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Eamonn

Troop Culture

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I'm trying to think about how many different Troops I've visited or been part of.

Truth is that the number isn't that high.

I think that it's somewhere in the 30's?

Being as I served as a District Commish and member of different District committees, I think that this is maybe more than a lot of other people? -But I might be wrong.

 

Many of us have our own idea of what a Troop is and how it should operate.

Still I think that it's fair to say that there is really no set standard and each and every Troop is a little or sometimes a lot, different.

 

The "Right Way"? Is just an idea that each of us has.

While maybe the wrong way is a lot clearer?

 

I like being invited to visit other Troop meetings.

Not that long ago, I knew most of the Scouts in the District. - It's a small District.

I knew each and every Scoutmaster.

I'm a friendly little fellow and I seen just about all the guys (We don't have any female SM's.) As my friends.

 

Thinking back to when I was a SM.

The Troop meeting as a rule had a formal start and end, but what happened between the start and the end was very often some form of chaos.

I liked to think that I knew each and every Scout and cared about them and that they cared about me.

We called each other by our first names.

In part because at school I was always called by my last name and I hated it!

Some Scouts had nicknames, very often names that came from me or from something that they had done or maybe failed to do.

These names were never harmful and the Scouts or at least some of them really enjoyed having one.

As a Troop we could "Turn On" The "Scouty" type stuff.

Just about everyone wore their uniform at the start of the meeting, but changed into shorts and t-shirts till the formal closing.

At times the noise level was deafening. Scouts laughing, telling stories and just doing stuff the way that groups of boys get things done.

 

A good pal Of mine is the SM of what is very often looked at as being one of the better Troops in the Council.

Everything seems to be very formal, the Scouts are always very well turned out. Yet I've never heard him even mention uniforming.

The Scouts all address the adults as Mr.

At Troop meetings there never seems to be a lot of noise.

It's not like a church, but no one seems to want to draw attention to themselves.

The Troop has a history of doing the high adventure activities.

The adults all seem to be very knowledgeable in scout-craft.

The parents seem to look at the SM as someone who walks on water.

Even when their son has problems at school or some other place they come to this guy to have a word with the Lad.

 

On the other end of the scale.

There is a really nice guy, who has done just about every training that there is.

The Troop seems to just have enough Scouts to be able to recharter each year.

The Scouts never seem to do anything other than the District Camporees and only about four or five Scouts ever attend Summer Camp.

The guy has been SM for a long time, so it's not like he is a newbie.

He never misses a R/T meeting.

But for some reason the Troop is like it is and has been like that for a long time.

 

What do you think makes the "Troop Culture"?

Does it come from past practices? Or is it all from the way the adult leaders go about things?

How do you go about changing a culture that doesn't seem to be working well?

Eamonn

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There is no doubt in my mind that a troop's culture is driven by the leaders. Given that most COs, CORs, and CCs do not have any particular vision for the troop they sponser, most often the leader I'm referring to is the scoutmaster. Why is that? Who attends the meetings, the campouts, the week at summer camp? The scoutmaster. Who knows all the boys' names, where they go to school, how things are at home? The scoutmaster. A new scoutmaster comes in and he has ideas about troop culture that drives how things will happen during his tenure. Changing a culture that doesn't seem to be working well? That's pretty simple, change the scoutmaster.

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CubsRg is right, culture is driven by the leader. We had a big troop in our area that was like the successful troop you describe. The SM who built the troop from nothing decided to train a replacement for his retirement a couple years down the road. He picked a pretty sharp father who was also an Eagle and they worked together for two years as planned and then he took over. The replacement lost over half the troop in three years time and decided to retire to save the troop. He knew how the methods worked individually, but he just didn't understand how in the big picture they worked together to make the machine run.

 

Barry

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Interesting observations by Eamonn. And also by CubsRgr8: Change the leader if you want to change the culture.

 

I've told many members of the Committee and my CC and COR that if they think it's time for a change, don't try to have a coupe. Just let me know and I'll gladly step aside and help with the transition, if they desire that.

 

I find myself drawn to each of Eamonns' caricatures of scout troops, because almost each has parts that reminds me of mine, and many that I've visited. One in particular that I know well.

 

Because each Troop has its own personality, I urge Webelos parents to shop around for the troop that fits them. Just because they might be in a feeder pack is no guarantee that little Johnny will fit in, and like it.

 

The culture is hard to change, but should change be forced? And if so, by whom? I see the variety of scout troops with their respective (dis-)functionality as part of the tapestry of scouting. I suppose this depends on how involved/meddlesome the CO is, and if their expectations are being met.

 

If every troop was the same, all high adventure, all of 32 scouts, all doing the same thing, would we be meeting the needs of the larger scouting community? I think not.

 

 

 

 

 

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Troop culture always reflects the attitudes and personalities of the leader, primarily the Scoutmaster.

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Yah, what everyone else said.

 

Given sufficient time, usually half a scout generation or so (3-4 years), a troop will reflect da vision, style, and capacity of its primary leader(s). Boys who don't fit with that style will leave; boys who are attracted by that style will come. When da troop hits da size capacity of the adult leaders and their style, additional boys will drop out no matter what da recruiting is like.

