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Developing a Good SPL

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  • #16
    >>So what your saying is your troop elects an SPL for 12 months and they know that the first 6 months is a learning period. After the 12 months they are out because another one is waiting in the wings. So you don't allow the Scouts to reelect their SPL. Why?

    Seems like something an adult would construct not a 12 year old boy. Wouldn't that be against the idea that the Scouts can elect their own leader and can reelect them as many times as they would like?


    • #17
      (This message has been edited by Engineer61)


      • #18

        I have had 10 years as Scoutmaster, and over 18 years with the troop as an adult leader. Also served on District and Council positions.

        Your right it does take, on average, 6 months for an SPL to figure out how to do the job.

        I guess you could use the 6 months as an ASPL to learn the job of an SPL, however normally an ASPL doesn't get enough responsibility to actually learn the SPL job. So my question is, I guess, how do you actually turn the 1st 6 month ASPL job into something substantial enough to really turn it into on the job training for SPL so that there isn't a learning curve.

        Getting a boy to commit to 12 months is a big commitment so I can see why your PLC didn't like the idea of a 12 month commitment.(This message has been edited by bnelon44)


        • #19
          Very Good, thank you.



          • #20
            I added a bit to my post.


            • #21
              >>Getting a boy to commit to 12 months is a big commitment so I can see why your PLC didn't like the idea of a 12 month commitment.


              • #22
                Yep, 6 months is usually how long it takes to figure out the SPL job. The program has always been that the Scouts in the troop can reelect the SPL if they want to have him around a bit longer in that position. That is the problem I have with the ASPL to SPL forced progression. It forces out the SPL prematurely.


                • #23
                  Yes, it forces progression. And because they dont have to worry about re-election, it also lets them take some risks that they wouldnt if they had to stay popular.

                  Nobody's ever asked to change the way it is, frankly. The ASPL's I've spoken with like the safety net, and I've yet to hear someone really ask to stick around. By that time, they're usually ready for a troop guide or instructor role which has higher stature and less pressure.

                  Being boy led, they're free to chage things up when there's a will or a need.(This message has been edited by Eolesen)


                  • #24
                    >>By that time, they're usually ready for a troop guide or instructor role which has higher stature and less pressure.


                    • #25
                      I found this exchange interesting and eye opening. It is true that our perspectives are colored by our experiences, and I am suspecting that some of the differences in views expressed on this board about developing a good SPL, and advancement, and POR's in general are the result of those experiences.

                      Eagledad describes a program where the average SPL is 16 years old. Bnelon commented about a program where SPL held a position for 12 months wouldn't have been designed by a 12 yo boy. Bnelon didn't say the average age of his SPL's, so this comment is general.

                      In a program that Eagledad describes, I suspect it is unlikely that a boy that is less than 15 years old would consider running for SPL. The boys see the effort that they put into it, and they realize they aren't ready. The SPL position builds on skills developed when they were 13 and 14, they observed older scouts doing the job and being successful and making a difference. The holder of the position is respected for his skills.

                      In a program where a 13 or 14 YO is elected as SPL, it is unlikely that a 16 YO would consider running for it. They see that the SPL has difficulty leading a troop and running a meeting, the SPL likely doesn't have the skills as yet as a 16 YO would so really can't without a lot of adult intervention. Plus the 16YOs already have the POR completed for advancement, so why take that headache?

                      This is where I think that the directive of FCFY and star within 2 years falls short. It rushes advancement and doesn't let the skills needed by a good SPL to develop naturally.


                      • #26
                        Yah, my experience is very much da same as what Eagledad reported, eh?

                        There are real qualitative differences between da two approaches, and VeniVidi is right, FCFY tends to be associated with troops that have young/immature SPLs . Those young folks tend to think in terms of rotations, filling slots, followin' da job description, etc. Or maybe the adults in their troops think that way. I've never quite figured out which is chicken and which is egg. They're paintin' by the numbers in terms of da program materials, but paintin' by the numbers always gets yeh a poor quality artwork, eh?

                        Da 12-month term kids who are older tend to share duties as SPL and ASPL. They're friends and they cover for each other and work together more. In da units I know with this approach, they are almost co-SPLs, and other troop positions are also strong team-members and contributors, like Eagledad's QM position.

                        The "elections" also tend to be sort of pro forma. It's not like da popularity contest thing. More like the kids sort of work the positions out on their own by consensus and the elections simply ratify the consensus already reached. There are usually other ways where they have stopped painting strictly by the numbers and instead are usin' the program in its general principles to create better art.



                        • #27
                          What surprises me the most is the definition of SPL varies from one troop to another.

