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  • New, clueless, and want to do right by the boys...

    Good Afternoon:

    I posted earlier about switching Troops with my son due to inactivity, disorganization, and no program. We have since followed your advice and notified the parents. So far, I have two who said they are definetly going with us and one who is a "maybe". But...given that that is 3 our of the only 5 that are active, I'm thinking my "maybe" will be right along.

    Switching gears, I agreed to be ASM since there is a need and a vacancy and I'm really excited to be back in a leadership role and working directly with the boys. I was CM for 3 years and have that program down-pat. I can run a PACK with my eyes closed...but I am pretty clueless on how to CORRECTLY run a Troop using the Patrol method.

    Can anyone give me a brief run-down of how to adequately run a program like this? I was never a Scout myself and feel like I'm at a disadvantage. Here are a few things I really need insight into if possible:

    -Courts of Honor
    -Board of Review (for each Rank)
    -Scoutmaster Conference
    -Duties of the ASM (me)
    -Timeline each of the above
    -Anything else that I may not know enough about to know that I don't know :-)

    Thank you for your help!

  • #2
    More than we can give you here. Seek out and attend training for your position ASAP...I believe ASMs take Scoutmaster Specific...and the outdoor portion, which is called by various names across the country, but usually some variation of "Outdoor Leader Skills". When you are "fully trained" for your position, you can think about Woodbadge in your future. Until you can get training scheduled, find a copy of the Scoutmaster's Handbook and Patrol Leaders Handbook...about any version will do...and start reading. Enjoy!

    PS: and start attending BS Roundtable if you can...if done right, those can be a valuable training tool.


    • #3

      Welcome aboard. I have been SM for about five years now, and have learned some of what you are asking. For me, the biggest difference between the Cub scout and the Boy scout program, and one that many Cub Scout leaders miss in the transition, is what we call the Patrol Method. Since the age of Cubs is 10 and below, adults have to be the leaders, the planners, and the facilitators. BUT, this is not the case with the boys aged 11 to 17. As these boys get older, they are ready to take on the responsibility of leading the group. Some boys may need extra time, but others can, and should, be placed as leaders and given a degree of authority to lead the group. Cub Leaders never have to hand over the reigns of control to the boys, but the Boy Scout adult leaders are expected to.

      The boys are divided into groups of 6 to 8 boys, called patrols, where they elect one from among themselves to be the Patrol Leader. This kid is to lead. What do the adults do? The adults are to train and coach this boy, giving him the mental tools to be the leader.

      The outdoor program is the perfect vehicle for teaching the patrol leader (PL) how to lead a group. Consider the all important activity of eating during a campout. The PL meets with his patrol, where he leads them in planning the menu. They have to plan 4 to 5 meals, and I usually encourage them to plan meals that have items from the four food groups included. (I usually provide a camp cook book the boys can look through to find ideas and recopies.) The patrol then uses the menu to make a list of groceries that have to be purchased. (This step takes the longest, as scouts have not had to do it before). The PL collects money, usually 10 to 12 dollars per scout, and designates a patrol member to purchase the food on the grocery list. The patrol member purchases the food, perhaps with the aid of his mother, and brings the stuff to the camping trip. The patrol leader guides the patrol in preparing the meals, and the patrol happily eats. This may not sound fancy, but believe me, when a PL can lead a patrol in this activity, so that it comes off without a hitch, this is HUGE. The boy grows in confidence, and experience teaches him so much.

      Unfortunately, many adults, especially former Cub leaders, will step in, if they see a flaw in the way the boys are doing this, and do it themselves. They may claim that they are just instructing the boys, but they are taking control where they should not.

      An ASM watching over a patrol activity may ask the PL if he can examine the menu and grocery list after they are produced. If he sees a flaw, he should point out to the PL the problem (preferably when he has a moment alone with the PL) and suggest an action for the PL to take. This is coaching. The hardest thing is to give control back to the PL and let him follow his own judgement. If the PL is going to fail, then the ASM will LET HIM FAIL. The PL will learn more by failing than anything else. The ASM must realize that in scouting we have an environment where it is safe to make mistakes and reap the rewards. The boys grow in knowledge and maturity through it. The only time to step in is when imminent danger to life or limb is encountered.

