Scoutmaster conference

Three Promises

Last night at our Troop meeting I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of super enthusiastic Webelos.  They came to the meeting to wrap up their Arrow of Light requirement of participating in a Scoutmaster Conference.
During the course of our discussion, we did it as a group, I talked about the Scout Oath and Law and gave them some pointers for not only knowing how to say the Scout Oath, but how to remember the promises you make in saying the Oath and living it daily.
I explained to them the three promises.
Duty to God and Country.  It is important to always remember our Duty to our God and this great Country of ours.  Our God that has blessed us and continues to pour out his love for us.  No matter how you view that God or by which name you call him, he has given us so much and we need to remember our Duty to love him and serve him with all of our Heart, our Soul, and our Mind.  And this Country, no matter what your political slant is is a Country that is free.  A Country that still values Liberty over all.  It is our Country that we call home and we need to serve it where and how we can.
Duty to Other people.  We pledge to help other people at all times.  We need to be of help in our community, our home, and everywhere that we have an opportunity to make a difference.  It is when we have a Duty to others that we learn to live with an attitude of selfless service.
And finally, our Duty to our Selves.  To keep ourselves Physically Strong, Mentally awake, and Morally Straight.  When we remember our promise to ourselves we can be a better person for others.  Staying strong, fit, we can be an example of wellness and enjoy a life without the burden of illness.  Being mentally awake we continue to learn, to sharpen our skills, and to be aware of the needs around us.  And to be morally straight keeps our internal compass of right heading the way that makes us the people of Character that we are.  It guides us to do the right thing at all times.
scoutsignThose three promises can be found in the Scout sign, a daily reminder to live the promises that we make each time we say the Scout Oath.
We say the Oath aloud each Monday night at our Troop meeting, this is an accountability measure.  We all hear one another say the Oath and we hold each other to the promises that we make.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scout, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, training, Values | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution.  You may not agree with some of what I am going to say.  Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America.  I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting.  I think it is the greatest youth program around.  But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout?  Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout.  Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story.  In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool.  I was drawn to the adventure.  I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing.  I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors.  Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp.  Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more.  Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator.  We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”.  I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit.  There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
THE PRESS.
Bad press is the only press.  That’s the story we get.  It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us.  When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it.  Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations.  We are all looking to abuse youth.  We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press.  National does nothing.  No ads on TV.  Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts?  How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir?  They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group.  It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube.  Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect.  Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy.  What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it.  Why was it not on TV?  Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media?  10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people.  A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
NERDS.
Scouting is for nerds.  Just ask your Scouts.  That’s what they will tell you their classmates think.  I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review.  One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool.  He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School.  The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked.  “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered.  “What do they think we do?”  “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff.  Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff.  Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den.  The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water.  Signal towers that you could actually climb.  Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now.  In the name of Safety?  Really?  No, in the name of insurance fear.  I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed.  We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program.  Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge.  It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys.  We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood.  Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim.  Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world.  I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10.  What was I doing?  Trying to fly.  Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire.  A great laugh and no harm done.  I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard.  I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same.  Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship.  Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience.  Our Story is still about great outdoor programs.  Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning.  Our Story is cool.  But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard.  We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout.  We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters.  We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good.  We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are.  We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are.  But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts.  We clean up and get ourselves right.  When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that.  We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods.  Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade.  We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising.  We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club.  (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping.  It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers.  They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool?  Then you need to act cool.  You need to be cool.  You need to look cool.  Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense.  I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting.  And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, fitness, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, Summer Camp, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

