Every Troop has its traditions, customs, and special awards and recognition. I thought I would share with you a special award that our Troop does every year. This is my favorite award of the year and I take a great deal of pleasure in presenting this at our Court of Honor after Summer camp.
We call it the “Bobby Walker Award”. It is named after a Scout that used to be in our Troop. Now without going into to much detail on Bobby, lets just say that Bobby had a hard knock life. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a truly hard knock life… ok then now you get it. Bobby was brought to us by a sponsor from an organization in Portland. They were looking for some “other experiences” for Bobby to see and do. Well, much to everyone’s surprise Bobby took to Scouting like he was Baden-Powell son. He loved everything about it. He had a uniform, he had friends, he loved to camp and hang out with his new buddies, but most of all.. He LOVED Summer camp! When we arrived at Summer camp, Bobby fully immersed his whole being into the camp. He would work merit badges, spend lots of time at the water front (he learned to swim at summer camp), he loved the camp fires, the songs and skits, well… just everything that summer camp is supposed to be. The week at summer camp for Babby Walker was like a week in heaven.
After one particular summer camp I was so moved by watching Bobby over the week that we (the ASMs and I) decided to give him a special award. So I purchased one of those Boy Scout memorabilia boxes from the Scout shop and we presented it to him at the Court of Honor. We called it the Spirit of Summer camp award that year.
The next year Bobby had to leave our Troop. There was no good byes or reasons why, his sponsor just showed up without him one meeting night and with a tear in his eye told me that Bobby was “moving on”. I never asked any more about it, but it saddened me.
So the next year at camp the Troop and I decided that the award would be called the Bobby Walker award. Awarded to the Scout that demonstrated the best of what Summer camp is all about. To the Scout that immersed himself into the camp. Each year we give a Scout memorabilia box to the most deserving Scout as voted by the Assistant Scoutmasters and I.
This has become a great tradition in our Troop and each year the Scouts look forward to seeing who gets the Bobby Walker award. It is also a great opportunity to share the story with the Scouts to remind them that they are the lucky ones. I’ll do a post on that another time.
So what are some of the traditions and special recognitions of your Troop. Leave them in the comments section.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
OK its contest time!!!
Email me your best Summer camp picture.. Scouts honor, it should be from this years summer camp.. and you should have actually gone to summer camp.
This contest is an easy one.. just email me your picture.
Email the picture to firstname.lastname@example.org
The winner will receive a copy of the book “Working the Patrol Method”!
The contest will end at the end of August… so you have a few days to get your best summer camp picture in!
I hope you all had a fantastic Summer camp with your Troops! Show the rest of us how it went!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
In this weeks poll I want to know about your Troops annual planning session.
Your choices are: Totally on the Scouts, meaning the Scouts put together the annual plan and submit it to the Troop committee to receive the support to run the program. The PLC does the planning.
It’s all about the Adults, meaning the Scouts just take what the adults decide. The PLC does not do the planning.
Lets go 50/50, meaning Adult input to the PLC and they split the planning responsibility.
As a primer, here is how our Troop handles the annual planning session. We start our planning at Summer camp. This is a great opportunity for the patrols to take a look at the previous year and get the most input from the patrol members. Sometime about mid-week at camp the PLC will meet and discuss the input from the patrols.
After summer camp the PLC will again sit down with all the calendars and look at months, dates, and locations from the next years plan. I sit in with them on this planning session to answer questions and offer advise when asked.
Once the PLC is satisfied they have a 12 month plan, they bounce it off me and then the SPL and I take the plan to the Troop committee.
The Troop committees job is to say “Great plan, lets support it” and that is what they do.
Our Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders Council does the planning for the year. That is the way it is supposed to happen, this is their program. Having them plan their year gives them ownership, tests leadership, and then as the year unfolds and they understand the program, their monthly PLC meetings are better organized and the plan is executed by the Scouts.
It’s not always pretty and often the planning is painful to some… but letting the Scouts run their Troop is the way Baden-Powell intended it.
“The more responsibility the Scoutmaster gives his
patrol leaders, the more they will respond.”- Baden Powell
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have said this so many times it is almost becoming cliche’.. but I’ll say it again…
TRAIN ‘EM, TRUST ‘EM, AND LET THEM LEAD!
