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Everything posted by smaster101

  1. Were back from summer camp, and this year I had a handful of scouts that could not pass either the 2nd Class or First Class swim requirement. These guys are not really afraid of the water, its more of a swimming ability thing. A couple of them have serious asthma that prevents them from completing the required distance. One has very severe ADHD and I think it prevents him from learning something he really doesnt want to do. All the boys went to swim classes during the week, and I felt that they did make an effort to pass, but just couldnt for various reasons. Anyway, I explained to their parents why they didnt advance and the scouting philosophy that swimming ability is an important life skill that everyone should learn. Several parents expressed concern that their sons medical problems would prevent them from ever advancing, and I see their point. The Scout Oath says to do your best, then we penalize them when they try but cant measure up to the standard. On the other hand, I had a couple of boys this year that went to the camp swim classes and did make it. It wouldnt be fair to them to just make the requirement easier for some scouts. Another problem is that logistically we may not have another opportunity to test the scouts until camp next year. Ive read the alternate rank requirements, and it seems like its a major process to get a requirement altered for a medical or mental problem. Does anyone have any experience with this, either from dealing with this situation itself or with dealing with alternate requirements?
  2. smaster101

    ODD Scout

    I had a tough week at camp with one 13 yr old scout. He refused to work on any badges, whether alone or in groups and always found an excuse for why he couldn't get to a MB class or hook up with the other kids. Plus he refused to shower and change his clothes during the week. More critical, he started stockpiling knives from the camp store, and a few boys told me he was waiving them around and threatened to stab them during the night. After this happened I called his dad, who came and picked him up. The dad told me the boy had been diagnosed with ODD - Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and they were trying to get him some treatment over the summer. He said he'd been having problems in school as well and was repeating the 7th grade. We've all had boys that were hard to handle, but has anyone ever had a boy with this particular behavior problem? How did you handle him? I felt bad that the boy had to leave camp, but feel that it was the right thing to do to protect the other scouts.
  3. smaster101

    Family campout issue

    We usually have a good turnout of dads on our campouts but our troop has never had a "family" campout, i.e. moms and younger siblings included. I know this has been a sore spot with some moms, so I suggested to our troop committee that we hold a family day hike. They not only liked the idea, but it quickly turned into suggestions for a weekend family campout. Problem is when I told our PLC, my SPL and ASPL's hit the roof. "We don't want mom's along on our camping trips" was the general consensus. So I realize that I should have run the idea by the PLC first, but also, should the troop follow the wishes of the scouts or of the parents committee in this case?
  4. smaster101

    Outcast scout

    I have a 15 year old scout in my troop that is very much an outcast from the rest of the boys. He comes on most troop outings and summer camp, but he tends to be a loaner and rarely participates in what the other scouts are doing. Most of the merit badges he starts go unfinished. Hes sloppy and unkempt, which probably just means he has very low self-esteem. Last year he was appointed to the position of troop librarian, but didnt do anything, so the next SPL assigned the job to someone else. Hes still First Class because he demonstrates no leadership ability. Hell do things one on one with other scouts, like swimming, if hes asked, but otherwise he just hangs around by himself. The guys tend to make fun of him sometimes, but do try to include him in group activities. I had a scoutmaster conference with him last week and learned that he volunteered last summer at a library 3 days a week reading to younger kids. I told him this was great and asked if he liked teaching. He said no, he hated it and only did it because his mother made him volunteer because he was spending all his time in the house. I asked him what his interestes were and he said he didn't have any. His mother took me aside at camp and said that shes very worried about him. The outcast pattern is present in his personal life as well as in scouts. She said he has never had any friends and whenever hes asked someone to his house they find excuses not to come. He was on the freshman football team last year but didnt make any friends through that either. She said she had to force him to come to summer camp this year. She described him as very shy and afraid of rejection. Im not a social worker, so the best I could do was agree that he does show signs of depression and she should be worried. I feel that as his scout leader for 5 years I should do something more for him, but Im not sure what. I think he needs some professional counseling, but Im not sure his parents are ready to take that step. I've seen scouting help so many other kids, but it's not working for this guy. Id like to hear from others that have dealt with kids like this, especially if you have some constructive ideas on how a SM can help him out.
  5. smaster101

