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  • Elections apathy

    I'm the SM of a 6 month old small (and young!) troop. Most things are going well, with all the boys having earned their Tenderfoot and well on their way to 2nd class (I should probably mention that the Troop Committee is all about FCFY, but not quite as sold on "boy-led" as I am).

    But now we're coming up on our first elections, and no one seems to want to run for anything. The 12yo SPL, who I felt was overwhelmed had originally said he wanted to step back and be Historian. But now he'd like to run again (not sure if that's his desire or his dad's, who is an ASM). My 11yo son was elected PL and while he originally wanted to step up to SPL, now feels like he's found his comfort zone as PL, and is planning advancement activities, both in Troop meetings and in outings, so I don't want to push him.

    The appointed positions, QM, Historian, Webmaster, are all going pretty well, except that the Scribe is terrible (his dad is a newspaper reporter, so I'm wondering if he was pressed into something he wasn't really interested in). He shows up late to everything, unprepared, and takes poor notes even when prompted.

    But no one has expressed any desire about the positions. When asked, I get "sure, I can do that". "But do you *want* to" "(shrug)"

    I'm tempted to just cancel elections and just fix the broken appointments, but I'm afraid the parents of the other boys will scream "Nepotism!" Thoughts?

  • #2
    So how many boys in the troop????

    if you don't have a bunch of patrols, say 4 or more then there is no need for an SPL or ASPL.

    If no one wants to be Patrol leader, I would assign it and rotate it monthly especially with a troop that young.

    Comment


    • #3
      It is a small troop - only 1 patrol. However, we did start with only a PL and an APL. The PL got overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running the troop as well as running the patrol. I gave him a choice of running the troop meetings or the patrol meetings and letting the APL take over the other. He asked if he could run the Troop meetings and let the APL do all planning for patrol advancement, campouts, etc.

      Are you suggesting that I just skip the idea of Troop meetings and make everything patrol meetings? I'm a little worried that the patrol will fall apart when some of the less motivated boys take the reins, but maybe that's a good way for the boys to see who is good at leading and who is not (if I can survive the wrath of the parents).

      Comment


      • Khaliela
        Khaliela commented
        Editing a comment
        Or you can skip patrol meetings and just make everything a troop meeting. We have a Troop meeting every week. The boys open and do planning as a troop (30 min.), then break into patrols for advancement (30 min), then come back together as a troop for games (30 min.) A lot of the time advancement is helter-skelter with the patrols co-mingling based on what each boy needs to advance.

    • #4
      It is really hard for boys to "let go" of the idea of SPL. Your problem is that 12 is not really "senior" in most cases. That SPL of yours is effectively doing APL. Not a problem, really, but you want the boys to know they would be challenged if 3 patrols were dropped on your doorstep. That doesn't look like it's gonna happen, so why not think about simplifying things?

      Give your boys the two options. If you are one of those picture types call them organizational charts A & B. One will be the usual SM - SPL - ASPL and multiple PLs, etc ... Except you have to put question marks over all but one of the patrol branches. The other is an SM - PL - APL and boys in one column.

      Ask them to decide what will work best for them for now. Explain that there will be enough positions in either structure for anyone who wants to work on advancement. Emphasize that nobody will hold any position that they are not working. Be clear that if you're not good at one position there are two options: improve or take a break for a couple of weeks then try something else.

      That brings us to your scribe. Ask him if he thinks he can improve. This may mean setting a goal to do one thing a little better, or making something about his job a little easier. Also, maybe he doesn't see his notes as being all that important. Maybe he's right. Ask him if he'd be okay talking with the rest of the boys about fixing things.

      You get the idea. You don't want to cancel elections. You want the boys to figure out what they need to get work done better.

      Comment


      • #5
        Do away with the do nothing jobs like Webmaster, Librarian and Historian. If no one wants to be Scribe do away with that too.
        Your young scouts will soon realize that they need a job to advance. Don't make up Scoutmaster appointed jobs just to give someone a position.

        I tell my guys during their First Class SMC that now the other scouts in the troop have some control over them advancing. If they don't vote for you, you don't get a position and you don't advance. Live up to the Scout Law by being Courteous and Kind and your fellow Scouts will remember. Want to be a bully or mean? See how that works for you come election time, boys have a long memory!

        My troop of 30 boys and 4 patrols has a PL and QM for each patrol, a SPL, ASPL and Troop QM. SPL and PL are elected, the others are appointed.

        Comment


        • #6
          You can't see the forest for the trees.

          Your troop meetings are patrol meetings.


          At this point I would scrape any notion of trying to differentiate the two.....


          I would concentrate on getting the boys to understand the Patrol method....and as an adult leader I would begin planning for the second patrol...

