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  • Different Troops... with different views of patrol method... ??

    I have a group of Webelos that will be bridging next year, and I have begun with my asst. den leader to visit some of the local troops to get a feel of how they are run.

    So far I've noticed two philosphies as to "boy run troop". For example we visited two troops' Court of Honors to see how they are conducted and to compare them.

    The first, I'll call them Troop 1, was 90% set up when we got there 10 minutes early. The Scoutmaster was using more of a Socratic method is getting the boys to complete teh set up... such as, "ok Billy... you have all the chairs up, but where are the SM, ASM, and SPL going to sit?" Then Billy would remember and get the boys to put up chairs. "Johnny, the ice cream for afterwards... how will it be if it sits out for the next hour on the table? do you think it will melt?" Johnny puts it back in kitchen freezer. This SM tells me that their philosophy is that in his 10 yrs of experience that boys need a lot of proding, and encouragement, and guidance, but that they have the boys make their own decisions, plan their own activities, with adult assistance.

    The ceremony has the patrols sitting together, one in each row. The SPL begins the meeting, and appears to have cue cards to assit him. The only roll by the SM is to hand out the rank advancements, and to say some kind words about each boy that has earned a badge. Afterwards is an ice cream social and families socialize, and several leaders come up to me and my ADL to introduce themselves, tell us why they chose this troop, and that to please bring our boys to visit them sometime. The leaders of Troop 1 are former scouts.

    The second troop, I'll call them Troop 2, is also run by former scouts. Their leadership takes a complete hands off philosphy. The SM tells me that they are completely boy run, and he wants them to do it all themselves, and will only occassionally suggestions.

    At the CoH, the room is about 20% set up when we get there 10 minutes early, and there is only one scout and the SM present. The SM stands in the back of the room the entire time. The scouts are spread out throughout the room, sitting with their parents at the school cafeteria tables. The awards were handed out by the SPL with little to no fanfare... At the conclusion of the meeting, most of the boys left within 5 minutes. No leaders came to speak to my ADL or myself.

    We later approached the SM, and asked him about the meeting. He quickly told us that Boy Scouts is not Webelos III's, and boys need to be completely in charge, even if the meetings are disorganized and the SPL and ASPL struggle through it, and they will learn from it.

    Both of these troops consider themselves "boy lead" troops. One is completely hands off, while the other has a "boy lead - adult guided"....

    So my question for discussion... Are they both boy lead? Is either of them doing it wrong ? How much adult involement should be taking place, while still being "boy lead?"

    Futher note: Troop 1 is almost twice as big as Troop 2, and routinely will attract 80% of the Webelos around the area to join them, and tranfers from other Troops... Are they allowing too much adult partisipation?(This message has been edited by westcoastscouter)

  • #2

    No. Not in my opinion. That SM seems to be giving boys as many opportunities to take charge as they can handle, and working to train them to take charge and understand the things that need to be done.

    That's the right approach, in my view. At some time more experienced leaders will be developed and take charge of more responsibilities.

    You COULD just let them fail, which is what the second troop is doing. SOMETIMES failure might be the best method to help boys learn, but too much failure leads to a failed program.

    I think the second Scoutmaster is failing to do the leadership teaching and coaching that needs to be done.

    I'll be interested to read other opinions though, especially that of an African antelope with long curly horns....


    • #3
      One of the hardest challenges in youth leadership is allowing time for reflection.

      For example, one of the dads and I routinely evaluate our tent set-up and configuration. Half the time before breakfast involves determining if we picked the best site, configured bedding in the best possible way, ventilated the tent/shelter too much/too little. It's all part of the ongoing critique to improve our technique. But with the boys (and young women in my crew), I'm a little less interrogative unless it's clear they are eager to have the discussion or we need to forestall death.

      Youth don't know that it's okay to critique, so you have to help the conversation without overwhelming them. And you have to do so in areas that are important to the boys. For your troop 1, maybe presentation is really important, so the SM is helping them reflect as they proceed. For your troop 2, maybe camping nights are really important, so that SM will intervene and ask at a PLC "Hey can we fit another weekend in this month?"

      Of course you only saw the CoH, not the PLC, so there's no way of knowing how pervasive the SM's philosophy is short of asking him. (And of course, the "do you act this way to the boys all the time?" may come off as a bit critical.) And you don't know which priorities resonate best with your boys until they visit each troop's meetings and participates in their activities.