    ADHD Problem

    Any advice on how to cope with a scout with severe ADHD? I have one in my troop right now. He's not a bad kid, very bright but also very disruptive to the other scouts. He disrupts MB classes and can't sit still or pay attention during any activity. His patrol mates don't like to share a tent with him because he never settles down. He acts very immature relative to his 12 year old classmates. Fortunately he's not aggressive, at least for now. His parents are aware of the problem and his mom gives me his medication to give him on each trip, problem is it wears off by evening, and then he's tough to handle. I don't want to prevent him from being part of our unit, but I don't really know how to control him. His dad comes when he can, but the guy works nights and many weekends, so he can't be there often. I have empathy for the kid because my own son is an ADD adult. But he made Eagle and I think this other boy can too. Suggestions?
  6. smaster101

    So what do you do for a living?

    I'm an outside sales manager for a manufacturing company that makes components for the wire and cable industry. I live in New Endland but my territory is the southern US - Texas to Georgia and Mexico. We have our troop meetings on Monday nights, then I will typically head out Tuesday morning for the remainder of the week.
  7. smaster101

    paint ball activity

    Our scouts have told me they want to go paint balling as a troop activity. Ive heard of several other troops in our area doing this, but I thought paint ball was not allowed under BSA guidelines. Anyone know the official policy on this?
  8. smaster101

    paint ball activity

    Oops, Sorry everyone. I just read OGE's post regarding laser tag and got the message loud and clear about paint ball. I should have checked the guide to safe scouting first anyway. Regardless, I know some troops are doing it anyway, so let's hope no one gets injured.
  9. smaster101

    JASM Responsibilities

    Ok, so you have a scout that was a great SPL or Troop Guide, but then when he becomes a JASM he no longer feels like he has an active role in running the troop. I've seen this many times over the years, especially when the new SPL is doing a good job. The JL Handbook doesn't offer much guidance about this position. Last night one of my JASM's who had been a very good TG ask me if he could run for SPL next election for this reason (I said I felt yes but that we'd run it by the PLC). Can anyone that has had troops with very successful JASM positions please provide some info on how you keep them feeling part of active troop leadership? What else fo you do with your senior jr leaders after their tenure is up?
  10. Any suggestions for how to get scouts to properly take care of troop and patrol equipment? Lost tent pieces, broken propane stoves, missing stove parts, etc. after every trip are getting me very frustrated. Our QM doesn't seem to care or be effective, even though I've continously told him what his responsibility is. Many scouts don't even take care of their personal equipment like mess kits and clothing. Are they so used to mom picking up after them at home? I see this as an opportunity for our scouts to learn responsibility for their own stuff as well as proper care of troop equipment, but I can't seem to get the point across. How have some of you other leaders delt with this effectively?
  11. smaster101

    Caring for troop gear

    Thanks to everyone, especially Bob White, for yout insight. Anyone against some positive reinforcement to motivate the guys? During a recent camout I had to leave at night for a family event, but came back the next morning around the time everyone should have been packing up. The SPL was having a hard time getting everyone moving. I had brought several dozen doughnuts back with me and of course the guys all wanted one. I told them they were for after everyone was packed. A couple of kids tried the "well, I'm packed" line, but this didn't fly. So after all the gear was packed and the site was in order everone got one. Sounds simple, but I think it got everone focused on getting the whole job done as a team.
  12. smaster101

    humurous story

    About 10 years ago when I was an ASM, our troop was holding a campout that I could not attend. Parents were supposed to pick up their sons at the campground, and all came except for the mom of one TF scout. Finally, after waiting about 40 min the SM told the boy to put his gear in his car and he'd give him a ride home. When the boy did, a note fell out of his bag. The note said "Dear Mr.C. I can't be there on Sunday to pick up my son. Please give him a ride home" (I'm Mr. C. and I live near this boy's family) The SM asked the boy why he didn't tell anyone about this note and he answered that him mom told him to give the note to Mr. C. but that Mr. C never showed up. So much for following mom's directions to the letter.
  13. Our troop has just started having patrol and troop elections, after many years of SM appointed leaders. Some of the older scouts comment that they liked it better the old way, but recognize that elections are the correct scouting method. It's was a little tough going at first but we've learned from a few small mistakes. We decided to stagger PL and SPL elections so we don't have a completely new leadership each election. Our first SPL election will be in January, so I'm using this time to makesure the next generation of jr. leaders are prepared to take over from the current SPL.
  14. smaster101

    no "team" in our troop!

