Advancement

Finding the Arrow

Plus 6I do not talk much about the Order of the Arrow on this blog, and maybe I should.  I have not received a lot of requests for OA topics, but over the past few months I have been giving the Order of the Arrow a bit more thought.
As many of you know (that follow me on social media) I have been elected to Vigil Honor.
The Vigil Honor is the highest honor that the Order of the Arrow can bestow upon its members for service to lodge, council, and Scouting.  Membership cannot be won by a person’s conscious endeavors. (From the OA website)  It is a great honor to have been chosen to be a Vigil member.
Since I have been giving more thought about the Order of the Arrow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on OA membership and what the Order of the Arrow really means [to me].
First some background on the Order of the Arrow.  And rather than rediscover the wheel, I am going to use information found at the Order of the Arrow website.
The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson at the Treasure Island Boy Scout Camp.  Goodman and Edson were looking for ways to recognize campers that demonstrated a cheerful spirit and service.  In those days there were many camp honor societies throughout the Nations Scout camps.    Some of those were the Gimogash, Ku-Ni-Eh, Nani Ba Zhu, Firecrafters and Mic O Say.  Over time many of those camper honor societies merged and became local Lodges within the Order of the Arrow.  Mic O Say is still active and recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Order of the Arrow became a part of the National Program of the Boy Scouts of America in 1934.   By 1948, the OA, recognized as the BSA’s national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America.  Since then the Order of the Arrow has expanded to over 300 Lodges, most Lodges representing a Council, although some Lodges make up multiple Council areas.
The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.  The Order of the Arrow is completely youth led.  A member of the OA is consider a youth until his 21st birthday.
The OA is more than just an honor society.  It has a specific purpose and looks to gain members that loyal live up to those goals.  It is for that reason that members should be chosen from within their units that best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.  If the Scout is willing to not only live the Oath and Law daily, but dedicate himself to service than he is a good candidate for the Order of the Arrow.  Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, you will find that many if not all camp staff at your local Scout camp are members of the OA.  They promote camping and Scout spirit daily making our Scout camps fantastic.  Arrowmen serve promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others.  OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America’s youth.  One of the great ways that the OA promotes long-term retention in Scouting is through ceremonies starting with Arrow of Light and Cross Over ceremonies.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
Just like the Aims of the Boy Scouts of America, membership in the Order of the Arrow solidify in a Scout of Scouter the drive to be of service and grow in Character, Citizenship and fitness.  The Order of the Arrow is summed up in three words, often seen as WWW.  Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service.  In other words, the OA is the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service.
OA1The OA is Local and it is National.  What I mean by that is simply this.  Just like your Troop is local and the programs offered at the Troop level are planned and executed locally, you and your Troop are part of the National Council or organization.  This is strength in program and resources.  The OA has many great local Lodge and Chapter programs, but the programs offered through the National Organization demonstrate the strength of the Order.
The support of the Order of the Arrow for the National Journey to Excellence program is one such program.  JTE for the OA replaced the National Quality Lodge program and gave the OA a better tool of measuring the Quality program it offered at the National and Lodge level.
The National OA Endowment was formed more than 30 years ago as means for the Order to fund scholarships and special programs. The national Order of the Arrow committee oversees the annual program budget which is funded using the earnings from the national OA endowment.
And there are more programs at the Lodge level that benefit the local Council, Arrowmen, and Scouts in general.
The Order of the Arrow has its own recognition programs also.  You can read all about the OA’s awards at their site.
OK… so that’s the Order of the Arrow from the book  But where the Sash meets the Scout what does the Order of the Arrow mean and represent.
I won’t go into the ceremony of the Order of Arrow other than to say from the beginning the Order of the Arrow, through its ceremony and tradition call on the Scout/Scouter to Find the Arrow.
The Arrow is that symbol that we use in Arrow of Light ceremonies to signify a journey.  An adventure that is straight and true.  A trail that leads the individual to find the right path in life.  One of dedicated service to others and the living of the Scout Oath and Law.  So in finding the arrow, we strive daily to seek that which is an honorable way of living.
The Order of the Arrow uses the legend of the Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware to start the members of the OA on that journey.  It is a journey marked by service to others.
Personal Thoughts on the Order of the Arrow.
