Welcome back to the SMMPodcast, we dusted off the mic and got back to talking Scouting! We are trying out a new segment.. “The Mobile Thought”.. In this show, we talk about Reverence, Troop Elections, and Youth Leadership.
Hope you enjoy the show. Let me know what you think. Have a Great Scouting Day! Direct LINK
Spending time with your Scouts on C.O.P.E courses is a wonderful experience. Scouts are challenged to step away from what they know is comfortable. The team building exercises and challenging tasks push Scouts to push themselves, not only for the sake of pushing themselves, but for the sake of the team. Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience courses test the Scouts to do their best.
The other thing that C.O.P.E teaches is the idea that Scouting is among other things a “Personal Experience”. Now it is wrapped up within Patrols, Troops, and buddy teams, but at the end of the day, it is up to the Scout to demonstrate self-reliance and have an attitude that he is willing to accomplish any task that he gets the personal experience. Our Method of Advancement is one way that is completely a personal experience in Scouting.
The Scout is responsible for his advancement. If he wants to be an Eagle Scout, there is nothing in his way except for himself. The requirements are clearly outlined in his handbook, he has the support of his Adult leadership, and he is driven to complete the task. Advancement is up to him. Not his buddies, his Scoutmaster, or parents.
The merit badge program is much like the advancement method in that it to is a personal experience for the Scout. There are required merit badges, but by and large with the large amount of badges spanning every vocation, hobby, sports, and skills, the Scout can pick and choose what he likes, wants, and needs to move forward with his Scouting experience.
Last night I talked with many of the new parents about Summer camp. They had questions about merit badges and what we expect the Scouts to do… more so… what merit badges I expect the Scouts to earn while at camp. My answer was received better by some parents than others. My answer was that it was up to the Scout on what he earns and how many merit badges he try to earn. My expectation is that they have fun at Summer camp. If that means 6 merit badges or no merit badges I am ok with that. “But we are paying a lot of money for summer camp” a parent said… yes I understand that. What do you think you are paying for? In my opinion we pay for the personal and shared experiences that are found only at Summer camp. Summer camp is a week-long C.O.P.E course. There are challenges, skills, and tests all week. How the Scouts handle those both as individuals and as a team determines the success of the week at camp. Merit badges and how many the Troop can earn is not the measure of success. In the end, not one merit badge will lead to a memory that they share. I can tell you stories all day long about the summer camps that I attended from 1978 to 1984. But I can only tell you 1 story about a merit badge, and it really had little to do with the badge, it had more to do with me falling asleep and getting lost while trying to earn it. My expectation is that the Scouts have fun and build a catalog of memories. I want them to have a great Personal Experience in Scouting. Have a Great Scouting Day!
Man oh man, its been a while since I was on the blog posting. Sorry about that, no excuses, just lots going on especially with all the new scouts that we have in the troop.
This post I want to share a little about the last camp out. It was planned by the PLC as a new Scout “Trail to First Class” camp as well as some shot-gun shooting. Then a few weeks before the camp the C.O.P.E course came available as well as 3 more C.O.P.E certified leaders in the troop. So there was time left, so we threw that in also.
Saturday morning started as planned. There was a select group of older Scouts designated to teach the TFC events. They went well. Flag etiquette, fire building, and Totin’ Chip classes kept the new Scouts moving and learning skills. They also learned how to break down meals, plan menus, and pack their packs. They were walked through a model camp site and told what we expected in them and how they camped.
Then it was time for the groups to rotate and the new guys set off to the Shot gun range and the older guys moved to the C.O.P.E course. It was a fantastic opportunity for the older guys to have some fun without the pressure of having the young guys to watch.
The new Scouts had a great time at the range and got back earlier than expected. So the SPL talked with the C.O.P.E. director (one of the ASMs of the Troop) to see if there was something that the First year guys could do. We were the only Troop on the course, so he said they could all do the zip line which is the final event. The whole troop lined up got on harnesses and did the Zip line. It was a blast.
