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Pros and Cons of the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster position

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  • Pros and Cons of the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster position

    This is my first "real" post in the forums so if it is in the wrong place, please let me know and I will repost in a different section. In April, I will be starting up a new Boy Scout Troop. I will have 11 boys, none with more than 1 year experience as a Boy Scout. I have been approached by a young man who will turn 16 in April who asked about joining the troop as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. He is an Eagle Scout who has previously been a SPL in his troop. He has been attending a troop out of town for the last 5 years as he wanted to be in a faith based troop (only troop in town prior to mine has been more secular in nature). Due to issues with travel, he wants to try out a troop closer to home. I know this young man’s family, and he is a good kid with strong moral character. That being said, I have no problem having him in the troop. I am just curious about everyone’s experience with having a JASM. What are the pros and cons you have seen with this position? I have read differing opinions but thought I would ask the group.

  • #2
    Apothecus,

    I'm a SM with 30 years in the field with Scouts. There is only one POR more worthless than SPL and that's JASM. It's too generic. I would instead focus this scout into a specific area of need. If you want him to wear the patch JASM, fine, but define his roles more specifically.

    If I were in your position, I would make the exception of SPL and have him operate as a SPL/TG/Instructor for the two patrols. He could TG the two new patrols in the patrol-method, while instructing and supporting the 2 PL/APL teams in leadership. Maybe he's the JASM assigned with developing the patrol-method for the troop or something like that.

    My observation for JASM has been in troops where a scout will Eagle and then "retire" with a neat patch and no responsibilities. Is it any wonder they drop out?

    So, what value is it to have the most experienced boy sitting around waiting for the SM to give him something to do (ASM), when he can have his sleeves rolled up helping the young boys benefit from his knowledge and experience.

    I just started a new troop of Webelos cross-overs and would love to have your situation. But, alas, no older boys wanted in on the project. But if I did, he would be working with the boys as the TG, training the boys in the patrol-method as Instructor and developing patrol leadership with TLT/JLT and Green Bar Bill training type program as SPL. Then he's there to support the boys in any and all needs they may have at any given time. Then as SM you can step back, tweak here and there and have a real boy-led program.

    I am pretty much a functional oriented SM. POR patches really don't mean a whole lot to me unless the boy is really doing the job. I find most just get elected/assigned a position and then wait out their time to get credit for advancement.

    Stosh

    Comment


    • #3
      It's a useful position for Senior Scouts when you want to open up Instructor or Guide positions for younger Scouts. But it's most useful when your unit is low on Assistant Scoutmasters. Use a JASM for special projects and to mentor younger leaders. Your question is fine here and doesn't need to be moved or reposted.
      Last edited by Sentinel947; 02-01-2014, 10:28 AM.

      Comment


      • Sentinel947
        Sentinel947 commented
        Editing a comment
        But for such a young small troop why have him as a JASM? Why not PL? Or guide?

    • #4
      The JASM was the scout's suggestion. My initial thought was for him to be a guide or instructor. I told him I wanted to give his suggestion some consideration before giving him an answer. I want the boys to choose their PL rather than having him fulfill that role. With a young troop, it would be great to have an older, experienced Scout in the mix. I just need to find a role for him that will keep him interested, engaged, and challenged (I don't think PL will do that) but also help me with developing a new troop and mentoring these young scouts.

      Comment


      • Sentinel947
        Sentinel947 commented
        Editing a comment
        I think with such a small troop he might be much more influential in being a Troop Guide than a JASM. If he comes from a larger troop where there is more of a need.

        I think with 11 Scouts you have enough Scouts for 2 Patrols. + your senior Scout as a Troop Guide/or Instructor. If he was a JASM you would end up needing him to fill those roles anyways. Titles aren't terribly important. More importantly is figuring out what roles YOU need him to play and what roles HE wants to play. Then make the title match as closely as possible.

        Don't get to focused on what title he's gonna have, but focus on what the troop needs and what he wants to do.

