By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Former teacher at the San Fernando Boys’ RC, Janet Elcock was awarded the Golden Poui by the TT Scouting Association. It is given “for exceptionally distinguished services” to the Scouting Movement usually for at least 15 years.
In an interview on Thursday, December 15, the day she received her award at the Association’s Headquarters, St Ann’s, Elcock said she was very elated.
She is the recipient of other awards: a ten-year service award and Silver Ibis for “specially distinguished services to the Scout Movement”.
Her background and training as a teacher have proven useful in her role as Scout Leader.
Elcock attended the Mon Repos RC, then St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando. She entered the teaching profession at 18 years, after leaving secondary school. “As a matter of fact, I sent in my application at 17 but they said they couldn’t touch it until I was 18.”
Elcock didn’t want to be a teacher. “I wanted to do radiography, so I decided to teach in order to save money to go away and study, and here am I up to now, over 50 years.”
Her first teaching assignment was South Oropouche RC (1970–1975), then she went to Corinth Teachers’ Training College for two years. Afterwards, she spent three years in Siparia Boys’ RC and then transferred to San Fernando Boys’ RC (SFBRC) where she worked until her retirement in 2012.
At South Oropouche, the principal Mr Gonzales paired her with a senior teacher who was a mentor. Elcock said,“Besides teaching me to teach, she taught me to love children; she had a passion for children!”
Elcock got into Scouting when her six-year-old son joined the First SFBRC Scout group; she was a teacher at the school. One day, he gave her a letter stating the cubs were going Cedros to camp. “There is no way I will remain in San Fernando [Pleasantville] and have my six-year-old camping in Cedros,” she said. She approached the Cub Scout Leader (known as Akela) and asked to join. “Here I am 39 years later,” Elcock said.
When Elcock joined the Scouting Movement, there were fewer development courses than today, but she believes she got good preparation. “We had a one-day information course, then we had a weekend basic information course and then we had an advanced course where you stay for one week. After that, there was nothing in scouting you did not know.”
She also met many knowledgeable people who imparted what they knew. “We were really equipped to take those boys and really carry them.”
Seeing boys grow
Elcock’s encouragement being in Scouting is seeing boys grow and develop with time. “You get boys in Standard One, they crying behind their parents. Don’t talk for when is camp, they good whole day but when is the evening into night, they would cry themselves to sleep.”
By the second camp, they were more composed as they realised they could trust their Scout Leaders.
When they graduate from primary school at the age of 11 or 12, “they are young men that you can trust. They are young men who are so independent, who when you go to camp or anywhere or even in pack meeting and you have them in charge of the smaller ones, the way they have the smaller ones and bringing up the smaller ones, it’s a ‘wow!’.”
After her 69th birthday in 2021, Elcock began thinking about succession planning. “I don’t want the pack to fall,” she said. She handed over Akela to Glynis Alexander whom she described as her hands, feet, and eyes when the pack went out.
Elcock stepped back to the position of ‘Kite’, “which is up in the air seeing everything on the ground”. The titles used in Scouting came from characters in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book; each had a role helping the child, Mowgli, in the jungle. She added, “Kite was just flying up there, just looking and making sure he’s alright, that sort of thing.”
Being a teacher and Scout member has instilled, “above all, patience”, Elcock said then laughed. She learned, “a love and acceptance for children, for individuality…you will see a child, people will say, a problem child, there is something underlying. You have a challenge there to get into it.”
She tapped into teaching techniques to understand, “how was the mother thinking, how was the father thinking in a moment, that kind of thing affects the child…so I have to think what I learned in training college and get into the child and see why because there was always a reason.”
Change of heart
Thirty years ago, Elcock considered resigning as Scout Leader. At the time, there were 137 boys in the pack, and she was the lone Scout Leader. She commented there was little time to do any activities at the Scout meeting. “Sometimes when you finish calling roll, it’s time to go home.”
She prepared her resignation letter to submit at a Scout Leaders meeting but reconsidered. Elcock was on her way from school after a lessons class when she passed the cleaner in a classroom.
“She ran up to me…she said, ‘I dreamt you Sunday night’ that was the Tuesday I was going to a meeting. I said, ‘serious?’” The dream was about Elcock standing in the school yard breaking bread and distributing.
The cleaner thought the dream meant Elcock should have a thanksgiving and offered to donate two bags of flour. “When I gone in my car, I just start to cry, just so, for no reason. And just like that, without thinking, I opened my bag, took out the resignation, I had it in triplicate, tore them up…”
She interpreted the dream as her role in “giving life” to children.
Elcock did report her difficulties managing a pack alone to the District Commissioner and help from the Scout group in Rousillac came every Friday until eventually leaders emerged.