The MR. and MRS. Question

cropped-scoutmaster.jpgThere is a nice article in Bryan on Scouting today with comments and discussion on the blog about Scouts being on a first name basis with their adult leaders.
I know it may be bad form to take this discussion from Bryan and use it here, so I apologize up front and if you will allow me to approach it as an opinion piece I will be ever grateful.
So, in my opinion… And given the comments on Bryan’s Blog I am in the minority, I am a big fan of first names.
In my Troop we use first names for everyone from the committee to the members of the new Scout patrol.  The only argument for not using first names that I can find (again referencing Bryan on Scouting) is the issue of respect.
Comments like “Mr. And Mrs. It shows respect, and also gets the boys in the habit of respecting their elders when not at scouts” kind of bother me in that it is clear that formal names are not a great indicator of respect.  I work for a company (UPS) which, from the beginning has been a “First name” company.  From the CEO to the newest part time employee, everyone is on a first name basis.  Respect comes from how people act.
I served in the Army for 21 years.  In that time the naming convention, which is the only convention allowed in the Army is Rank followed by last name.. Sergeant Smith for example.  I served with people for years and never knew their first names.  It is a method of forcing respect due to an authority.  There are many leaders in the Army that I respected because I had to, but when it comes to real respect I can honestly say I did not respect them as individuals.
So what is it that we are trying to teach our Scouts?
First, I am not an authority figure.  I am their Scoutmaster.  A teacher,coach, and mentor.  As these young men grow, I want them to respect me for my actions and what I have taught them.  I want them to know that they have access to me and that Mr. Schleining is approachable and is their friend.
Baden Powell said that a “The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother”.
I understand that many folks feel a strong connection to the “Way it used to be” implying that the old days were better.  Well yes and no.. the old days were different and the standard of the “old days” can’t always be applied today.  Respect is not measured by how you address someone.  When we teach the Scout about respect that is done by us being mutual in that respect.  I respect our Scouts as much as I expect to respected.  As long as their language and actions demonstrate an attitude of respect than the Scout is practicing those lessons taught.  Using the Scout Oath and Law to guide the Scout in those actions will compel him to show respect to his leaders.  The fact that they call me Jerry does not take away from that.
We do not live in a time depicted in Normal Rockwell paintings.  Too many adults feel that young people today lack respect.  No, I can’t paint all young people with that wide brush.  Sure, there are young people that lack respect, but then again, you can find examples of that in every age.  There has always been an element of young folks that did not have respect for authority, institutions, and other people.  What and how we teach in more important than what we are called.
It’s all about how we teach and coach our Scouts.
Ever since I was a Cubmaster, I have asked that the Scouts and their parents call me Jerry.  Some parents are not comfortable with this and I understand, so they may call me Scoutmaster Jerry or Mr. Schleining.. I really don’t care.  When I am called Mr. Schleining by a Scout I tend to return the greeting by calling the Scout Mr. Soinso.. They don’t feel comfortable with that either, but again I am trying to teach them that we can respect one another with first names.
Here is the bottom line and I will close with this thought.  I am here to serve them Scouts.  They do not have to earn respect from me, I have to earn their respect.  I am their Scoutmaster and as such.. their friend.  We treat one another as we would like to be treated.
I would like to thank Bryan for a good thought provoking article.  It is a great discussion and is obviously one that has differing opinions.  Thanks for letting me share mine.
What are your thoughts on this issue?  I would love to hear.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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The Participation Problem

