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Mike F

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About Mike F

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  1. It's been a while since I pulled up a camp chair around this virtual campfire! We are tentatively planning to do a sailing/snorkeling adventure this summer, but have too many for one Sea Base crew and too few to afford two sail boats. (You have to pay for 8 people - even if have fewer.) The youngest guys are all 15 and they were bumped from Philmont crew last summer (age, size, readiness). Normally I give priority based on age because younger guys have more future opportunities, but really hard to tell these guys no again. I can draw straws for the limited slots. Or am considering going with another outfitter. That method has worked VERY well for us at Boundary Waters. So - Does anyone have any recommendations for sailing trips in Florida? We would want to do a similar trip - 5 days on the water with mix of fishing, snorkeling, etc. Thanks!
  2. Great thoughts! Another I would add is too much emphasis on advancement - especially Eagle. Don't get me wrong - I am a Distinguished Eagle and know the importance of the rank, but for a pre-teen and teenage boy, that's FAR from the top of most priority lists! I think we would keep more active and interested in the program if we would focus more on THEIR interests: Fun, Friends, and Adventure!
  3. Mike F

    Consequences

    Once is bad judgment and a learning experience for offending scout and all in attendance. A repeat offence is a trip home any time, any place, any distance.
  4. Mike F

    Need help on SPL election

    Sorry for long post.... The SM Handbook mentions that troops may establish eligibility requirements such as age or rank for positions, but specifics are up to the troop. It really depends on demographics. In the troop I serve, we have wide range of ages and ranks, so we set the bar a little higher than you might in a young troop. Per the SPL and SM Handbooks, there are only two elected positions in the troop: SPL and PL. All others are appointed - by the SPL for troop-level positions (in consultation with SM), and by the PL for positions within his patrol. There are no limitations on how many times a scout can be elected to a position and there is no requirement that elections be held every 6 months, although that is the BSA recommendation. Other than that, its up to the troop to figure out what works best for you. Heres how we do it: In order to be eligible to be elected as either SPL or PL, you must have previously served as ASPL or APL. When SPLs and PLs select their assistants, they do so with the thought of who will be best able to lead the troop or patrol in his absence. We start talking up elections a couple of weeks prior. Since the only scouts eligible for SPL are those who have already been SPL or ASPL, there are a small number of candidates. I personally speak to each one to make sure they know about the job and expectations and to talk about significant time conflicts during the upcoming term. In order to be on the ballot, the SPL candidates must be approved by me. (Ive never disapproved a candidate and cannot foresee ever doing so, but its an option if a scout ever develops a terminally bad attitude which we cant adjust.) In our 35-boy troop, we have two ASPLs one for Skills (who serves as the leader for the Instructors) and one general ASPL (who serves as direct assistant to SPL for everything else and serves as the leader for most of the other staff positions: Scribe, QM, etc.). Having a key staff of 3 (SPL + 2 ASPLs) seems to work well as they have a tight group to work together and share ideas/responsibilities. Prior to the election, each SPL candidate privately decides who he will select as his ASPLs. On the night of the election, I give a quick talk about the responsibility of the job, and then each SPL candidate makes a quick speech. All members of the troop vote using private ballot. Ballots are counted by me and outgoing SPL (if he is not running again). If SPL is on the ballot for another term, a JASM or ASM assists with counting. In order to be elected, a candidate must have a majority of the vote. If there are more than two candidates and none has over 50%, we do a run-off with the top 2 candidates. (Same for PL elections within patrol.) Results are announced immediately and the SPL-elect announces his ASPL selections. With the SPL and ASPL decisions made, we move directly to Patrol Leader elections. Since the new SPL and ASPLs are no longer members of any patrol, they do not participate in the PL elections within their old patrol. If the outgoing SPL or ASPLs are not continuing to serve as senior leaders, they rejoin their former patrol and are eligible to run for PL and to vote. Patrol Leaders are also elected within the patrol by secret ballot and must have a majority of the vote, or there will be a runoff. After PLs are elected, the SPL begins to select scouts to fill his other staff positions. He and his ASPLs work on the list and discuss it with me before announcing. My role (per SM Handbook) is to ensure they are giving full consideration to all available scouts and not just picking buddies. This usually takes a week or so. Its all a little confusing, but the logic is that the SPL should have his pick of any scouts in the troop to serve as his direct assistants. By selecting his ASPLs immediately, the patrol membership is set and they then select their best available scout for the PL position. After Patrol Leaders are selected, the SPL knows his range of options and selects the best remaining available scouts to fill the rest of the troop-level positions. Once again, these details are not specified in any BSA literature. Its merely our way of adding what we think is a logical flow and consistency to the process. We do have it all written down and posted on our troop website mostly so parents will understand its not my job to ensure their son gets a position he has to earn it. As always, your mileage may vary.
  5. Mike F