Here is the important part. We had a couple of the new guys that had never camped without Mom and Dad, fired a shot gun, or climbed 32 feet in the air and flew down a zip line. It was a weekend in which just about every Scout in the Troop stepped out of their comfort zone in one way or another and tested themselves. Whether it was teaching classes. shooting, or going through the C.O.P.E. course.
Saturday night the Scouts put on a great camp fire program. One of the brand new Scouts, the one that climbed up to the platform and could not bring himself to go… he stood up there for 20 minutes mustering the confidence to step off. He finally went and afterward told me that “knowing what I know.. I would have went right away”.. he needed to develop trust. And he did.. trust and confidence. So anyway, Saturday night.. he stepped up in front of the whole Troop led a song at the camp fire. High Fives all around for the boys of the Troop.
It was one of those camp outs when everything comes together and the boys show me that all they need is support and a pat on the back and they will do great things.
Scouting teach self-reliance and to live the Scout Oath and Law. They get it in the class room that Baden Powell set up.
Well, better get busy on the next podcast.. I will get more posts out.. things are now leveling off with the new guys.. Have a Great Scouting Day!
Picked this up along the way.. it still rings true today. The Scout Oath and Law are a system of principles, and the program of Scouting is the method of making these principles work in the lives of boys. Let your boys know that the Oath and Law are the rules of the Troop. Scouting is a great game. Boys want to know the rules. When the ideals of the Scout Oath and Law become practical guides for the games, they then become a code to live by. Keep in mind as you go along that the purpose of Scouting is”‘…to promote,…the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues,…’ by placing emphasis upon the Scout Oath or Promise and Law for Character development, citizenship training, and physical fitness.” Knowing the purpose of Scouting and the means of achieving it, you will have made a giant stride in the direction of building good men. Finally, remember that as the first Scoutmaster Handbook put it- “Our purpose in this Boy Scout Movement is not to exploit methods, not to glorify organizations, not to honor Scoutmasters, but to lead boys into useful lives.” - The New Scoutmaster, Boy Scouts of America, 1958
As much as we all have tried to say this in other words.. that pretty much sums it up. Have a Great Scouting Day!
During this last years recharter we had an extremely disappointing turn in of the Journey to Excellence form. As a District committee we chalked this up to a couple of things.. perhaps it was that many people were not aware of the change in program. Maybe some Scouters did not receive proper or inadequate training on the subject. It could have been that the program was not communicated effectively. Another reason may have been that some Scouters just don’t care enough to fill it out. Then again, it may have just been that there are units out there that really are not delivering the promise and would not fill out the form for any reason.
I will go on record and say that the answer is All of the Above. (In my opinion).
So rather than simply complain about it.. I figured that the right thing to do, because I love Scouting and believe in the program, would be to tackle the issues and start with training.
So I volunteered to teach about the JTE program and give out all the tools that would make a unit successful in at least getting the 2012 form in with their charter in November.
So back in January, I announced that we would hold a JTE session at the February Round table. I made arrangements with the Round Table commissioner and we decided that this would be a great class. We could have all levels of Scouting attend and present the information in a clear and easy to use format.
I made copies of all of the materials and even used my own Troop as an example. I made copies of our spreadsheet JTE tracker and our goals for this year. A sample budget was included as well as the Pack, Troop, and Crew requirements for 2012.
Last night at Round table, the room was set and I prepared to teach this subject of which I have developed a passion for. 7 people showed up for the training. 7. 2 of them were Assistant Scoutmasters from my Troop, 1 was a Scoutmaster of a high performance troop that is using the JTE tools and is delivering the promise of Scouting. 2 were Cub Scout leaders that I assume got a lot out of the class. They had great questions and seemed to be very interested in getting this ball rolling within their Packs. 1 was an Assistant Scoutmaster of another Troop that is always in the hunt for Troop of the Year, and finally a committee member from on of the LDS units in our District. She had never heard of JTE and took lots of notes. She informed me that she thought that this was all done at the Stake level.. but wanted to know more so she could get the program started with the Troops she worked with.
