training

Horse and Cart

horsecartYou can look at a good Scout Troop like a horse and cart.  The horse has to be strong and steadfast.  The horse has to be trained so as not to buck and run when it’s not supposed to.  The horse works as a part of a team and each pulls it’s share of the weight so the load of the cart can be pulled over the long haul.
The horse represents your adult volunteers.  They need to be trained to understand the Scouting program and what their role is in it.  The adult volunteer needs to appreciate the aims of Scouting and move the unit in the right direction.  Adult volunteers need to be steadfast and keep in mind that the unit is bigger than one person.  They need to know that what they do today will have a lasting impact on the units future.
The cart is the units program.  It can be as full as you want or as empty, but the cart is always moving behind the horse.  The program of the unit is the reason for the horse to be there.  It is the “Why” of Scouting.  The Aims, the Methods, and the thing that keeps the boys coming back for more.  The cart can be loaded heavy as long as it has good horses to pull it.
And what drives the horse and cart?  The youth.  Youth leadership makes the horse and cart go.  It holds on to the reigns and steers the team.  It is their cart.  They get to decide how much or how little gets put in.  They are taught to lead the horse team and see the benefits of what is in the cart.  A good horse, cart, and driver make for a good Scout Troop.  When the elements work together, are trained, and understand how it all works together there is no where the unit can’t go.  There is nothing it can not do.
The cart can not be put before the horse, the horse can not function without the driver, and the driver has not purpose without the horse and cart.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Ask you shall receive…

sm_conf-2Guided Discovery is the process of asking questions to achieve a learning objective.  The Senior Patrol Leader comes to you and says that Tommy Tenderfoot has a leaking tent.  You being a good Scoutmaster immediately takes action and checks out the tent.  Finding the leak you move the gear and find an extra tarp and place it over the tent. problem solved.  Nothing learned.
The learning objective has been left for another rainy day.
On the other hand when the Senior Patrol leader informs you of Tommy Tenderfoots dilemma the first thing to think is ask questions.  This is not to prolong the agony or make the Scout feel bad, it is all about teaching and coaching and Guided Discovery.
Why do you think the tent is leaking?  Where is it leaking?  How do you think it can be fixed?  Is Tommy going to be ok?  What can you do to make the situation better?
Again, not to remove responsibility of the adult leadership, but teaching leadership and responsibility to the youth leaders.  Leading questions allow the Scouts to find solutions and realize that they do have the answers.. they just need to find them.
Of course if there is an emergency, you can do the question session as a reflection after the situation is resolved.  But 9 times out of 10, a rain soaked tent is not an emergency and is, like most of the situations our Scouts find themselves in, a great opportunity to discover and achieve some learning objectives.
Learning objectives are important in the Guided Discovery process.  Like vision, if you have no objectives then you are wandering through the activity.  In this game with a purpose, every activity or event should have some opportunity to learn or develop.  Express the learning objective within the Patrol Leaders Council so that they are aware of what it is that they are trying to accomplish.  This will help the youth leader when the Leading questions start coming at them.  It should get them in the mode of finding solutions and not looking for blame or excuses.
This can be a long and frustrating process.  Play it all the way through.  The reward will come in the end when you ask and then receive a look of satisfaction that the Scout has learned.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

How are going to get there?

mapcompassBefore I set out on any journey whether it’s a backpacking trip or vacation to Disneyland it is important that I have a plan.  Pulling out the map I can identify places where I can get water, camp for the night, and see a great view.  On the way to Disneyland knowing what the flight times are and which hotel we are going to stay at is an important part of the trip.  How we get from point A to point B keeps me on track and focused in one direction.  For many of us removing the clutter and confusion from the journey makes it more meaningful and effective.
When we set our goals that lead us to our Vision we are setting way points that allow us to see the journey to the end.  The goals are the way that we see intermediate success that keep us moving in the right direction.  Even with set backs and challenges, when we set goals we can realize our vision.
So how are you going to get there?  You need to know where you are going first.  Identify your vision and share it with someone.  Figure out your mission that gets you to seeing your vision become real.  Then set a few goals that are relevant to getting there.
In Scouting we teach the use of SMART tools.  The goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based.  We will go into that in greater detail in a later post.  To illustrate the point of SMART tools though we can use a trip to the moon.
To get to the moon we need to set goals.  One goal may be to build a rocket ship.  We know when it is done when we can see a Rocket that is ready to launch.  It is a task that is attainable in that we have the smarts, technology, and materials to build the rocket.  The relevance of rocket is that we need it to get to the moon.. we can’t walk or drive there.  And we set a time line for when it needs to be finished.  Going to McDonalds would not be a good goal to getting to the moon.. it is not Specific or Relevant to the mission.
Think about John F. Kennedy when he shared his vision of getting to the moon.  He was dealing with “metals and materials that have not been invented yet”.  It was still attainable as it set the course for discovery.  It forced NASA to work to the vision by setting goals and a mission to set up the conditions to get to the moon.
So how are you going to get there?  Goal setting to support your mission.
Here are more questions from our 20.. as we get closer to number 20 you should start seeing a vision coming to life.

