dry.

BBC weather either can’t predict weather very well OR they are big fat liars.

Because by 6 p.m. it was properly chucking it down with rain. And when we went down to the Cash machine vestibule it was still pouring from the heavens.

5 soggy senior section members and 2 leaders got on a bus and into town. They had said they wanted to do their promise on the Christmas Ferris Wheel, and darn it, we were gonna. No germs or rain was gonna stop us this week!

We got there, bought our tickets and climbed into 2 carriages.

And the ferris wheel guys spun our carriage – you know the carriage we’d chosen to go into without the ones that wanted to spin!! :( We somehow ended up hanging at the top too, while others got on and at that point as we swayed in the breeze one of the senior section members took my hand and said ‘It’s gonna be ok‘ I think I’d have been more comforted had she not shouted it.

I braced myself to suck it up, and said ‘Ok…we’re up the top – who wants to do their promise first?‘ as I tried to take pictures of them.

At that point the wheel started moving round and then they all (including me) were screaming.

And so what happened was something like this


In fact, I’m not sure they each got it in order but I was trying so hard not to laugh as they basically screamed their promises at me mingled with the overwhelming need to want to scream for them to let me off NOW.

As they shakily got off taking deep breaths combined with laughing, I did point out that this was their idea, to which one of them said ‘I hope I never have an idea again’.

We were sad that our night was mingled with the disappointment that they had closed the markets at 8 p.m., and not a single coffee shop in town remained open as I’d hoped to treat everyone to a hot chocolate. We’ll know for next year to factor that in!

For sure though, it’s not going to be a ‘Guiding moment’ that I’ll forget in a hurry. :)

A place to make a promise

Next Monday, I’m renewing my Guide Promise as a leader (it’s only been 11 years in the waiting!), along with another leader I work with and 4 new Guides. The realisation that it is so soon, made me realise that I better ask the Senior Section girls about how they would like to do their promise. Because they are older, we try to make all our activities led by them as much as possible. We’re a brand new unit, so I’ve probably done a lot more than is usual as they have no example before them of what they can do yet. They are the trailblazers for the Guides coming up after them!

When I was in Senior Section it was split into two – you were either a Young Leader OR a Ranger Guide. I was both so I had to do my promise for both! I can’t remember doing my Young Leader promise but I think I probably did it in front of the Brownie Pack or Guide Unit I helped lead. But I do remember doing my Ranger promise…

I got involved with Rangers when my friend Kate and I worked on the service team for a group of camps called Timetrail in 2000. We spent the week at the Lothian Timetrail camp, and it was there we met our friends, Karen and Lizzie for the first time – and they were in a Ranger unit. After the summer we joined because what they did sounded like fun. We had lots of opportunities to do things and one of these things was that we helped clean up the Water of Leith Walkway and were finalists in some kind of competition – which meant we had an all-expenses paid trip to stay in Pax Lodge, London to give a presentation about what we’d done. While we were there, 4 of us were going to do our promise. And the day after we’d done our presentation, before we went home we were allowed to choose where in London we’d get to do our promise. We had travelcards for the tube (London Underground) and off we went!

Jennie chose to do it in St Paul’s Cathedral. This was more of a challenge than we thought it would be because you had to be really quiet. It was Sunday too, so we were aware people were there to pray! We ended up finding some random corner of the cathedral and the 6-7 of us stood in a clump while Jennie whispered her promise.

My chosen place was the next challenge. I was a huge fan of the film Notting Hill which had come out about 18 months before. I’d never been to Notting Hill but had always wanted to go to Portobello Road market and see the carnival. So I wanted to do my promise at the house with the blue door! The problem was – there are quite a few houses that have blue doors in Notting Hill! We saw ‘Tony’s’ restaurant, found Portobello Road (no market on Sundays) and found a house with a blue door that looked like the one from the film. Apologies to any residents who wondered why 6 teenagers were standing on their doorstep for 10 minutes.

The next was Karen. Karen liked to shop, so she chose to do her promises in one of London’s most famous department stores – not Harrods (too expensive) – but Selfridges. They have a huge escalator in there, so once Selfridges opened we went in and went to the top of the highest escalator. We all got on and as we rode the escalator Karen did her promise. The idea was that ‘she went on a Guide and came off a Ranger’.

The final promise was made by Kate. Kate was (and I think still is!) a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. The first of the Harry Potter films was about to come out, and a very significant scene was filmed at London Kings Cross station. This is the station that most of the trains to Scotland leave from. So before we departed on our own train, we had to go to a different platform – We stood at a brick column between platforms 4 and 5 under banners that said ‘Platform 9 ¾’. You’ve got it – this was where the filmed Harry and the Weasley boys running through the barrier to get the Hogwarts Express. And so Kate became a Ranger on Platform 9 ¾.