85 units did not bother to fill out and turn in the form during the last recharter process.
So essentially last night I preached to the choir… again.
As I drove home from Round table last night my mind was filled with disappointment which of course drove me to thinking about the other areas in which we fall short in our District, Council, and of course the BSA.
Mostly I think it comes down to training. We do a fantastic job of getting people to help. Just look at the numbers.
1.1 Million volunteers currently serve the youth of Scouting. 1.1 Million. Now I am no fool, and I know that in any population you will never get 100 % of the folks to do anything, but we need to try right?
So we have lots of Scouts that deserve the best, and we have lots of volunteers that have at some level made a commitment to give their best, and yet we don’t.
Lets assume that my District (which I consider a real great district) is representative of most if not all districts in the BSA. First, lets throw out some numbers again… bear with me here. Remember that I said 85 units in my district did not bother to turn in the JTE form. My district has 129 units in it.
In 2010 the BSA reported that there were 47,259 Cub Scout Packs, 40,099 Boy Scout Troops, 8,539 Varsity teams, and 18,856 Venture Crews. That would be a total (in 2010) of 114,753 units in the BSA.
So assuming everything is equal, 40,000 units within the BSA did not turn the JTE form this last year. Now I do not know this to be true.. I am just looking for a solution. IF that big a population within an organization that makes it its business to deliver the promise of Scouting to the 2 million (plus) Scouts that come to us allows this to happen.. then I think it is worth a review. Not a change in the Journey to Excellence program. It is rock solid.. after all its all about making every unit the best. It follows the methods and places its focus on what is important.. serving Youth!. No, it does not need to change. What needs to change is how we present, train, and work with units to ensure that the program (both the Scouting program and the JTE) are being followed. Units that are in need of help need to get it.
I think this is where the commissioner service comes in… and there again.. we are preaching to the choir… assuming again that your district is like mine.. where are all the commissioners? We are in need of good commissioners that are dedicated to making every unit a great one.
There are many ways that we need to attack this. I think that we have a huge disconnect here and it will not get better as long as we keep preaching to the choir. The choir is fine and is singing loud and clear. It is the folks that don’t want to sing that we need to reach. It is the people we never see, it is the countless applications that come through the council that never get a hand shake or a visit. It is the volunteers that are not reached by hands on training or a friendly invite to Round table.
As much as I am a big fan of computer based training.. I think we may have lost some of the contact by going away from class room training. We need to connect with the 1.1 million volunteers, or what ever that number is in your District and not only fix this JTE problem, but get more leaders trained, active, and taking on rolls that complement their skills, attitudes, and level of committment within the District. We need commissioners that actually pay visits to their units. Commissioners that do not wear multiple hats in Scouting. Commissioners that can take the time to work with and mentor unit leaders.
We need to get a bigger choir! I’ll have more to say on this later… I am curious to hear what you have to say about all this… leave a comment! Have a Great Scouting Day!
As with many of us we wear multiple hats in Scouting. First and foremost we wear the Dad (or Mom) hat, then the hat appropriate to our unit, like Scoutmaster or Committee Chair. Then there often times is some District level hat, whether that is part of the District Training team, a District event, or serving on the District committee. Some are active within their Order of Arrow Chapters or Lodges, and so another hat is hung there. And for some, and the numbers narrow here, the Council comes a callin’ and more hats are added to the hat rack of Scouting. This is all well and good as long as the person wearing all of those hats can A. balance and manage the time, B. give full attention to all the positions that he or she has volunteered for, and finally C. Remember that this is Scouting and it is still a game with a purpose.
All of that to say… I am putting on my District hat right now for this post.
Thursday night at our District committee meeting I was asked to take on an additional responsibility, that of the District Committee Chair while we are looking to replace our retiring District Committee chairman. I currently serve as the District Program Chairman, so this was not to far a stretch and so I accepted the interim role.