    • #5
      You didn't say the age of the other scouts, but if they are young (13 and under) I think JASM is the appropriate position because he really is more of an adult than older scout. I also think a 16 year old scout with his experience needs to be used as an adult to be challenged to grow. You and this scout could work as an equal team to learn the ropes of scout mastering. But don't assume that both of you will grow equally with the program. I have been in a similar situation and the clear difference between you and this scout is your experience as an adult in real life situations, and experience as a responsible parent. Trust me this young man has much to gain from your maturity. I would approach him as his mentor to grow as an adult, and a team member of developing you new troop. Remember, your are still his scoutmaster, but strength in your humility will help both him and the program mature to their full potential. I wish you luck in your new adventure. It will change your life and last you forever. Barry

      Comment


      • #6
        Back in my day, JASMs did guide the troop. Since the boy is all about faith-based stuff, maybe he can be the troop chaplain's aid. He could do a presentations for boys and parents about religious awards. Whatever, put him to work and encourage him to chip away at his next palm.

        Comment


        • #7
          Sounds like he wants to lead, which is a good thing.

          I'd ask him to be the first SPL in the new troop. As a graduated SPL, his experience would be invaluable. He can train the new PLs, and set them up for SPL duties in the future. Then he can get the JASM patch.

          Just a hunch, but I doubt he would be very motivated by being anything that isn't "line" leadership. Probably the only reason he's asking to be JASM is he sees it as a natural progression toward SM, and something a graduated SPL would do.

          For a new troop, a strong SPL is more important than a JASM. Once a new generation of PLs/SPLs is ready, he'll be ready for JASM.

          As a scout, I found the SPL duties very challenging yet rewarding. The SM did not interact with the scouts much, except at strategic times. He was there at the start of the meeting, and the close. In the outdoors, he stayed in the background. When I moved to JASM, I was training the new SPL and the SM was training me to be an ASM. Worked out pretty good.
          Last edited by desertrat77; 02-02-2014, 11:14 PM.

          Comment


          • desertrat77
            desertrat77 commented
            Editing a comment
            Right now, no one in the troop will care much about the patch. But if the new scouts see a senior scout as SPL, and what he brings to the troop, they can attach some credence to the patch. Something for them to aspire to, and establish troop culture.
            Last edited by desertrat77; 02-02-2014, 01:19 AM.

          • qwazse
            qwazse commented
            Editing a comment
            Still not getting your point. If the scouts see the JASM patch, and the boy is a stand-up guy, won't it lend credence to THAT patch?

            If the boy turns out to be a slacker, doesn't that mar either patch to a degree?

            Obviously, I'm showing my bias. What I think this troop needs now is one PL and APL, and the older boy as their troop guide/recruiter/instructor. If their numbers double anytime soon, they can decide which of those three boys are best for SPL and who among them and these other boys should be PLs.

          • desertrat77
            desertrat77 commented
            Editing a comment
            In my experience, the SPL works closely with the PLs and scouts, and the JASM much less so--he is a graduated SPL who is mentoring the SPL and is learning the ropes to become an ASM.

            After reading Kudu's post earlier, I've revised my thoughts--focus on building a patrol first...the PL role is the most important at this point.

            Whatever plan the troop follows, correctly establishing the roles and responsibilities of the scout leadership positions is vital. A young scout will know what to aspire to.

        • #8
          1) Most important: Start a cuss jar. The word "Troop" costs a dollar.

          Apothecus, you owe $8 for your first post alone

          2) Next on the "To Do" List: The best feature of the current Patrol Leader Handbook is the spiral binding, which allows you to tear out all the Wood Badge anti-Hillcourt disinformation!

          So turn to Chapter 3. "Your Patrol and Your Troop" and rip out all those nasty pages:

          Page 35 with the FAKE Baden-Powell Troop Method quote.
          Page 36-37 with the Troop Organizational Charts.
          Page 38 with the Troop Method six month elections.
          Page 39-40 with the Troop Method "Three Types of Patrols."
          Page 41-46 with ALL those pretty Troop Method patches.

