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Learning Together

Alexis Hooper
Waldorf MD USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 42 No. 2, April-May-June 2006, p. 32.

Working with a Leader Applicant is a wonderful way for Leaders to pass on their knowledge, training, experience, and love for La Leche League. They can take this opportunity to mentor a new Leader so that she can continue the LLLI mission of helping mothers and babies to breastfeed. But what we may not realize is that the Applicant provides us with a wonderful learning experience as well.

When was the last time you sat down and read the latest edition of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, LEADER'S HANDBOOK, OR THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK? Perhaps it was during your own application period? If you are like many busy Leaders, you may still have older copies with relevant information that you refer to from time to time. You may not have purchased the new editions because you thought the older editions would be "good enough." Even if you do have the newer books, it is possible that you did not read them from cover to cover or have forgotten what you read. When a mother starts her application, she is expected to own and to have read the most recent edition of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, and she will receive the newest edition of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK when she pays her application fee. She may also choose to purchase other breastfeeding literature to ensure she is up-to-date and fully prepared to help other mothers. You can bet that this new Leader Applicant is enthusiastic -- filling her head with knowledge and eager to share it with someone. This is a great opportunity for Leaders to learn something new as well. You can explore these books with her and refresh your own knowledge. Manon of Ligue La Leche in Québec, Canada says, "One Applicant [I am working with] is the type of person that reads everything fast, and she also has a great memory. Through my contacts with her, I learned a lot more about mothering and breastfeeding."

The Leader Accreditation Department (LAD), as part of Area, Division, or Affiliate teams, has access to additional resources and information. As this information is provided to the Leader Applicant, you have the opportunity to learn more about being a Leader. For example, the LAD may provide the Applicant with information about Web sites and email lists for Leaders that weren't available until recently.

One of the greatest gifts an Applicant can give you is her enthusiasm. She can help to bring you out of a slump and can revive the Group. She can see the Group from a different perspective. She may have a communication style or a leadership style different from your own. She can help you to evaluate the Group and its dynamics. She may have ideas about fundraising or Group activities that never occurred to you. And perhaps one of the reasons busy Leaders love Leader Applicants in the Group is their enthusiasm to share the workload.

An Applicant has the advantage of starting fresh when organizing materials. When working with an Applicant, one of the Leader's tasks is providing suggestions for organizing Group materials and keeping accurate phone logs. This may provide a Leader with the opportunity to clean out her files and a chance to try out a few different organizational methods.

Manon feels that even when a Leader Applicant does not complete her application, or work through it quickly, there are still lessons to be learned. "I learned that life is sometimes so uncontrollable that plans to become a Leader can be stopped -- that her pace shall not be the same as mine." Manon feels that, after a few false starts in her Group, she is better prepared to evaluate whether leadership is a good fit for a mother. "I learned how to better help a mother decide if she is able to put some time into reading and all the steps toward her application."

"One of my favorite sayings is: the best way to learn is to teach," says Nikki of Washington, USA. "If I want to deepen my understanding of something, I try to explain it to someone else. I always find this true when I am working with an Applicant -- this is a time when I gain a deeper understanding of LLL."

Working with an Applicant is a chance to relive your own accreditation period. It is also a chance for you and the Applicant to explore La Leche League anew, much like each new baby brings a new beginning.

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