      • #4
        Hmmm.. What is the happy medium?? That is the question.

        Well to begin with, Boy Scouts is not a cookie cutter operation. Everyone can look at the vision, translate the vision, and walk a way with their own interpretation of the vision.

        So is either wrong?.. Not really.. Now for my measuring yardstick Troop #1 may be a little too guided, and Troop #2 a little to hands off. But that is my yardstick.

        Troop #1 the boys did run their own COH, could they have learned by not having the chairs set for Sm, ASM, SPL.. Possibly, it would have been a little embarrassing to do an oops and run to fetch them once the COH started, but they would have lived.. Could the ice cream have melted? Sure, but I think with this I would have "guided" also.. Save the irate parent who paid good time & money to bring it, to see it spoil. I think it is fine to have the awards done by the SM while everything else is by the boys, unless you have a boy awsome at it. Praising the scouts for hard work accomplished shouldn't be ignored.

        Troop #2 : The COH did go on, it was accomplished.. Maybe not as polished as Troop #1, but that is OK.. But, if the SM does not do the awards, more guidence should go into the boy doing the task to make sure the boys do feel recognized.

        The Adults talking to you afterwards, should have been done in Troop #2 as well as #1. This has nothing to do with a boy led program.

        Where the boys sit, may also not really qualify. For all we know both troops had discussions on where the boys sit for COH, and each choose what they do for various reasons.. Although I prefer the patrols sitting together.. Them not sitting together may not be signs of failure, just signs of preference for each group.


        • #5
          Yah, Hiya WestCoastScouter!

          Good on yeh for takin' the boys around, and especially for thinkin' deeply about what yeh see.

          First, let me say that Courts of Honor are sometimes oddities in a troop schedule, eh? You'll find some very youth-run troops where the adults still keep control of the Court of Honor, because they feel it's their way of recognizing the lads. So I'd encourage yeh to visit meetings and an outing before yeh form any lasting impressions.

          One of the hardest things in the world to do as a scouter is to adjust our level of coachin' and mentoring to the lad in front of us. For some kids, some gentle step-by-step coachin' is appropriate. For other kids, remainin' hands-off is appropriate. And that changes from kid to kid and task to task and with the same kid over time.

          If I were to wear my commissioner cap, I might suggest to the SM from Troop 1 that pecking at kids with Socratic questions all the time can be pretty annoying if a boy is tryin' to do something. I would encourage their adults to think perhaps a bit more about their job being to prepare boys for the task ahead of time, rather than micromanage the seating arrangements during the event. Besides, I reckon the SM, ASM, and SPL can roll with it and figure out where to sit if Billy forgets about 'em, and that may be a better learning experience for Billy. Especially if they were to also incorporate a brief discussion/reflection afterward.

          Sometimes it helps to have 'em think of Scouting as a sports game, eh? Once the kids are on the field, only poor coaches are givin' instructions to boys from the sidelines. Your time for mentorin' as a coach is before the game, and after.

          With Troop 2, I think I'd want to see what happened after the COH, eh? It's just fine to let boys try and flail a bit, but yeh have to build in times for mentoring and reflection if you're goin' to get improvement. Roses & Thorns, where yeh help 'em recognize what they did well and what they could do better. Some practice with public speaking through Communications MB. Some more work on duty rosters and timeliness.

          Being hands-off is OK durin' the event, just as a good coach won't be yellin' instructions at the kids durin' the game. But the second half of that is that yeh do have to mentor and train your youth leaders so that they are reasonably well prepared for the tasks which they face, and to push and inspire 'em a bit to do their best. Not to be perfect. Melted ice cream is its own lesson. But they should be well enough prepared to come into the game feelin' confident.

          No surprise on the numbers, of course. If yeh want to be big, just be adult run and glitzy. Most parents are naturally human, and will be attracted to the seeming organization and activity. As any firm on Madison Avenue will tell yeh, the more "packaged" the better.