That is neither here nor there when it comes to the subject of this post, other than to say that in the role of both the District Committee Chairman and the Program Chairman one of the reports that our District Commissioner gave disturbed me to no end and I am looking for solutions.
That report was on the Journey to Excellence status of units within our District. I’ll jump right in.
In November our Council wraps up it’s rechartering process. This way all units are good to go heading into the new year. If done right by the units, this is a nice way to end the year and start their Scouting calendar year off clean. Maybe it’s because I do not know anything else, but this works well for me.
In November we also close out our now Journey to Excellence (Former Honor unit, Quality unit, Centennial Quality unit) report. Now of all the programs listed in Parenthesis.. I like Journey to Excellence a lot. It is a fair way to rank and rate your unit. It is a good measure of how your program is delivering the promise of Scouting. In the Thunderbird District we have 129 units that rechartered this November.. well 124 actually turned them in on time.. we are still waiting on 6 of them… which will add to my point here real quick. Out of the 129 units only 35% of them turned in the paper work for their Journey to Excellence. That’s only 45 units (Packs, Troops, and Crews). 45!
So the question has to be WHY? The score card is easy to use, the goals are fair and offer a sliding scale from Bronze to Gold so that units have a way of stepping up their programs with rewards for small and large success’s. But why would only 45 out of 129 units report how they are offereing up the program?
Is it a lack of knowledge? A lack of training? A lack of buy in? Or does this tell us that the 84 units that did not report are not providing quality programs and do not want to tell that to the District and Council? I sincerely hope that this is not the case. I know that there are great Scouters out there in our District and I see the units around doing activities, service projects, and outings. So why not report.
My thoughts went back to the Good turn for America program. Our District struggled in getting units to report there also. We asked a volunteer to chase down units and assist with their reporting.. read.. do it for them. And amazingly, or not, the numbers went sky rocketing. Now I am not suggesting that this is all about numbers. I certainly am not, what I am hoping is that the Promise of Scouting is being delivered in the 84 units that have made the choice not to fill out the form.
In talking with one Scouter, I came to the conclusion that he just did not know how the process worked. So a lack of training on his part led him to not being able to go through this with his unit. I call BS on this to a certain degree. The program is not that tough to just figure out. He asked about tools that could be used to help with the process. I told him to go to Scouting.org and look up the Journey to Excellence. There he would find an easy way to set the goals of the unit, track the progress of the unit, and print the final report. Along with definitions, Frequently Asked questions, and support. I also reminded him that the number one function of the District is to support units and he could always call us.
Here is what I like about the JTE program. If you use the tracker, and I mean break it out monthly and see how you are, as a unit progressing through your program based on your goals. You will achieve success. The tracker allows the unit to see potential problems or short falls before they happen. It allows Troop committees to make adjustments, it is a nice tool for the Patrol Leaders Council to stay on track with their program. After all the main emphasis of the JTE is in program and participation. Most of us have a competitive gene in us. Our Scouts certainly do. So the Journey to Excellence plays on this part of the game. There are incentives within the unit to continuously improve. Better Performance means better Scouting for youth! Better Performance can earn a higher level of Recognition, and Key requirements are tracked and improvement can be quickly identified so they can see where they are on the field. It’s kind of like being in a 3rd and long and waiting to punt or 3rd and short and know you can score!
I also like that each year the requirements will change. Each year, the requirements will be reconsidered to reflect the improved performance by units. This is why it is important that ALL units report. Right now in my District 45 units will set the performance measurement for the rest of the District. New standards for 2012 are already out. You can see the Troop score card here.
So I am looking for solutions to this problem. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or drop an email.
Share your Journey to Excellence success’s also in the comments section of this post.
Like I said. I know that there are good Scouters out there doing the right thing. But the Journey to Excellence program will help make Scouting better. Better for the main thing… Scouts. Have a Great Scouting Day!