    Sounds like a big problem. My suggestion is that your troop needs some adult intervention. Make sure that the SM and other adults demonstrate 100% support of the SPL. Get visibly and vocally behind every decision he makes and let the rest of the troop know that the adult leaders have full and complete confidence that he's doing the right thing. The stronger scouts might be able to bully the SPL, but probably not the adults. I'll bet that they will want to be on the same said as their SM, especially if they also get something out of it. It will also help the SPL deal with the pressure if he knows that his SM and other adults are behind him.
  15. smaster101

    Unexpected rewards

    I've written in this forum before about about what I observe as a lack of any type of religious connection in so many youth and families. I had an opposite suprise the other night when one of my scouts called and asked if I would be his confirmation sponsor (we're both RC). I said yes, of course, and told him it was quite an honor that he would select me. Later I spoke with his dad about it, concerned that maybe the family prefered that a relative be his sponsor. The dad said they didn't have any relatives that went to church, so his son thought he's ask his scoutmaster, and they supported his decision. I am personally very proud that one of my scouts felt he could ask me to do this, but I also think it's a tribute to scoutmasters everywhere. It kind of says how much a scoutmaster means to some of these kids, and how we can impact them in some unexpected ways. I'm sure many other scoutmasters have had similar tributes, and I just thought I'd pass this one along.
  16. I think a mixed program of advancement work and MB work at meetings works out OK. For example, a councelor working on a MB can use some meeting time to go over requrements with a small group of scouts to guide them into what they need to be doing on their own. I don't think troops should be MB factories, but I definitely see the job of SM as one who encourages and enables scouts to earn MB's.
  17. smaster101

    Need Help - West Point Camporee

    Our troop went last year for the first time. The web site referenced has a lot of information about applying. They only take about 20% of the units that apply, and those with a cadet sponsor have preference. You need to apply before December, then they notify you of acceptance around March. You're also limited to 25 scouts, and the 25 x 25 area allocitated to each unit is for real. Units coming with 25 scouts and 5-6 adults really have to squeeze in. We had a hot, dry weekend,but I've heard that when it rains the camp area becomes a flood zone. The hike in is only about 3 miles, and accept for one killer hill, the trail is fairly easy for most scouts. As the earlier poster said, they only allow in one vehicle for gear and adults that don't want to hike. The others have to park several miles away in a remote site and hike in over Bull Hill - so prepare for this. The stations that the cadets ran are really a challenge for the scouts and they learned a lot from them. We formed 5 new patrols for the weekend since our regular patrol structure was broken up by having to limit it to just our 25 oldest scouts. Our scouts were somewhat frustrated by the waiting time at each station, but they finally got past that and enjoyed the event. The dress parade at the closing ceremony was very impressive, especially since the scouts were taught close order drill at one of the stations. One of the biggest problems with the event, I thought, was a total lack of shower or personal washing facilities. It was a hot weekend and we all reaked by Sunday. Plenty of port-a-johns were available though and they were cleaned 2-3 times over the weekend, so that part was OK. One final suggestion - we arranged a tour of the Acadamy for Sunday following close of the camporee. The information for this is on the USMA web site.
  18. smaster101

    cermonies for September 11

    We have our first troop meeting of the seasnon on Sept 10, and I've been thinking about an appropriate SM minute to close the meeting. The best I can come up with so far is to tell my scouts to have courage, that rightousness will prevale over hatred. But most important, I want to tell them that they are our future leaders, and that as scouts they have an opportunity to demonstrate duty to God and country, and learn to be good and just leaders. So I want to tell them to be hopeful of the future, and not to let hatred and bigotry dominate their actions. Does this make any sense? I'm open to suggestions from this forum.
  19. The situation with one of my 12 1/2 year old scouts is that he can't seem to pass the BSA swim test required to make 1st class rank. Summer camp just ended and he went several times during the week to benefit swim, but still couldn't pass - not even close. So what do I do? Keep him at 2nd Class forever? I suggested to him that he have his parents sign him up for swim classes, but I don't have a lot of control over this, other than denying him advancement. Suggestions?
  20. smaster101

    What is too bad of weather to camp in?

