Advancement

Modeling Expected Behavior

expectmoreI often preach about how I expect more out of our young men, that nothing in life will be easy, and that there are no participation ribbons just for showing up in life.  When it comes to leadership, the Scouts in our Troop hear it over and over again that we all need to “Model Expected Behavior” and they all  should at least have an understanding of what that means. For the Scouts of our Troop that means that good is not good enough.  It means that we do things right, we learn from mistakes, and we hold one another to a higher standard.
So what does that mean?  Is is arrogant of us to act that way?  Well, to the outsider looking in, yep.. but for us we look at it this way.  The world around us is happy with mediocre leadership, results, and standards of living.  I’m not ok with that when it comes to our Scouts.
We are not a merit badge mill nor are we an Eagle factory.  We do not measure success in the amount of Scouts that earned awards or rank each year.  We measure success in the way our Scouts act.  We see direct results in watching older Scouts teach younger Scouts and hold each other accountable.  We measure our success in growth and sustained attendance.  Is our Troop for everyone.. nah.. but no troop is.  Even though we all work toward the Aims of Scouting, our programs are different in their delivery.  I could not be in a Troop that had more adult involvement than Scouts.  I could not be a unit that did merit badge classes each week.  I could not be in a Troop that produces Eagle Scouts that can not do the basics.  I could not be apart of a Troop that did not seek adventure and test the limits.
This weekend, our Troop camped at a local Scout camp.  There were not a lot of miles walked and the weather was great.  It got real cold, and that tested some of the boys in the troop.  Some Scouts pushed their boundaries by shooting Shot guns for the first time, while other Scouts increased their knowledge and leadership skills at Junior Leader Training.  A few Scouts were taken out of their comfort zones as they taught the Junior Leader Training.  No matter what level of the Scout there was challenge enough for everyone.
Our Junior Leader Training follows the National program, but we tend to focus heavily on communication skills, team development, Conflict resolution, and expectations of leaders.
We start the session with a talk about Modeling Expected Behavior and then everything that follows in the course of training maintains that theme.  We expect our Scouts to be and act the best.  Good is never good enough.  The team deserves that attitude from everyone.  If they all act their best.. they become the best.  A high performance team.
Now you may ask.. aren’t you expecting too much from these young men.  Nope.  If I don’t who will?  We see too much “getting by” in our world and I will not be party to it.  Do we exclude young men when we expect more from them?  NO.. we expect more and they give more… like it or not.. That I don’t care about.  Life is going to expect a lot from them.  Why treat them with kiddy gloves now.
Does this mean we are hard ass’s?  Not at all.  We stay within the Scout Oath and Law.  Teaching in a friendly, fun, challenging atmosphere.  But when things are not right, a leader (adult or youth) simply corrects the issue and we move on.  Un tied shoes, un tucked shirts, gear looking like a yard sale, bad attitudes, improper set up or use of gear, not living the vlaues of the Scout Oath and Law.  These are things that other Scout leaders just allow.  Kids will be kids… yeah.. but bad habits last forever.  Good attitudes, skills, and behavior does to and gets them a lot farther in life.
So modeling expected behavior is a cultural thing.  We don’t march, we don’t yell.. yelling is for ineffective bad leaders.. we just teach, coach, train, and mentor.. oh and we model expected behavior.  Adults don’t get a free pass on bad behavior either.  We are expected to model what we expect.
The proof is in the pudding.  Our Troop grows annually.  We lose Scouts too, and that’s ok, maybe we are not the fit for them.  Maybe XBox and lower expectations is what they are looking for in life.  And that’s ok.. just not in our Troop.
This morning a Scout was standing under a shelter pouting.  His hands were cold, after all, it was 24 degrees outside.  His Patrol leader had just instructed him to get his gloves on.  The Scout could not find them.  So the Patrol leader and the Scout went to his pack and dumped it out.  There were the gloves.  I then saw the Scout standing there not assisting with his Patrol in breaking camp and wrapping up the clean up.  I called him over to where I was standing watching.  I asked him if he was ok.  Yeah.. he said, but I’m cold.  I suggested that if he would get moving he would warm up.  If he would help his Patrol mates out.. he would start to feel a bit warmer.  I asked him why he was pouting earlier and he told me that his hands were cold.  I asked him what he did about it… fully knowing what had happened.  He said that he found his gloves and put them on.  Then I had him recite the Scout Law to me.  And asked to him to reflect on the meaning of being Trustworthy.  We talked a bit about making choices and how he was either going to develop good habits and skills, or he would develop bad ones.  The choice was his, not mine, the Patrol leaders, or his parents.  He would have to make a choice which path he wanted to take.  He turned and walked back to his patrol and pitched in.  You see, if we let it go, it won’t change.  If we expect little, that is what we get.  So we chose to expect more.  And not surprisingly we get more.
When our Youth leaders set good examples and model the behavior that we want out of our Troop.. that is what we get.
There is nothing wrong with winning and losing.  We can learn from both.  There is everything wrong with not learning and not trying to learn, to push, and to find success.
I had a talk with a Scoutmaster about this a while ago.  He said that “I bet they all march around and it’s all yes sir this and no sir that..”  On the contrary.. In fact the Scouts in my Troop call me Jerry and we call them by their names.  There is no marching, yelling, or military like behavior.. just a lot of fun and development.  It is an environment that is comfortable, friendly, and leaves them wanting to come back.
At the end of each camp out we close with lessons learned, Start, Stop, and Continue.  Today the Senior Patrol leader led the discussion with whole troop.  As the next two camp outs will be up on the mountain, this camp out was a great opportunity to learn and get ready for the up coming outings.  He had each Scout share one thing that needs to improve in the next 3 weeks.  I listened as the Scouts really gave some thought to their answers.  It was in some of the more experienced Scouts answers that I realized that they got it.. they are modeling expected behavior.  They were critical of themselves and how they prepared for this camp out.  The next one will be that much more successful.
Expect more.. get more.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, Camping, Citizenship, comments, Competition, gear, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, respect, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Times Up