The girls know this story now, because they asked what I meant when I asked them if they wanted to make their promise and how they wanted to do it. And so on Wednesday they made a decision.

They want to do it at the top of the Christmas Wheel that comes to Princes Street Gardens every year since 1999! I cannot tell you how much this wheel freaks me out. It’s not exactly very stable and would be very easy to fall out of. But I’m going to have to suck it up enough to be able to go on with these girls and have them make their Senior Section promise.

And try not to swear.

And hope they don’t make the thing you go in spin…




What would you tell Sophie?

This week, Girlguiding UK has been spreading the #tellSophie meme. The idea is to leave behind a legacy of wisdom to inspire the next generation of women. I’m guessing they chose the name ‘Sophie’ because of its meaning (it comes from the Greek ‘sophia‘ which means ‘wisdom‘). But I’ll admit that when I first saw it appearing on my twitter feed it gave me a little shock given the title of my blog & the story behind it.

It reminded me of when Alisha and her friend ran a simulblog where we all wrote letters to our sixteen year old selves too.

I tried to think about what advice I would give to a 10 year old. And yes, as I said back in January – if my pregnancy had gone ahead and ended with a daughter in my arms etc – she would have been 10 this year and therefore moved into Guides! I realised that I really don’t remember much about being 10. I remember starting puberty, and being in P6. Having to wear glasses all the time (I was quickly getting to the stage of being blind without them). Starting at a ‘proper’ dance school for the first time and being allowed to go to my dance class each week with my friend on the bus without any adults. My younger brother wasn’t even born yet! But I’m not sure what advice I’d give my 10 year old self. I can’t remember what I felt (other than wanting school to be over for the rest of my life and SOON).

The Guides that meet on Monday evenings are all aged between 10 and 14 years old. If Sophie was amongst them, what advice would you give her? It’s an interesting question…

Life unexpected…

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I wasn’t a part of Girlguiding in Scotland. I wasn’t sure what to expect going back into it after almost 10 years. What if the girls didn’t like me? What if the leaders couldn’t stand me? I was nervous.

In the space of a year the leaders of the Guide unit I help out have become my friends with banter on facebook and I don’t think we ever manage just to leave after we’ve cleared up without a natter each Monday night. We’ve seen our Guide unit grow and this summer when we came back we came back with fresh ideas that seem to have made a real difference in the girls working in their patrols. I’ve also seen individuals in our unit really flourishing in leadership and teamwork skills, not to mention grow in confidence as they decide to go for it and try new badges.

We’re off next week, but when we come back on the 24th we’ll be doing our last bit of Amelia’s Challenge - watching a ‘romantic’ movie – so the girls who were here last term can finish their badges.

But what is unexpected is what is happening tonight. Tonight begins another guiding journey as I and a another new leader to Girlguiding start a Senior Section unit for our Division (Divisions small areas, the City of Edinburgh Guides is split into about 10-12 ‘divisions’). Until this week I hadn’t really had lots of interest and then all of a sudden e-mails starting appearing in my inbox over the last 48 hours. Then I got sent an ‘accounts’ spreadsheet template by our Division Commissioner. I am not a numbers girl so that actually freaked me out more than the sudden realisation that I had no idea what we were going to do with these 14-18 year olds once we met!

Having said all of that, I’m so excited for what this year is going to bring. Guides has been much more fun than I could have hoped for, though I sense the impending doom of having to do my Camp Permit qualification once I get my leadership qualification done! I have no idea what to expect with the Senior Section and what we’ll get up to.

Lent Sunday Causes – Girlguiding

Every Sunday of Lent, I choose to highlight one of the charities that I support. This weekend, I choosing Girlguiding because earlier this week it was World Thinking Day. (This is the birthday of the founders of Guiding & Scouting, and the day when Girl Guides & Girl Scouts all around the world think about their sisters globally each year).

I’ve been involved in Girlguiding for half my life. I was a Rainbow; a Brownie – where I first got a taste of leadership becoming seconder, then sixer of the Pixies; I moved up to Guides where I first got thrown into having to work things out as a team, went to camp and met several of my high school friends. As a Guide I learned Scottish country dance, how to do a reef knot (actually kinda handy), how to pack to go on holiday super efficiently, First Aid, sign language, leadership skills and team work. Doing my Baden-Powell Award I had to do all sorts of things including becoming a leader at a local Brownie Pack for a year. I still have the toy Mushu (a character from Mulan) that one of the Brownies gave me for my 16th birthday. I was a Young Leader - I stayed on with the Brownie Pack and then later helped at a challenging Guide unit in Leith. While working on a service team at a big Scottish camp me & my friend Kate met our friends Lizzie and Karen and they introduced us to Rangers. We got to go on Venture Scout camps doing activities we’d never have got to do usually, did community projects and ended up becoming finalists in a competition where we got taken to London to give a presentation about it.