    Our troop has camped, canoed, biked and hiked in a wide variety of weather, and coming from New England we experience it all. Of course, preparation is key and one of the great learning experiences in scouting. There have been just a few situations that have caused us to cancel. The most recent was this spring when we had scheduled our first campout with the Webelos that has just crossed over into the troop. The morning we were to leave it was pouring out and the forecast was for it to continue the whole weekend with temps down to 35 deg. The troop committee and I made the decision to postpone the trip so that these new scouts would not have a miserable time for their first campout. Interesting that most parents thought it made sense, but a lot of the scouts were very disappointed and said we shouldn't have cancelled.
  21. smaster101

    Battling Home Sickness

    Ive just finished my 14th summer at camp as a troop leader, and Ive seen homesickness show up in a variety of ways. Sounds like OGEs troop tried everything they could think of, but sometimes, severe homesickness is unavoidable. Its a difficult subject to deal with because every boy responds differently. Im no expert, and maybe Ive just been lucky, but weve had very few cases of homesickness over the past few years. Heres a variety of things I try to do to prevent/overcome the homesickness problem.  A good Webelos to Scout transition program helps younger boys get to know the adult leaders and older scouts before going on campouts as a troop member.  Have a good Troop Guide that the new scouts can relate to. I feel this is one of the most critical troop positions and should be appointed by the SM so he can select individuals with the right personality for the job. I tell my troop guides that their main job is to be a friend and mentor to the first year scouts.  Try to schedule 2 or 3 troop campouts that the new scouts can attend before camp. This lets them know what to expect about how the troop runs, and given them a chance to build some confidence.  The SM should get to know the new scouts long before summer camp. Let them see you as a person they can approach rather than as a stranger. I was shocked at one campout this spring when some new scouts performed a funny campfire skit about me losing my reading glasses and mistaking poison ivy for TP. I had just spent the day doing TFoot SM conferences with them, and I think they needed a funny way to get back at me.  Pre-camp planning for advancement and MB work helps build up anticipation for camp. Our veteran campers talk up camp a lot so the new scouts know what to expect.  Have a very strict policy against any type of hazing. Even teasing or small pranks played on new scouts can cause them to be anxious.  At camp I try to make myself accessible to the all the scouts as much as possible. I rotate my table in the dinning hall so I eventually sit with everyone to talk about how the week is going, and make sure they arent having any problems. While I let the SPL and ASPLs run the troop, I dont keep in the background either. Ill usually be found in my tent or sitting in the campsite so Im available to any scout that wants to sit and talk, needs help with a project or just wants tohang out for a little while. Some seem to like this, others I never see all week. Also after taps I walk by each tent and talk to each patrol individually (Yes, with youth protection policies always in mind. The tents are open so I can stand outside the platform and talk quietly to them). Sometime they talk about how their day went or even complain about something. Its a few minutes of quiet time that I think helps them settle down and feel more comfortable  Keep them busy. Downtime is a problem. Also if they are very active during the day theyll sleep solidly at night. However dont push for all advancement or all fun. Camp needs to be a good mix of both. A few years ago our troop started a tradition of a having a troop shaving cream fight just before dineer on the last full day at camp. The veterans talk it up with the new guys as one of the things they really look forward to, and I believe that the anticipation of it keeps some new guys going during the week.  Have your trusted older scouts keep an eye out for any kid feeling down and tell you about it before he gets too far along.  If you do have a scout that seems to be feeling down, try partnering him with an older scout. Some new scouts dont make friends easily, and an older buddy is just what he needs to feel special and less alone.  Use the professional camp staff for extreme cases. I havent had to use this yet, but one of the chaplains at our camp has a collie that he uses as therapy for homesick scouts, and Ive heard its very effective.  I dont agree with letting the scout call home because Ive tried it and I think it just makes things worse for both the scout and his parents. We live within 1 hour of our local camp, and I have a problem with dads just dropping by for the day to bond with their son. If a kid is going to have a problem its when dad leaves. So, I have tried to discourage this, but not as successfully as Id like. So, as I said, maybe Ive been lucky, but last year I had 18 first year campers and this year I had 14, and no real homesickness to deal with either time. Sorry this was longer than I expected, but I hope that by sharing some of the things weve tried over the years it will help some first year scout have better week at camp.
  22. I don't see any need to add another "soft" badge like Family Life. On the other hand, there are opportunities where we as adult leaders have an opportunity and a responsibility to set a positive example. Dinning hall meals at camp, for example, are a great opportunity for scouts to act like animals and for adults to correct their behavior. I don't believe that any kids can get away with the bad manners at home that they exhibit at camp, so why let them at camp. Other opportunities for setting a positive example are when the troop is traveling or meeting the public at some event. For example, when we're traveling some distance to a campout we often stop at a McDonalds type restaurant. Now this is a good opportunity for the SM to lay down the rules of behavior (politeness, clean up your table, no throwing food or anything, restroom behavior, etc,) and enforce them. Scout trips are often a boy's first time away from parents in this type of setting, so it's a learning experience for some of them to understand that good behavior needs to happen even when mom and dad are not present.
  23. smaster101