As stated above, the OA has high-minded goals and bases its foundation on service.  This is why I initially started to like the Order of the Arrow.  Well, lets back up for a minute… This is why I started to like it as a Scoutmaster.  I was first introduced to the OA as a youth at Camp Freedom in Germany.  The initial impact of Indians coming across a lake at night in canoes holding torches to light the way.  A Great Chief that called his Brothers to seek those that were worthy to join the tribe.. those things as a Scout fascinated me.  It was mysterious and cool.  It was special.  When I went through my ordeal we were given an arrow carved from a piece of wood.  We had to wear that arrow around our neck and if we violated any of the rules of the ordeal a chunk was cut from the arrow.  This tested us as young men to be disciplined and live that part of the oath that called us to be obedient.   For what ever reason, that is no longer a virtue that parents feel important these days and the cutting of corner or chunk of wood is recognized not to reinforce expected behavior but that of offending or hurting the feelings of the person in violation of the agreed rules.  But the couple of days that we worked hard serving our camp, quietly laboring cheerfully left a mark on us.
I had the pleasure of becoming a Brotherhood member of the Order with my oldest son.  Again, we renewed our commitment to service.  John later became a Chapter officer and served the lodge as an Ordeal master as well as a member of the Pre Ordeal, Ordeal, and Brotherhood ceremonies teams.  Josh, my youngest son also sealed his membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Brotherhood member and served as an Elangomate during an Ordeal.  Having my sons as members made being a member of the Order special in a different way.  Watching them grow with an attitude of service was a great thing.
John, our oldest son continues his journey, even though out of Scouting now as a Vigil member.  Those values or Cheerful Service carries with him in his daily life.  Josh, our youngest, although out of Scouting now also does not stray from his commitment to live the Scout Oath and Law and be of service also.  Both look back at their Scouting life with fond memories of time spent with the Order of the Arrow.
Me, in my role as Scoutmaster value the added emphasis that the OA places on living the Oath and Law and being one that goes above and beyond that of an “average” Scout.  That may be that thing that is to set Arrowmen apart.  We are all called to serve and live the values of the Oath and Law… but as Arrowmen we commit to taking it a step further and making that a life long commitment.  Being a Brother in Scouting and to our fellow-man.  To serve cheerfully.
In a perfect world that meaning and those commitments would resonate within every Arrowmen.  Often times it is lost in a sash and flap and just another Scouting thing.  As is with those Scouts that say the Oath each week at their meetings, but fail to live the standard of it, there are Arrowmen that fall short.  But the Arrow is within them.  The need only to find it.
That happens when the mature and look into themselves and see where their lives are headed.  It happens when they see examples of Scouts and Scouters that truly live those values.  The example of leaders that proudly wear the symbols of membership and share the meaning and journey of seeking the arrow.
Elections are held annually for membership in the Order of the Arrow.  The Scoutmaster sets the ballot of eligible Scouts.  Scouts that have met the requirements of membership and more importantly are those Scouts that have demonstrated leadership in serving their fellow Scout.  I think also that we need to look at the Scouts potential to lead and serve.  I have seen Scouts that met the requirements but fell short in the service area that really took to the OA.  Becoming members of ceremonies teams and working for their troop and Council at camps and within the service opportunities offered through the Lodge.  The OA can enhance a Troops program because of the higher calling of the Arrowmen.
Now, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but it does work.  You can see it in the faces of a Scout called to serve.  Reluctantly at first he finds success and meaning in his leadership and service.
The Order of the Arrow is good for Troops.  I know of many Scoutmasters that feel that the OA takes away from Troop programs.  When used correctly, the OA can be a game changer in a unit.  It is not meant to be secret or exclusive.  It is meant to enhance service and leadership.  It is designed to give incentive to Scouts looking for more.  In my opinion it is a great way to focus a Scout in the direction of finding the Arrow.
Where is the Arrow?  It is up to you.  We know that the foundation is a life that is right and true, but the Arrow is within each of us to seek and find.  Once found, a life of cheerful service becomes the norm and our society is better for it.  It makes the good Scout a Great Scout.  In turn making Scouting better.
This organization, founded to honor those that served camps has grown into an organization that is looked to as the Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America.  That higher calling to serve, what more could Scouting ask for?
If you are a Scoutmaster not sure that support of the OA is the right way to go, rethink that.  Get it into your unit and watch the difference come alive.
For those of you that are in support of the Order of the Arrow.. Thank you.. keep it up.
I look forward to going through my Vigil Induction.  I don’t know what is ahead, but knowing the journey that I was set on at Camp Freedom those many years ago, I know that it will get me a step closer to finding the Arrow in me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**A note about the picture on top of this post.. From left to right in the picture are members of my Troop doing a Cross over ceremony.  First on the left is James, now an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member, Second is my Youngest son Josh.  A Brotherhood member and finished Scouting as a youth as a Life Scout.  Third is my oldest son John.  He is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member.  Forth is Parker, he is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member.   Finally is Lucas, he is wrapping up his Eagle Award right now and is a Brotherhood member of the OA. 