          Comment


          • #7
            There are some good advice here, but one of the problems with young scouts is understanding they dont have the maturity for heavy responsibility. Instinctively they shy away from the lime light because it makes them feel vulnerable. They will feel this way at least until 13 years old.

            When I train new young troops, I encourage them to develop the program they want five years later. In this case that means elections. But I would reduce the elections to three months for about a year because all you are really trying to do is develop habits and traditions for a long term troop.

            More importantly is guiding the adults to fill in where the scouts lack the maturity to run a boy run program. The risk here is the adults dont step back as the scouts grow. The adults need to keep the program challenging without taking the fun out of it. What is going on in your troop is a red flag that that leadership is too hard to be fun.

            Maturity and growth come from wanting to overcome challenges. Usually it means the boys want to feel more adult, so they take on the more than they are used too to get that maturity. But its a hugh step from being a normal 12 year old to running a troop. The scouts need to grow in small steps. The adults are going to have to step in and fade out to encourage smaller steps of growth without actually taking over for the boys. Its fine line.

            The SPL should run the PLC meeting, but the SM should help the scout make a written agenda for him to follow before the meeting. Written agendas always make running meetings easier. After a couple meetings, the scout should have enough practice and understanding to make his own agenda with the SM only needing to check it before the meeting.

            The SM should always be ready to step in and help the scout when he gets stuck like running meetings, but the SM should always ask for permission to speak because that shows instant respect for the SPL position. I never put my sign up to get the scouts attention. I always asked the youth leader of the group to get the groups attention for me.

            The SM needs to step back quickly so as Not Take Over. And when I say step in, the adults need to allow the scout to feel enough struggle to sees the problem (like lacking skills to control the group) and feeling the motivation to seek help. Asking for help is a sign of maturity. If the scout instead shuts down, the adult either stepped in to early and took over leaving the scout behind, or too late when the scout feels too overwhelmed to continue. Keep the scout active with just enough motivation of success.

            But the adults are straddling a fine line of too much control. I teach adults to let the scouts go just a little too far so they learn the scouts limits and can work up to it. Not wanting anymore leadership went too far a long time ago. Adults need to learn and practice guiding scouts as much as scouts need to learn and practice being mature leaders. You must understand that adults are just as much students of learning to be good leaders as scouts are students of learning to be leaders.

            You have got some work to get the scouts confidence back for leadership. But right now the work is on the adults side to learn how to be better at the adult part of scouting. Its normal, we all go through it. But its a step you need to be proactive with. What will it take for a scout to want to lead? Wha tcan you do to make the steps of growth smaller?

            I look forward to your future post of success.

            Barry

            Comment


            • #8
              The PL running a single patrol troop is in fact running the troop.

              The PLC of a single patrol troop has but one member. Unless the boy wants to talk to himself, there's no need for a PLC.

              Quit trying to fit a small peg into a huge structure when there is no need to.

              Train the PL to take care of his boys in the patrol/troop. It's all the same thing.

              The SPL is to help the PL's do their job. If they do, they are in fact leading the troop, but only if there are multiple patrols.

              Professional teachers cannot handle much more than 20-25 students at one time and that is after having 4 years of high level training. Why anyone in their right mind would think that a single boy with minimal experience and training could handle a troop of that size simply amazes me. NOBODY should be responsible for more than 8 people at anyone time. BP felt that was a decent size for boys to learn the art of leadership.

              Any troop of 64 or less there's no problem. Once one goes beyond 64, then multiple ASPL's are necessary. If the troop has need for more than SPL with 8 ASPL's all taking care of 8 PL's, it's time to split up the troop. Until that time, one could have up to 512 boys in a troop and NO ONE would be responsible for more than 8 people.

              Keep it simple and easy enough for the boys to actually have a chance at success. Don't overwhelm a 14 year old SPL into thinking he's in charge of 30-40 people. That's why one has the patrol method, so this kind of thing doesn't happen.

              Stosh

              Comment


              • #9
                I agree, if you have one patrol, then you don't need, should not have, a SPL. Just have PL elections. There's literally nothing for an SPL to do if you only have one patrol. Like Basementdweller said, your troop meeting are patrol meetings. The PL should run them, with help as appropriate. If he's overwhelmed, first see if he can offload (aka delegate) some work to the APL. Then if both of them are still swamped, as SM do a little back-filling (or better, sit down with the two of them and coach them through the things they are having trouble with. Even if you end up doing most of the work with them as little more than puppets, they at least are going through the motions and some of it may stick for later when they find their own initiative).

                You also don't really need all those other positions. All you really need are the Patrol positions - PL and APL, and optionally you can have a Patrol Quartermaster and Scribe, but I wouldn't consider them Troop level PORs.

                And as far as "working on advancement", since none of them are First Class yet, nobody needs a POR for advancement, so don't even worry about it.