    What would you do?

    At our camp the scouts have to clean the latrines as part of their daily patrol chores. This helps them take care of it a little better. In this case I would have had the particular scout clean it himself out of turn. However, I really don't believe this will change anyone's behavior in the short term, but maybe long term he will grow up and see that his actions affect himself and others. We can only hope. I had a 4th year camper this year purposely make a big mess at the breakfast table where a first year camper was the waiter. (They rotate the waiter job each day). I had this scout take the first year guy's waiter job for the next 2 meals. Did he learn from this? No! The next day I caught him doing the same thing to another scout, so this time he had to stay and clean the table himself. So maybe he didn't learn from the first situation, but at least he knows he can't harass the younger guys and get away with it. The important thing in your situation is that the scout learn that the troop won't tolerate unacceptable behavior.
  24. smaster101

    1st Class Swimm requirement

    Thanks for all the good advice. It's great to have this forum available to help reinforce our own judgement on these issues. I believe this particular scout's problem is that he hates any sport and struggles from a severe lack of confidence. He is also severly ADD, very bright and also very immature for his age. All this means is that he can benefit more from adhering to the First Class rank guidelenes than "sliding" through them. One additional comment and a story. We had several 2nd class scouts at camp last week that did not make swimmer the first day. They all knew they had to pass the BSA swim test to make 1st class that week, and most of them did it after just 1 swim instruction. One scout however went to beneft swim all week, and did not pass his test until Friday morning. Friday afternoon he was out in the swimmer area and proudly called to me to show me that he made it. That Sunday at our Court of Honor I was telling the parents about some of the achievements for the week. That boy raised his hand and said "don't forget the kids that learned to swim". I brought him up to the front and told all the parents his story of trying until he succeeded. He was very proud of this and I was very proud of him. The moral is that kids get an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when they work for something and succeed, and by advancing them without completing the requirements is doing them a disservice. Sorry this was so long, but I learned something from it and I wanted to pass the story along.
  25. smaster101

    First Class First Year

    Lots of good suggestions posted already. Yes, definitely repeat training as often as necessary to get scouts proficient at it. Build on the activity so that it's not repetitive. For example, work on lashing techniques at one event, then build a troop pioneering project at a different event to let the scouts apply what they've learned. I've also discovered that attendance drops if we repeat the same type of campout or events too frequently, so we try to cycle different activities every two to three years. This keeps attendance close to 100% by making it something new for many troop members.