      Eating is only one patrol activity. There is also camp setup, fire building, camp games, troop campfire program, worship services, and even advancement activities, that the PL can lead a patrol in doing. I encourage you to read page 12 of the Scoutmasters Handbook, the beginning of the chapter on "The Boy Led Troop". There it says that "Empowering boys to be leaders is the core of Scouting."


      • #4
        I might also suggest sounding out your new SM over a cup of coffee and finding out what his vision is. After all while you are there for the boys, you'll also cause no end of trouble if you step in and start overruling him, whether under or over the table.

        Find out what he sees, see what the troop does, and also go to training. Have more cups of coffee with the SM and show him what the book says if it's different than how you do it. But remember that if you undercut him, you need to be ready to wear the hat and carry the responsibility, and fix any bad feelings you stirred up in the process.


        • #5
          I would recommend, backing off and doing absolutely nothing till you are asked by troop leadership.

          You are new to the troop and Boy Scouting..

          I would get fully trained for my position. IOLS, this is scouting and ASM/SM position specific.

          Watch the culture of the troop. Don't go in all gang busters and expect to change this or that right away....

          By your own words this troop is more successful, in your eyes, than the troop you left. Watch and learn what they are doing right.


          • #6
            All the advice is spot on. I've found it's hard, very, very, VERY hard fro former Cub Scout leaders to make the transition to Boy Scout Leader. Not knocking Cub leaders, heck I am one, but after 2,3,5 years of being trained to run meetings and do things, it is an adjustment to sit back and say to one of your scouts "Have you asked yout patrol leader?"

            As others stated,

            1) Get trained in SM Specific and Intro to Outdoor Leadership Skills. Unlike what the IOLS syllabus suggests, at least frm my interpretation of it, YOU WILL NOT BECOME AN OUTDOOR EXPERT OVER ONE WEEKEND. (emphasis) You need to spend time AWAY FROM THE SCOUTS (emph. again) and work on those skills with other adults.

            2) Have a cup of coffee withthe SM or another ASM, and if possible have them mentor you. Almost as bad as a Cub Leader becoming a Scout Leader is a junior leader moving to ASM. Trust me, I had some issues makign the trasnition from youth to adult, and I was doing too much. A sit down chat, and mentoring helped out a lot. And yes I was mentored AFTER I completed training.

            3) Get a copy of and read William "Green Bar Bill's" 3rd. ed. SM Handbook, volumes 1 and 2. Is it dated, yes it is. BUT the info in it is the FOUNDATION of the Scouting, THE PATROL METHOD, and is a must read.

            4) Memorize the following two sentences: "Have you asked your Patrol Leader?" whenever a scout asks you something and "Have you asked your Senior Patrol? Leader" whenever a PL asks you something.

            5) Get yourself a comfortable camping chair, and a large travel coffee mug.

            Good Luck.


            • #7
              Direct answers to your questions

              -Courts of Honor

              Our Troop tradition for us is a spring and fall. I know troops that do them quarterly.

              -Board of Review (for each Rank)

              As ASM you won't sit on these. Probably committee members or past SM's. They hopefully review how the SM and PLC are doing program wise thru questions and discussions, should not be a retest of knowledge but I have seen it happen.

              -Scoutmaster Conference

              A good one will discuss more with the boy than just scouting, how he is doin in school and such. This is not a pass or fail, just a nice friendly discussion with the SM

              -Duties of the ASM (me)
              As requested

              -Timeline each of the above
              as required


              • #8
                Strongly agree with all of the above, don't forget:

                1. GET TRAINING.
                2. GET TRAINING.
                3. See #1 and #2 above!

                Take the training modules on, and then find out what your district and/or council have available. Don't expect your troop to ever look like the "troops" in the training videos either! Years ago, a newbie on our committee complained that our troop SHOULD BE EXACTLY like the ones on the training films. (I'm NOT kidding!) I then made a motion to hire the actors and director from the training film and register them in our troop, and it was never brought up again. *wink wink*


                • #9
                  Yah, jamist649. Yeh went off and found a troop that you and your boy liked because of their program. Then you're goin' to ask a bunch of us internet critters how it runs? I think you're askin' da wrong folks, mate!