calendar_iconOn one hand it breaks my heart when a Scout creeps up to his 18th birthday and has not completed the requirements for Eagle Scout.  It reminds me of my biggest regret in not finishing my Eagle and I can see the disappointment in their eyes that they to will not be counted as Eagle Scouts.  I tell them that all is not lost, think of the life skills you learned, the friends made, and the experiences that you had.  The time spent in Scouting is worth while, even if it does not include the Eagle award.  I have repeated this again and again that the goal is not to make Eagles, it’s to make men that make ethical choices throughout their life times.  Men of character.  Now I know that’s not what the Scout wants to hear when he realizes that he is not going to finish the trail that he started, but that is the reality and after some thoughtful consideration a look in the mirror and a glance over his Scouting record and experience, the Scout will soon come to understand that he got his monies worth and more in Scouting.
On the other hand, I am often disappointed in the Scout that he did not take advantage of the advancement program and complete the requirements in a timely manner.  This leads me to wanting to say “I told you so” to the Scout, even though I won’t.  Encouraging, reminding, a nudge here and a tug there to get the Scout to do the work is about all we can do.  I refuse to just give it to them and I won’t take them by the hand and lead them around like a Den Mother.  They all know what needs to be done and by the time they are in that 16-year-old range, well, they know how to get it done and they certainly know when their birthday is, so I tend to not feel to bad for them.  After all, we are teaching life skills right?
When time is up.. time is up and you have to accept the consequence for your action or lack there of.  Do I want them all to be Eagle Scouts?  Sure, is it something that they all can do?  Sure.  I am going to turn my troop into a Merit badge mill and Eagle factory to make sure that we have more Eagles than any other Troop.  Nope.  The Scouts all know when they turn 18 and they all own a Scout handbook that shows them step by step what needs to be done if they want to be an Eagle Scout.  Beyond that, I will help, I will guide, I will bend over backwards to work with them.  But I won’t do it for them or allow other to.
I see to much of this in Scouting and it simply takes away from the meaning of the Eagle award.  It takes away from accomplishment  and sense of pride that the Scout has when he knows that he worked hard to get what only 4% of the Scouts in America get.
I suppose I can go on and on about this.. but when time is up.. time is up.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, planning, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Dance of the Blue Card