Last night the SPL of our Troop held the Patrol Leaders Council meeting. Because of a work conflict, I knew that I was not going to be able to be there, but two of the Assistant Scoutmasters of the Troop would be attending to maintain a safe environment and open up the meeting hall.
I called into the PLC for my two minutes of points that needed to be passed on from the committee and things that I thought needed to be attended to. It was fun for the Scouts to be on a conference call with the Scoutmaster. The SPL put his iPhone on speaker mode and placed it in the middle of the table.
I spoke my piece and asked if any one had questions.. then said good-bye.
Later that evening I got a call from… yeah.. you guessed it.. “Frustrated Dad”. He wanted to know why I was not at the PLC meeting and who was running this show? Well the answer to the second part was obviously easy.. The SPL is running the show. As to why I was not there.. Work, sorry, moving on.
Once again I had to explain to him that I trust the SPL. I know that he has been trained and mentored well and that we had talked before the meeting so he could bounce he agenda off me. He will be shooting me an email sometime today also to recap the meeting. Not that I asked.. he just does it.
When we train the Scouts, trust them to do the right thing, and let them do the leading.. they do pretty darn good. The decisions that they are making, planning for, and executing are shaping them to be better leaders. They are practicing communication skills, working with others, and yes learning from mistakes also.
The question was asked, “How can you teach them if you are not there?” Well, I said, I am there.. I am there for them always. I will be able to coach and teach the SPL when ever he needs it. Again, going back to the prep work that the SPL did before the meeting. That was a good time to coach, and I did.
Remember that Baden-Powell told us never to do what a boy can do for himself… well that does not stop at setting up his tent and fluffing his pillow.. that is directed at the leadership of the Troop. Never lead the Troop.. that is why they hold elections and serve.
I had to remind Mr. Frustrated that none of the adults in Boy Scouts have the word “LEADER” on their patch.. That stops at DEN LEADER…
Well, I am proud of our PLC, they held a meeting, that I am sure went well, they are leading the Troop, which I know is going well, and they are having fun.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The other night at our Troop meeting I was approached by a frustrated parent. He asked why I continuously gives the boys the “run around”. I asked him what he meant, even though I kind of knew where he was going. He told me he has been sitting back watching over the last few weeks as Scouts come to me with questions. He wanted to know why I never just answer the questions that the Scouts have. I asked him to give me an example. He stated that a young Scout came to me with a question about meals last week, he wanted to know how many they needed to plan for. Apparently my answer to the Scout was, “Have you talked to your Patrol leader about meal planning for the next camp out?” The frustrated Dad wanted to know why I didn’t just tell him that he needed to plan 4 meals.
He went on to ask why I didn’t answer another Scouts question when I was asked about an activity. Again, he says “you pawned it off on the Patrol Leader”.
The straw that broke the camels back however came when a Scout came to you, he said, asking if I could show him how to tie a certain knot. Frustrated Dad threw his arms up when again I called the Patrol leader over and asked him to show the young Scout how to tie the knot.
“What is it that you do?” he asked. I teach leadership I replied.
“How is this teaching leadership?” he asked. Well, its like this. If I just answer the question, then why do we need Patrol leaders? If we don’t have Patrol leaders, how does the Scout learn to lead?
When we are camping for example, there are countless opportunities to use leading questions to teach leadership, skills, and camp craft. Questions that get the Scout to think and act.
On our last camp out, the Senior Patrol Leader gave direction to the Patrol to camp in a certain area. One Patrol chose to camp on the slope of the hill on little plateau’s created on a trail. This was fine as it practiced good leave no trace, but I had a few questions for the Patrol leader regarding placement of a few tents. I did not tell the PL to move the tents, but did take the opportunity to talk about terrain and ask him what he thinks might happen if it started raining. We talked about it for a minute and he came up with a solution. He was hell-bent on not moving the tents.. so they dragged some downed logs over and placed them in front of the tents across the trail creating a break or diverter should it start raining. He did tell me that they had made sure that the doors of the tent were facing down hill and away from the possible flow of water.
It rained like cats and dogs on Friday night.. and sure enough, their plan of pulling logs over the trail worked, not a single wet sleeping bag.