                  Go watch for a bit. It's kind of 'em to ask yeh to step into an ASM role, but it's a real risk for them and for you. I generally tell folks that for their first year in a troop they aren't allowed to say anything bad or respond on their own to any perceived need. When we go to a new environment, we tend to identify all da problems first, eh? We don't always see all of da good things, or how the problems are sometimes a desired feature. So, stick your hands in your pockets, button your lip, and just watch and learn for a bit. Ask questions, sure, help out, sure, but let others lead until yeh can identify all the wonderful things and all of da skills and personalities in the youth and adult leaders.

                  It will be completely different from Cub Scoutin', and if yeh approach it while still thinkin' in your Cub Scouter mindset then you will fail. Take however long yeh need to get into the Boy Scoutin' way of doin' things.

                  In the mean time, take Boy Scout specific trainin', but take it with a grain of salt. It will give yeh a sort of vague, general overview rather than real information on how your troop actually runs. Then take da folks here as bein' people to bounce ideas off of or who can describe other ways of doin' things, but use that for background, not for somethin' to use to push on your son's troop.

                  Courts of Honor - difference from cub award ceremonies is that they'll be more boy-run. Come and stand where you're told.
                  Board of Review - not done by you. A few units may use an ASM in a pinch, in which case follow da lead of the senior BOR members.
                  Scoutmaster Conference - not done by you. Some larger units will have experienced ASMs do SM conferences. If that's the case for your troop, ask to come along as a silent observer for one or two, then ask da SM to come along as a silent observer for the first one or two you do.
                  Duties of the ASM - completely up to the SM, based on your skills and interest.
                  Timeline - Huh? Courts of Honor happen a few times a year. Boards of Review in some troops are "as needed", in others happen monthly or on some other schedule. SM conferences are as needed; some troops do 'em at meetings, some other places. Duties of ASM - expect to be slowly phased in to doin' things as yeh demonstrate that you're a good team player.



                  • #10
                    I typed a reply about 1:00 this afternoon and walked away without hitting "submit". I am reassured that my post was almost identical to Beavah's.-I won't repeat the rundown, but I will reiterate what most folks are say that you need to spend one program cycle observing the program before you can really jump in and comfortably make a contribution. As you note, right now you're not really sure you know what you don't know. Frankly, the biggest thing you can do as an ASM is to stay out of the Scouts' hair -- ESPECIALLY YOUR SON'S. On a campout, I wouldn't visit the Scouts' campsites unless I went with the Scoutmaster or a more experienced ASM. Just hang back and observe how they conduct themselves. Ask, "what do you need me to do" a lot. Don't be offended if the frequent answer is "nothing right now." That's how the program is supposed to work.

                    Oh, by the way, I said you need to observe one program cycle. I used to think that meant one year, from crossover to crossover. Now that I've been doing this a while I've learned the real cycle runs from crossover to age 18.

                    -- Anything else -- Learn to sit on you hands and bite your lip -- key skills for the adult leaders. And practice asking "Have you asked your patrol leader?" That is an appropriate answer to almost ever Scout question except, "do you think we should call 911?"

                    New troop leaders first need to learn to do nothing. You've got to forget all those Cub Scout habits and solving problems, running things and making sure the program is up and running and the Cubs are having fun. In Boy Scouts those responsibilities belong to the boys. The real art of Scoutmastership is while appearing to do nothing, gently coaching the Scouts and guiding them in the right direction. In many cases it is a matter of leading by example. But it may be a well-placed questions here, a whispered suggestion there or -- what I really enjoy -- are the "so how do you think that went" conversations after an event.

                    Good luck and enjoy the experience. Don't feel like you've got to go out and master everything at once. It will come.