          • #6
            I prefer the idea of Troop 2 in your example, if the appropriate mentoring is being done between the SM and the PLC but it would hopefully look better.
            At any given time ours could in reality look like either, or make 2 look like a shining example of efficiency, or put 1 to shame with the SM not saying anything to anyone between 11 and 19 unless asked a question or part of the program, and the PLC making a real show of it.
            I've seen our CoH's do exactly that over last several years - when there's fault/blame it's been either mine with a lack of appropriate mentoring - or sometimes it falls on a SPL who just doesn't care but isn't failing hard enough to be removed.
            OTOH, we've had SPL's who were pretty average Scouts until they were elected to office who have shone far and above their previously perceived potential.
            In a boy-led troop I think you will see these variations - the issue for me is to ensure that I am consistent and deliver the mentoring and training I am supposed to and not a part of the problem, and try to tailor the mentoring to the current PLC office holders.


            • #7
              The methods of Scouting are viewed and interpreted differently by every one of us.
              I'm not sure how much you can really tell from what you have seen in both examples that you have seen?
              I personally have used the methods as a goal.
              Something that I try and aim for and work toward.
              Like most goals, nothing happens over night.
              The worst thing that any leader can do is to one day stand up and announce that as of today everything is changed.
              Most of the kids we deal with are not given the opportunity to make decisions or even much input into what goes on in their lives.
              They are told where to be, what to do and so on.
              A Troop with a long history and a Troop culture of following and using the Patrol Method is more than lightly not going to have as many problems using the method and at least will seem to people looking in, have their act together.
              In a perfect world, using a COH as an example.
              The PLC will have met, picked the time and date. Looked at everything that needed to be done and allocated the tasks to each P/L and Patrol.
              On the night the S/P/L, would be the first to arrive and he would oversee that everything was going to plan.
              Oh if it were only true!
              In the real world.
              Someone said it was time for a COH for whatever reason, the time and date were not chosen, the event took place when the location was available. It didn't matter that it was the same night as the rehearsal of the school play and that half the Scouts were going to be late. At the PLC no one planned anything. Everyone took it for granted that everything would just somehow fall into place.
              So come the night, the SPL along with half the P/L's were late and it was a scramble to get things done.
              While some might say that the SM standing back and allowing things to just happen is the right way to go, others will say that there is a time and a place when and where the adults do need to offer some guidance and lend a hand if need be.
              Both might be right but both might be wrong.
              Maybe with hindsight it will show that the planning was flawed from the get go? Maybe it was just one of them times and things that just couldn't be avoided.
              In my book what happened isn't really the big thing, the big thing is the lessons learned from what did happen.
              The people who need to do the learning?
              Both the Scouts and the adults.

              Someone in this forum posted that as a SM they attended the PLC that they sat back and read a book.
              I have never been able to do that and feel sure that I'd feel uncomfortable doing so.
              I have sat back while Scouts have planned things and when it seems that they have left out or forgotten something big, asked opened ended questions. Being very careful not to sound like some kind of a smart Alec.


              • #8
                "I'll be interested to read other opinions though, especially that of an African antelope with long curly horns.... "

                I'd say that neither description has anything to do with the "Patrol Method," although the term is commonly corrupted by "leadership" training to mean "Troop Method" (what the entire Troop does together).

                At best the "Troop Method" includes an active PLC where the Scouts themselves vote on adventures for the entire Troop. The adults point to Patrol Flags, Patrol Competitions, and separate Patrol cooking & cleanup (but squeezed into the confines of a small campground), as evidence of what they think is the "Patrol Method."

                The "Real" Patrol Method is what Patrols do AWAY from the other Patrols:


                You won't know if either Troop uses the "Real" Patrol Method until you go camping with them. Do the Patrols camp Baden-Powell's minimum standard of 150-300 feet apart? Do the mature Patrols take off on separate, unsupervised Patrol Hikes without the other Patrols?

                Both Baden-Powell's "Patrol System" and Green Bar Bill's "Real" Patrol Method require strong Patrol Leaders.

                Lacking in the descriptions of both Troop 1 and Troop 2, is a strong boy-leader in control. Commonly the lack of strong Patrol Leaders is due to too much emphasis on "Leadership Development" theory: Where a constant stream of new leaders (who "need" a Position of Responsibility) are voted in every six months, leaving the Scoutmaster to "mentor" weak leaders as in Troop 1; or with nobody in control, as in Troop 2.

                Yours at 300 feet,

       message has been edited by Kudu)


                • #9
                  The first thing I would say is that a COH is not a good place to judge how boy led a troop is. If 80% of scouting is outing a COH is a small part of the other 20%. If you really want to see who runs a troop go visit them at meal time on a camping trip, since thats not easy to do, the next best time is to go to a PLC, the next best after that is the troop meeting before a campout. You should be looking for is who is actually making decisions.