    Path to First Class

    Bart, My biggest beef with similar programs at every camp we have attended is they don't really make sure the guys do everything as written in the requirements and seem to be in a race to get as many things signed off as possible. At the end of camp, we have a bunch of very young guys with a lot of advancement in their books, but they still don't really know how to do any of it. We have asked the camps to not sign any books, just let us know what the boys have done and we'll do our own testing and signoff. This worked sometimes, but last year they signed the books anyway. We will not be sending our guys to the First Class Emphasis program again. Instead they will be working on Swimming, Rowing, Nature, shooting, etc, with time reserved during the day to work on basic skills within the troop. If it were up to me, I would place the most emphasis within the camp program on helping guys learn some fundamental skills so they are prepared to be more functional within their patrol. Cooking, sharpening a knife/ax/saw, building fires (first under optimal conditions, then with wet wood), knots and whipping, some basic first aid, some map/compass/hiking. Again, the emphasis isn't on racing through advancement requirements, it's helping the guys develop the basic skills they need to enjoy being in the outdoors.
  6. Mike F

    Meal planning for leadership scouts

    Our SPL, ASPLs, and JASMs always eat with adults. They help cook and clean, but we usually take care of the planning and shopping so they can concentrate on getting troop ready to go. They do visit patrol sites during cooking and mealtime to keep an eye on things and to decide on the recipients of the coveted "Golden Spoon" on Sunday morning. They are strongly discouraged from hanging around the patrols - especially their former patrol - for any significant length of time so they don't distract from the PL's authority to run his patrol.
  7. Mike F

    The runaway Train

    There are plenty of messy bits in this story, but the selection process for SM must be made clear: The Scoutmaster does not work for the Troop Committee. The SM works for the Institutional Head (IH) of the Charter Organization who is represented by the Charter Organization Representative (COR). The Troop Committee Chair also works directly for the IH and the COR (as the official representative for the IH). The SM and CC are supposed to work together under the COR to deliver the Scouting program at the pleasure of the IH. The troop does not belong to the SM or the Troop Committee. The troop belongs to the Charter Org. The role of the Troop Committee in selecting a new SM is limited to making a recommendation to the IH and COR. There is nothing which specifies how the TC reaches the decision about who to nominate, but it is clear that their nomination is not a selection it is merely a recommendation to the IH/COR. The Charter Organization should consider the nomination proposed by the Troop Committee, but the CO (thru COR & IH) has the freedom and responsibility to select any individual they want to serve as the SM. In most situations, the IH delegates almost all responsibilities associated with the troop to the COR. Unfortunately, most CORs only think of themselves as a person to assist with coordination between the Charter Org and the troop. This is a mistake. I repeat: The SM and CC work for the COR. So the COR and Unit Commissioner husband need to quit making this stuff up and dust off the books for how things are supposed to run. COR has the right and responsibility to ask any member of the troop leadership to step down especially the SM or CC, who work directly for the COR. When there is a SM opening, the Troop Committee forwards a recommendation to the COR for consideration. The COR considers the recommendation, but has the responsibility to select the person he/she believes is best for the job running the Charter Orgs troop. When the Charter Org (through COR and ultimately IH) does not exercise its responsibility to run its troop, you get these kinds of out of control egos. As for the young folks who want to help, I applaud their desire to volunteer and hope they can find ways to contribute and enjoy the program within limitations associated with their ages. They can have a HUGE impact on the boys in the troop in many ways.
  8. diogenes, Wow - many moons ago I was a youth member in your Chapter and served as a Lodge Officer. Although I no longer live in the area, I know your Lodge and Council are going through some tough times. My guess is that your young Chapter Chief has just made a fumbling attempt to do what he was told - find a way to get troops to provide an OA Rep so they have a point of contact for communication with the Chapter and Lodge. More polite requests didn't get the desired result, so he tried something different, but this one isn't likely to get the desired results, either. I doubt the Lodge really wants to take action which will reduce membership and participation. Getting assigned OA Reps probably isn't the problem. My guess is it's really a symptom of a struggling program which could use more goodwill from well-meaning volunteers to help steer along a more reasonable path. Rather than assuming the young man is on a power trip (perhaps with his adult advisors at Chapter and Lodge levels), I think it would be more helpful to assume all are struggling to figure out how to effectively do their jobs to promote the OA. Best wishes and say Hi to Camp Perry for me!
  9. Mike F

