Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Promise For All: Real World Reactions

I love working with young people and both the challenges and rewards that it provides me. Wednesdays are exhausting for me, with a full day of teaching, then staff meetings, then I have Rangers. But I've never been so grateful for this contact as today, when I got the chance to hear what young people are really saying about our new Promise.

This morning, I pinned my Promise badge on the collar of my shirt. Usually, I don't even wear it for Thinking Day (unless in a school I know well), so it was an unusual occurrence. Most of the adults in my office didn't recognise the badge at all, though one or two asked about it.

It was coming back to the language base at break time that I had my first run-in with pupils who knew the trefoil and wanted to talk, and from that point onwards, I heard opinions and conversations throughout the school and at Rangers. There are so many little snippets and quotes and stories, that it doesn't make sense to try and put them into a piece, but I just wanted to keep all here as a record of some of the things being said.

"Oh look! Miss is a Guide!" one pupil spotted. "Have you all seen the news today about the Promise? They've finally changed the God bit and mum says I can join now if I want to!"

Another pupil was talking about her experience. "Mum and dad didn't like the fact I'd be singled out, replacing my God with Allah. This would mean I could make the same Promise as everyone else. We did think about Scouts at one point, but they want me in a single-sex environment."

"I didn't mind the word God, but I just said it because everyone else was. I guess this is a wording I can actually mean," another pupil said.

A teacher commented, "I really wanted to become a Leader, but the Promise always seemed too Christian, too loaded. I wasn't comfortable making it and I wasn't comfortable helping girls with it. The new one might work, but depends on training given to current Leaders. I'd definitely consider volunteering now."

"I hated the God bit as a kid," another teacher told the office. "It was like promising to obey the tooth fairy as far as I was concerned. This is a promise that really grows with the individual."

"I like the fact that Guides are in the news all the time," a boy told me. "They seem really cool and do far more exciting and important things than the Scouts. The only thing we see about Scouts is Kate... so what? You guys talk about feminism and beliefs and chucking food away at arenas. You're trying to make a difference and letting everyone know it!" (Not a Scout vs Guide debate - I'm a member of BOTH - but am recording the conversations and it shows the kudos owed to our press team!)

"I thought Guides was a bit old-fashioned, but I've seen them doing things recently and now this... maybe I should give it a go!" 

"I was once a Brownie and then a Guide," a thirteen year old girl told me. "But my Leaders kept telling me that I had to go to church parade, that I needed to be a Christian and that they would let me be in the unit because I wasn't old enough to make my own decisions, but they needed to show me about church and singing graces and things. Mum and Dad made me leave."

As soon as I got to Rangers, the girls ran to me to tell me the news. They were so excited, but hadn't heard the exact wording of the new Promise.

"I do love my God, though we have rocky patches. But this means that I'm part of the journey, and that my friends can follow theirs too. It's important that we're open to everyone," one of my Christian girls commented.

An atheist girl says, "It's about time, really. I've said the Promise because it's just words. But this means I can commit to Guiding and the things I believe in - respect, helping others, kindness - without having to put in what is, for me, complete nonsense."

"I'm so proud of Girlguiding," a younger girl enthused. "I honestly thought they'd ignore us and what we said, that it was just a bit of a PR stunt, that they'd be too afraid of upsetting the older generation. But they've actually listened."

"I'm so glad I was part of this!"

"Oh, wow! Those are all the best options! They've really thought about what matters to people!"

Every single thing I've heard in the real world today has been positive, exciting and enthusiastic. Online has been different, as was M's reaction last night, but I think looking at the real-world reactions of the young members that this affects is really important!

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