                  From your description I dont think you can draw much inference about troop 2, it may be that youre seeing a troop enacting what the scouts determined or you may just be seeing a disorganized troop that will look just as disorganized in the field.

                  Troop 1s COH could be more of a window into their soul. Again it could be that youre seeing the boys carry out the plan they conceived. But what would give me pause is that I have seen troops that behaved similarly that swear theyre boy run but when you dig deeper what you find is that the boys carry out a predetermined course of action set up by the adults. As an example, I attended a training course about Annual Program Planning and the presenter described how his planning started with knowing all the campouts the troop always does. I asked what if the boys dont want to do say the fall camporee but would rather plan their own backpacking weekend for October. Well thats not what we do that doesnt look boy-led to me. Similarly I have seen troops where their schedule on a campout is ALWAYS get up at 6:30 and have breakfast done by 8. What if they want to get up a little later? They cant, how will they get done everything they need to get done? Now sure there are times where the activities the scouts plan dictate that kind of schedule, but just as often adolescents are more comfortable with a time table that starts and ends later. The 8-5 day is an adult construct not normally the plan formulated by a bunch of teen age boys. Whose plan is it supposed to be?

                  The Socratic style you describe can be used with both adult led and boy led troops. To me boy run means the scouts are the planners and decision makers. You can socratically help them carry out their plan. But if the scouts are following a script predetermined by the adults this is what weve always done then youre just socratically helping them carry out your plan.


                  • #10
                    HMM I got some mixed emotions on this one.

                    Troop 1

                    One one hand I do like the Socratic Method as it makes the learner think for themselves and come up with solutions on their own with some guidance form the questioner. This is something scouting is suppose to do: allow Scouts to come up with their own solutions and learn from them.

                    BUT I do not like the fct that the leaders are talking to each individual Scout. I am one of those who beleives in the chain of command: SM guides and mentors the SPL, who then gives guidance and directions to the PLs who then have their patrols do their jobs.

                    Troop 2

                    While the Scouts are doign things on their own, making mistakes and learnig from them, Leaders do need to give some guidance to the SPL so that he can do his job. When I have worked with SPLs, OA CCs, and OA committee chairs, I've used this approach alot when I saw some issues.


                    • #11
                      I think both are valid. We do a mix of both, and --I hate to admit--some Webelos III at times. I like the Socratic method and sometimes tell the boys "how can you solve this?" and it works a lot of the time. Sometimes we let them do it all without much help and they do a pretty good--not great--job more than half of the time.


                      • #12
                        My son joined our local version of "Troop 1" when he crossed from Webelos. He was ok with that. He had an ok time. Then when he got involved with an after school activity that conflicted with troop meetings, he transferred to "Troop 2."

                        The decision to transfer was strictly a scheduling thing and I wouldn't have thought the differences were that big, but the difference in his experience is amazing. The boys in Troop 2 have a bigger ownership of the troop. They take more responsibility for the advancement of younger scouts. The SM may need to point out that Little Johnny is still Tenderfoot, but once he does, Joey Life Scout gets right on it.

                        My son was a Tenderfoot when he left the first troop and within a month he was First Class. He'd done most of the work before, but no one in "Troop 1" could be bothered to sit down with him to discuss his progress and sign things off... he'd asked repeatedly, but didn't pursue it when he was put off for later. "Troop 2" didn't put him off for later because the older boys are almost always available for the younger scouts. My son is now a Life Scout, while the boys from his patrol in "Troop 1" are mostly 2nd and 1st class after three years. My younger son is 1st class and the boys who crossed over to "Troop 1" around the same time he did are Scout or Tenderfoot.

                        AND when "Troop 1" needed more volunteers to work on an Eagle project, they called "Troop 2" because they know that if the boys can be there, they will be.

                        Are meetings unorganized? Usually, but they eventually get the job done. Are the CoHs chaotic? Sometimes, but usually the boys are prepared and there is an adult Advancement Chair, who usually has all the background work done.

                        There are those who argue that "Troop 1" gives the boys more experience working with adults outside their families and being able to assert oneself (which was my son's greatest problem) is an important skill to learn. I will grant you that and I will grant you that "Troop 1" is a perfectly fine troop for many boys. But my son interacts with adults frequently in merit badge meetings, with the OA, in BORs, and most recently, at district level meetings that he has gone to. He learned to assert himself when he realized that when he spoke, the other scouts and the adults listened and considered what he had to say.