It is not enough as a Scoutmaster these days to take boys camping, teach them a few skills, and hand out merit badges. Kids today, like kids in the past, and certainly this will apply in the future as society changes, kids grow up differently, and attitudes and norms change, are different.
I think that it is important to know why are the way they are to best be of service to them. Is this above and beyond? I don’t think so, I think that we need to do our best to know who we work with. How else can we be of service.
We are experts at backpacking, or knot tying, or model rockets, but what are we doing to become experts at understanding young men.
I found this set of 5 videos that will help. I am going to post the first one here.. then just follow the links to the other 4. Or you can find all 5 video’s at the BSA Internal Communication You Tube Channel. It is worth your time to watch these two ladies tell the Scout executives about young people. I learned a lot, I am sure this will help you to.
As we move into the Fall season Scout Troops everywhere are packing into the woods for great adventures. Winter will soon be here and so Fall is a great time to reinforce the Leave No Trace Principles with the Scouts (and Adults) of your unit.
No matter what style of camping your Troop does the principles of Leave No Trace apply.
LNT.org is a great resource for you if you are just learning Leave No Trace or just need to brush up or see whats going on in the organization.
One of the cool things that LNT.org has is the Bigfoot Challenge. Check it out using the link.
The idea of the program is reducing your footprint.
Last year at the National Jamboree I made a commitment to do the Bigfoot challenge and have been teaching, coaching, and mentoring our Scouts to Leave No Trace. Part of our challenge was to get a Leave No Trace Trainer in the Troop… yes.. the youth position. The BSA has added a lot of Enhancements to its Leave No Trace Program and every unit should be taking advantage of it.
So back to the Bigfoot challenge… The challenge simply asks that we do simple acts of environmental activism.. now this does no mean that you have to wear tie die or sandles.. but it does mean, in a Scouting context, that we act responsibly in the outdoors and are good stewards of our environment, particularly the outdoors that we enjoy when we go camping.
Simple little things like teaching our Scouts how to better plan and prepare to reduce the amount of trace we take out into the woods, using the “Bearmuda” triangle when setting up camp to reduce impact and animal issues, better ways to clean up dishes and cookware, using the patrol method to reduce to impact of large groups.
The Bigfoot Challenge also offers the change to win prizes.. and wait for it… Yes there is a patch available at the LNT.org website.
So take the Bigfoot challenge…
Teach a Scout, Be an example, Join Leave No Trace and remember to reduce your footprint.. after all Bigfoot has been doing it for years!
Monday night another young man joined our Troop. He is a 6th grader, never been in Scouts before and looking for adventure. I met him and his parents and he joined right into the gathering activity fitting in with his new Patrol mates as if he’d been in the Troop for years. His parents had some concern, I mean, what parent wouldn’t be a bit aprehensive about send their son off with strangers. In the course of our conversation I asked them what they wanted their son to get out of Scouting. Fun, life lessons, adventures? What was it that they considered when they brought their kid to us?
The first thing they talked about was their boy growing to be a bit more responsible and independant. Then they talked about life skills and fun. They understood that in Scouting their son will develop leadership and responsibility. They asked about service to others and character building. In short.. they asked all the right questions.
They want their boy to one day earn his Eagle award, but that was not the main thing. They want him to have fun with a group of young men that have a common interest and shared values.
You see, sometimes we get so caught up in merit badge extravagangzas and how many seat belts we need for a camp out that we forget that main thing. What is it? Citizenship, Character, and Fitness. The program is centered on those three things and when you keep them in the middle and build your unit around that… well it grows, its active, and it a fun place to be. The other night at our Troop meeting we welcomed a new Scout. He is number 41 on the roster. We have had our share of gains and losses, but in the end they come back to a fun unit that is full of adventure, fun, and lessons for life. all of that wrapped up in the main thing.