Categories: Advancement, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Scout, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, Summer Camp, training, Values | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Why do we do this?

Quote from BP“Scouting is not an abstruse or difficult science: rather it is a jolly game if you take it in the right light. At the same time it is educative, and (like Mercy) it is apt to benefit him that giveth as well as him that receiveth.”  Baden-Powell of Gilwell.

I have been digging into my copy of Aids to Scoutmastership once again.  I find that the little book written by Baden-Powell in 1920 still holds water today.  As BP makes clear in Aids to Scoutmastership, the book is not an instruction manual, rather it is a book outlining Why we do what we do in Scouting.  And once we know why we are doing something it is easier to see the vision and achieve the goals or aims.  I would encourage you to get a hard copy of this.  Mine is full of notes and highlights.. a must for every Scoutmaster.
Seeing the vision and understanding the goals are an important part of the Scoutmasters job.  I think that too many Scoutmasters get caught in the “game” that they lose focus on the goal.  Now, “the game” may be different in each unit and dependent on the leader.  Some pay particular attention to advancement, while others focus on the outings.  In most cases there is a good balance, but there still is a missing piece.  That piece is the Aims and the Why we are playing this game with a purpose.
It is nice to watch as a Scout becomes and Eagle Scout.  As a Scoutmaster, I love to sit and talk with a young man who has earned the Eagle Award.  Like the leader that misses the true goal of Scouting though a young man may only think that he has achieved the highest rank.  He may thing that he is a the end of the journey because he is now an Eagle Scout.  But that is not the case, he is far from done, he is just beginning.
In becoming an Eagle Scout he is starting to realize the vision and starting to grow in his manhood life long habits of good decision-making, life skills, leadership, and of course being a good citizen.
The other night I sat with a Scout in my troop for his Scoutmaster Conference.  He has completed all of the requirements to earn his Eagle Award.  Yes, he has completed all of the requirements, but he has actually become an Eagle Scout.  In our discussion we talked more about the future and why he is going to be successful.  He looked back at all of the challenges that got him to this point and I was happy to hear that instead of making them a negative thing, he looked back on them as learning points along his Scouting trail.
We talked about leadership.  It has taken this Scout a little longer to develop into a leader, but he is there now and we talked about the different ways in which he developed those skills.  It was important for me to remind him that in becoming an Eagle Scout he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead.  The American public may not know much about Scouting other than helping old ladies across the street, but they all know that being an Eagle Scout is special.  They look to Eagle Scouts to lead.
Where am I going with this?
We often lose the forest for the trees as they say.  We make sure to teach camping skills and encourage Scouts to earn all the merit badges they can… but what of the Aims?  What about the purpose of Scouting?  I think that is what BP was reminding those leaders back in 1920 and he continues to remind us today… Stay focused on why we play this game with a purpose.  It is not about Eagle Scouts.  It is about Citizens of Character that are fit.  The BSA reminds us in the mission statement that we are to teach young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes.  This is why we go camping, do service projects, earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts.
I love digging in that old book.  It gets me refocused on what is important.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: Advancement, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Baden Powell and his List of Do’s

Before I get into today’s post I want to thank every one for their interest in the review of Scoutbook.com.  Unfortunately I was only given three free subscriptions and they went to the first three emails I received.  But the response was overwhelming.  50 of you emailed for a shot at the subscription.
So the folks at Scoutbook.com have given me another offer… if you subscribe for a year of Scoutbook and put in THESCOUTMASTERMINUTE in the coupon code at check out you will get 10% off your subscription.
Thank you to Scoutbook.com and thank all of you for supporting me and them.
Now on with the regular scheduled blog post…

>A few thoughts to wrap up the day.

Baden Powell understood young men, he had a connection with the way they learned, developed and reacted to teaching styles and learning environments. In the following excerpt from the Lessons from the Varsity life by Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell he discusses the Scout law.

 “The Scout Law.
So the Scout Law was not framed as a list Of DON’T’S. Prohibition generally invites evasion since it challenges the- spirit inherent in every red-blooded boy (or man).: The boy is not governed by DON’T, but is led on by DO. The Scout Law, therefore, was devised as a guide to his actions rather than as repressive of his faults. It merely states what is good form and expected of a Scout.
 1. A SCOUT’S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED.
2. A SCOUT IS LOYAL.
3. A SCOUT’s DUTY IS TO BE USEFUL.
4. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ALL.
5. A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS.
6. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ANIMALS.
7. A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS.
8. A SCOUT SMILES AND WHISTLES UNDER ALL DIFFICULTIES.