13. What can I do best that would be of worth to others?
Be a good example of living the Scout Oath and Law.. this is a daily chore.  Teach skills, outdoor, leadership, and continue to build character in our young men.
14. What talents do I have that no one else really knows about?
At times I have a rough exterior.  Not sure if it is talent, but I am very thoughtful in that I like my quiet time and reflection.  A talent that I have that may go unknown is that I studied Speech pathology in College and did two internships in speech therapy clinics.  Not sure that is talent either.. but it used to be a passion of mine.  Money got in the way though and changed my course in life.
I am pretty transparent.  What I am talented in is pretty much visible and known.
15. If there are things I feel I really should do, what are they?
I need to focus on the things that are most important to me and my family.  I need to wear less hats.  I need to prioritize better.  I need to write more.  I need to be more deliberate in how and what I teach the Scouts of the Troop.  I need to take a look at my original ticket from 2005 and rekindle some of the goals I had then and see if I can get closet to my vision.

Your road map to your vision starts here.  I hope that you are beginning to see a picture forming.  Are you seeing who you are and what you want your future to look like.  Are you looking at this through a Scouting lens or a personal lens.  At some point those two paths will.. must cross.  Is your journey taking shape?
Keep going.  Don’t give up.  We have 5 more questions to go.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What are you?

knowledgeIn the last blog post I shared my answers to the first four questions of the 20 questions that we ask participants of Wood Badge to consider before they get to their course.
Who you are and what you learn about yourself gets you started in discovering your life’s Vision and Mission.  In other words it sets you on a course for a life with purpose.  I will be sharing more about myself in this post as I move through a re look of the 20 questions building toward a better future for me and those close to me.
Before I get to that however, I would like to ask you all a few questions.
First.  Does this blog help you?
Second.  Do you find value in this blog?
Third.  What would you like to see more of in the blog?
Finally.  Do you share the content of the blog with other Scouters?
I ask this not to determine whether or not to continue, I am all in.  I ask this to make the blog better.  A blog with content worth sharing and a blog that keeps you coming back for more.  I truly want to help deliver the promise of Scouting in whatever way I can.
One thing that I think most of the readers of this blog have in common is a desire to make Scouting great and build fantastic experiences for the youth we serve.  Scout training is often not enough.  Round table is typically not attended by those that really need the coaching.  The internet has opened so many pathways to information and I want to use this tool to teach, coach, mentor and inspire other Scouters.  Is that happening?
I am not a numbers guy, but I do look at the blog stats on occasion to see trends and where impact is happening.. or not.
I have noticed a drop in subscriptions to the blog.  That is a natural thing.  And do not worry I do not lose sleep over it.  It is what it is.  In my perfect world I would have millions of subscribers, not to pad my ego, but to help Scouting.  But holding at 1630ish subscribers, I will go with it.  I don’t understand how it all works sometimes.  I think that site identity and recognition have a lot to do with it.  During the time when I did the blog and podcast I had the most views and subscribers.  The podcast is not coming back anytime soon, so I need to build this brand to the best it will be.
That may mean that I never see 2000 subscribers.. and that I will live with as long as this blog speaks to those that need it, want it, and keep coming back.  And to all of you I say Thanks!
The title of this post is “What are you?”  I selected that title because in answering the 20 questions you should also learn about what you are in relation to your relationships and activities.  What you are to other people, a leader, a parent, a friend, a partner.. you are identified by not only who you are but what you are.  Leaders are often viewed in this manner.  Their leadership style is not so much who they are but what they act like, what their actions are, and what they do for the group.  So what are you?  Understanding what you are is an important part of seeing your vision and building your life plan to get there.
Here are a few more questions and my answers:

5. Who is a person who has made a positive impact on my life?
My Dad.  We learn by watching others.  My Dad has always been a role model.  Teaching me many of the attributes to being a good Dad, Husband, and worker.  My Dad is not perfect, but his imperfection has been great lessons in leading, and living.  He instilled in me the importance of family, hard work, and taking care of others.  He taught me how to interact with people and when to filter my thoughts.  He has been a constant part of my life and I appreciate him.
6. Why was that person able to have such significant impact?
He is a good teacher.  I think that teachers teach more so by their actions than lecture.  For good or for bad what they do models how to be, know, and do things in your life.
7. What have been my happiest moments in life?
Watching my children find joy and success.  I have always loved watching as my kids grew up.  They had something that I never had growing up and that is friendships that have lasted their entire lives.  I grew up moving just about every three years.  They have lived on the same street their entire lives.  I have grown to know these kids (the friends of my kids) all their lives.  Seeing their relationships with one another is amazing.  Through sports, school, band, and scouting they and their friends have all grown to be good people.  Watching them will always be happy moments.
8.  Why were they happy?
Because my kids always bring me joy.  Through good times and tough times, they have always been my greatest success.

Well, OK.. there are the next four questions.  I hope that you are taking the time to answer them for yourself.  As you do, look for the opportunities for personal growth and understanding.  When we get to the end, go back and read your answers.  You never have to share them with anyone.  But as they say ‘knowledge is power’ and you will have the power to make your life better.
Please share the blog with your friends, Scouters, and whomever you feel will get something out of it.  It’s not about numbers, it’s about Vision and the mission of helping where I can.
Leave a comment below with the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of the post.  I really do want to know what you think.  It is all about the assessment of this process and I do want to make it better to serve you.
Thanks for coming back time and again.  I sincerely appreciate it.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

ILST.. what did we learn?

jonteachingIntroduction to Leadership Skills Training (ILST), for some of you it means JLT others remember TLT.. either way it amounts to training your youth leaders to make their troop better.  Each year we conduct our youth training with the goal of getting the youth leaders of the troop all on the same page, giving them a basic level of understanding leadership as it applies to them, and teaching them how to BE, KNOW, and DO their job as leaders.
This year we have spent a great deal of time discussing leadership at each troop meeting.  The goal was to move our troop from a great troop to a high performance team.  A team that believed in itself and was able to integrate new members without a step backward.  With an aggressive annual plan and some really great young men the year was a banner year for the troop.
This weekend was a busy weekend for the Scouts and adults of 664.  The day started with the annual Scouting for Food campaign.  Collecting food and then working for 6 hours at the St. Vincent dePaul food pantry.  After a great morning of service it was off to our meeting place for ILST.  The training ended with dinner and then the rest of the troop arrived for an all night lock in game night.
The approach this year for ILST was a lot different than in years past.  We had Scouts that attended NYLT (National Youth Leader Training) in the summer and so over the last few months we have called on them to pass on some of the skills learned.  We also provided opportunities for those Scouts to practice some of what they learned at NYLT.  This proved to be very positive and as a result much of what we normal cover during ILST has been taught, learned , and practiced within the youth leaders of the troop.
The Senior Patrol leader and I talked a bit about what we wanted to develop in our leaders this year and going into next.  We decided that we needed to know what our leadership styles are and how use those styles to move the troop to being that high performance team.  Not just doing our best, but making every patrol better and making a difference in the Troop.. so much a difference that we maintain a level of high performance.  So we narrowed our focus to two subject areas.  1.  What is leadership and the pillars of leadership that move our troop.  and 2.  What are the nuts and bolts of the stages of team development and how do we apply that at every level in the troop to ensure we achieve and maintain the high performance team.
We split the training, I took the first half discussing leadership and our pillars.  This is where we really started to learn about the young men of the troop.  Rather than lecture, we held a discussion on the five pillars of leadership that make our troop successful.
Learning to lead yourself, Focusing on the little things, Modeling Expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
As the discussion went each Scout provided input on what he believed it meant to be and know those leadership traits as well as how they would use them to make our troop better.  I was pleasantly surprised to listen as the Scouts really did have a good grasp of them and understood how they could make a difference in the Troop.
It was comments like, “if I can’t get me own gear together.. how do I expect the rest of the Patrol to follow me and get theirs together”.  Or perhaps it was “Do as I say not as I do doesn’t work with my patrol.”  Comments like that let me know we are on track.
Then the Senior Patrol leader instructed the stages of team development session.  He went through the Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing stages as they are defined and shared what he thought they should look like.  The patrols then did an exercise that we use in Wood Badge where they each put together and share a story about a high performance team that they have been on and why it was successful.  We heard stories about NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), our 50 miler in the Olympics, and the story of a Scout that finally found a fit in a new patrol that allowed him to make friends and increase his level of activity in the troop.   Again, I learned a lot about the youth leaders of our Troop.
Following the training as we sat and ate dinner, I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader.  I asked him what he learned.  He shared that he was happy to hear that “they get it”, he added that the final exercise we did when we asked each Scout what they were going to do to make a difference in the troop really spoke volumes.  Each Scout shared something that could really move the needle in our troop.  It was great to hear.  The coolest part was when the Senior Patrol leader said.. “Ok.. let’s do it!”
That was all that could be said to wrap up the training.  I thought about it a bit last night as I watched the Scouts have fun playing games and socializing.  They are a high performance team, then just need to get all the arrows lined up.  This morning as they cleaned up what looked like the mess that FEMA should have been called for.. it was an efficient process and well led.
I am so proud of these guys.
Another JLT/TLT/ILST.. what ever you call your Youth Leader Training…in the books and moving our Troop to perfection!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Cold Weather Camping – Sleep System