          3) To paraphrase Qwazse, what you have is a 12 Scout Patrol. So why not use Hillcourt's "Real Patrol" Method?


          a) Use your cuss jar money to get a copy of Hillcourt's Handbook for Patrol Leaders. About $4 on AddAll:

          http://preview.tinyurl.com/kw4v2a9


          b) If you can trust the 16yo, have him camp his Patrol Baden-Powell's 300 feet from the adult Patrol, to simulate the handbook's real Patrol Overnights (Chapter 7). Have him lead his Patrol Hikes without adult helicopters on your monthly campouts, to simulate the handbook's real Patrol Hikes (Chapter 6).

          c) Try Hillcourt's Patrol Leader course: "Intensive Training in the Green Bar Patrol"

          http://inquiry.net/patrol/green_bar/index.htm


          4) The only real way to train your future Patrol Leaders is for them to experience a "Real Patrol," and you have a rare opportunity to do so.


          The "Real Patrol" Method is outdoor adventures led by your most competent Scout as Patrol Leader.


          Everything else is the Troop Method.
          Last edited by Kudu; 02-02-2014, 11:49 AM.

          Comment


          • Kudu
            Kudu commented
            Editing a comment
            So the "current BSA program" is designed for adults who favor non-swimmer lifeguards.

            We certainly do agree on the big picture of Scouting. :-/

          • Twocubdad
            Twocubdad commented
            Editing a comment
            Or maybe after the troop swim gets redirected to the splash pad, the boys will learn something about the consequences of their choices. Learning occurs.

          • Kudu
            Kudu commented
            Editing a comment
            Your operative term being "TROOP swim."

        • #9
          As Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramiez ocne sang, "B-A-L-A-N-C-E, balance...." While I agree that the scouts need to elect their own leaders, once reason why I am glad my son joined the troop he did, if you only have 1 experienced scout, then you may want to appoint him as the leader for 6 months with the job to get troop started so that they can do it for themselves. Then in 6 months time, IF the patrol wants a new PL, they can do an election.

          IMHO, a PL needs to the knowledge, skills, and abilities to run the patrol. Will he screw up, of course he will. Will he learn from his mistakes, I sure hope so. But taking a brand new Scout, and making him a patrol leader IMHO is setting up the patrol for failure, even with a troop guide to mentor. One reason why I am for mixed age patrols that allow "older" scouts in the patrol to buddy up and mentor the new guys.

          But once the new guys are capable, and they want to elect their own leaders, they need to.

          Comment


          • #10
            Originally posted by apothecus View Post
            This is my first "real" post in the forums so if it is in the wrong place, please let me know and I will repost in a different section. In April, I will be starting up a new Boy Scout Troop. I will have 11 boys, none with more than 1 year experience as a Boy Scout. I have been approached by a young man who will turn 16 in April who asked about joining the troop as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. He is an Eagle Scout who has previously been a SPL in his troop. He has been attending a troop out of town for the last 5 years as he wanted to be in a faith based troop (only troop in town prior to mine has been more secular in nature). Due to issues with travel, he wants to try out a troop closer to home. I know this young man’s family, and he is a good kid with strong moral character. That being said, I have no problem having him in the troop. I am just curious about everyone’s experience with having a JASM. What are the pros and cons you have seen with this position? I have read differing opinions but thought I would ask the group.

            We've had two JASM's in our troop. Both have been worthless. I would suggest trying him out as Troop Instructor first. JASM implies that he's above the rest of the boys. I don't think that's a good thing until he proves himself.

            Comment


            • #11
              Can anyone lay out the history of the Troop Guide and Instructor positions? I don't recall them being available when I was a scout.

              Comment


              • perdidochas
                perdidochas commented
                Editing a comment
                Not sure about the history of them, but the Troop Guide is primarily there to teach the younger scouts the basic scout skills. The Troop Instructor does the same for the whole troop.