 

Some men and women run fine one patrol-troops. I honestly think that's da natural thing for an average parent with limited scoutin' experience. They sort of get run like a big family.

 

Some men and women run troops in the 30s of scouts. Folks who are da youth-focused school teacher types who are used to dealin' with classes that size, gettin' to know that many youth well and figure out how they work together.

 

A few men and women run troops in the "mega" range. Folks who are management types who do well workin' with and organizing groups of adults.

 

Formality or informality always comes from key adult leaders. The boys adapt, or leave.

 

Outdoorsiness always comes from key adult leaders as well. In subtle ways, they encourage or discourage the PLC in its direction. Get adults who aren't comfortable backpacking, and backpacking within a troop will fade.

 

Training doesn't really touch any of this. As Eagledad points out, even when a man who has had direct on-the-job training and support for years it isn't enough to change his fundamental style or capacity. Yeh have to go out and find adult leaders of da right sort, yeh generally can't make 'em. Happily, troops tend to attract/retain folks with similar capacities in some ways, which helps. Leaders, though, often aren't da best at properly identifying their own replacement. They tend to select da fellow they worked well with, who made a good supporter but might not have da capacity to be the person in charge.

 

Beavah

 

 

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Yah, I agree with TwoCubDad, eh? Eamonn's troop would have been close to da ones I've been involved in.

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Visiting Troops as District Commish was a great learning experience for me.

As a rule I kinda tend to say the first thing that pops into my head.

This often results in me with my foot in my mouth.

Seeing someone do the job differently than maybe you might. Especially when you think that the way you do /did it was the right way. Can be a real eye opener.

Trying to always remember that you are a guest and if maybe not a great pal of the SM, but a friend of the unit. (Does that make any sense??)

Means that there are times in fact almost all the time when the best thing to do is say nothing.

 

I used to have to work at keeping my big trap shut.

But overtime I realized that passing any kind of judgment was not the right thing to do. (Unless of course people were in harms way. - But that never ever happened.)

 

There have been times when after leaving a Troop, I've sat in the car and thought to myself. Why the heck do them kids bother attending that meeting?

Truth is that I never really came up with an answer as to why they did?

 

It's kinda strange. Now I'm involved in something where I'm forced to have to check my own personal judgment at the door. (I'm thinking about my being a member of a Hostage Negotiation Team.)

 

Beavah has often reminded us that most if not nearly all Scouting volunteers are good people.

I believe most do the best that they can.

Most of the kids that join Scouts and hang around for more than a little while are also nice people.

If we keep this firmly planted in our minds. I would hope that we wouldn't be in any mad rush to start passing judgments.

 

As I look back on my active days. I can't help but think of the people that influenced me.

One guy stands out more than anyone else. (Cambridge Skip, I think you might know of him. Martin Gerrard?)

This guy just had/ has a wonderful way of communicating with people particularly young people. He has a knack of drawing people in and having them want to participate.

Martin was kind enough to take me under his wing when I first became a SM.

While I've admired him and the way he does things.

Most of I admire him because he is a dreamer and is able to share his dreams.

 

Eamonn.

 

 

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Culture, of any kind, is rarely a single person show. For a troop, it's an interaction of the leader and the boys. We get the boys in that meeting or on that campout after parents and school have put in a lot of influence. A troop exists because everyone present agrees to function on certain terms, only a few of which are spelled out in the handbooks! A leader lays out those terms, and the boys take them up. In that process, a troop forms it's own culture ... Hopefully it's something the boys can take pride in and the leader can manage.

 

Sometimes it works the other way. My troop had a culture of hazing that took the SM many years to break. Simply put, the boys took advantage of his sleeping hours and the fact that 300' seemed such a long distance away. I can imagine the many years of committee meetings where he talked about the problem -- one which really wasn't solved until the SPLs began to take his words to heart.

 

So I guess the culture you see in any troop you visit, is the sum total of those "discussions" to date.

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I agree that SM plays a huge part. The unit leader puts more hours in than anybody, and those hours translate into the tone for the troop.

 

But the boys are also putting in time. The SPL who confiscates the smut mag and walks it the 100 yards to the SM (without looking at it) is going to set a different tone than the one who reads it with the boys or tells them to put it at bottom of their pack. The PL who says grace before lunch sets a different tone then the "Good food, good meat, good God, let's eat!" guy. The instructor who comes to the PLC with an idea of what the new scouts need to work on for the next campout sets a different tone than the one who waits 'till everyone's unpacked and tells them to stop by with their books at his hammock!

 

The unit leader might catch some of these, and might actually care about them. On the other hand he/she might not. But it's entirely up to the youth to care to change enough to get out of whatever rut they're in.

 

So if your unit is humming along the way you want, don't just pat yourself on the back. Thank the youth for their hard work in establishing the troop culture.

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Quazse, I see your point but I agree with Eagledad.

 

If the SPL is a go-getter, he more than likely learned the ropes from an efficient prior SPL, as well as a solid adult leader.

 

It's a rare scout that can be a great leader in the midst of crummy or absent adult leadership.

 

PL and SPL leadership is a direct reflection of the adult leaderships' faith, backing and mentorship.

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