campfireWe often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue.  This is absolutely a  header in the discussion.  However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages.  That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities.  This number can tell you many things about your unit.  First, it reflects your annual plan.  Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)?  Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates.  And third, does that plan conflict with other events.  School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans.  These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year.  Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit.  Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do.  And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1.  Start early.  Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”.  Most units use the School year as their beginning and end.  Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year.  Allow time for budgeting and family planning.  My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year.  We do this for a few reasons.  First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event.  Webelos Woods in our District is always in October.  This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year.  Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place.  Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year.  This includes location for Summer camp.  Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2.  Stay away from the same old stuff.  Pretty much camping is camping.  Try new locations or different activities at favorite places.  Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan.  This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities.  In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout.  That seems to be about 7 years.  Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience.  Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases.  So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan.  If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting.  When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance.  This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc.  Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to.  It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3.  Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop.  The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them.  They will  be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan.  Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year.  We use guided discovery in Scouting.  Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them.  The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance.   Give them permission to think big and out of the box.  If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them.  We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp.  Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage.  But its all about their plan.  As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4.  And the final advice for today, Keep it fun.  Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs.  Give them a reason to want to be a participant.  Each outing should be fun and adventurous.  When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there.  Here is the rub,.  Define fun.  Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others.  Find a balance within the Troop.  A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions.  Fun, silly, and things that build up the team.  A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun.  A mascot can bring the Troop together also.  It gives them something to rally behind.  In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story.  We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made.  Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it.  At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended.  At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it.  We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem.  This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it.  We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004.  This quickly became a Troop Tradition.  Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing.  The Scouts love to show off the Gnome.  Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program.  The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun.  Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of.  This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem?  Share them with us.  May be a big help for someone struggling.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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5 Tips for Recruiting

We are now in the heart of recruiting season in Scouting.  Actually all year is recruiting season for Scouting, there are no set guidelines as to when your unit brings new Scouts on board.. all year long is the best time to introduce boys to Scouting.
But now that School is back in session and our Scouts are seeing their friends again and playing after school it’s about time to get busy recruiting.
So here are five tips to making your recruiting season effective.
1.  When out there doing product sales like Popcorn, don’t sell popcorn, sell Scouting and leave an informative flyer with your prospective customer.  The flyer can be a simple outline of your units program and some highlights from years past.
2.  Get out in the public.  March in a parade, participate in the community fall festival. While you’re out there hand out invitations to join Scouting.  Be personal with your contact and seek prospects.
3.  Hold an open house.  Show off your patrols or your Pack.  Have lots of hands on things to do and a simple slide show of all the fun you have had as a unit.  Have lots of applications on hand and don’t let the applications walk out.  Even if they fill it out and don’t come back, you have their contact information for a follow up.
4.  Make invitation cards and have the Scouts hand them out to their friends.  A party like invite is more personal than a flyer and may just be that invite that makes a difference.
5.  And finally, the best recruiting tip I can suggest.  Get Den Chiefs in local Cub Scout Packs.  These young men are your best recruiters.  They are the first line when working with and making an impression on Webelos that are readying themselves for entry in a Scout Troop.  Den Chiefs are a great example of what Scouting and your unit is all about.  They tell the story of your Troop.  They have contact with the parents of the Den, those parents get to see a young man practicing leadership and living the Oath and Law while teach and coaching a Webelos Scout.
So there are five quick tips to help you get the most out of this years “Recruiting season”.  Every young man deserves an opportunity to be in Scouting.  So every young man needs to be invited to join your unit!
Give those a shot and see how it works for you.
Use this link to find some cool resource materials for your invitations, flyers, and posters for the open house.
Let us know what your best practice for recruiting is.  Leave a comment here and share what makes your unit successful in recruiting.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Luci EMRG Lantern Review

Here is a quick review of the Luci EMRG lantern.  A new product from MPOWERD.  This versatile little lantern will easily fit on your backpack, pocket, glove box or first aid kit.
With 4 different light settings it is perfect for reading in camp, marking your location, or providing an emergency light source wherever it’s needed.
At 2.6 oz this little lantern is a must in camp.  It spreads light out 10 feet and is waterproof.
It takes 8 hours to charge with the solar panels attached, but it will put out 7 hours of light.  If you are concerned about the charging, no worries.  This little gems retains 95% of its charge while being stored.  But snap it to the outside of your pack and by the time you get into camp and inflate the lantern, you have light to get you through the night.
I highly recommend this lantern, and I am super impressed with the company that makes it.
Visit there site at and learn about how they are helping change the world.  They really should get into the #daretodo program.  Speaking of which, on their site you can buy this little lantern for $9.99.. and you can share one by giving one to folks in countries that lack solid power grids.  They call them “Solar impoverished countries.  You can help by providing some light.  I did.  Will you?