From the Desk of the Scoutmaster

Dear Parents,

As you may be aware, the Boy Scouts of America voted the other day to change its policy to allow boys that are homosexual to join the organization.  This decision, even though it has been debated for the better part of a year continues to draw much discussion.  At the National Meetings of the BSA the resolution was passed with a 60% approval.  Earlier this year the BSA asked us to participate in a survey on this issue.  I made the choice to participate in the survey and allowed my voice to be heard.  It is my belief that the 60% approval is a fair representation of those that took the survey.
And so it is with thoughtful consideration that I feel the need to address this issue with all of you.
Within our Troop we have discussed this issue and have various opinions ranging from full support to no support of the decision.   I have not withheld my opinion in the matter and am available to discuss where I stand in the matter, but I think this letter should serve to express how this decision should have an effect on our Troop, which ultimately is how I feel about the issue.
I think it fair to share some of the common arguments against the decision and where I think the Boy Scouts of America stand.  I can not speak on behalf of the BSA, but I feel that I am in agreement with the policy change.  You will see how and why in this letter.
First, the argument over the ability for a Scout to live up to the promise that he makes to be “Morally Straight”.  I do not see an issue here as we as Scout leaders do not define a Scouts morals.  The Boy Scouts of America have always insisted that moral instruction is the responsibility of the of the family and the religious institution of the individual Scout.  At best it is my responsibility to model moral behavior.  Behavior that I was taught as a young boy by my family and my faith group.  I think it is safe to say that my family and my faith formation have led me to being a good man that makes sound moral decisions.  I am of the belief that parents all start off with the best intentions for their children.  Parents that introduce their boy to Scouting understand the timeless values and the ideals that Scouting offers.  Parents that want their son to enjoy Scouting know and understand the shared commitment of the Scout Oath and Law that Scouts and Scouters make.  Most parents may not understand the policies of the BSA or the methods of the program, but just like the average person, they know in one way or another, that Scouting is about doing good.
The decision to allow gay boys to join Scouting does not change our values in the least.  We find the values of the BSA in the Scout Oath and Law.  Just as I remind your son during the many Scoutmaster conferences we share, we make three promises in the Scout Oath.  Those promises are our duty.  They are to serve our God and Country, to Help other people at all times, and to remember the promise we make to ourselves in keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Before we leave the Scout Oath, let me remind you that during our Scoutmaster Conference your Scout holds all of the answers that allow him to grow and advance, largely in part to how you have raised him and not because he says the Scout Oath.  The Boy Scouts do not define God and does not require a Scout to be religious.  When a Scout promises to do his duty to God and Country, we allow the Scout to decide who or what that God is.  The Scout handbook tells us that we are to respect others and their religious convictions.  When I ask your son what that means to him, I become a listener and not a judge.  I firmly believe that in that answer we learn about how the Scout is growing in his faith and watch as he fine tunes his moral compass.  When a Scout is struggling with this discussion I ask a few leading questions.  Those questions are simply this, do you believe that it is a good thing to “do to others as you would like done to you?”  They typically answer yes, which leads to question number two, “what does that mean to you?”  Then I share with your Scout that religions of every creed maintain that as a foundation of living a good life.  That simple phrase known as the “Golden Rule” is the magnetic pull that keeps our moral compass straight.  It has nothing to do with life style or sexual behavior.  It guides us in treating others with respect and dignity and is a foundation for the Scout law, the second area in which we find the values of Scouting.