It is the leading question that teaches. Allowing the Scout to think a problem through and not just giving the answer. This empowering of the Scout to think and act is a valuable lesson to him. Sending a Scout to his Patrol leader for answers is just as powerful. It teaches that we have leaders that have purpose. It makes the leader stronger, because at the point that another Scout comes to him with a question he must do something… lead. He needs to have the skill sets and knowledge to answer the question, solve the problem or seek help. These are great tools in teaching leadership.
So frustrated Dad, there is a method to our madness…
And what do I do? I teach by example.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I am sure that most if not all of you have a nice information board that you use to attract prospective Scouts and their families. You break it out on recruit nights and open houses, take along to community events, and generally show it off when ever the opportunities arise.
Well, tomorrow we have a crew from the Outdoor channel coming to hang out with our Troop for a week. They will be taking some of our Scouts on a week long adventure. This is a huge opportunity for our Troop, our Council, and the Boy Scouts of America to show Scouts and Scouting and tell our story! We are honored to have been chosen.
But this also became a good time to update our information board.
So, after yard work and some tinkering with the hammock.. I updated (completely overhauled) our information board.
We keep ours up all the time in the Knights of Columbus meeting Hall. This way our Charter Org. can see what we are up to and know that we are doing the right thing.
With the Troop of the Year trophy sitting prominently in the hall, as well as the Pack of the Year trophy, the Knights sponsored Cub Scout Pack won this year also, having Scouting out front is exactly where we want to be.
If you have an information board, what kind of stuff is on it? Let us know, drop a comment in the comments section, an email, or feel free to leave a voice mail by calling 503-308-8297.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The balanced Score care approach is nothing new, it has been floating around organizations for some time now and provides a balanced view for organizational performance. Who looks at this? Well really you do. As much as some would like t0 think that Councils and District level leadership are actively engaged in what goes on at the unit level (and I am talking Pro staff here, not volunteer) the fact of the matter is that where the rubber hits the road, the unit leadership are really the only leaders dedicated 100% to their units. That is not to say that District, Council, and even National leadership could care less. It is just that they have different fish to fry. They are concerned at the “Big” organizational level in areas of membership, fundraising, and policy. And that is fair. Hey, I don’t want to think about that stuff, I want to go camping. So the Journey to Excellence program is a tool that ensures our units are meeting the mark as we can measure our programs. I think this is important to make sure that we all are delivering the promise of Scouting in a uniform manner.
Last month I attended the National meetings of the BSA in San Diego. The Assistant Chief Scout Executive for Council Operations Gary Butler gave a great talk at the Scoutmaster dinner. In his talk he gave the analogy of Starbucks coffee. He said that when you order a coffee at Starbucks in Seattle it tastes like the same cup in New York City, or Atlanta, or Boston.. the message is that the coffee is the same where ever you go and that is part of business model of Starbucks. The Promise of Scouting is just like that cup of coffee. It needs to be the same consistent program, delivered in many ways, but the same program throughout the Boy Scouts of America. We have great outline, but Scouters choose not to use it. The Journey to Excellence program attempts to bring some of that back in line.
Now, I know that many of you, myself included, do not like to view the BSA as a business. Certainly not at the unit level. But just like every organization if certain measures are not in place, lets say for growth, for financial stability, for improvements in the program, the organization will fail.
Remember a couple posts ago, I shared that I knew a unit that was a Quality unit every year, but then it just folded? It is because they did not have a plan to grow and stay fit. They took it year to year and hoped that the Cub Scout pack would just continue to “Feed them”. They did not have a stable financial plan, they did not have a plan to assist the youth leadership… and yet they were “always a quality unit”.
None of us want to see our units fail. JTE is a week to week, month to month, year to year tool that sets on a Journey to Excellence.
OK.. 500 words in and not a word about camping.. so lets talk just a little about Short term and Long term camping as it applies to the JTE.
You all understand that Short term equates to weekend camp outs and long term camping refers to those week long (or longer) camping opportunities such as Summer camp, Jamboree’s, High Adventure base participation. Now I think the BSA set the bar low on this one, and so many if not all of us will automatically qualify at the Gold level when it comes to short term camping. Bronze = 4 camp outs throughout the year. Yeah, that is not a typo.. I wrote 4. Silver requires a unit to camp 8 times and to achieve the Gold standard you need to camp at least 10 times. Like I said.. I think we all have this one in the bag. And for the Gold level you get 200 points for just doing what we all do, and that’s camp.