9. A SCOUT IS THRIFTY.

10. A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED.”

Scouting across the world adopted the law and modified it to meet the needs of the national programs in which they applied. But the rule of DO and not Don’t carried throughout. We learn through our Scout Law what we should Do and Be, not what we should not do or be. Unlike the 10 commandments that teach us what not to do and be, the Scout Law encourages a life of Service and ethical attitudes. It gives us a starting point from which we test our decisions and actions that follow.

I found it interesting that the other day I over heard a man talking about the “Say it out loud test”. This tested whether or not one should engage in something that may not be sound. The way it works is that before you do something, say it out loud.  If it does not sound right in your head… don’t do it.

Baden Powell encouraged us to DO the right thing. He did not want to burden us with a list of DON’Ts… DO be Trustworthy, DO be Loyal, DO be Helpful, DO be Friendly, DO be Courteous, DO be Kind, DO be Obedient, DO be Cheerful, DO be Thrifty, DO be Brave, DO be Clean, and DO be Reverent. Putting this positive attitude in our rules to live by makes it easier. We all enjoy it when we are given opportunity and latitude. When I am told that I can do something, I feel a lot better than when someone tells me I can’t.y it out loud. For example, if you are going to rob a bank. Say it out loud. It just sounds wrong… then don’t do it.

Another example; “Hey lets all put a knife in the wall socket”… say it out loud… it does not even sound right, does it? Then don’t do it.

As Scouts and future leaders of America, we encourage you to BE, KNOW, and DO. You know what right looks like.. you have the power to DO it!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, training, Values | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Scoutbook.com

scoutbookEvery unit has a method of tracking their Scouts.  Advancement, activities, special awards etc.  There are software programs and online resources for tracking, even an Excel spreadsheet can be used.  But I want to introduce you to a real cool way of tracking your unit.  Scoutbook.com.
Before I go any further, I should say in full disclosure that my unit does not use Scoutbook.com…. yet.  I was made aware of Scoutbook.com recently and thought I would review it and let you all know about some of the great features it has.  I should also say that as a Scoutmaster, I rarely get involved in any of this, but with Scoutbook.com your committee will be very happy to have such an awesome tool at their finger tips.
At first look I love the interface.  The ease of the program.  It is clean and requires no hunting to find what you are looking for.
tysonadvancement270Second thing that you notice right away is that the Scout has some responsibility for his advancement in this program.  Just like their Scout handbook, the Scout himself now has the ability to track and maintain parts of his record keeping.  Yes, he still needs to get the work done and Yes, he still needs to see the Scoutmaster or who ever signs the book.  But with Scoutbook.com, he has everything at his fingertips electronically.
I remember Former Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzucca reminding us to take Scouting where the Scouts are.  Well, 78% of our teens have cell phones, and not just cell phones, but smart phones.  So put this tool in their hands and see if they get excited about this part of Scouting.
I love that Scoutbook.com is on “The Cloud”.  Pretty much the world that we live in.  The ability to have data on your tablet, phone, computer or other device is critical these days.
Ok, So the Committee has a role in this, the Scout has a role in this, and the leaders all have roles in this.  It is a total package deal.  Constantly updated to meet all of the BSA requirements, linked to ScoutNet, and easy to use.
As a leader, you can track and maintain your training records.  I am sure that the Training chair on your committee would love for your help on that.mytraining280
Printing Blue cards is a snap also.. right from your device.
Merit Badge counselors can track the Scout and report percentages of complete to the committee in real-time.
For the leader, you can track multiple Scouts with just a few clicks.  Monitoring those first year Scouts sometimes can be chore.  But using the tools in Scoutbook.com they have been made easy and right at your finger tips.
Troop Committees can print beautiful reports and even the 34403 form to purchasing awards and advancement for your next Court of Honor.
Scoutbook.com is 100% secure and allows the unit to decide who gets what access.  The Scout, the Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, and the Committee all have functions suited to them.
There are many features of Scoutbook.com that I can’t write about here, it would take pages on the blog.
If you are currently using other tracking software or online programs you may be able to transfer your data, but before you do, check out Scoutbook.com and see all of this for yourself.  It is worth a look.
And here is something cool about Scoutbook.com… You can have it for a year free because you read my blog.
The first 3 readers that send me an email (tbirdironchef@gmail.com) and ask for the subscription will get an annual subscription to Scoutbook.com.  You need to check out the website to see all of the benefits that come with this cool program.
I think it is a resource that you and your unit need to look into.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, reviews, Scout, Scouting, Skills, Summer Camp, technology, training, Webelos to Scout Transition | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Evernote ™ for Scouting