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

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Facebook and Twitter and Blogs oh my!

Social-MediaIn my last post I talked about Scouting’s message.  If you look at the mission statement of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM) it states; “The Mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a value system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.”
From the WOSM website: The Mission was adopted at the 35th World Scout Conference in Durban, South Africa in 1999. Illustrating both the local and global impact of Scouting, the Mission of Scouting has been captured in World Scouting’s brand as “Creating a Better World”.
Creating a Better World, a simple thought and one that expresses the Vision of our Founder Lord Baden Powell.  The important part about this Vision is that it requires work, that is what my last post was all about… What are you going to do to realize that Vision?
Part of making change in our World is telling our story.  This is all part of the message.  The message of Peace and what Scouting is all about needs to be out in front of the public.  In Scouting we do a good job of preaching to the choir.  We have great internal communication tools that let our Scouts and Scouters know what’s going on and share our successes.  And by the way, there are far more successes than failures in Scouting.
There are a handful of good Scouting blogs out there and of course the world of Social Media has plenty of Scouting outlets to get your fix of Scouting news.  Here is the deal though.. are they telling Scouting’s Story.  The answer is yes.
I am not an advocate of sugar coating or smoothing out the edges.  If something is wrong or being done incorrectly, I feel that it needs to be called out.  But there is a time and place.  When we want to tell Scouting’s story we want to share what is happening in Scouting that leads us to “Creating a Better World.”  That is Scouting’s byline.
When you look at the program of Scouting it all comes down to Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  Those three goals coupled with the Oath and Law are everything in Scouting.  A good backpacking trip is full of opportunities to reinforce values, life skills, and connect character to being a part of a high performance team tells Scouting’s Story.  Complaining about a policy does not share the values and character of the movement.
Again, not sugar coating, but telling the Story how we want it to be told.  There are too many great things going on in the Scouting world to let one or two little insignificant things cloud the story.  Tales of leadership and accomplishment should always overshadow a Facebook post about how Dad was upset because of the annual pinewood derby race.
Creating a Better World starts at the unit level with each Scout.  Telling that story on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media is important.
So what of Social media?  It’s here and it’s here to stay.  Electronic media is where our Scouts are and where the vast majority of the public is.  We take Scouting where the Scouts are, not the other way around.  There is something to be said for the “Good ol Days”, but they are just that.. Good and old.  We live in an age of instant communication and information.  If you look at the demographic of your average Cub Scout Pack, they are young adults with their young boy.  These folks are plugged into these media outlets.  They are attached to one another with their phones, laptops, and tablets.  They crave information and want it now.  They are a part of the Scouting Story and the more they get the better they feel about Scouting.
These young Scouters are not shy about posting something on Facebook so we want them to help us tell the story.  Providing good program and being consistent in our message will help them to share our story.
At the recent NOAC it was clear that electronic media is where the Scouts are.  If you did not adapt, you were pretty much left out.  I don’t have a problem with that in and of itself.  There is certainly a place for this in Scouting, but leaving someone out.. ahhh… let’s not leave them out, lets get them on board.
When we do that.. we help share the story.. we help make the world better.
So it’s Facebook and Twitter and Blogs… oh my.. we have a great opportunity to tell Scouting’s Story.
What do you do to tell our story.  Please share.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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The Message

