The Scoutmaster conference is a critical part of the advancement process. But it is much more than that. The conference is used to evaluate the Scout, it is used to get to know the Scout, and it is a way of communicating the Scouts needs and the needs of the unit to the Scout.
First, it is used to evaluate. Yes evaluate. This is the Scoutmasters opportunity to see the Scout in action, to get an understanding that the Scout knows the skills required. That the Scout has met the requirements for advancements and that he can prove that he has achieved the necessary skills and knowledge. It is also when the Scoutmaster “Signs off” on “Demonstrate scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life.”
To me this is very important. This is the opportunity for us to discuss the meaning of the Scout Oath and law. I ask very pointed questions like, “What did you do yesterday to live the Scout Law?” What I have found is that Scouts do not understand the values expressed in the Scout law, having this discussion educates them, and as a result the better understand the concepts of being “Trustworthy and Loyal” rather than just a definition and a bunch of words said on Monday nights. Once they gain the understanding they can actually live the Law and Oath. This all comes out in the conference.
Second, the conference is a super way to get to know the Scout. Find out what motivates him and makes him tick. His likes and dislikes and his expectations of not only Scouting, but School, home etc. This is a great opportunity for the Scoutmaster to develop the relationship of trust and confidence in the Scout. This part of the Scoutmaster conference does not necessarily need to have anything to do with rank or advancement. I find myself having these discussions on camp outs, after Troop meetings, and on hikes. This is also a great way to demonstrate mentoring and coaching.
Finally, the conference is an effective communication tool. It is a great way to talk one on one with a Scout about his needs and those needs the unit may have of him. As a leader or follower it can be effective in asking for help or communicating expectations.
The important part about the Scoutmaster conference is that it can be held anywhere, anytime, and does not always have to be connected with the next rank. It is of the utmost importance that the Scouts have a feeling of trust and confidence. They need to know that the Scoutmaster is there for them and is willing to listen and act.
A friendly ear, some good advice, and time dedicated one on one to every Scout.
Personally I think the Scoutmaster conference is one of the greatest parts of my job. It is an opportunity for me to learn and a time for the Scouts to develop.