Evernote_Icon_256One of my goals for this year and in particular in working on the blog is to use tools to be more successful.  There is nothing worse than a goal that is not attainable because of lack of want to or know how and sometimes tools can assist in making a goal more attainable.
A new years resolution to go to the gym only works while the motivation to work out is there.  Going to the gym and not working out because you don’ t know how only discourages you and you don’t go back.
I am one of “those people” that needs constant motivation to stay on track.  I do that by motivating myself and finding tools and resources that keep me focused and on task.
For example.  I am working on doing more to lift some of the burden of household chores from my wife.  She does and has done a fantastic job over the past 22 years and I know this is an area that I can do better at.  So I have picked up the responsibility to doing the grocery shopping.  I hate grocery shopping, but it is a task that I can do so I had to find motivation (other than just being more helpful).  So I dove into the task to find tools that would make grocery shopping more interesting for me and make me want to do it.  Enter an app for my phone.  I downloaded the Out of Milk app and started using it.  We make the grocery list on the computer and sync it with my phone.  Bingo.. we have a winner.  I am actually finding grocery shopping fun, walking up and down the isles scanning products and adding them to the shopping cart.
Apps and software have made much of what we do these days more tolerable.  They have also made managing tasks, lists, notes, and resources more accessible.  A few years back I started using an app called Evernote ™.  It was a cool way to take notes and have them available across different platforms.  My computer, phone, tablet etc.  Then I started using for Scouting.
Some of the cool things about Evernote ™ that I really like are the note taking and sharing of information I gather.  With Evernote ™ I can clip and save things right from the internet.  I can save PDF files for retrieval later and I can record voice notes.
Evernote ™ has all of this in one nice bundle.  I have many notebooks within Evernote ™.  This is nice to I stay organized and have everything right at the tip of my fingers.
evernotescreenshotOur Troop uses Troopmaster ™ to manage the Troop’s administrative functions.  But Troopmaster ™ does not have a corresponding app for my phone or a mobile way of accessing information from Troopmaster ™.  So I save the reports and most frequently used items from Troopmaster ™ as PDF files and drop them into Evernote ™.  I can’t tell you many times we have been at a Scout property and they need a roster with phone numbers, ages, etc.  I just open up Evernote ™ and there it is.  I can even print the roster from Evernote ™ if they have wireless printing available.  I had to do this last summer at summer camp.
Scoutmaster conferences are easily tracked and noted using Evernotes voice memo feature.  It is nice to talk with a Scout and then capture some of my thoughts right after we are finished without sitting a writing it all down.  Then once I get home I can transcribe the voice memo into a note for future reference.
Project planning is another great use for Evernote ™.  In 2012 I used Evernote ™ to plan and track our Philmont trek.  Everything from setting reminders to making checklists to ultimately making notes along the journey.  Adding pictures to remind me of tasks, people, places, and things we needed to do.
As most everything we get now electronically from the BSA comes in PDF format, dropping our reservations and other correspondence from Philmont was easy to save and retrieve.
I am still learning of new features and ways to use Evernote ™, but so far it is a great tool to make my Scouting life and my personal life more organized.  It is a way that I stay focused and on task and therefore more productive.
Some of the other ways in which I use Evernote ™:
workflowBuilding Packing list for Backpacking.  It is a nice way to make checklists and track weight and gear.
Lists for places I want to go.  Using the clip it feature on the web I can save maps, brochures, and information about places I want to go, in particular backpacking.
Saving ideas for future planning with the Patrol Leaders Council.
Recipes for Dutch oven or backpacking meals.
Using Evernote ™ Hello I save business card and meeting information.  That is really a neat feature and a fast and easy way to build and maintain contact lists.
That’s just a few.  I follow the Evernote Blog also.  It is amazing all of the different ideas shared there for use cases, tips, and what’s happening with Evernote ™.
Finding a good way to stay motivated and on task is important. It is critical if you are like me and have many irons in the fire and want to stay focused.  But like everything else if you don’t commit to using the tools then you as good as that new years resolution to go to the gym.
I hope that helps you find a tool that will help you manage your irons in whatever fire you place them.
Let me know what you use.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, comments, Cooking, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Philmont, reviews, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Skills, Summer Camp, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Push and Pull