bluecardThe application for Merit Badge AKA the “Blue Card, is a little piece of paper that will get even the most level-headed Scouts doing the dance of the blue card.
Just sit back and watch as a Scout realizes that he’ll be 18 in a few months.  The line dance for a visit with the Troop secretary is reminiscent of scene from Urban Cowboy.
I was recently asked about the process of the Blue Card and how we do it in our Troop.  The reader has asked to remain nameless, but I am glad that this question came up.  I can not tell you how times I have had conversations about such a simple thing, but something that is sometimes more confusing than a rubics cube.
Our reader asks;  “Anyway would you share how your Troop handles Blue Cards, from the time the Scout asks to start a merit badge and is give the Blue Card through completion and where the Blue Card goes and who handles what.”
So here it goes… I’ll let you behind the curtain of how Troop 664 does the Blue card dance.  There are actually two ways that we do this.  I will explain the regular way that we do it and then how we do it for summer camp.
First.  The Scout expresses interest in a merit badge… He picks the merit badge and goes to the Troop Secretary and asks for a blue card.
Then, the Scout fills out the Blue card.  He fills out the whole front of the card leaving only my signature space blank.  He fills out the back of the card with his name and the name of the merit badge he is going to work.  He can leave the name of the counselor blank.
The Scout then brings me the blue card and I sign the front of the blue card.  This allows the Scout to start working on the merit badge.  It also gives me an opportunity to talk with the Scout about the badge and answer any questions that he may have.  If I know who the counselor for that merit badge is, I give the Scout the information, if I don’t I have the Scout return to the Troop secretary and she will look up the counselor and give the Scout the information, phone number etc.
The Scout then works the merit badge.  The counselor fills out the card and confirms that the Scout met all of the requirements.  Once the merit badge is complete, the counselor signs and dates it and gives it back to the Scout.
The Scout will then bring the completed blue card back to me.  I then sign the card and have the Scout give the blue card to the Troop secretary.  She records the completion date and merit badge into the Troop master software and takes the first part of the card and files it with the Troop records.  The Scout gets the remainder of the card.  Most counselors do not retain their copy.
The Applicants record is stapled to the merit badge certificate as is the actual merit badge.  The Scout is presented the merit badge at the next court of honor.
That completes the Dance of the Blue card.
The only difference in this process for summer camp is this.  I will pre sign a bunch of blue cards.  I then hand them out on day 1 of summer camp.  The Scout takes the blue card and fills it out and takes it to the first session of the merit badge class.
At the completion of summer camp, the blue cards are returned from the summer camp staff to the Scoutmasters.  I sign all the completed merit badges and make a note of the partials.
During summer camp, I track the merit badges being worked daily.  I keep a chart in my notebook of who is working what badge at what time.  Then I follow-up daily at the “Scoutmaster cabin”.  The camps in our council all make daily progress reports available.  If by Wednesday, it does not look like progress is being made, I have a little chat with the Scout.  It is the Scouts decision to work the badges and I will not force or push the Scout to complete the badges at camp.  I do “Highly encourage” them to get them finished, but at the end of the week.. it will be up to him.
When we get home, I turn over all of the blue cards to the Troop Secretary and she records and goes through the same process as stated above.
So there it is.. The Dance of the Blue Card… I sure hope that helps.
Leave your questions, comments, and suggestions here on the blog or feel free to drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Summer Camp | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Merit Badges…