    Custom Patrol Patches

    In an effort to boost Patrol Spirit, our PLC has designed custom patrol patches which are larger and more colorful than the standard BSA patches. This seemed like a great idea and the guys are very excited. Now I learn there is a requirement that all patrol patches must conform to BSA's standard small round template. Your thoughts?
  10. Jack, Good luck - tough situation. There are some other things out of whack, too. Like the TC seems to think you work for them and must run the program they direct. In the troops I have served, SM is responsible for program and TC figures out how to support it. SM and CC are equals - both working "for" the COR. Some give and take is expected. TC is part of the feedback loop to you via BoRs as they gain some independent insight into how your program is running. I agree with the others. Your TC and active parents definitely sound like they want an Eagle Mill troop. "Get Johnny to Eagle before he learns to drive, gets a girlfriend, blah, blah, blah." Anything you can do to recognize and reward other Scout things can help. On every campout, we give out a small award gift and recognize individual scouts as Honor Campers, Scout Spirit, and Leadership. A write up goes out to the troop singing praises for these individuals based on their weekend campout performance. Same for patrol competitions, etc. The PLC should be setting the meeting plans and working to execute them - working adults out of a job they shouldn't be doing. You might work with boys and ask them if they really want to come to scout meetings to have more classes after they were in class all day. Then you could recommend learning some advanced skills, fire-building skills, etc. to use on the next campout instead. Some of these skills might lead to merit badges, but they all lead to more fun and adventure. You mentioned poor skills being a problem because they race through advancement with adults teaching and they don't get to reinforce their skills. Do you have a skill-based District Camporee? How do your guys do? Perhaps you could talk them into preparing for Camporee by brushing up on everyone's skills. Good luck! -m
  11. Mike F

    Avoiding Ad Hoc Patrols

    If you put it in terms of "High Level" and "Other" (or "Dead Wood"), I would be against it, too. (I have seen the Deadwood Patrol used in a troop many years ago to collect marginally active guys. It was a bad idea then and still is - unless you have some scouts you want to push out.) Perhaps think about it as an experiment within the troop with a mixed-age patrol. I have seen troops with some patrols mixed and some single-age. Usually while in transition one way or the other, but it is certainly possible. I can't imagine wanting to stay with different models within one troop forever, unless you're a really large troop, but that might be the limit of my imagination and experience. As you said, there are lots of ways to approach things. A big part of that depends on your objectives or program emphasis. You may find that mixed-age patrol becomes a spark and the model for your troop. Or not. Because, as always, your mileage may vary.
  12. Mike F

    Avoiding Ad Hoc Patrols

    thrifty, Go for it! It could be the seed which changes the culture of your troop!
  13. Mike F

    Avoiding Ad Hoc Patrols

    ThriftyScout, A few thoughts: First, as others have said, if there are at least 2 scouts, they should camp as a patrol. Menu will be simple and they might need some help, but they are a patrol. My other thoughts are more along the line of increasing attendance. - Conflicts. There are always conflicts. Boys are pulled in many directions and they make conscious or unconscious value choices for the best use of their time and energy. - It is possible a program review would be appropriate. -- Are the campouts in a rut same places, same things? -- Whats the overall spirit in the troop? Encouraging and excited, or negative and critical? -- Are campouts a mix of learning and fun? (Boys are in school all week and dont come to scouts for more school even if it is outdoors. Perhaps you can find more exciting/challenging ways to conduct the training so its not same old. Include some patrol competitions and some rewards. -- Consider some outrageous new activities to catch their imagination and get them excited. --- After dinner on Saturday night, lay out a scenario which requires them to follow this map and compass course to a site which requires a signal fire burning in exactly 2 hours. Ready, start, GO! --- Night orienteering --- Raft building competition with emphasis on good knots and lashings. Boys often get stuck in a rut literally following the exact path theyve seen before and its hard to come up with new ideas. You may have to get them started with some ideas to discuss and decide upon. Others have mentioned it and I have to also. Read some of the other threads about patrol age groupings. In my experience, when the older boys have direct responsibility for growing the younger ones, they also take more interest in actively running the troop. Too often the Venture Patrol just wants to hang out with buddies and dream about high adventure, etc. When these potentially valuable leaders are in the patrols, they are more likely to work harder to grow in capability so they can eventually move up to senior staff (SPL/ASPL) where they get to hang out with their buddies, but only because they are also running the troop. Your mileage may vary. Cheers!
  14. Mike F

    Webelos, NSP, Patrol Method

    Barry - another blue ribbon post. I hope you're writing your book!
  15. Mike F

    Military uniform items with scouting?

    KC John, Although I've seen this before, I confess to never really paying attention to the meaning, so it took me a minute. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law Insightful point!
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