                Add positions only as there is a need for them. Don't create them for the sake of somebody wearing a patch. That teaches the absolute wrong lesson - it teaches them that holding a leadership position is some sort of trophy - "Yay I won!" - instead of a duty their fellow Scouts have entrusted them with.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Barry has good advice but I think his last paragraph is most important. Your greatest issue is going to be with the parents (isn't it always?).

                  If you apply Barry's ideas to the boys, they'll absorb them and run with it. You've got to sell the parents. You need to be the one with the vision for the troop, or as Barry says, plan for the troop you want five years from now. You've got to sell the parents on that vision/plan. Parent's don't have a problem envisioning their son five years from now. They can readily see their 16- or 17-y.o. kid with a fuzzy moustache heading off to Philmont or up the AT. Problem is, their vision usually includes themselves standing in the picture, loaded up and ready to go too. You have to correct that vision. If they don't buy into the boy-led philosophy and your plan for getting the troop to that point, they will forever push you into a Webelos III program.

                  I don't agree that the problem with the leadership positions will solve themselves when the boys reach First Class nad need PORs to advance. Sure, the boys will gain the motivation to serve in a positon of leadership just to check off the requirement. But without maturing the troop and -- most importantly -- bringing the parents and leaders along, the positions they take will be hollow. You have to make sure that, 1) the troop committee is willing to get out of the way and let the boys lead, 2) the Scouts in those leadership positions have the basic Scout skills and leadership ability to lead a patrol, and 3) the boys in the patrol are ready to be lead by one of their peers.

                  For a new troop, all three can be long putts. Maybe there is a natural leader in the group, but even a natural leader needs both the scoutcraft and managerial skill to lead the group. The greater issue is the third point, that the patrol may not be ready to be lead by one of their own. Until now in their lives, boys have been lead by folks bigger than they -- parents, teachers, coaches -- folks who have power over them, who can punish them or dole out rewards. Another 11-year-old serving in a leadership position just doesn't fit the mold of what they expect a leader to be. Why should they listen to another 11-year-old kid, just because he won some stupid election or is wearing some silly patch? Well, because you voted for him. And because SOMEONE needs to call the shots and organize the work. That's just how teams operate. Very young Scouts don't have the maturity to understand they need to listen to their leader simply because things work best when they do and because it is in the best interest of the team to do so. Unfortunately for you, learning that lesson is simply a matter of maturity (which you really don't control), and/or just struggling through enough campouts to realize that things work better when we all follow the leader and work together.

                  The best advice I got when I took over as SM was from a old guy who had been SM for over 30 years. He said his biggest challenge is to understand the ability of the boys in leadership positions and moderate the depth of his involvement based on that. You have to evaluate your leaders constantly, not just after each PL election. I now have a great team of senior scouts who run the troop. I can count on these guys regardless of who has the SPL patch on his sleeve. But if we go camping homecoming weekend, the adults best be prepared for a very different troop than the one we camped with the month before. It took me a couple "what the heck happened" campouts to realize when the older guys weren't around that I had to huddle with the ASMs and let them know we need to be more engaged with the PLs than usual.

                  With a young troop, your evaluation may frequently be that you need to be involved to a greater degree than your vision of a Scout-led troop suggests. But remember your vision is the goal. An earlier post mentioned that when you or the other adults have to jump in, do it in a way that you can make a correction then back away. Don't let the adults just shove the boys aside and take over.

                  Starting out with a very young troop is a tough job. I'll admit to screwing up a couple classes of Scouts (my own sons included) until I figured it out. No, they don't mention any of this in the training. Barry and the others have good advice, but no one can figure this out without knowing each of your Scouts and their strengths and weakness. That's why you get the big bucks.

                  Good luck. Have fun. Don't let the parents make you crazy.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Hey all -- OP here reporting back.

                    Thanks for all the feedback. Since elections, we've had two more boys join and are expecting at least 2 more next month, taking our total to 12. Several of the boys have expressed wanting to split into two patrols, for competitive reasons as much as anything, and I'm encouraging that. With two patrols, I feel that we'll get better troop games and maintain patrol identity (since right now I'm just splitting the troop in half to play games).

                    I'm trying to provide more structure tools (agenda templates, "cheat sheets") for the boys, both in PLCs as well as Troop Meetings, and that seems to be helping. My biggest problem right now is the chaos of meetings. I know that everyone says that "if a boy-led Troop Meeting isn't chaotic, you're not doing it right", but there are a few areas where I draw the line, specifically Flag Ceremonies and Closing Vespers. Boys acting up during these times when respect is due rubs me the wrong way, and the other adults are obviously not happy about it as well. I feel like they're trying to "test" the discipline policy to see if I really will call their parents to come get them. I haven't yet, but I think I may have to soon just to show I'm serious.

                    Ah well, growing pains are always fun...