All of these things gave me skills I’ve been able to use in the workplace and at university. And I’m super grateful.

I am super happy after a 9 year separation from Guiding, to be back as a leader!

Girlguiding has 500,000 members in the UK alone. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) has about 10 million members across the world, making it probably one of the largest international youth organisations.

I loved guiding. For a while as a teenager I thought it was a bit ‘uncool’ but now I’m so happy I stuck with it, because I learned a lot and made some amazing friends. I love guiding still because I’ve realised how inclusive it is compared to most youth organisations. I also love that it has stayed ‘girls-only’, because I think it’s important to have a place were girls can be girls with no pressure to look good because of the distraction of boys!!

If you are female, and would like to be involved in your region’s Girlguiding/Girl Scouts you can find out how to contact them here on the map of WAGGGS member organisations. There are so many ways to be involved – by volunteering your time, by donating to your local organisation or some of the Global funds…

The worst on-screen sex talk since Now and Then

Oh people.

I avoided Cougar Town because I thought it would be a show I would hate. I caught an interview with Busy Philipps (who I loved in Dawson’s Creek and in ER) and went online to check out the show purely because I was intrigued to see her in it. Anyway. I discovered this clip from it where Jules (Courtney Cox) tries to give her son and his new girlfriend a ‘safe sex’ talk.

It kinda reminded me of my days of a youth advice worker where kids nicked condoms off the sexual health clinic stall and had a water ballon fight outside in the car park.

Oh dear. This actually beats the ‘All woman have a garden…’ speech from Now and Then!

But points for creative thinking. The intentions were good… Tee hee.

Goodbye High School!

On this very day 10 years ago, I sat my Higher exams in Business Management.

A rare sight: me in school uniform. I was 13. And yes, I had braces & very large glasses. Classy.

And I waved goodbye to high school forever. Most of my friends were remaining for another year of Highers and doing some Advanced Highers.

Not me.

Pretty much all of my teachers thought I was making a huge mistake, and told me things like ‘you’ll never pass your highers first time’, ‘you’re too young to be going away from home’, ‘you’ll be home before the first semester is over’, ‘people who go to university a year early never last long’. 

I distinctly remember during one of our UCAS application seminars (the ones which my guidance teacher kept ‘forgetting’ to tell me about – just as well I  had friends in the year above!) our Rector turning to me and saying ‘Laurie, what are you going to do if you fail your Highers and you don’t get into university?’

My reply? ‘Well, I’ll certainly not be coming back here’.

I’ve never forgotten. The people who were meant to be supporting me, mentoring me and encouraging me in my learning failed BIG TIME. For the next few years I had such a low expectation of myself and my ability to learn. They made a teenage girl who loved to learn think ‘what’s the point?

Thankfully I had one teacher for 2 hrs 20 mins a week who told me that I COULD do it, and to aim for the highest marks in the subject he taught me. I’ll be forever grateful to his patience in having such a rebellious, angry teenage girl to have to teach & not prescribing to me the way in which I should learn in his class.

I’m also thankful that I had an incredible friend in my ex. After opening my Modern Studies paper 3 days before to realise that I could have aced it had I got my head out of my problems and revised, he spent that weekend with me helping me study for those last 2 exams. Every time I burst into tears weighed down by the negativity spoken over me by teachers, he encouraged me back into studying.

If you’re struggling after exams or studying for that final few papers before saying goodbye to high school – know that your teachers aren’t always right, and that you can do it if you are willing to put the extra work in.

There will always be the teachers who are quick to critique, control and try and put you into a box.

Don’t let them predict your future for you.

I got to the university I wanted to go to, found myself in a job at 19 where I got to encourage and mentor the kids who teachers squashed down in school and saw many of them flourish, and thankfully got a brilliant opportunity to change degree and learn under people who encouraged me to aim higher than most of my high school teachers had told me I could go.

My Mum always told me ‘High school days will be the best days of your life‘. I can tell you guys that they were the WORST of mine so far, and it got soooooo much better after high school! And the icing on the cake was that school may have sucked, but I did make some fab friends thanks to going there day in, day out for 5 years and I did get the education I needed for university.

And thank you to the good teachers out there.

The ones who respect their colleagues and pupils. Who don’t abuse their authority. Who don’t judge kids on what they’ve heard about them from others but on who they are with them.

(I wish there were more like you!)