It is with that in mind that we can expect our Scouts to live the Scout Law.  To be trustworthy to one another, Loyal to family, friends, God and Country.  It demands that we are helpful  as you are aware we ask our Scouts to develop a habit of being a selfless servant.  A Scout is a friend to all, so says the founder of Scouting Lord Baden-Powell.  We ask that our Scouts are courteous and kind to one another and practice that at home, school, and in their daily lives.  I can go on about how and what we expect from our boys in living the Scout law, but I will touch on just two more points that I think are relevant in this discussion.  Obedient and Reverent.
Once again, as their Scoutmaster and role model, I find that it is my position to be obedient to the BSA and it’s policies.  I do not have to agree with the gay lifestyle or the choice to be homosexual.  Once this policy change goes into effect in January of 2014, I will comply and welcome every boy who wants to be a Scout into our troop.
Reverent.  The Boy Scout Handbook tells us that a Scout is Reverent.  According to the handbook that is defined as such;  “A Scout is reverent.  A Scout is reverent toward God.  He is faithful in his religious duties.  He respects the beliefs of others.”  Please take note that the definition does not define the Boy Scouts of America’s belief, it directly instructs the Scout to do HIS duty and be faithful in HIS religious duties and HE respects the beliefs of others.  HE and HIS not OURS and THE BSA.  Now this may seem like an easy out, but to be honest with you I would not have it any other way.  Look at our Troop, we have members from many different faith groups.  We have a wide variety of Scouts with many different levels of faith formation.  We treat them all the same.  We expect them to live what you have taught them and couple that home and church formation with that of the Scout Oath and Law.
So how will this be different with a gay Scout?  It won’t be.  Again, I am going to assume that the parents of that young man want the best for him.  They want him to be in an organization that maintains a good set of values, that by and large will be consistent with those of their family, no matter what that family looks like.  Again, that is not for me as a Scoutmaster to judge.
Here is the bottom line as I see it.
Our troop is going to maintain the values of the Boy Scouts of America.  We are going to continue to focus on the mission of the BSA and never go away from the three aims of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  We will use the eight methods to achieve those aims.  We will still go camping every month.  We will not change our program in the slightest.  Just as we did not change when you brought your son to our troop, we will not change for any other boy who joins our unit.
I can assure you that our Troop understands and practices youth protection and this too will not change.  The Boy Scouts of America have sound practices when it comes to protecting our youth.  Nothing here will change.  We will maintain a safe, friendly environment for your son and all of the Scouts of our troop.  We will address all personal issues as they happen, just like we currently do for the Scouts that we currently serve.  We will observe their privacy, and respect each and everyone in our troop as we would have them respect us.
Many Scouters are already talking about leaving the Boy Scouts over this issue.  I know that we will lose some really good people, I hope none from our troop, but I do understand that some people must be true to how they feel and what they know as the direction of their moral compass.  I would hope that you all trust that we have the best interest of your Scout in mind in everything we do.
To those that feel the need to part ways with our organization, I wish you well and pray that you do not have ill feelings toward those of us that stay.  I welcome you back whenever that time is right for you and your family.  I believe in the Boy Scouts of America and regardless of this policy change and the heart ache that it seems to have caused,  is still the very best youth organization on earth.  I believe this with all of my heart, and I trust that you understand that I am sincere.
Please feel free to discuss this issue with me personally if you have the need.  I think it important that you understand that I am not and neither is the Boy Scouts of America, asking that you accept the homosexual life style.  It is expected that all people are treated with respect and dignity.  This is all I can ask of you, your Scout and our troop.
The Boy Scouts of America has made many ground breaking changes in its 103 years.  This will not be the last.  The testament of the stability of this great organization is in its timeless values that are there for everyone.
I thank you for the time and hope we have a lasting relationship in the future.
Yours in Scouting.
And as Always, Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

