Preaching to the Choir

During this last years recharter we had an extremely disappointing turn in of the Journey to Excellence form.  As a District committee we chalked this up to a couple of things.. perhaps it was that many people were not aware of the change in program.  Maybe some Scouters did not receive proper or inadequate training on the subject.  It could have been that the program was not communicated effectively.  Another reason may have been that some Scouters just don’t care enough to fill it out.  Then again, it may have just been that there are units out there that really are not delivering the promise and would not fill out the form for any reason.
I will go on record and say that the answer is All of the Above. (In my opinion).
So rather than simply complain about it.. I figured that the right thing to do, because I love Scouting and believe in the program, would be to tackle the issues and start with training.
So I volunteered to teach about the JTE program and give out all the tools that would make a unit successful in at least getting the 2012 form in with their charter in November.
So back in January, I announced that we would hold a JTE session at the February Round table.  I made arrangements with the Round Table commissioner and we decided that this would be a great class.  We could have all levels of Scouting attend and present the information in a clear and easy to use format.
I made copies of all of the materials and even used my own Troop as an example.  I made copies of our spreadsheet JTE tracker and our goals for this year.  A sample budget was included as well as the Pack, Troop, and Crew requirements for 2012.
Last night at Round table, the room was set and I prepared to teach this subject of which I have developed a passion for.  7 people showed up for the training.  7.  2 of them were Assistant Scoutmasters from my Troop, 1 was a Scoutmaster of a high performance troop that is using the JTE tools and is delivering the promise of Scouting.  2 were Cub Scout leaders that I assume got a lot out of the class.  They had great questions and seemed to be very interested in getting this ball rolling within their Packs.  1 was an Assistant Scoutmaster of another Troop that is always in the hunt for Troop of the Year, and finally a committee member from on of the LDS units in our District.  She had never heard of JTE and took lots of notes.  She informed me that she thought that this was all done at the Stake level.. but wanted to know more so she could get the program started with the Troops she worked with.
7 Scouters.
85 units did not bother to fill out and turn in the form during the last recharter process. 
So essentially last night I preached to the choir… again.
As I drove home from Round table last night my mind was filled with disappointment which of course drove me to thinking about the other areas in which we fall short in our District, Council, and of course the BSA.
Mostly I think it comes down to training.  We do a fantastic job of getting people to help.  Just look at the numbers.
1.1 Million volunteers currently serve the youth of Scouting.  1.1 Million.  Now I am no fool, and I know that in any population you will never get 100 % of the folks to do anything, but we need to try right?
So we have lots of Scouts that deserve the best, and we have lots of volunteers that have at some level made a commitment to give their best, and yet we don’t.
Lets assume that my District (which I consider a real great district) is representative of most if not all districts in the BSA.  First, lets throw out some numbers again… bear with me here.  Remember that I said 85 units in my district did not bother to turn in the JTE form.  My district has 129 units in it.
In 2010 the BSA reported that there were 47,259 Cub Scout Packs, 40,099 Boy Scout Troops, 8,539 Varsity teams, and 18,856 Venture Crews.  That would be a total (in 2010) of 114,753 units in the BSA.
So assuming everything is equal, 40,000 units within the BSA did not turn the JTE form this last year.  Now I do not know this to be true.. I am just looking for a solution.  IF that big a population within an organization that makes it its business to deliver the promise of Scouting to the 2 million (plus) Scouts that come to us allows this to happen.. then I think it is worth a review.  Not a change in the Journey to Excellence program.  It is rock solid.. after all its all about making every unit the best.  It follows the methods and places its focus on what is important.. serving Youth!.  No, it does not need to change.  What needs to change is how we present, train, and work with units to ensure that the program (both the Scouting program and the JTE) are being followed.  Units that are in need of help need to get it.
I think this is where the commissioner service comes in… and there again.. we are preaching to the choir… assuming again that your district is like mine.. where are all the commissioners?  We are in need of good commissioners that are dedicated to making every unit a great one.
There are many ways that we need to attack this.  I think that we have a huge disconnect here and it will not get better as long as we keep preaching to the choir.  The choir is fine and is singing loud and clear.  It is the folks that don’t want to sing that we need to reach.  It is the people we never see, it is the countless applications that come through the council that never get a hand shake or a visit.  It is the volunteers that are not reached by hands on training or a friendly invite to Round table.
As much as I am a big fan of computer based training.. I think we may have lost some of the contact by going away from class room training.  We need to connect with the 1.1 million volunteers, or what ever that number is in your District and not only fix this JTE problem, but get more leaders trained, active, and taking on rolls that complement their skills, attitudes, and level of committment within the District.  We need commissioners that actually pay visits to their units.  Commissioners that do not wear multiple hats in Scouting.  Commissioners that can take the time to work with and mentor unit leaders.
We need to get a bigger choir!  I’ll have more to say on this later… I am curious to hear what you have to say about all this… leave a comment!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Categories: blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, planning, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, technology, training | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Preaching to the Choir