            • #12
              I came from a larger troop. We had JASM's, but it was the SM's judement call on who was made JASM. Obviously, they have to be 16. Our troop did a pretty good job of retaining older scouts. Just being 16, didn't qualify you for being a JASM. For the most part, our JASM's were guys who had moved up the leadership ranks thru the years from APL to PL to ASPL to SPL. Most had been a TG to our new scout patrols. They were Eagle or just a couple of steps away from it. At 16, many of them had taken on jobs to pay for cars and couldn't be at every meeting or every campout, but they still had a desire to be active in the troop and it's leadership. Bumping a 16 year old kid who has been SPL back to a patrol member with a 12 year old PL is a quick way to get rid of experienced scouts with a lot of mentoring to give. They never told the SPL what to do, but were always a good sounding board for the troop leadership. They also would do special assignments. It is a worthy position that can help retain older scouts who have "bben there and done that" multiple times over. You trained them and trusted them, now put that talent you cultivated to work doing something that will keep them engaged and strengthen your program.

              Comment


              • desertrat77
                desertrat77 commented
                Editing a comment
                Well said....

            • #13
              JASM in our troop tends to be "emeritus" status for former SPLs/Eagles still active in the troop who still want to be active and contribute. I try to treat them as -- surprisingly -- as junior Scoutmasters and give them mentoring responsibilities along the same lines as the adult ASM. Usually they choose jobs which interest them and those responsibilities at which they have excelled. The fellow who was a great Troop Guide may choose to work with the current TGs helping them plan their program with the new Scouts. Typically, I let them write their own job description.

              From what you've written, perhaps this young man would like to work with the Chaplain's Aide? (And I understand that technically the Chaplain is supposed to be an adult, but a new troop with 11 member I also imagine you may not have every adult position filled.)

              The goal should be to keep the older Scouts interested and engaged. One of the best ways to do that is allowing them to write their own ticket.

              Comment


              • Horizon
                Horizon commented
                Editing a comment
                This is how I use the position as well. JASM are over 16 Eagles who want to give back, and are ready to take on more responsibility as well. They often have served as PL and SPL, but don't want that position again.

            • #14
              Originally posted by Twocubdad View Post
              Or maybe after the troop swim gets redirected to the splash pad, the boys will learn something about the consequences of their choices. Learning occurs.
              Your operative term being "TROOP swim."

              If Apothecus moved his only BSA Lifeguard to a non-swimming "Swimmer Emeritus" status so as to teach first year boys afraid of the water how to be six-month lifeguards (or maybe to Chaplain's Aide to pray for them), then the adults would step in the same as we do now (when we dumb the Patrol Method down to "21st century" JASM/SPL/ASPL/TG/TI dominated splash pad camping).

              Because in the Troop Method, Patrol Leaders are the fifth (5th) tier in leadership talent (JASM->SPL->ASPL->TG->TI->PL).

              The common consequences of moving the most qualified Patrol Leaders to JASM are the result of the adult-imposed six month "Controlled Failure" structure, not the boys' choices. The pretend "learning that occurs" is just the attribution to a lack of EDGE and/or Scout Law, what is in reality the natural consequence of the Troop Method.

              The goal should be to keep the older Scouts interested and engaged. The best way to do that is to use the "Real Patrol" Method, where they write their own tickets.

              Comment


              • #15
                As the new Scoutmaster of a Troop with four (4) active Scouts, I recruited 15 sixth-graders and put them together with a sixteen-year-old Natural Leader (for whom the original four Scouts had refused to vote).

                My solution to the common adult-imposed mess that this thread represents, was to take literally everyone's observation (back when Scouting was popular), that


                When boys gang together, a Natural Leader always emerges.



                I simply refused to allow ANY job description to the Natural Leader (or assign them to a Patrol) "until the next scheduled election"...

                ...which was six months away

                On the first campout I suggested to the older Scout, "Why don't you take the new Scouts and find a place about a football field away from the rest of the Troop to set up your tents?"

                In the morning I said "Why don't you go take them for a hike?"

                This Natural Leader had never experienced the "Real Patrol" Method before, but it clicked right away.

                This stuff is not as complicated as those "Junior Leader Organizational Charts" make it out to be.

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