all togetherThere are many styles of leadership.  There are those that insist that leaders must lead from the front.  There are is the camp that won’t have those they lead do anything that they would not themselves do.  There are screamers, directors, instructors, and those that won’t make a decision without consent and debate.  No matter which style you find in those that lead your unit it is important to teach fundamental leadership skills.  We are assisted with the EDGE Method in Scouting.  I call it Pushing and Pulling.  In my many years of leadership in both the military and Scouting I know a few things for certain.  We find ourselves tailoring our leadership style based on those that we lead.
Sometimes we have to [figuratively]get a rope and tie it around the waist of the led and pull them along.  That lends itself to guiding and being an example.  When we pull from the front we show those we lead what we expect, generate motivation, and encourage the follower whole maintaining control, discipline, and getting the task accomplished.
While on the other hand sometimes we have to push.  We need to get behind those we lead and push them along.  Providing motivation and extra encouragement along the way.  We find this in those that have trouble self-starting and finding motivation enough to do it on their own.  Pushing lends itself to the Explaining and Demonstrating part of the EDGE method.   The leader takes a “Hands on” approach with those he leads and is very visible in his leadership. The leader is digging in and leading from within the unit.  Not out front and not bringing up the rear.  The leader is right in and among the patrol.
This leadership takes the right skills and the ability to maintain balance with each member of the patrol.  Some members may not need the direct hands on direction, while others may need a lot of it.  When we push we need the help of other members of the patrol to encourage those that need the help.
There are a lot of different leadership styles and each of us finds that style that best suites our personality and that of those that we lead.
Whether we are pushing or pulling, we need to remember that leaders are leaders not boss’s.  We don’t have dictators and we remain focused on accomplishing the task at hand.
It is our job as Scoutmasters to teach, coach, train, and mentor our Scouts and encourage them to find their style of leadership.  They need to be given the ability to push and pull and develop the EDGE method in their leadership.  That will lead them to success.
I appreciate your comments.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods | Tags: | 1 Comment

Two Stars

2starsLast night I had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of Webleos Scouts that needed a Scoutmaster Conference to earn their Arrow of Light.  I love the opportunity to sit with these young guys, they always have an interesting take on what they want out of Scouting and they are always enthusiastic about coming up to the Troop.
The two fellows last night were no exception.  It was apparent that they had been studying for their arrow of light particularly the Oath and Law.  In our talk I asked the Webelos if they knew what the elements of the Scout Badge meant.  There is a pretty good explanation in the Webelos book and I could tell right away that they knew the parts.  They had their own way of sharing it with me, but their collective answers assured me that they had been learning.
I asked them what the two stars represented on the Scout Badge.  They struggled for a little as most Scouts do, but then one of the Scouts chimed in with “Heart and Mind”.  I hesitated for a minute and then before I could correct the young Scout he continued by saying something that I thought was amazing.
He said, “Heart and Mind… The one star represents our Heart where we find Truth and the other star represents our Mind where we keep Knowledge.  They work together to help us do the right thing.”  I picked my jaw off the ground and asked him where he got that from.   It makes total sense.  He said that it was the only way he could remember it.  Truth and Knowledge just did not stick in his mind, but heart and mind did.  I asked if I could borrow it and he told me that it would be ok.
The other Webelos Scout that was with him said that he could remember that better than Truth and Knowledge also.. I said.. he whatever works guys.  The point is that we use the images that help up remember those things that help us become better people.
After our little chat, the two Scouts went over and joined the rest of the troop working on lashing our Gateway for the upcoming camp o ree.  After the meeting they came to me and thanked me for my time and asked if they could sign up for our troop now.  I thanked them and told them that we would talk, but wanted them to focus on completing the Arrow of Light and we would see them at their cross over.
The more I thought about those two stars I could not help but think that it is more than the Scout Badge.. The two stars were those two young Webelos.  They taught me something last night and on the heals of Wood Badge assured me that this Scouting thing is truly a fantastic organization and I thank God that we have little guys like that they keep wanting to be in it.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster conference | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Action from the Middle