mb_sashThis has been discussed before, but I received an email the other day from a Scouter in our area.  This Scouter does not know me very well, nor does this Scouter know how our Troop runs, but none the less, this Scouter sent a nice email suggesting that we do not encourage the merit badge program in our Troop BECAUSE our Troop is a “Backpacking Troop”.
Well, hmmm…  Let’s see… How do I respond to that?
There are what? 130 or so merit badges that I Scout can choose from right?  And the Scout must have at least 21 to earn his Eagle Award, right?  So there are lots of choices for the Scout to make when it comes to earning merit badges.  At some point the Scout must come to the unit leader.. that’s me… and get the blue card signed to start working the merit badge, which ever merit badge that may be.  When the Scout comes to me to get that blue card signed I sign it.
Now when it comes to encouraging.  I encourage the Scout to earn merit badges.  I have told the Scouts that while at Summer Camp, merit badges are not the reason to be there.  Merit badges are a product of Summer camp and a means to and an opportunity to earn, learn, and have fun while at camp.  So yeah, that may sound I like I don’t “encourage” the working of merit badges, but that’s really not the case at all.
I am a firm believer that advancement and merit badges are the Scouts responsibility to work.  They need our help that’s true and at times they need some poking and prodding to get going on badges and rank.  In that regard, we encourage and promote the merit badges that will get the Scout advanced.
The merit badge program is designed to do a couple of things.
1.  Introduce the Scout to many subject areas that will open his eyes to his world, skills, hobbies and activities, and career fields.
2.  Work the adult interaction method.
3.  Spark interest in the Scout while working toward a goal (advancement).
When the Scout, and leaders understand why we have merit badges, it is easier to understand that they are not the end all, be all of the Scouting program.
When I am told that I do not encourage merit badges because we are a “Backpacking Troop”  I look at the Scouter and ask if they know the methods of Scouting.  Backpacking, Front Country car camping, or Troop’s that never leave the confines of a cabin all work the methods of Scouting.  Advancement is one method and the Scout finds his pace and path to achieve his goals and work his way to Eagle.
We encourage the merit badge program but we do not spend valuable Troop time to work on them, with the exception of Camping, First Aid, and Cooking.  Those merit badges, for a troop that camps 11 times a year are all being worked over the course of the program year and are tracked at the unit level.
If the fact that we are not a merit badge mill is not a way of encouraging… well, than guilty as charged.
Now, I am going to be totally honest with you… many of our Scouts only work the merit badges that they need to advance.  That is not because we are a backpacking troop, nor is it because we do not encourage the merit badge program.  Simply put, our Scouts are having fun.  They spend time having fun at summer camp.  You will always find our Scouts extremely active at camp.  They love to compete and play games.  They spend lots of time at the water front and the shooting ranges.  If they don’t get the fingerprinting merit badge.. it’s no big deal.
We encourage every Scout to earn an Eagle required Merit Badge at summer camp.. don’t care which one… but at least one from the Eagle required list.  Most Scouts work the Environmental Science Merit Badge at summer camp.  That and First Aid seem to be the two most popular.
I don’t make a pitch for some of the merit badges that while for some Scouts are super interesting, knowing the boys of my troop are just ‘filler badges’.  Like the afore mentioned Finger printing.  Let’s face it.. that’s a 10 minute merit badge and the Scout really doesn’t learn much.  A great one for the sash, but not getting him that much closer to Eagle Scout and life skills.
I would much rather see them earn Canoeing, Sailing, Emergency Prep or Wilderness survival while at Summer camp or pretty much any other time of the year.  But that’s just me, I don’t get to force a Scout to earn a certain merit badge, nor do I get to forbid him from working one.  Finger printing, Dog care, Painting, Skating, and Reading, while all great subjects and have a purpose in teaching responsibility on some level and encouraging an interest, I can do without them in the context of Scouting.  I know that I will hear some opposing views on this and I suppose that’s why there are 100 + merit badges so there is something for everyone.  I don’t discourage any Scout from earning any merit badge that he wants to earn.  But when it comes to encouraging Scouts to earn merit badges, well, I just sign the blue card and let them go to work.
I don’t think we need to high-five every Scout that earns the Chess merit badge or the Backpacking merit badge for that matter.  They work it, they earn it, they are presented the badge and they get a handshake and a “job well done”.  We don’t have contests to see who can earn the most and we don’t look down on the Scout that earns the obligatory 21.
I am still not sure what being a “Backpacking Troop” has to do with anything.  This Scouter said that this was “The Reason” we do not encourage the merit badge program.
In closing.  The average number of merit badges that Scouts  have earned at the time they were awarded their Eagle award is 35.  Enough said.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, Cooking, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, technology | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