Now I think it is interesting how the JTE handles long term camping. You will qualify for the bronze level if your unit attends a long term camp.. lets call it summer camp. You will achieve Silver level status if 60% of your Scouts attend Summer camp (or another long term opportunity). And it only takes 70% of your unit attending camp to achieve Gold level status. I recently had a small discussion on Camp staff with some Scouters that I consider “In the know”. We debated on whether a Scout that serves on camp staff is counted in that percentage. And the answer according the definitions of JTE is this; ” Boy Scouts attending any in council or out of council long term summer camp (of at least three days and nights), high adventure experience, jamboree, or serve on camp staff within the past year”. The part that really weirds me out on this is the three days and nights. But not to worry, most if not all summer camps run a week. No problems there.
The bottom line is that camping is where Scouting happens. It is where the Patrol method is executed, it is where teaching happens, it is where the boys can be boys and learn, practice, and teach skills. Camping, I am sure you will agree is what most think about when we talk Scouting.
Next time we will dive into the Patrol Method.
Thanks for the emails, you can email me anytime. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Ok.. so the first post on JTE has been met with some resistance. Let me just say this, then I will move on.
As a Scoutmaster or Committee Chair, you need to have a way to measure the success of your unit. Going camping, having Scouts cross over, and holding a Court of Honor or two is not an accurate way of knowing that you are delivering the promise of Scouting to the youth of your Troop. We all can stand back and say that we are doing a good job, but can’t we do better? Sure.
I heard a comment about JTE as it applied to the old Quality Unit program in that they were always a Quality Unit, and now they may not be in the new system. Well then, maybe your unit needs to work harder in the areas that you fall short. Other comments reflect a need to pass it off to the youth leadership. And while I agree that Scout units are to be Youth led, every unit should have a plan that is part youth driven and part adult driven. The Troop committee must have a plan that supports the plan of the PLC. Handing off the JTE program to the PLC will only get them so far down the road. This is not setting them up for success. The Journey to Excellence program is designed to bring out the best in the units leadership both adult and youth.
OK.. so having said that, lets dive into the program.
In this post I am going to discuss the first couple elements of the JTE program. Advancement and Retention.
The objective is to increase the percentage of Boy Scouts earning rank advancements. To earn the Bronze level you need to have 55% of your Scouts earn one rank or have a 2 percentage point increase. I think this is important especially if you have older Scouts that are not going to advance in the year. Lets say a Scout is Life, it is likely that he will not earn Eagle in that next year. So having a percentage increase helps your score when you have younger Scouts earning Tenderfoot to First class in that first year. This is attainable in every unit. For the Silver level 60 % of your Scouts need to advance or 55% AND a 2 percentage point increase. The Gold level requires that 65% of the Scouts advance AND a 2 percentage point increase is attained. I find that these goals are within reason and with encouragement from the committee and Scoutmasters, every Scout, especially those younger Scouts can assist your unit in achieving this goal.
So what is the PLC’s role in this objective. If the PLC encourages each Patrol to shoot for the Honor Patrol award, then Patrol members will advance. The Troop guides play a major role in attaining this and working the younger Scouts on the trail to First class. So its not just a number, it is a goal that assists your PLC and Troop Guides in properly functioning within the structure of their leadership roles.
Simply put the objective here is to improve your retention rate. So you have to retain and reregrister 76% of your Scouts or have a 2 percentage point increase from the previous year to earn the Bronze level. 80% for Silver and 85% for Gold. I think this is a worthy goal. My only heart burn with this goal is retention in general needs to be thoughtfully considered with each Scout. Here is what I am saying. I believe that every young man should be in Scouting. I don’t however think that every young man fits in Scouting. I have often said that I would rather have 10 Scouts that want to be there than 100 Scouts and no one really wants to be there. Having a large troop that has a small percentage of active Scouts is just as good as having a small troop. I like the idea that the Boy Scouts of America wants us to retain everyone, but at 85% retention that means we are really allowing for those that do not want to be there to find a fit elsewhere. I like that.