                    Comment


                    • Sentinel947
                      Sentinel947 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Keep doing what you are doing. Your Troop is experiencing positive growth. As for the Flag Ceremonies and Vespers thing, how old are these Scouts?

                  • #12
                    It is the PL's responsibility to keep his boys in line for such things as flag ceremonies. It's time for the PL's to step up and help their boys understand the gravity of the ceremony.

                    I had a patrol with a couple of boys that for a while didn't take the flag ceremony seriously and technically the PL can't discipline the boys, but he didn't bring his patrol forward to step into line for flags until they assumed a respectful attitude for the ceremony. He would also do a mini-uniform inspection. If things weren't correct he didn't bring them forward. They missed 3 flag ceremonies before the cut-ups figured out how serious their PL was and from then on they did very well. As an adult I suspected what was happening, but I didn't say anything and relied on the PL to know what's best for his patrol.

                    Never underestimate the determination of a good leader. Sometimes doing nothing is the best solution as the PL demonstrated so well.

                    I have had over the past 40 years of working with youth in many different settings had very little disciplinary problems. It's not that we haven't had them, I just don't go with normal screaming and yelling approach that most people take when confronted with problems. It's always a problem for the trouble-maker when one doesn't react in ways that they have come to expect. Keep them off balance and guessing as to what might be next.

                    I had a boy that would always say, "I don't have to do what you say." I'm sure it was indicative of what went on at home and school as well. It was quite the mantra until it came time for his SM conference. He told me he needed one for advancement and I simply answered, "I don't have to do what you say." and smiled. Never had a problem with him ever again. Turned out to be a great scout.



                    Comment


                    • #13
                      You will always have scouts who want to test the system, typically younger scouts. The growth part for the scouts is developing respect for the youth leaders. Adults interjecting does not help develop that respect. What you have to do is teach skills to control the situation. That usually works best after the youth leader had a frustrating experience.

                      Our troop works kind of like jblake's in that we teach the leaders to quietly ask the scouts to stop their behavior. If the scout continues, they are then quietly asked to leave or visit the SPL or SM, depending on the situation. In this case, the SPL simply ask the Scout to be escorted out by the SM. The SM usually gives the scout the phone so he could call his parents and explain why they need to pick him up early. What you would typcially see in our troop meeting is the SPL ask the PL to take care of the problem and the PL ask once. If the scout continues, the PL ask the scout to leave. Once in a while a scout will make a scene while not leaving, that's when another patrol leader or older scout will help the PL escort the scout away from the group. The point was always dealing with the problem quietly and moving away from the group. You don't see the adults get involved unless requested. Our scouts got so used to this style of control that they automatically went looking for SPL or SM and confessing their behavior. The SM usually sent the scout back to the SPL and the SPL sent them back to the PL who would talk to them later. It worked pretty well. But developing your PLC and older scouts to respond as a team instead of watching one leader struggle usually squashes bad behavior pretty fast and quietly.

                      Barry

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        My $.02 worth.

                        1) As others have said, get rid of the fluff PORs. you are a patrol sized troop. Nothing wrong with that.

                        2).Your guys are inexpereinced, they need a heavy dose of mentoring by you and other adults who understand the Patrol Method. Keep thoseadults who don't care about the Patrol method out opf the way. Those who are confused, mentor.


                        3) FORGET FCFY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Way to get kids to keep them involved in Scoutins and advance is PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM. Oh and I forgot PROGRAM!. As Green Bar Bill stated, "OUTING is three-fourths of ScOUTING' The folks who came up with FCFY in 1989 didn't get to the root to why scouts who get First Class in a year, and they had time requirements for T-2-1 back then, was PROGRAM.

                        4) If you can get your hands on one, get the 3rd Ed. SM Handbook, vols 1 and 2. Green Bar Bill wrote a program to get a new troop up and running under the patrol method in about 6 months.

                        More later

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          I know this is a somewhat dated post, but I think I have something of value to add here. IHMO your looking at this the wrong way, the impression I get is you see your scouts as puzzle pieces, and are trying to fit them into the frame BSA has provided. In my opinion you're putting the cart before the horse, and you and your scouts could greatly benefit from putting thoughts of elections and offices aside for a short time.

                          Likely the group you have is more like the Little Rascals, or Our Gang should be approached as such. Start with why these young men joined scouts, likely to have fun. Start with fun, a simple question, "alright where do you guys want to go, and what do you want to do there?" Ok, the stage is set, give them lots of leash. Watch and learn, leaders will emerge, someone will end up as official note taker, someone will end up being in charge of gear, another food, ect. Have a couple other adults to help you mentor, ask a few pointed questions here and there, the offices will fill, the scouts will grow and mature, and they will begin respecting your input.

                          Simply, don't force things, let them happen, and let them fail. The fancy titles, and cool patches can come later,


                          This is just my two cents.

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