One of those great Scouting Days

Yesterday I participated in a great Scouting Day.  Our Annual Program and Training Conference was held yesterday at the Scouthridge high School.  I am not sure how many Scouters participated, but there where many.  I got the feeling that there were more than last year.  There were classes ranging in topic from Songs and Skits to High Adventure.  There was a nice midway that hosted a booths from the Scout Shop to Pampered Chef.  For you Dutch Oven cooks out there, Pampered Chef has some real nice stuff.  Anyway, there was a lot to see and do and I was happy to see that Boy Scout leader participation was up.
You see we used to have a couple of opportunities for Scouters in the Council to gather and get some training and program ideas.  We used to have an Advancement extravaganza, this was primarily for the Boy Scout Program.  And we used to have a fun event called Pow Wow.  It was geared for Cub Scouters, but a real fun day of training and gathering of ideas.  Last year the two programs were combined into the Program and Training Conference.  I believe it was an idea borrowed from the Chief Seattle Council.  So last year was the first time that I was asked to teach and so I did.  I was invited back this year.  Scouter Adam and I held a couple of sessions on using Social media for your unit and I taught Scouters about the Scoutmaster Conference, one of my most favorite subjects in Scouting.
I did two sessions of the SM Conference and they seemed to be received well.  What I find interesting is the different views on BSA policy and the way in which Scouters interpret the BSA training.  You see this in the way people ask questions and share their opinion on one issue or another.  Now I am not saying this is always a bad thing, especially when they are looking for the right answer or the right way to do something, but it still drives home the point that Training and doing training right is important.
Mike Walton from the USSSP was a guest presenter this year.  He flew out from Minnesota to share some thoughts of up coming changes in the BSA and did a joint session with our Councils CFO.  It was an interesting session to say the least.  I say that in a real good way because Jason and Mike both told it straight yesterday, and for those of you that have read this blog for anytime, you know that’s what I like and that’s how I do it.   They shared thoughts of current issues, you know the homosexual thing, and they talked a lot about money in Scouting.  I loved the comments about how people tend to blame “Council” for many of the problems, issues with their units, and financial woes.  Jason asked “who is the council?”  You see the majority of Scouting volunteers equate the “Council” with the support desk, the DE’s, and the people who never seem to stop asking for money.  But, the answer is that WE Volunteers are “THE COUNCIL”.  Too many units, Scouters, and other volunteers fail to take matters into their own hands when problem solving for their units, yes there are times when we need the support of the DE or the support desk, but to blame Council for every problem we have in our Scouting world is laughable.  It was refreshing to hear it out loud yesterday by both the volunteer and the professional.
I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with the Wood Badge crowd yesterday.  Recruiting for the upcoming course and spreading the word about great Scouting training.  Again it was nice to see how many Scouters showed interest in Wood Badge and it looks like we are going to have another full class, just based on interest.  Registration opened yesterday too, so we will see how quick the class fill up.
Yesterday was a fun day of hanging out with Scouting friends, sharing ideas, and helping Scouters deliver the promise.
Like yesterday was for me, and bid you Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Scoutmaster conference, Service, training, Wood Badge | Tags: | 3 Comments

Learning by listening

One of my favorite things to do as a Scoutmaster is sit with a Scout and have a Scoutmaster Conference.  It is not only a requirement for the Scout to advance, but a great opportunity to learn.
I learn so much each time I sit down with a Scout and listen to them during the conference.  Tonight I sat with two Scouts and learned more about them, the troop, and their development as Scouts.  I learn when I listen to the Scout.
So here is how I do it.  Keep in mind, I am like most Scouts (and leaders for that matter) in that I am a scatter brain.  Back when I was a kid, it was called hyperactive.. now-a-days.. it’s grounds for medication.. but either way.. I really have to work at staying focused.  So when I sit with a Scout, I need to give them 100% of my attention.  So, I take their book, make sure that everything is signed and dated, sign my two boxes and then put the book away.
Then we start the conference.
The Scout then has all of my attention.  I know what’s in the book, and it really doesn’t matter anyway.  The Scoutmaster conference is not a retest, so we talk about what challenged him, what he learned, and what he is doing to get to the next level.  Then we talk about leadership.  I ask them, yes even at the Tenderfoot level, what they are doing to demonstrate leadership.  This typically sparks lots of talk about where the Scout thinks he is in the spectrum of being a leader.
Using the EDGE method to teach is a Tenderfoot requirement, so I figure that he had to learn something about leadership there.
We discuss spiral learning and reinforce the skills that were learned along the way.  This discussion usually leads to what the Scout is looking forward to.
We talk about School.  Not because the Scout wants to, but because I want to know.  We talk about girlfriends, and sports, and even how the Scout law works on a little sister.  The conference is a talk that we have to learn.  The Scout learns and I learn.  I get to know them and they get to know a little more about me and how I see the world.  They get to see how I demonstrate the Scout law in my life, and I get to learn how they are struggling to make the Law a habit in their lives.
The Scoutmaster conference is one of my favorite things as a Scoutmaster and I am lucky that I get to do them every week.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute | 2 Comments