  1. Steve Earley

    Hmmmmm… Having been in the game for over Forty years combined (As a youth, Red Jacket and Blue Jacket Scouter)… while the suggestions and encouragements that were contained in the former quality unit designation and the now journey to excellence are admirable and great goals. The meeting of the requirements just adds one more level of administrative menusha that serves the achievement and recognition of the BSA at a district, council, regional, and national level first. Most of us that are dedicated to delivering the promise, committed to the game are doing everything we can to impact the lives of youth do not have time to manage our units to another check list. Each unit whether they be performing or struggling knows what they would like to be doing better. And any Scouter that has been involved with a unit knows that they have cycles that is driven by the cadre of parent volunteers and their level of commitment. One of the best responses to the old Quality Unit award, was delivered by a former SM of a high performing unit… who quipped that that their troop did not need a patch to know if they were a Quality Unit. One last comment of the old Quality Unit program, way too much “pencil whipping” occurred to put much stock in the recognition of the patch. I witnessed way to many misguided leaders that had to have a patch to affirm a mediocre performance and misguided motivations.

    So all and all… I will look at the journey to excellence… if for nothing more than a minor motivation to see what other tools our unit might consider to enhance the game. However, absolutely no effort is going to be place on insuring that any of the boxes are checked even if accomplished. The yardstick and measurement tool is the feedback received from the Scouts and their Families. That is how we know if we are delivering the promise
    Still Scouting
    Steve

    • Yep Steve.. it’s not about a patch. That much we will agree on.
      However.. I do think it is important to have a method of rating and ranking performance. It is important for unit leaders, especially at the Troop level to evaluate where you are in the performance of delivering the promise. The JTE program is unlike the old Quality unit, which I agree was a pencil whip.. it follows the methods and is intended to be used to track performance, not at the end of the year, but while the unit is delivering that promise.
      Further, this is a great tool to use with your PLC when planning and running the troop. We use it and the Scouts buy into the plan they make.
      They play a major role in most if not all of the areas in which the JTE move the unit to Excellence.
      Yep.. Don’t need a patch to tell me we are running a great program. The problem with that argument is simply this. I am also the District Chairman and know and see the units that have the same “Ain’t doing it for the District” attitude. By and large they are all units that struggle annually and units with heavy adult run programs. Again, Steve, this is my opinion and I value yours.
      Give it a look and if you don’t like it.. so be it. We volunteer for this… so I suppose everything is optional.
      Deliver the promise!

      Jerry

  2. Reid Parish

    Hey Jerry – Great post! Our districts and the stats seem to be pretty similar. We are experiencing the some scenarios with our RT’s too. Don’t give up, you’re doing a great job and providing a great service – not only to your troop and District, but to the rest of us out here that read your blog! Hang in there and keep preaching – we’ll get the message out!
    Yours in Scouting,
    Reid

  3. Pingback: Notes from the KYBO « Scouteradam's Blog

  4. At the risk of repetition… what gets measured might get done, but I do enough measurement for the sake of measurement at work. JTE is over-thought, over-wrought, and overly complicated.

    Now, I did fill out the forms and turn them in for my unit. Because our district commissioner is our former Scoutmaster, and he asked. We also have a much, much smaller number of units in our district that stretches 100-miles wide, so its easier for our Key 3 to do some hand-holding.

    We can train all we want, but IMHO BSA has not enunciated clear, compelling benefits to the youth.

  5. Justin

    What is the “Stake level”? Should it be “State level”.

  6. I have been a den leader for 3 years, and last year was the first year that I had heard about JTE or its predecessor. Luckily, our pack qualified for Gold, but we definitely have some opportunities to improve.

    I know that all volunteers are stretched in terms of time, but during my tenure, I haven’t seen what our commissioners do. It would be nice if one of them visited all packs at least once a year.

  7. John Collins

    I’ve been catching up on a backlog of e-mail and read this post. It’s a good topic and one that I think needs discussing. Candidly I admit to hearing about the JTE program, even downloading the scoresheets and then, like everything else it went in to my amazing black hole of a binder not to be considered again until recharter.

    So I ran the numbers, marked my boxes and noted that we had much room for improvement even though we were at (by my calculations) a silver level. My Committee Chair ran the numbers and came up with a gold level. I had forgotten some things and wasn’t quite sure how she got a few others but decided to roll with it as we needed to get the paperwork in “ON TIME.”

    We just elected a new PLC and at our Green Bar camp-out at the end of the month I plan on sharing with them this year’s form and last year’s, and asking a few leading questions to get them started on incorporating JTE into the schedule through August and again when we have the Planning Conference, encourage them to use JTE as a guide then as well. Not because I want to be Bronze, Silver or Gold, I could really care less, that’s another patch to buy and sew on each year, ugh. But rather as SM Jerry said it’s a good measuring stick to see if we’re delivering on the promise by using the aims and methods.

    As to Unit Commissioners, well, I’ve been hounded for a while to be one even though I am the SM for my son’s Troop, Committee Member for my daughter’s Crew, District FFOS chair, on staff for our upcoming Wood Badge, and oh yeah I’ve been asked to be on the Council’s Venturing Committee. I have agreed to mentor our new Cub Scout Pack’s leaders but I don’t want to be the official UC, I’m not done doing what I want to do at the unit level yet and would prefer not to have the conflict of interest that would come from being the UC for my feeder Pack. “We understand but we really need Commissioners….”

    That’s the view from my side of the trail…

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