Advancement

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

Just do something…

DSCN0627

It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Bad Week as a Scouter

lifepinI should start by saying no one got hurt, no one died, and no one is going to jail…
It was August and we were heading home from Philmont Scout Ranch.  Our two crews from the Troop stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado to eat at the Golden Corral Buffet, a restaurant that our Scouts came to love on the trip down to Philmont.  I sat at a table with a handful of older Scouts and one in particular, I will call him Phil.  Phil was a life Scout and a real active member of the Troop.  Phil is a Senior in High School now, but at the time was enjoying his summer and just had a great time at Philmont.  Phil has a little brother in the Troop that is real motivated and did a great job in pushing Phil to get going on advancement and taking a more active role in the Troop.  So Phil and I started talking about his 18th Birthday and soon it would be on us.  We talked about his goals and what he was planning on doing after high school.  He stated that he was planning on joining the Army.  Immediately I had some advice for him and we started talking about wrapping up his last requirements for Eagle.  He had 8 months till he turned 18 and if he got going, he could knock out those last merit badges and focus on his Eagle Project.
About a month ago Phil decided that he really wanted to earn his Eagle rank.  So, we started looking into how he could finish the merit badges and get the project rolling.  Phil showed moments of absolute motivation and effort that I wish all our Scouts had in them.  He also showed moments of “let it ride”.  He fell into the trap of Maxing the minimum.  Last week he got some critical merit badges complete and his Eagle Project approved.  This week he hit a road block when he discovered that he was going to have a challenge that time would not allow him to over come.  Tonight, he decided, along with discussion with his Dad and then me, that he could not finish before he turns 18 on Sunday.
Tonight I went to his home and sat and talked with him, his brother, and his Dad.  We talked about the lessons learned through this process and that although he will not be an Eagle Scout, he has learned much from Scouting and that he is a better person for it.  I shared with him that I am not an Eagle Scout.. in much the same fashion, I ran out of time when I was approaching my 18th birthday.  I to joined the Army and turned 18 while in Basic Training.  Instead of Eagle Scout, I earned Private First Class.  All was not lost though.. the things that I learned in Scouting made me a successful soldier and in 24 months I achieved the rank of Sergeant.  I shared all of this with Phil to reinforce that even though he can’t be an Eagle Scout he can take what Scouting gave him and what he learned and earned and apply it for the rest of his life.
Over the past few weeks and in particular the last few days, I have done everything that I can possibly do to assist this young man in becoming an Eagle Scout.  I have looked for loop holes and work arounds and at the end of the day the lesson learned is that there is a process and that process needs to be done right.  No short cuts, no loop holes, and no work arounds.  With every thing we had we tried, we could not help the Scout that waited.
This is the first time I have ever had to look a young man in the eye and say that I am sorry he can not be an Eagle Scout.  This is the first time that we have run the course and not succeeded.  Not that the Scout is a failure, but that the Scout did not finish in time.
I am exhausted.  This young man has worked hard, but he started to late to get motivated and get it done.  I have seen a strong work ethic emerge in this young man and I hope that he learned that when he puts his mind to it, he can and will be successful.  This short fall is not the end of the world and a great lesson in life.
He’s going to keep working on his project so it will benefit the community.  That is a great thing.  His service will be lasting, something he learned along the way in Scouting.
What I have learned in this process is that I need to do a better job of setting the Scouts up.  I will not do the work, nor will I nag the Scout.. but what I will do, and what our Troop will do from this day forward is simple.  On their 17th birthday we will sit down with the Scout and his progress record.  We will explain the process and encourage them to start getting real serious if they want to be an Eagle Scout.  They will have 365 day notice that time is running out.  They will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what they need to finish and we will give them the tools to be successful.  What they do with it from there is up to them.
I will not scramble like this again.  I will not get in a position of working merit badges with a Scout 3 days before his 18th birthday.  It is not the way the process is designed and does not demonstrate what it takes to be an Eagle Scout.
I feel real bad for Phil.  I wish he was planning an Eagle Court of Honor right now.  What I know for sure is that Phil has learn some valuable life lessons this last month and I feel that he will go on to do great things with his life because of it.  I certainly hope so.
Scouting was real good for Phil.  He did well.  He just came up short.  That’s life.. as hard as that is to hear.  What he does with that knowledge is up to him now.
I gave him a coin tonight, it is the coin that I was allowed to have made when I became a Command Sergeant Major.  I can’t award him the Eagle Medal, but the coin is to serve to him as a reminder of hard work and dedication and the rewards for effort.  I am not an Eagle Scout, but I made it to the very top in the Army, so can he… if he wants to.
This has been a bad week for me in Scouting… but one that I learned alot and I hope that Phil did to.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Ideals, Methods, Philmont, planning, Scout, Scoutmaster conference, Values | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Promise Continued

SMCONFIt is the Scoutmasters obligation to work to achieve the Aims of Scouting… that’s pretty much it.  To do that it should be every Scoutmasters goal to get every Scout to the rank of First Class not Eagle Scout.
If you take a look at the requirements to achieve the First Class rank you will note that its pretty much all about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.
Through the working of these requirements the Scout will learn about the three aims of Scouting and coupled with the skills learned, the teamwork developed, and the fun of the program, the Scout will assist the Scoutmaster in attaining his goal.
Once the foundation has been laid in the working to First Class, the Scout then should be prepared to work toward Eagle Scout where he can explore his world while working merit badges.  He can learn and demonstrate leadership, and he can develop a sense of service to his community.  Putting it all together we will have produced a good young man.
So back to the First Class rank.  When we do not put in the proper perspective and make it all about skills and a means to the end (Eagle Scout), we lose focus on what we are trying to accomplish in Scouting.  We are not here to make Eagle Scouts, we are here to make good men.  Good Citizens of Character that are fit, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
So, the next time you sit down with a Scout to chat during his Scoutmaster conference for Second Class.. take a look and see if that young man is getting it.  If not, reinforce those ideas and share with him your goal.
This is a part of the promise that we make to our Scouts.  The adventure comes when the rest is worked.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patriotism, respect, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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