Effort

The other day I went to the high school to pick up my youngest son from Football practice.  Practice was running late, so I hung out and watched as the players ran sprints and did up downs.  Now, for those of you that have played a little football, you know that after 3 hours of practice the last thing you want to do is wind sprints and up downs.  But the team seemed to run and run and run.  After each lap and set of up downs the coach would tell them to watch the ball and then they would get in a ready position.  The idea was to be disciplined and ready to finish games in the fourth quarter.  He asked the players to give more effort.
The longer they ran.. the less effort the coach would see.  They were tired and as they got more tired, the less effort they would give.. the less effort they gave, the more mistakes they would make, the more mistakes they would make, the more they ran… and so went the cycle.
It all came down to effort.  Who was willing to give more when it counted.
I stood there and watched and thought.. yep, it is about effort.  Life is about effort.  You can over come many things with more effort.  The harder you work, the more you will be rewarded.  If you apply the effort to any task you will eventually see results.
In the fourth quarter, weather that is on the football field, in the classroom, or in a Scout troop effort matters.
Here is what I see way to often… a lack of effort.  I see this in most things in life.  Way to many times we see our young men just try to get by, to “Max the Minimum”.  To give the least amount of effort and expect the same results.
We see that a lot in our Scouts..  Way to often do we see them avoid patrol chores, planning, or pitch in when they are needed.  Way to often do we see them demonstrate a lack of effort when it comes to finishing tasks like service projects.  And then there is advancement.  I see a lot of Scouts that expect to be moved along, just like when they were in Cub Scouts, with their peers.  Or I see the effort coming from their parents.  That lack of effort will not get the work done.  I suppose that’s why only 4% become Eagle Scouts.
Now, we won’t make them do wind sprints and up downs.. no we just encourage them to “Do their best”.. well, I guess what I am saying is that maybe “Their best” is not good enough.  Maybe they need to apply more effort and make their best better.
This is the game of life and where do we want them to be in the fourth quarter.  I want them to be winning.
I want them to be successful.  I want them to work hard for what they get, not expect a hand out or to be “moved along” with their peers.  No I want to see them give the effort to their lives.  It is then that they will appreciate the things that they earn.  It is with more effort that they will be great men.
I love these teachable moments they seem to pass in front of us each day.  Watching as my son and his team mates ran until they proved that they wanted to be winners made me look at other areas of our life.  Wouldn’t it be great if every one in the School gave that much effort, or in the neighborhood and community.
Living the Scout oath and Law takes effort.  It’s not easy and it’s not designed to be.  People that do not give effort just get by.  Those that give extra effort succeed.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Competition, Ideals, Scout Law | 5 Comments

What kind of Scoutmaster are you?

In the last post, we got a pretty good feel for the general attitude toward the “Merit Badge Mill” for a lack of a better term.  It seems that there is not a lot of support for this style of merit badge earning.
Now, I did receive some emails that found that style the best practice in, as one guy put it “the world we live in”.  But those comments were far less than those opposed.  In all fairness… I did ‘accept’ any comment that was made on the blog.  I did not respond to all of the emails, especially the one that called me “Old fashioned and not in touch with today’s Scouts”.
Which led me to thinking this week… What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
It was brought to my attention that the 1998 Scout Handbook does not make mention of Baden-Powell.  I have not checked this out for myself, but if that is the case, it begs the question.. Why?
But back to the subject at hand.. What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
Baden-Powell said in “Aids to Scoutmastership” that we need not be “Know it all’s”
To be a Scoutmaster you need:

  • He must have the boy spirit in him; and must be able to place himself on a right plane with his boys as a first step.
  • He must realise the needs, outlooks and desires of the different ages of boy life.
  • He must deal with the individual boy rather than with the mass.
  • He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among his individuals to gain the best results

