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The Patrol Method

Lessons and questions of Scout leadership and operating troop program

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  • LATEST POSTS

    • Good question. I believe BSA documentation states it as something like scouts developing the habit of using the Law and Oath in their future decisions. The theory is that scouts learn the virtues of the Law and Oath by their struggles resulting from past bad decisions.  I know that is a bit idealistic, but if you as an adult can see a scout change a behavior or process of making a decision as a result of bad decisions, then you are watching personal growth. One very common area I saw personal growth is with new PLs working patrol members, compared to how they worked with them as an experienced PL. Patrol leading is really the first introduction to true leadership if the troop program allows it, and where the leader has to work personally with different personalities to go forward toward goals. More often than not, new patrol leaders run into their bigger conflicts at meal times. Meals are a goal that all members of the patrol want (because they are hungry), but require some team work to accomplish. That is also when tired scouts don't want to participate by cooking or cleaning or simply don't like the food being prepared. Scouts are just cranky when they are hungry. The PL is task to get those cranky hungry undisciplined animals aligned and working toward the common task. They develop their social skills of communication under stress more in those moments than any other part of scouting. But we must understand that personal growth is personal to each individual scout. I once coached a SM who was very frustrated by a SPL who couldn't do anything right. I asked him, is there anything, ANYTHING?, the SPL has improved from  doing his task. The SM then gave a list of improvements. It was then the SM realized that the kid was doing OK, his expectations where just too high for that scout. And, as it turns out, that scout was really a good leader. It was the SM who had to learn how to work at indidiviual levels. I had to learn it as well. That's really important because a lot of kids aren't given much indication that they are growing at all. In fact, many kids are told they aren't worthy. I have many stories I would love to tell about shy and learning disabled boys who blossomed in our troop because we didn't hold back expectations on them like they were getting at school and home. The troop was the one place where they were allowed to like themself. A troop should be made to be a safe place to make mistakes. Experts say that our brains only learn when we make mistakes. The brain doesn't like pain, so it learns to prevent that same pain in the future. But, the instinctive nature of parents is to protect kids from mistakes. Watching our kids make mistakes is painful, so our brains are reacting as well. Troop leaders have to learn how to ignore that urge to prevent scouts making mistakes. Make you troop safe by allowing bad choices so their brains feel the pain. How do we do that you ask, well start by not reacting to mistakes with anger or harsh words. Don't take ANY scouts decisions (good or bad) personal. Let them be the owners.  Accept all mistakes as opportunties for developing better character. If the bad decision requires it, act disappointed. But in most cases, act indifferent and ask how they would choose differently next time. I used bring a box of Tootsie-roll pops to each campout and set in the middle of camp. The rule was that scouts could have as many pops as they wanted provided they threw away their trash and only eat one roll at a time. If that rule was broke, the box was taken away from the whole troop. And, the adults didn't enforce the rules, the scouts did. One scout told me some months later of how that simple little box of tootsie rolls changed the way he thought about following rules, and other people following the rules. Growth.  My definition of Personal Growth grew to, "any change a scout makes to better himself as a result of decisions he made as a scout". But, I had to learn to not only recognize personal growth, I also learned how to encourage practice of personal growth. Because each scout is different, we have to try a lot of different ideas to encourage growth. Not all scouts are good leaders, so how to encourage growth in a PL who is just struggling with the responsibility. This, to me, is what scouting is all about for the adults.  And I enjoyed it a lot.  One last thing. Many, if not most, adult leaders hear how the scouting program encourages character development, but most are at the very least skeptical. However, many parents of new scouts who just returned from summer camp told me that their son came back noticeably more mature than when they left. A weekend is not a lot of time for scouts to make enough decisions to develop and change habits. But a week seems to make a difference for noticeable growth. If the adults allow, scouting really does put scouts in an environment where they want to change toward being a different person. They don't realize it because the changes are subtle, but a couple years of subtle changes add up to person of different character. Give yourself a little time, and you will start to see the growth. You only need to build the program that the BSA has already laid out. Barry
    • Ironically, I see history repeating itself here. The second CSE, Elbert Fretwell, also came from outside of the Profession. That was done purposely as the board didn't want a prior Professional, or "West Man" to become the CSE. 
    • I could really care less what his title is.   Some historians thought James West title was dictator. 😀 Seems like the interview is all softball questions.    JMHO.
    • Send your suggestion to MB task force email is  merit.badge@scouting.org
    • You could pack in a dozen girls in sleeping bags into one of those tents -- not much space for gear, and would step on each other if they needed to get up to go to the latrine in the middle of the night.   But for summer camp (1 - 2 weeks long)  they give the girls more space per person.   Makes a more harmonious fortnight, probably. I've not seen electric outlets in a GS tent in the camps I've seen.
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