MOPIf you pay attention to more than just your monthly camp outs and weekly meetings you will have seen or are noticing a very loud message in Scouting.  Over the past few years Scouting has turned up the volume on its message of Peace.
The Messengers of Peace program launched asking not only individual Scouts but whole units to make a difference and show that we want Peace.  This program is a global program telling the world that an attitude of Peace has to start somewhere and it should start with what Baden Powell founded as the largest Peace Movement in history.
This year the Order of the Arrow and Scouting launched the #daretodo campaign.  An extension of Messengers of Peace in that it asks Arrowmen and Scouts all over to remember to do a good turn daily.  This good turn will have a ripple effect that will see big changes in their lives, communities and Nation.  If only we listen to the message.
You see, it’s not a merit badge or other form of recognition, so many just won’t do it.  It is better off in the long run to just take the path of least resistance and do nothing or max the minimum.  It’s easy to go to a merit badge weekend and crank out stuff that will get you a medal in the end, but what of Scouting’s mission?  What of the Aims that we try to attain?  What of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness?  Do they not promote a peaceful existence?  Do they not promote a Scout doing his best to make a difference?
The messages from Scouting are clear.  This generation of Scouts and Scouters have a greater calling.  It has an obligation to right the ship.  The world we live in needs Scouting more than ever, but it will take all of us to do our part.
I just spent the weekend in Eureka California.  A place that has beauty and potential, but a place I would never want to live.  They have a huge “transient” issue in Eureka, along with which comes drugs and a community hamstrung by a group that has no buy in to the community.  This results in a run down looking and underdeveloped look to the city.  And worst of all it appears that no one seems to care.  Where are the Scouts was my question when entering Eureka.  Why do the people choose to live like this?  Crime, Drugs, Homelessness, Poverty.. all symptoms of the community giving up it appears.  There are jobs.  I saw the signs in shop windows and in the paper.  So that’s not it.  The weather is good.. so that’s not it.  And there are people.  That’s it… the people.  They just don’t care.
And the same can be said about lots of places in America.  So if the community doesn’t care who will?  How about us Scouts that pledge to do our duty.  To do that good turn.  To help other people at all times?
The message is clear, it is timeless and on point.  But do we care? Can we do it without the recognition?  Without a patch or a medal?  Or is it just easy to turn the other way and keep Scouting to ourselves.
This is not the Message of Peace.

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Knowledge to action

scoutingvaluesThere are those times as a Scoutmaster that leave you inspired.  The other night I had one of those moments as I began to share my Scoutmaster minute with the Troop.  Like most Troops, we have young men that make up the membership of the unit.  Ranging from 10 1/2 to 17 these young men tend to be exactly what we want them to be… boys.
We all know that at times boys do not always think before they act and they certainly allow emotion to over rule logic.  And so it is when working with boys.  As much as I hate the saying “boys will be boys”.. boys will be boys.  There is nothing at all wrong with that, as long as Adults are Adults and work to being good teachers, coaches and mentors to the boys.
So the Scoutmaster minute this week was addressing some issues that came up, nothing earth shattering, but boys heading down a trail that would not lead them to positive outcomes.  Heading them off now will save lots of grief later.  It comes down to, like most things in Scouting and life, living the Oath and Law.
And so I explained to the Troop that we make a promise to live the Scout Law in our daily lives.  Yes, they know that.  So I asked the question, “what is the Scout Law?”  The Assistant Senior Patrol Leader spoke up with, “A Scout is…”  I cut him off.. yes.. yes.. we all know the 16 words that make up the Scout law.. but what is the Law?  Really, its just a bunch of words that we commit to memory and rattle off each meeting.. but why do we need a Scout law and why bother saying it?  A young Scout chimed in, “It is how we should live”.  Yes, I said.. but what are those twelve words that make up the law?  They are values that we should be living every day.  So what are values I asked?  One of the Scouts from the new Scout Patrol spoke up.  He said that Values are things that you think are precious.
We do hold those things as precious that we believe in and act upon.  We protect and maintain things that are precious to us.  Our families, our nice car, our collections, and our relationships.  We value all of those things and we live good values that we have been taught.
So now we need to take our knowledge, those things that we know like the Scout Oath and Law and translate those values in action.  We will do that when we determine that the values found in the Scout law are precious.
We will be more friendly, we will be more trustworthy by giving those that are around us a reason to trust us.  We will be more obedient and cheerful because we know that those values make a difference in the lives of those that we make contact with every day.
The Scout Law is something that is precious to us.  It drives us to turn that knowledge into action.  When we do that we will change our attitudes and truly begin to view one another as precious.  That will compel us to serve them from the heart, not the head.
When things start needing redirection and attitudes need to be checked, coming back to the Scout Law is always a great idea.  Who knows, you may even hear from the one that you least expect a gem that places it all in perspective.  That discussion has the power to change the lives of members of our Troop.  In turn, we can make a big difference everywhere.
Turn that knowledge into Action!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

print used in this post by Joseph Csatari

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