Now BP goes on to explain all these points in the book and I won’t just copy and paste the whole thing here.. Google search Aids to Scoutmastership and get your own copy and read it.  But I will say that if you do as BP says.. you may just be a good Scoutmaster.
Scoutmasters should be a friend to the Scouts.  He should remember that these are boys and not adults.  We ask a lot from these young men which is all a part of the program, but at the end of the day they are boys.  They have issues at home, school, sports teams, and the everyday life of a teen ager.  So for the Scoutmaster that places himself on the “right plane” with the Scouts does a better job understanding them and working with them as they grow and develop.
The Scoutmaster needs to understand where the Scouts are in life.  Once again, they are not men, they are boys and they all grow and develop at different rates.  Some 14 year olds are more mature that others.  Some 12 year olds mature faster than some 15 year olds.  So it is important that the Scoutmaster works with the Scouts individually and not paint broad strokes with his Scoutmaster brush.  At the same time, the Scoutmaster needs to build the team up as well as the individual.  The team (Troop and Patrol) is an important part of the Scouting program and a huge part in developing young men.
On the other hand.  And I know too many Scoutmasters like this, they are ‘roped’ into doing the job, they have no real desire to do the job but they do it because their son is in the troop, and they have no desire to learn the program or assist in running it right.
Now is that a subjective statement.  Not so much.  In the introduction to being a Scoutmaster in the Scoutmaster training program, the trainers introduce the new Scoutmasters to the 8 methods of Scouting.  And with few exceptions the methods have remained the same for 102 years.  Those same methods that BP himself outlined.
In both Aids to Scoutmastership and Scouting for Boys, you can find all of the methods that we currently use to achieve the Aims of Scouting.
The Patrol being the foundation for the Scout to start learning.   The ideals found in the Scout Oath and Law as well as the motto and slogan take that foundation and apply it to their daily lives and the attitudes that shape the Patrol as a group.  Scouting is done and should always be done in the outdoors with a Patrol.  The Outdoor program is fundamental in the Scouting program.  It is as BP said “our classroom”.  Advancement opportunities set challenges and goals for the Scout to meet.  The Advancement program tests the Scouts ability to manage his goal setting and give him a measurement of his own success.  Not the success of the unit, but himself.  The association with adults is a method that is often confused.  Confused, because it is a method for the Scout.. not the adult.  In associating with adults the Scout learns to manuever through the world.  It places the Scout in a position to learn to be comfortable in job settings as well as social settings.  The adults role in this method is to be a good example.  Personal Growth is perhaps one of the most important methods that is often overlooked by Scoutmasters that do not take a personal care for each of the Scouts in their Troop.  The Scoutmaster that does the job for a set amount of time or because no one else would take the job often look at Scouting as a camping club.  Merit badges just happen at Summer camp and it really doesn’t matter if there is personal growth in the individual Scouts.  I mean, after all you only have to care for them on Monday nights and one weekend a month… right?  The uniform is where I see most of the lack of care for methods.  Cost is always an excuse, but rarely a solution is given.  The uniform has been a part of Scouting since the very beginning and should remain a method as long as Scouting exists.  It is not a financial burden if the Scout believes and lives the part of the law that suggests that he is “Thrifty”.  Adults create the burden by not enforcing the standard.  To many parents fail to see the value in Scouting’s values and would rather take the easy way out and just say that it can’t be done.  Hog Wash!  And finally, when it comes to methods Leadership development.  Now, I do know that I put this one last and that is not how they are listed… but here is where I see a big gap in the ways in which Scoutmastership is practiced.
Leaders are made, not born and sometimes that trial and error called learning is not pretty.  The Patrol and Troop are the practice grounds for leadership development.  And to be honest.. it’s real ugly sometimes.. that is when the good Scoutmaster needs to allow it to be ugly.  Parents don’t like to see that.. but it is the best way for a Scout to learn.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn as long as the Scoutmaster is there to teach, coach, train, and mentor the Scout.  By applying “Guided Discovery” the Scout will develop into a leader.  He may not be the next Patton or [insert your favorite leader here], but the lessons he learns while discovering his leadership potential will serve him later in life.
In short.. What kind of Scoutmaster are you?  Are you one that embraces the lessons taught us by Baden-Powell or do we throw it all out the window for “modern thinking” and convenience.  “Old fashioned and not in touch with today’s Scout”.  I don’t know about you, but can you disagree with the Values of Scouting?  How about the methods?  These are time-tested and work well when applied by caring Scoutmasters.
If that makes me old-fashioned… so be it.. but if you do as BP suggests.. you can never be out of touch with today’s Scout.  They are the same as they always have been… they are boys looking for adventure.
I am curious to hear what you have to say about this.  What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
“What the Scoutmaster does, his boys will do. The Scoutmaster is reflected in his scouts. From the self-sacrifice and patriotism of their Scoutmaster, Scouts inherit the practice of voluntary self-sacrifice and patriotic service.” – BP in Aids to Scoutmastership

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, teamwork, training, Values | 5 Comments