Two Stars

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

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

Zapping the Fun out of it

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

 

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

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

Scouting for all?

Merit Badges or Fun?Allow me to play devils advocate here for a minute.  There has been quite a bit of discussion lately via email and in Scouting circles in which I find myself regarding Scouts in our programs.  One argument is that Scouting is for every young man, the converse is that Scouting is not for everyone.
Boys enter our program with certain expectations and needs.  Those Scouts have parents that also have certain expectations and wants.  What I have seen and heard lately is that some parents and Scouts are not getting what they thought they would out of Scouting.  I have been in discussions in which parents believe that their son is not having fun in the program.  The question that I ask is simply, is Scouting really for everyone?
I submit for the sake of discussion that maybe Scouting is not for every boy.  It may be that what Scouting offers is not what they want or need.  It may be that the boy is not ready for the adventures that Scouting offer and well-intentioned parents do not really understand what Scouting is all about.  It is also true that many Scout leaders do not know what Scouting is all about and therefore have promoted a program that misses the mark when it comes to achieving Scouting’s aims.  This has led to young boys joining troops that quickly disappoint or fail to deliver on the expectations they and their parents had on the join night.
Scouting at its core is about adventure and when a boy joins a unit that is full of adventure he may not be ready or willing to participate.  Now, some would argue that participation is really not something that is of real importance in Scouting, but it is through participating fully in the program that the Scout gets the most out of Scouting.  I had a mother say to me the other night that her son does not attend winter camp outs because he did not have a good experience during last years winter camping season.  Why?  Well, maybe he does not like camping in the winter.. I am ok with that.  But does that paint the whole program as a negative thing?  No, but maybe the Scout is not ready or willing.  Once a boy starts down the road of picking and choosing those activities that he does not wish to participate in he will find it easier to reduce the level of activity he does.  This is not true in all cases, remember that I am not suggesting anything here other that this is a question that we should ask.  Maybe Scouting is not for everyone.  Here is what I am saying…
Scouting is not for everyone.  Scouting should not change to meet the Scouts needs.  Scouting needs to stay the course on being an organization that has values, ideals, and adventure.  Scouting should not “dumb down” to allow for boys to have a club to join.  There are plenty of clubs out there that he can find a place in.  Now, before you all jump on me let me say this here and make it very clear that I am not talking at all about Scouts or I should say boys with disabilities.  This discussion has nothing… I repeat nothing to do with disabilities.  That is another discussion and I think that needs to be addressed another time.  I will say that there are ample opportunities for boys with disabilities to participate in Scouting and I encourage every young man who shows interest to try Scouting no matter the “ability”.  I will also say that no.. I do not consider ADD, ADHD, Autism, and a lack of focus a disability.  Not when it comes to Scouting and the Scouting program.  We prove over and over again that Scouts that have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and Autism can participate in Scouting and high adventure activities.  My Troop is proof of this.  Moving on…
Scouting should not promote that everyone will be an Eagle Scout just because he joins and has a pulse.  Scouting should continue to push the Scout to discover his world and find his limits.. then push them outside of his comfort zone.  If Scouting decides to become the YMCA or Boys Club it will no longer deliver the promise.  It will just become another after school club and that is not Scouting.  That is not what Baden Powell, William Hillcourt, James E West, and the rest of the men that founded and established the direction for Scouting had in mind.  We can met Scouts where they are, but we can never get away from the intent of the Scouting movement.  We can not stray from the methods that lead us to achieving the aims and we can never allow Scouting to just be another club.
Not everyone wants what Scouting offers.  Numbers, while they drive much of what the professional Scouters track are not the program.  A great program that stays the course will bring in the numbers of boys that seek adventure, values, and ideals that are the hallmark of the Scouting program.  Numbers for the sake of numbers will be just that and we see this play out each year with amount of boys that leave our units.  They don’t want to play the game with a purpose and we should not make them.  A football player is not allowed to join a team and then make up the rules of the game or change the team uniform.  He joins and plays the game that has been established.  Not everyone can or wants to play football, not everyone can or wants to be a Scout.  I recently sat with a group of Scouts and asks a few simple questions.  The first I asked was if they thought Scouting was nerdy.  They all said that they did not think so, but their friends at School did.  I asked what they thought the ‘nerdy’ part of Scouting was.. aside from wearing the uniform.  I figured I would take away the obvious answer.  They all said that their friends really didn’t know what we do.  I asked them if they ever tell them what we do.  They all pretty much said, no.  They did not want to bring it up so they could talk about something else.  Then I asked why not?  Why not tell their friends that we rock climb at Smith Rock, that we snowshoe and build snow caves.  That we have hiked the Oregon Coast trail, shoot shotguns and paddle the Deschutes river.  That we backpack miles of the PCT and go caving in some cool volcanic caves.  That we spent a week hiking in the Canyon country of New Mexico and that we have gone across the country to tour our Nations Capital and camp with 70,000 other Scouts.  I asked why all of that sounds ‘nerdy’.  They couldn’t tell me.  But these are the guys that want to do all of that.  These are Scouts and they want to be Scouts.  Their friends could not nor would they be willing to do all of that, even given the chance.  One of the Scouts spoke up and said that his friends thought Scouting was all about doing good deeds and being in Flag ceremonies.  His friend said he didn’t want to be in a club that did crafts and sang songs.  So I asked this young man what he told his friend.  He had a great answer, he told me that he said to his friend that “yeah, we sing songs, but it’s out in the middle of the woods at our campfire at the end of a day that was full of fun”.  But then again, that’s a kid that wants what Scouting has to offer.
Ok so what’s the point here.  The point is simply this.  We beat ourselves up to make sure that every boy joins Scouting.  Why?  If they join great, but if they quit, did we fail?  Did Scouting fail?  No.. they just did not fit in our program.  I have seen many Scouts come and go from our Troop and I can honestly say that the ones that left did not want to be there.  It was nothing we did to chase them away, they just did not want to be in Scouts.
I have said it many times, I would rather have a Troop of 10 motivated boys that want to be there than have a Troop with 50 that don’t.
Am I not supporting Scouting by saying this?   Nope I am delivering the promise of Scouting to those that want it.
Once again, I am a fan of the writing of William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.  I have a copy of something he wrote way back when regarding the 10 Essentials of Scoutmastership.  It goes like this.