                    • #11
                      get trained - may be really boring and a waste of time (was for me) but it is required and you may learn some things

                      talk with SM - find out exactly what the SM wants from ASM.

                      if SM lets ASM do SMC then ask if you can sit on one and see how the SM does them.

                      find out from the SM who is allowed to sign off rank advancements - is it patrol leaders? boys above 1st class? only non-parent adults?

                      find out from SM who teaches the skills for rank advancements

                      Troop I'm SM for I prefer to do SMC for all but my own son - this way I know all getting asked same things, but then I hardly ever miss a meeting or campout so it's easy to schedule one with me. If I knew I was going to be gone for a stretch of time I'd assign an ASM for this task.

                      The troop only allows non-parent adults (SM, ASM, MC) and JASM sign off on rank work. Boys learn the skills either by older scouts, parents, learn on own, or ask a leader for extra help... then when they have skill down it is demonstrated or explained (depending on requirement) to an adult for getting signed.

                      Biggest thing I do as SM is to make sure if I'm not going to be at something is to assign one of the ASM as adult in charge. The SPL is still in charge, but it's good for all to know which adults will be there and in charge. For example I don't do the 4th of July parade due to my anxiety disorder - so I find which ASM's will be there and simple say "ASM X, since you are planning on being there will you be adult in charge" and I've never been told no.

                      biggest thing is to sit back a bit and see what adults are doing. Offer help, but if you're told it's not needed then just sit back and watch. Also attend as much as possible even if it's just sitting back and watching.


                      • #12
                        Thank you so much for all of the replies. I do plan on going in and observing for a while, but there are a couple of variables that I left out that may make a difference:

                        -The Troop is about 2 years old. Brand new. The primary reason that brought me to this unit was the geographical location. It pulls from an upper-middle class, families-with-children saturated area that had previously gone in all different directions with other area Troops. About 4 years ago the Cubs started a Pack here and it is THRIVING. Lots of family support, strong committee, and very active. I was hoping to "get in on the ground floor" with this Troop, however as it stands now: 6 boys and 2 leaders (including me) bringing me to my next point...

                        -The SM asked me to step in as ASM because his ASM (the only one) had stepped down just after summer camp. The Troop (as many in this area do) had gone on a hiatus (not that I agree, they just do) after that and will crank back up within the next few weeks. So, I'll be the ONLY ASM. I don't know if I can sit back and observe for a year or I'll be asked what the heck am I doing there if I'm not going to help.

                        -I've done all the training I can thus far. Went to Summer Camp with my son's old Troop since the SM's health didn't permit him to stay in the heat that long withouth the possibility of trouble. So, while there, I took everything I could. SM specific, ItOlS, Saftey afloat, etc. I've preregistered for Woodbadge, but it's several months away.

                        Thanks, again for your help. You really have helped answer some of my questions!


                        • #13

                          That is a pertinent piece of information - a cycle of observation isn't realistic for you because the troop is short staffed with adults in the program area. Which spawns a question: is the committee well staffed, or is one or two people wearing all of those hats? If the latter, don't start to pick up committee duties because no one else is doing them. Think of the parents as being similar to a patrol - there should be the equivelant of a "duty roster" to divide the jobs up among all of the parents. You wouldn't require a patrol leader to do all of the work for a patrol; don't let that happen to subset of adults. Recruit at least one additional ASM to have useful backup for campouts. It is understandable that the troop takes a summer hiatus if the SM is required to go on every campout.

                          Consider meeting with the SM and committee chair and outline all the support that you need, (consult the troop committee guidebook; perhaps invite someone from another troop that is known as being well run - perhaps someone that you have met at round table). The CC can then use this list in recruiting adults to take on the various responsibilities. Just like a patrol leader would do in assigning tasks to patrol members :-)

                          Read the Patrol Leaders handbook. That will give you a good idea of what the patrol leaders are supposed to be doing (and are being taught in Jr Leader training). You may then start to see things that would make good discussion items between you and the SM when you see things in the PL handbook that are being done by adults.