photo courtesy of Thermarest

photo courtesy of Thermarest

Getting a good nights sleep is an important part of any camp out, and very important when camping in the cold.  Sleeping in the cold creates some anxiety in young Scouts.  While the Scout is up and moving he can control his level of warmth.  Teaching the Scout that it is possible to be warm in the winter will help him get a good nights sleep.
First, lets talk gear.
When I talk gear for sleeping, I refer to it as a sleep system.  The system may vary depending on conditions, temperature, and he person.
The sleep system consists if the Sleeping bag, the sleeping pad (insulation), and sleep clothing.  You may add to the system a sleeping bag liner, a bivy sack, and of course a pillow.
The sleeping bag is the base of the system.  The rating of the bag needs to be at least 20 degrees.  Lover is preferred especially when the temps are known to frequently dip below 20 degrees.  Adding the sleeping bag liner will add another 10 degrees of warmth to you in the bag and is a light weight, inexpensive option to adding warmth.
Down versus Synthetic?  It really does not matter.  They are equally as warm, down is going to cost more, but you will get your savings in weight.  Down needs to stay dry to keep warm.  Synthetic materials fair better than down when wet or damp.  Which is an important consideration when coaching Scouts on which type of bag to purchase.
It used to be popular opinion to wear as little as possible when in your sleeping bag, now however, your clothing is considered a part of your sleep system.
First thing to remember is whatever you decide to wear, it needs to be clean and dry.  For most that means wearing a clean set of poly pro long underwear.  Again, keep in mind that it is easier to stay warm than to re warm.  Change into your “sleeping clothing” when you are warm.  Boil up some water and drink a hot beverage.  While you are drinking, boil up enough water to put in a water bottle.  Throw it in your sleeping bag as you change into your sleep clothes.   Hand warmers are also a good way to preheat the bag.
A change of your socks is also a great idea.  If you are like me, your feet are the first thing to get cold.  Dry socks going into a sleeping bag is fantastic and will keep you warmer.  Find a real thick pair of wool socks, you know, the kind that you would never hike in but look super comfy.  Wear them at night to keep your feet warm.
Possumdown socks or a good thick merino wool sock are what I find to work the best.
The set up of your gear is important.  Get out of the elements.
Don’t sleep in low ground.  Cold air settles in low ground.  When selecting your sleep area, where you pitch your tent, make sure you stay on the upper part of the slope.  If you must pitch camp in low ground, dig a sump outside of the door of your tent.  This will pull the cold air away from you as you sleep.
Vent your Tent.  If you fail to vent you will wake up wet, condensation will form in your tent.  You can expect a little, but if you don’t vent you will certainly get too much moisture in your tent.  This is bad for your gear and also will make your packing a bit harder.
The sleeping bag liner is a great piece of gear.  It is perhaps the biggest addition to my winter gear.  Adding ten degrees to my sleeping bag, it is made of fleece, which absorbs some moisture from my breath at night, keeps my bag dry, and takes away the feel of cold nylon as I slip into my bag.
Getting a great nights sleep is critical when camping.  Staying warm is key.  Knowing your sleep system and how to use it is an important skill in winter camping.
We will talk more about winter camping in our next post.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Cold Weather Camping 2015