                          I have often heard that the SPL is "in charge of the troop". Well, I have talked to a lot of experienced teachers who have had 4 years of professional training and maybe a few years of experience and they will all tell you having 20+ students at one time is stretching the limits of their abilities. So why then do we take 14-18 year old, inexperienced, untrained young men and toss them into such a situation and expect anything from them other than failure???

                          The PL is responsible for the welfare of 5-7 other boys. That is a reasonable limit for most boys of that age.

                          The SPL is responsible for the welfare of PL's! Not their patrols. 6 PL's means one could have a troop of 48. 8 PL's could have a troop of 64. Not many troops reach these kinds of numbers and still the SPL will not be overwhelmed because he trusts the PL's he is "in charge" of. The ASPL would be the "PL" for the QM, Scribe, TG, etc. members. If worked out no one should have more than 8 people they are to lead. So you have 16 boys in PORs? Multiple Instructors and DC's? along with the rest? Well, who says there is only one ASPL?

                          If the SPL is responsible for all the boys in the troop, why have patrol leaders? Their authority is usurped by the SPL, which is often usurped by the SM anyway.

                          The SM gets 15 ASM's together and they run the show for the most part. As adult-led they demonstrate "leadership" by shear numbers and often are quite sucessful. But they tend to burn out rather quickly.

                          But if one ever wants to have the boys actually lead, the numbers have to be limited to reasonable amounts so the boys actually have a chance to be successful.


                          • #28
                            Not much to add to this except: pick your battles. Boys (and most people) get overwhelmed with a laundry list of goals. Pick one thing, then at your conference ask "Hey, by next week [end of the month if you think it will need it] can I see you do more of X instead of Y?" This probably means you will see no more than a half dozen changes by the time your next election rolls around unless your really lucky and find the 'linchpin' that precipitates a flood of improvement.

                            And, stand by your man. Your committee [possibly even some of your boys] may be impatient with him. Your reply "Well, the boys are now going to learn how to work under a less-than-qualified leader. Let's see how they step up." If you've got an ASM who is good with the nuturing and coaching, team up with him/her to back you up - especially if the boy sees himself as inferior. It'll be one thing if he hears it from you that he improved something. It will be another if your ASM sees it too.


                            • #29
                              There are no short cuts in developing an SPL. If you need one ASAP you need a heavy dose of mentoring and coaching.

                              Based upon my expereince and observations, developing a good SPL starts the nite that Webelos enters the meeting room and he sees the SPL runnign the meeting, the instructors and older scouts teaching, and the PLs keepign their patrols under control. That's Step 1

                              Now my troop was one of the guinea pigs with the New Scout Patrol prior to it becoming a BSA recommendation in 1989. My troop was a traditional troop and the NSP failed both times we tried it: in 1986 as part of the experiment and again in 1990 when we had a new troop tag along with us.

                              So Step 2 is using Mixed aged patrols in which "expereinced" Scouts, i.e. your Tenderfoots, Second Class and First Class Scouts, buddy up with new scouts in their patrol and work with them. It gives the T-2-1 group responsibility and some expereince workign with others. It also gives them ownership of the troop and program.

                              Step 3 is making sure you use the Patrol Method by giving the PLs responsibility. 'TRAIN 'EM. TRUST 'EM, LET 'EM LEAD!"] is what Green Bar Bill Woudl say.

                              Step 4 is giving them troop level responsibilities, ie QM, Librarian, Instuctor, etc. if they do not get elected SPL. Again it gives them ownership and more prep for being SPL.

                              Step 5 is repeated after every step mentor and guide the youth in thier various responsibilites. Doesn't have to be an adult doignthe mentor. It may mean a lot more and be taken to heart is a respected older scout does it. Heck I still remember the words of wisdom my SPL gave me in regards to "how do I knwo when to sign off in his book?"

                              Step 6 STAY OUT OF THEIR WAY AND LET THEM FAIL!!! Scouting is one of the few places left where kids can lscrew up and learn form their mistakes. It seems like parents are getingmor eand more invovled and everyone wins a trophy now adays.

                              Ok off the soapbox now


                              • #30
                                A bit of the problem is the scope of responsibility for the SPL. Does he run the troop or does he run the PLC? If the troop has one patrol and a PL and SPL, there's basically nothing for him to do. There really isn't an PLC. If he runs the troop, then all he does is interfere with the PL of the patrol. Until there are 3-4 patrols and he is solely responsible for the PLC, then there's nothing really for him to do. On the other hand if he's trying to run a troop of 30+ boys, then he's in over his head as this is an impossible task for anyone, including professional teachers.

                                When one says they have a "weak" SPL, the first thing I think of is what are they comparing weak to?

                                For me an SPL is basically the equivalent to a TG for PL's. If he works with the PL's to make them great, then a "strong" SPL isn't really necessary.