Last night our Troop held it’s Patrol leaders council meeting.  The meeting was unlike most of the PLC meetings in that this meeting was kind of a reflective meeting as our troop is going through, like most troops go through in the course of time, some transition.
We have gone through growth spurts, and seen Scouts come and go.  For a time, we had more older boys then young ones, then we had more young guys than old guys, now our middle is flush and our older guys are few and far between.
The Senior patrol leader is a real great kid.  He loves the Troop and wants it to be the very best.  Last night the discussion in the PLC meeting was focused on what the middle was going to do to run the troop.  In short.  It’s their troop now.. what do they want to do with it?
For some of the guys this is a hard question.  Some of the guys would rather just follow and not take on any leadership, while others are willing to step up.  Unfortunately, the followers out number the leaders three-fold.
While at the camp out this weekend, I shared with some of the leaders that it was time for them all to step up and take over.
There are older Scouts that feel that the troop is boring… that there is no reason to come to meetings… that Scouting is becoming a waste of time.  Well, maybe… but it’s because they don’t want to be a part of the solution.  They would rather just max the minimum, get their Eagle and go about their lives.  Good for them, but it does nothing to help the Troop.  That’s really too bad, they could really do great things if they wanted to.  But as we discussed last night, if that is what they want, that is what they will get.  The younger guys are officially taking over the Troop as of last night.  And I am so proud of them.  I think they are about to take this Troop in a direction that will be fun and adventurous.  They are dedicated and motivated and most of all willing to put the effort into taking care of their Troop.
This weekends camp out forced some of the Scouts to do some reflection on who they are and what they want out of Scouting.  It was great to see them take it serious and think about what they wanted success to look like.
I suppose the good thing about having older Scouts that don’t want to make a difference is that they are showing the young guys what not to do.  Yeah, I guess I am spinning that a bit.  We typically want our older Scouts to set an example of the right way to do things, but sometimes we learn from the lack of action or failure of others.
I am not happy about the attitudes of the older guys that are not making a difference in a program that I think gave them a lot.  But, it is what it is.
The silver lining is the results are going to be great in the actions of the younger fellows of the Troop.
I am looking forward to seeing them kick into gear here and get things moving.
More later on this.  Stand by for great things!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, Ideals, Leadership | Tags: | 1 Comment

Zapping the Fun out of it

wallWe all get to a point when we hit the wall, reach the point of diminishing return, stop having fun.  Teen age boys seem to hit that point way before adults and that my friends seems to be normal.  So know what we know, how do we deliver that promise without loosing our cool, making Scouting painful, and zapping the fun out of it.
I have been giving this subject a lot of thought lately and it pretty much came to a head for me the other night at our Troop meeting when I had a little chat with a Scout and his Dad.  This Scout is a good kid, he is growing up and seeing where he can push and pull on the limits with his parents, school, etc… that to seems to be pretty normal, I mean, all kids test the waters.  They see were they can get away with things and what they will be allowed to do and not do.  But that is not really here nor there in the conversation other than to say, this young man is testing where he can and Scouting is becoming a push and pull point between his Dad and himself.
I remember when this young man entered our Troop, he was gung ho about Scouting and dove right in.  He quickly worked his way through rank and never missed a good Scouting opportunity.  Went to the National Jamboree and Philmont and has by and large been a good Scout.  But now he has a driver’s licence, a girl friend, and Scouting is not cool among the crowd he is hanging with at School.  Again, normal… right?
Like I said, this all has come to a head this week, the discussion about how we maintain a good balance for our Scouts without compromising the program.  How do we keep older Scouts engaged and how do we keep it fun and adventurous for them while we compete with the rest of their worlds?  How is that we keep them from reaching that point of diminishing return and get them to continue to make a contribution to the Troop?  How do we assist them in staying active as a member and leader in the troop?
Well, I may not have the answers, but I am willing to try to at least offer solutions.
I am, as you know, a big believer in the Patrol method.  I think that the Patrols are a big piece of the puzzle here.  Allowing the Scouts to maintain the Patrols of guys that they want to be with, share common interests and likes and dislikes.  Maybe if they stay together, they will rally around each other.  To much moving around and the Scouts start to lose interest in going through the stages of team development and maintaining that high performance attitude.
So let them pick and keep their Patrols and Patrol mates.  When they invite a friend, let that friend be in their Patrol.
Leadership is always an issue also.  We expect our older Scouts to be leaders.  And I agree, but to what end?  When they start to hit the wall, they are not affect leaders, they tend to go through the motions and develop bad attitudes.  If they don’t want to lead, don’t make them.  They will get their leadership time and I would much rather have a leader that wants to lead than one that is being forced.  Leadership comes in many forms and maybe just their example can be enough till they are ready to step back into the spot light of Troop leadership.
Attendance.  This one gets debated over and over again, and everyone has an opinion.  By the way, I am interested in yours.. leave a comment.  Here are just a few thoughts of mine regarding this issue.  I am not a big proponent of forcing Scouts to be there.  I want them to be there.  I also understand that life for these kids (and adults) is busy.  Sports, homework, vacations, friends, other clubs all pull at the Scouts and their families.  Don’t let Scouting be the thing that becomes the bad guy.  Make Scouting something they want to be at.  I have said it before, Scouting may not be for every boy and as their world pulls at them it provides an opportunity for choices to be made.  The more they understand the value of Scouting and the fun, the higher on the priority list it goes.  Attendance at meetings, outings, and other unit functions needs to be the choice of the Scout and the family.
But Jerry, how do you determine what “active” means?  Well, I always go back to what the Boy Scouts of America has determined as the standard.  Here is how the BSA defines “Active”:
A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is;
Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.)
In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.
(Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)
So that’s it.  That is active. I may or may not agree with it, and I am sure that there are some of you that feel that this standard is a bit chinsy.. but it is what it is.  That is how the Boy Scouts of America define it and that is what we must comply with when determining the activity of our Scouts.  That is the standard.
And so that is what I use as my guide.  Now, during the Scoutmaster conference I make it a point to ask what the Scout is getting out of the program… typically, you get out of Scouting what you put into it.  So once a Scout gets to that point where Girls, Gas, and Goofing off start taking a priority and troop meetings start to take a back seat, what is he getting out of it.  Does he still camp with the Troop?  Does he show up for service projects or courts of honor?  That would make him active, right?  I think it may.  The Scout will let you know how he is doing in the program, but we all know that forcing the issue on a teen-aged young man will result in push back.  And then you are back at square one.  The fun will officially be zapped out of it.
So what now?
First, know your Scouts.  What they like, dislike, and what makes them want to be there.
Second, use the Patrol method.  Enough said about that.
Finally, be flexible.  It’s only Scouting.  There is much to be gained in our organization, but if you are not happy here, or not here at all, you won’t get anything out of it.
Don’t be a Troop dictator.  Be as Baden-Powell said in Aides to Scoutmastership.. “To get a hold on boys, you must be their friend”.
Build trust in them and let them set their course for adventures in Scouting.
Hope that made any sense…  Don’t zap the fun out of Scouting.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting day!