A belief in boys that will make you want to invest yourself and your time on their behalf.
A zeal focused upon one point-the boy’s happiness through his formative years- “A happy boy is a good boy, a good boy is a good citizen.
An immense faith in Scouting as the program that will best serve to mould our youth into fine men.
A realization that to the boys Scouting is a game – to you, a game with a purpose:  Character, building citizenship training and physical fitness.
A knowledge that to your boys you are Scouting.  “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”.
A steadfastness of purpose to carry out a planned program with energy and perseverance, patience and good humor.
A willingness to submerge yourself and make boy leaders lead and grow through and effective application of the Patrol Method.
A desire to advance in Scoutmastership by making use of training offered and material available on the subject.
A readiness to work hand in hand with home, church, sponsored institution, school, Local Council, National Council for the good of the individual boy and the community as a whole.
A love of the outdoors in all its phases and a vision of the hand that created it.

With an effective program that offers the “want to” so a boy joins, stays, and grows in Scouting we can see that Scouting is a great program.  But that is not for everyone.  If you as a Scouter can honestly read the 10 essentials of Scoutmastership and apply it to your unit you will create that environment.  If you do not feel that you can do that, well then you prove the argument, that nope, Scouting is not for everyone, to include adults.
Before I get lots of hate mail… I am playing devils advocate here, but the point for me is taken well.  I do not think that everyone needs to be in Scouting.  I think those boys that want to be in should and once in we will do everything in our power to deliver to them the very best program.
Now, I do want to hear what you think.  Please leave your comments, I would not ask if I didn’t want to know.
Thank you all for all you do in Scouting!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

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

Guided Discovery

This weekend at the Trainers EDGE training we got into a discussion about “letting Scouts fail to learn”.  About half of the room agreed with the idea and the other half agreed that the Scout needs to learn, but using the term ‘fail’ did not sit well with them.
I think its semantics but the goal is to get the Scout to learn.  In Scouting we call it Guided Discovery.  Allowing the Scout to learn by making mistakes, problem solving, and executing solutions to the situation.  The adult leader is there to maintain safety, offer advice, and keep the Scout heading in the right direction.  The leader does that in a subtle way, not doing the task, making the decision, or being up front.  The leader is there to keep the Scout ‘in bounds’ so to speak.  The Scout knows he has a safety net.
So how does this “Guided Discovery” concept work or get put into action.  It is not about letting a Scout hang in the wind.  It is not about allowing failure to occur just for the sake of letting a Scout fail.  No, Guided Discovery happens when we ask questions.  This implies that the leader is engaged fully in this process.  Now that does not require the leader to hover and maintain an arms reach distance.  It simply forces the issue through leading questions to assist in the Scout finding the answer.
Problem solving and role-playing can play a big part in guided discovery.  Many times I ask a simple question, what do you think?  Not what do you think is right.. rather, what are you thinking?  Most of the time this question provokes enough thought and produces a clearer picture of the desired outcome.  Problem solving and role-playing can spark thought and allow the Scout (s) to see possible out comes both good and bad and allow the decision making process to happen.  This is not lofty and can happen at every level.
Using the Start, Stop, and Continue assessment tool in the middle of a task is also a great way to discover solutions and assist in decision-making.  The leader can act as a referee in some cases and step in with a well placed questions that may get the group thinking about alternative solutions.
The goal to allow the Scout to make decisions and learn.  Through Guided Discovery, we teach, coach, train and mentor the Scout to better understanding of skills, leadership, and self-reliance.
So.. what are you thinking?  Let us know, leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Scoutmaster conference, Skills, training, 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

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