                        IMO, as long as the adults oversee health and safety concerns, the more hands off, the better. If the COH is running late, the awards are given out of order, they forget their lines, the scoutmaster has to find his own chair, in the end the job gets done. Next time, the boys remember the things they forgot this time because they'll have seen what happens when they don't remember.


                        • #13
                          This is a great subject and a worthy discussion. I found myself struggling to define boy run when I became the District Membership Chairman while at the same time the passionate Scoutmaster of a boy run Troop. Our district had 19 troops at the time and virtually every one of them was by their adult leaders definition a boy run program. We had one boy run troop that struggled to hold on to a dozen scouts every year as well as a SM. On the other end was a boy run troop 180 scouts strong that required every first year scout to attend a MB class before every troop meeting until they earn a minimum number of badges.

                          As the membership chairman, I was responsible for the quality of the membership recruitment of each unit, so I got to observed most of the 19 troops pretty close to learn how their programs performed.

                          What I learned from them over the years is that boy run is defined within the abilities and limitations of the adults providing the program. Fro example, while most adults admit that a boy scouting experience develops character, few can really explain why. Can you? Many other adults could write how-to books for scouts who want to be Eagle by age 14 and many other adults are experts of living out of a back pack. Each of those adults manage a boy run program. Are they wrong in their definition? You need to ask their scouts.

                          I been a little frustrated in past years when I read on this forum from scouters who vilify adult leaders because they dont run their boy run troop under the same definition as their own. One scouter here has gone so far as to call those adults of which he disagrees bullies. While I have a much defined idea of a boy run program, God balance my criticism of other adults by putting me in the position of measuring the satisfaction of scouts in other troops. And while I admit membership can have broad definitions of performance, I through other scouting activities was able to personally speak with scouts from other troops and learn how they felt about their troop. I found that while their troop may not function under my personal definition of boy run, the scouts still enjoyed being involved in their boy run troop. And while I felt and still feel that our troop boy run program is the best at developing leaders, I had the pleasure of working many outstanding youth leaders from other troops.

                          After three years of being a membership chairman, I traded some of my pride for humility and drew a lot more respect for adults just willing to take on the task of guiding our sons toward the goal of making moral decision based from the Scout Law. Most didnt even know that was what they were supposed to do, but the scouts and their families didnt care. The scouts wanted to be part of that troop.

                          I concluded that families really do need to shop for the troop that fits their style. Some families need more security on campouts than our boy run program is willing to provide. Some need more promise of advancement and some families want a lot of out door activities. Some just want merit badge resources. Our they really that far off from boy run?

                          Thats not to say that I didnt give advice and guidance to struggling troops seeking help to develop a better boy run program. Hey, if they asked, I am a willing passionate boy run expert who wants to share the wealth. But lets face it, arent we all basically ignorant parents volunteering to work with your sons? Are we supposed to be experts boy run leaders? Well ok I am an expert, but Im still not sure about Kudu or Beaveah.

                          I love this scouting stuff.



                          • #14

                            Yes, yes --shop around! That is what I always encouraged my Webes to do.

                            Within 10 minutes of my house:
                            One that is very spit and polish and BSA by the numbers. A very legit Eagle Mill but Boy Run.
                            One that is less so but does a lot of camping and aquatic activities. Boy Run.
                            One that is a reinvigorating very Catholic unit. Kind of a start up.
                            One that never turns in BSA paperwork, parties a lot, and probably has knife throwing contests at COH. Savages but camp twice a month ALL year.

                            Each different in style.


                            • #15
                              Bottom line: It REALLY pays to visit different troops and/or crews to see how they operate.

                              One of my WB buddies had his beading at his troop's CoH, so I got to see how his troop operated. It was radically different from our troop's. It reminded me more of my childhood troop. It leaned much more on advancements being distributed by patrols.

                              Now, I'm not going to go back and say, "That's it, y'all are gonna get your act together." But maybe at a campfire or by the shoreline I'll "float some balloons" to the SPL or the scout who needs to emcee and event for communications MB. I'm sure half of them will get "popped", but one or two may stick.

                              Like Kudu said, PM is a function of strong PLs. Which I think is in turn a function of the SM nurturing the boys who are coming up as leaders. (And being courageous enough to do that 300' thing!)