 

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, Character, comments, Ideals, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Standard

According to the BSA you may not add to nor take away from the requirements when it comes to advancing a Scout.  That would include merit badge work, rank advancement and other skills that require the Scout to show, demonstrate, explain, or discuss.  There are provisions for Scouts with disabilities and other handicaps that hinder the Scouts ability to perform a task or requirement.  So what?
Well, as always this kind of discussion always seems to pop up and because I seem to seek these discussions out I fell into yet another one the other day with my Dad, a long time Scouter and current Eagle Scout mentor for our Troop.  The discussion was about standards.
I am a believer in Tasks, Conditions, and Standards.  Let me give you an example.
A Scout is working on his totin chip.  There is a discussion about using a knife, bow saw and ax and then the Scout is led to the ax yard.  The task is safely use the ax, the standard is to demonstrate that the Scout can handle the ax, split wood, and name the parts of the ax.  The conditions are simply that the Scout is in the ax yard with an ax and he properly executes the standard.
Now if the Scout says that he can do it and the leader chooses to accept that then the standard has not been met.  If a short cut is allowed, then the task has not been completed.
The totin chip is not the best example, but it does illustrate the concept of task, conditions, and standards.  When we add to requirements or worst yet, take away from them, we do not allow the Scout to succeed within the guidelines of the BSA.
Here is my main issue with the lack of maintaining the BSA standard.  NOT Adding to or taking way from requirements.  My issue is that when we get in the habit of short cutting the standard we render the program invalid.
Here is what I mean.  Scout A earns the Eagle Award.  He completes all of the requirements with out short cutting, he demonstrates good leadership and through discussion in his Scoutmaster conference has proven that he lives the Scout Oath and Law.  He had a project that was worth while and required him to be an effective leader.  In short, he earned the award.
Scout B on the other hand, made a choice not to lead in the troop.  He did complete all of the requirements, but by and large did just enough to finish.  His project was good, but he really didn’t have to lead much.  He was not around the Troop much, and it was hard to determine whether or not he is living the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life.  The Scoutmaster conference left lots of questions regarding leadership and Scout spirit.  But because he did complete the requirements, he gets to be an Eagle Scout, right?  Task, Conditions, Standards.  The standard is something that needs to be looked at.  What do the requirements say and did the Scouts do his best.  Far to many Scouts are just getting by, yep, even in my Troop.  So are we doing the program a service?  What about the Scout?  Yeah, he gets the badge, but is he demonstrating what it means to be an Eagle Scout?  How does the public view him and how does that reflect on Scouting?  I know of many people that are Eagle Scouts and most of them still today are what I would consider a person that lives the values, has the skills, and demonstrates the character of a Scout.  Others though I wonder how they ever got the badge.  I fear that if we blow it and not maintain the standard we will set a new standard that is not in keeping with the BSA and it’s program.  I think it is worth a look at our program and how we apply the task, condition, and standard in our unit.  I think it is time that all units do the same so we can maintain the standards set years ago that lead our Scouts to being men of character.
Worth a look…
Let me know what you think.

Categories: Advancement, blog, Journey to Excellence | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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