As our new parents watched as the Scouts did a Kayak relay in the parking lot Monday night, they commented on how friendly the Scouts were and how they all seemed to be a good group of boys. Thats the character of our unit, and it comes from staying focused on the main thing. The rest will come.
Now you all know that cliché’s drive me a little nuts and I really hate most sayings like.. “Boys will be boys”.. but in this case I want to write about boys not being able to be boys.
I am no expert in all things boy, but I know what right looks like. I will not say that the my childhood represents the “Good ‘Ol days” either.. they were fun times and days that shaped the person I am today… but to say that they were better than any other time would be disingenuous.
And I am not going to jump right on the band wagon and say that all of our boys are growing up to soft.. well, I am sort of saying that and I agree with many of the popular arguments for the reasons why.
This last Saturday I was trapped in a car full of teen agers. In that car was one young man coming into his Freshman year at our High School, he is also a Scout in my Troop. Everyone else in the car plays a sport or two at the High School, so I asked if he was going to play Football this year. His answer was” no.. are you kidding me! I am going to play water polo.” That’s great I said, water polo is a pretty tough sport. I know this young man is a strong swimmer and he will do well.
He asked why I asked about Football. Well, I told him it doesn’t really matter what sport you play, you should just play a sport in High School.
Sports in High School expand your social circles, they instill in the student athlete a pride in their school and in their fellow class mates. It breaks down barriers between upper and lower classmen, it ensures that good grades are maintained, and finally it keeps the young person physically fit. I told the young man that to play football, you don’t really have to be big and strong, you just need to be tough. You need to be able to hit and take a hit.. the rest can be coached.
My point to him was that he should never shy away from something because he thinks its to hard.
I truly believe that every student should play a sport. No matter what that sport is, Tennis, Rugby, Volleyball.. what ever, there are so many choices out there and they are all good.
Then last night at our Troop meeting a group of parents and I were talking about how kids are raised these days in that to a certain degree (and those degrees vary) they are over protected. And to me this is terrible. Now don’t get me wrong.. I don’t want anything to happen to my three kids, but at the same time a skinned knee is not going to kill them if they are out there playing football in the drive way. We were joking about bee stings on camp outs one night.. it seemed that whenever our Troop found bees I would always get stung.
We were backpacking one weekend up to a lake. One of the Scouts disturbed a bee hive and the route was one. Scouts took off running in every direction, screaming and shedding gear. One Scout just fell to his belly and started crying as he got stung on the ankle. I ran up to him and told him he needed to get out of there.. 9 stings later on me.. I grabbed the young man by the backpack, lifted him and forced him up the trail and out of the way of the stinging bees. We all reached the lake and counted our stings.. then started laughing about how funny so in so was as he ran or how so in so was throwing his gear all over the place. It made for a great laugh. Having said that I know who the Scouts are that have bee sting reactions and none were effected. The point is, a bee sting generally is not going to kill you and certainly not a reason to not play! I think in total now my Troop has got me stung about 25 times.
I say all of this because of the reactions that we get from parents when we share the stories… “Oh my goodness.. you can’t get my little precious hurt” and we would never place a Scout in harms way, we are going to let them get dirty, skinned knees, and a few bee stings. We are going to let them challenge themselves by getting out on the edge and pushing the limits a bit.
We always talk about getting out of our comfort zones.. then taking one more step. I think that sums up my child hood a bit.
Our curfew was when the street lights came on. We rode our bikes everywhere and did everything. We played in the woods, we ran in the fields, and we threw mud clots at each other. No one really got hurt and we all turned out ok. We all played sports and did Scouting and we pushed each other to exceed our limits. We did not know that at the time, but a good old fashioned dare was enough to make you jump off the swing set or ride your bike into a lake.
Boys need to be able to be boys. They were designed to be rough and tumble and they were built with knees just waiting to be skinned.
I am not sure where this is all going, but it was a great topic last night at our Troop meeting while the Scouts were doing what ever they were doing. I believe it was a class on Leave no Trace and then a game of capture the flag.