So in my Troop I can lose 6 Scouts (not that I want to) and still have an 85% retention rate. Last year we gained 9 and lost 6. Our retention rate was still at 85%, but our net gain for the year was +4. This would be a 40% gain for the year and qualify for the Gold in the JTE program for both retention and Building Boy Scouting. Most of us would agree that these numbers are reasonable and easy to attain, as long as we are building a good program that the Scouts want to be a part of and establish good recruiting habits and relationships with Cub Scout packs.
Now, more than likely I lost many of you that are tired of the numbers. Those of you that think that Scouting should not be about the numbers and that this is just an excercise in helping the DE’s look good. I beg to differ though. I think that periodic looks at the numbers keep your unit on track. Further, I think it is important for the Scouts of your PLC to understand some of this. It is a tool that they can use to assist in recruiting for the future of your troop. Who better to recruit then the Scouts that enjoy the program?
This is just as much a function of the Patrol leaders council as the Troop committee’s. They, working together will achieve success as a unit on a Journey to Excellence.
As much as the PLC of my Troop wants every year to be the Troop of the Year, the Journey to Excellence is a part of the program that gives them goals and tangible results.
I know that I am not going to convince some of you.. and you are probably the same Scouters that balk at anything that “National” forces on you. Like methods and Aims.. you reluctantly went along with Quality Unit and this has no meaning to you either. So be it… I am sure you can run a great program without it also. As for me. I like the tools and I like to teach and mentor Scouts to do the hard things in life. To set goals and plan to achieve them. This is yet another opportunity to do that with our Patrols, our committees, and our Scoutmasters.
Your comments are welcome.. send them to email@example.com or simply leave a comment here or at the SMMVoice mail 503-308-8297.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Now before I even get started on this.. let me tell you that as much as I like patches.. this is NOT about a little patch. This is about measuring success. In the world that I live in, working for the Big Brown, I am totally in tuned to everything being measured. I do believe in measuring, it gives us good solid data that we can learn from and grow. When we measure things based on a standard, we can see where we are and where we need to go in order to be successful.
Here is the beauty. In most cases in life, we get to decide what success looks like. And so we get to determine what that measurement is.
ENTER JOURNEY TO EXCELLENCE.
Quality Unit was a program that, well kinda measured what a unit was doing. I say kinda, because at the end of the day.. if you had a pulse, went on a few camp outs, recruited a Scout or two (read held a cross over ceremony) and got your charter turned in.. you were a quality unit. I saw units in our district that got Quality unit and then did not recharter the following year. HUH? How is that possible. Quality unit one year and dust the next.. errrr… something was wrong with this.
The Centennial Quality unit, was not much better. The same old take on Quality unit, but cooler patches.
Now we are heading down the path to the Journey to Excellence. This program is actually performance based and not just numbers. Where the old programs of Quality Unit measured a process.. the Journey to excellence (JTE) measures the performance of a unit. NOW STOP READING HERE if you are afraid of delivering a good Scouting program to your Scouts.
Over the next couple posts I am going to share and discuss the Journey to Excellence program as outlined and defined by the Boy Scouts of America.
There are three levels of levels of performance in the JTE.. Bronze, Silver, and of course Gold. It is the unit that will decide at what level they have performed based on real numbers and expectations set out in their annual plan.
The JTE will ask of units to actually look at certain areas of their program and improve on them. The beauty of the program is that measured success can be tracked all year long and point values are attached to the areas of concern. It is a total score at the end of the year that will determine your success.. falling short in one area can easily be over come by larger success in others. But the point is that rather than a simple sheet filled out at recharter, the JTE is a tool that a unit can use to measure and track success all year long.
There are 13 individual criteria that is measured in the JTE. For a Boy Scout Troop they are: Advancement, Retention, Building Boy Scouting, Trained leadership, short term camping, Long term camping, Patrol method, Service projects, Webelos to Scout transition, Budget, Courts of Honor/ Parent meetings, Reregister on time, and a final annual assessment.
I will go into all of these in greater detail in the next few posts.
Here is the bottom line. If you have no goals or a plan then you will not improve. There is not a unit out there that is perfect in every way, and the JTE is a tool that will move you to greater success. Building your Scouting program is important, not only for your unit, but for Scouting in general.
I like the new JTE program, and I hope I can share some information here to help you achieve that success your unit deserves.
Have a Great Scouting Day!