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Can? Can't? Why? Why Not?

Deborah Sowery-Quinn
Burlington, Ontario, Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 2, April-May 2001, p. 34

The application is a time when a mother prepares for the work of a Leader. It is also a transition time during which the Applicant moves from participating only in member-oriented activities and exercises to involvement in those intended to help LLL Leaders. The LAD representative you are working with will probably suggest ways an Applicant can broaden her involvement and learning opportunities.

  • She can prepare and lead the enrichment portion of an Evaluation Meeting. The Applicant can practice most of the skills a Leader needs in order to lead an effective Series Meeting by leading a discussion about a breastfeeding or mothering topic at an Evaluation Meeting. She will need to decide on the approach (conversational or more directed); how she will get the discussion started (will she use a round-robin question, visual aids, a "game"?); and help it continue on track. She may want to mark some references in published resources (an interesting quote from THE WOMANLY ART, for instance). During the discussion, she may need to encourage people to talk to the group rather than to her, to respond to each other rather than look to her for answers to questions, to allow others to talk.
  • She can participate in the planning of Series Meetings. By planning Series Meetings (or helping a Leader plan), the Applicant becomes familiar with the purpose and information for each meeting and gathers meeting ideas. She may also observe carefully at the meeting as she watches "her" ideas in action.
  • She can write up the monthly reporting form(s) to be read and signed by a Leader. The Applicant practices for important Leader responsibilities as she does this: keeping and reporting from accurate Group and one-to-one helping records. She can also, along with the Leaders and other Evaluation Meeting participants, use the information to assess the effectiveness of the Group and talk about how to maintain or increase it.
  • She can attend District Workshops. Most sessions intended to help a Leader keep up to date or practice a skill will also benefit a Leader Applicant. In addition, sessions are usually scheduled that are specific to preparation for LLL leadership.
  • She can participate in HRE sessions. As she participates perhaps she can be alert to enhancing skills specific to one-to-one helping or leading a discussion.
  • She can present a short book review of a new library acquisition or a Group Library book relevant to the meeting topic at a Series Meeting. While giving a book report is more like public speaking than leading a Series Meeting, they both require us to remember information and to communicate that information when we are the formal center of a group's attention.
  • She can do anything an LLL member can do within the Group. Although, as a Leader Applicant, how she sees an activity and how she does it might change because of her different focus.
  • She can attend Chapter Meetings.

But there are also some things a leader Applicant doesn't do. A Leader Applicant does not represent La Leche League, give breastfeeding help in the name of LLL, or lead LLL meetings (for instance Series, Toddler, and Couples meetings). To avoid the possibility of confusing mothers about whether they are receiving personal or LLL assistance, Leader Applicants do not identify themselves as such at Series Meetings or in any public way (in publications or online chat groups, for instance, except those intended specifically for LLL Leader Applicants).

What if there's a mother in your Group who wants to be an Applicant but isn't quite ready to make that commitment? Perhaps her baby is too young or there's too much going on right now and she anticipates having more time in a few months or next year. She continues to participate in member-oriented exercises and activities. In the same way as the Applicant does work to prepare for LLL leadership, the member can be doing work to prepare for an application for LLL leadership. And, in the same way as the Applicant does not do Leader work, the member does not participate in exercises and activities intended for Leaders and Applicants. She does not, for instance, participate in District Workshops, Chapter Meetings, or Leaders' planning meetings.

The member can, however, take on a Group job and begin working on the required and/or recommended reading on the LLLI Applicant Reading Information sheet included in the Application Packet. She can participate in Evaluation Meetings, in the management of the Group, in helping to plan ways the Group can increase its effectiveness at Series Meetings and in the community. She can help keep meeting discussions on topic or recommend books and pamphlets/leaflets she's found helpful. She can provide a great deal of the information, support, and encouragement - mother-to-mother - that is basic to La Leche League.

Member, Applicant, Leader. . . each has a different kind of commitment to and relationship with La Leche League. Each of these commitments and relationships is important. While the member relationship might develop into an application and the Applicant's relationship will probably become the Leader's, whether or not it evolves into something else, let's help make each role all it can be.

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