>The harder the challengeCamping in the cold is adventurous and fun.  It poses challenges and requires more training to ensure a safe, fun time spent in the winter camping.
I love cold weather camping, it is perhaps some of my favorite camping.  Since becoming a Scoutmaster, I have taken pride in sharing that love of winter camping with the Scouts of my Troop.  On average, we camp about 3 times a year in a cold weather environment.  We have been very successful during these camp outs because of the training that we do before the outing.
So what do we do to make our winter outings successful? Training, accountability, and skills development.
Training.
Cold weather camping all starts with good training.  We have a rule, not a policy, that if a Scout does not attend all of the training he does not go on cold weather camp outs.
We do this simply for safety.  The safety of the scout and his buddies.  Any high risk activity requires training above and beyond your typical camping skills.
Cold weather injury prevention takes a good portion of the training.  We teach the Scouts first how to prevent cold weather injuries.
Developing the skills of the Scout to prepare for camping in the cold, identify those symptoms of cold weather injuries and then treatment.  It should be noted that as stated we average about three cold weather camp outs a year as a Troop, and when I refer to cold weather camp outs, I am talking about sub freezing temperatures.  For the past ten years we have been using this training plan and have never had a cold weather injury.  I suppose I should pay respect to my Scouting friends in Alaska and Minnesota.. we do not get the temps you all get and I would think you all have similar training programs.  Cold weather injuries are cold weather injuries no matter where you are.
Subjects under the topic of cold weather injuries include; Hypothermia, Frost Bite, Chill Blains, Frost nip, snow blindness, and immersion foot.
We move on from injuries to layering and proper wear of clothing.  We discuss how and when to layer up or down and the right clothing for the outing.  When it comes to clothing, we teach that it is easier to stay warm than to re-warm.  The idea that re-warming takes time and energy that you may want to save.
Clothing plays a major role in Cold weather camping.  Not just a lot of clothing, but the right clothing.  Moving from cotton shirts that keep moisture on the body thus cooling you, to synthetic shirts that wick the sweat away from you.  Jackets that insulate as well as protect from the elements.  A layering system that allows you to move as well as stand around.  Gloves that work for completing camp tasks as well as keeping your fingers, hands, and wrist warm.
Hats that warm and protect from wind while keeping your head dry.
There is a lot more that goes into developing your clothing list.  Keeping in mind that you still have to carry it in your pack, bulk plays a part in your packing list.  Extra socks are always a must, consideration needs to be made as to when you are going to change them, where you carry them, and how many do you need.  A thick pair of wool socks to sleep in may be packed in with your sleep system while your smart wool socks worn for hiking and moving around camp may be packed on top for easy access.
If you are like me, once your feet get cold, I am cold.  So maintaining warmth by frequent changing of socks is a must for me.
Part of the training program is a discussion of using existing gear.  Using a three season tent  to stand up to heavy snow and winds.  Adding a layer in a sleeping bag to give an additional ten degrees of warmth.  And how to make your stove the most efficient it can be in the cold.
A big area of our preparation for cold weather camping is the matter of accountability.  This is a touchy subject for some, but it is a matter of safety and therefore non negotiable.  A Scout must attend the four meetings leading to the first winter camp out.  This way he gets the training required and has an opportunity to work with the rest of the troop on the skills needed for winter outings.
Being accountable to one another is an important part of this process.  The Scouts are accountable to one another.  When they understand that they can not have a “me” attitude, they start to pay close attention to what their buddy is doing and how they are a member of that team.  We teach that cold weather injury prevention is a leaders responsibility.  Leadership and Discipline are the two key components in cold weather camping.  Leaders that care for their patrols will keep an eye on them.  They will watch for the signs of cold weather issues.  They will keep their patrol motivated an on task.  They start building that high performance team with the understanding that they are all in this together.  It takes the whole patrol watching out for each other, pitching in with camp chores, set up, take down, meal prep, etc. that makes the experience one they won’t forget.
When we talk about accountability we need to ensure that the Scout understands that he is an important part in the safety of his buddy and himself.  Most Scouts will go through their Scouting life following the leader.  Cold weather camping forces the issue of leadership on each Scout.
Accountability starts with the Scout being required to attend the meetings and training.  If the Scout fails to attend the required meetings and training the result is the Scout not being able to attend the outing.  When it comes to this we stand firm.  Training and developing the required skills are important, when a Scout does not get the training, he is setting himself up for a possible injury or at least increasing the risk of himself and his buddies.
The Scout is accountable for his attitude.  A lack of enthusiasm for the outing or having a negative attitude is not a good fit in the group dynamic in the cold weather environment.  Being able to keep that positive outlook is important.  You will need it when the conditions seem to be fighting you and you feel as though the task is out of hand.  Understanding that you can and will get through the conditions is mostly in your attitude.
We will leave this discussion right here for now… we will pick up with the skills discussion in our next post.
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Have a Great Scouting Day!

COLD WEATHER TIP

Warm up socks and boot insoles by keeping them in the sleeping bag next to you.