Merit Badge mania

I have always been a Scoutmaster that encourages advancement and using all of the methods of Scouting.  I have always put a priority on the Scouts having fun, seeking new adventures and in the process, rank, merit badges, and other goodies will happen.  And for the better part of 8 years, this has seemed to be the status quo of our troop.  Good participation at camp outs, doing lots of cool activities and in the process, Scouts earned merit badges and rank.  UNTIL NOW.
For some reason, some of which I don’t have a problem with the Council has decided that merit badges should fall in the hands of committees and project teams.  In an effort to gain and maintain relationships with big corporations and learning centers in the Portland metro area a premium has been placed on merit badge days and work shops.
Rather than do it the old-fashioned way where as a Scout develops an interest in a subject or understands that he needs the merit badge for advancement, comes to his unit leader and asks for a blue card and the number to the nearest counselor and then he begins work on the badge.  Upon completion, the Scout(or the counselor) returns the blue card and the Scout is presented with the badge.  The Council has now provided opportunities for a Scout to just sign up on-line for a badge, show up for a day and complete the badge, many times without the parent unit knowing he has plans to work on it.  This bugs me a bit.
The other thing that bugs me about this program is that racking up merit badges seems to have taken front seat to other Scouting programs within the unit.  Scouts will sign up and pay online to go to a merit badge hand out rather than participate in a troop activity.  I think this is wrong.
Like I said, the traditional way of working and earning merit badges has worked just fine for the better part of 8 years.  Scouts have shown interest and they have earned the badges without placing too much emphasis on them other than for advancement.
Until Now.  It seems that the latest batch of Scouts (Parents) seem to think that merit badges are the end all be all.  They are cranking out merit badges at a pace that will land them all in Boy’s Life for setting merit badge records.  I don’t know where this comes from and I don’t know exactly when the switch was flicked.  What I do know is that I think it is sending the wrong message to the Scout.  I think the parents should remove themselves from the merit badge game and allow their son to have fun in Scouting and earn them the right way.
I upset some parents (new parents) last month when I gave the Summer camp speech and told the Scouts to not worry about merit badge but to make sure they had fun at summer camp.  Some of the Scouts listened and did have a great time at camp, while others wasted no time in earning merit badges for the sake of earning merit badges.  A quick look at the list of merit badges earned at summer camp tell the story, no Eagle required badges earned (they take all week), but many “filler badges were worked and earned.
So our Tenderfoot Scouts will soon have loaded merit badge sashes and no cool stories, no great memories, and will still not be any closer to the next rank.  But their parents will be happy that they get to see Tommy Tenderfoot at the Court of Honor get lots of stuff.
What I am afraid of is the council creating a “participation ribbon” environment.  Where everyone is a winner and no one has to work hard for what they get.  A patch for the patches sake is far less worth having than one earned.
Not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout and not every Eagle Scout earned all 250 or so merit badges. 
I asked the Scouts the other night how important the merit badges were to them.  My little poll did not tell the story that the amount of merit badges would suggest.  Nor the fact that they are all rushing to work merit badges at the Council sponsored events.  Which could only lead me to one conclusion.  The parents need to get their own sashes.
Merit badges will come when the time and interest is right.  They should never take priority over Troop events, and the Council should stay out of it.
My 2 cents, you know I am interested in hearing yours.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Methods, Scout, Skills | 17 Comments

The ‘Camp’ Speech

Last night at our Troop meeting I gave my annual Summer Camp talk with the Scouts.  This is never a popular talk with the parents because I kind of go against the grain when it comes to conventional wisdom regarding “Camp”.
The rub comes when I tell the Scouts that the number priority of Summer camp (aside from being safe) is to have as much fun as you possible can.  Do not worry about merit badges.  Take a few and have fun.
I harken back to my Scouting days and the memories I have of Summer camp.  1978 at Camp Freedom was the best time I can remember.  The fun we had purposely falling out of our canoes, shooting bows and arrows and never earning the merit badge, time spent with my best buddies swimming and goofing around at the water front.  Fishing at the lake, singing songs in the dinning hall and just having a great summer camp experience.  That’s what it is all about.
Taking away from camp a life time of memories is more valuable than any merit badge.  Parents often times view summer camp as an advancement opportunity, and it is certainly there for the taking, but cranking out merit badges without having fun is a waste of summer camp.
I encourage the Scouts to take a merit badge or two, participate fully in the evening programs, make new friends, and emerse themselves in the camp experience.
Our younger Scouts are heading off to camp this Sunday.  The older guys hit the Trail at Philmont next week.  Both of the trips offer great life time experiences that needs to be taken advantage of.  Getting wrapped up in what I get out of it by way of cloth is not the focus and when it becomes the sole purpose you miss out on the wonderful Scouting experiences that are part of camp!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, Summer Camp | 4 Comments

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