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MattR

Getting inexperienced leaders up to speed faster

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I have a lot of experience over a lot of years all around the subject of new scouts, new scout patrols, and how to work these young men into the troop. Let me first say if you were to ask me if keeping a new scout with his friends was the method, I would say yep, NSP all the way. But experience has changed me.

 

Boys don’t gravitate toward boys their age, they gravitate toward others with common interest. The only reason we think of gravitating with the den is because that has been their environment for three years or so. OK, that is fair. But lets use the example of eight Webelos going to their first troop meeting to be put in a patrol. The SM stands the Webelos in front of the troop of 50 strangers and says: “you can pick any patrol you want, or you can start your own patrolâ€. Do those scouts really have a choice? Not really, but it still might be the best choice.

 

Now lets consider that three of the Webelos are bullies and the other five have been biting at the bullet to get away from the bullies. The five scouts are bit shy and they are very afraid of saying anything that would upset the bullies. They look at the 50 strangers they never met of which they know nothing about, then they look at the three bullies. Do they have a choice? Rock and hard place? There is likely at least one Webelos in just about every den that does not want to be with the whole den.

 

That is my experience and opinion of boys gravitating.  We’ve tried several different patrol styles and NSP styles. I’m pretty sure I can relate to just about everyone here and their chosen method. From our experience, the best method for getting the new scouts into the troop with the least resistance and happiest scouts was when we assigned scouts to a patrol. We don’t typically do that, but we were trying to find a process that worked better than what had done in previous years. And let me just say, it is the greatest hassle on the PLC because they have to identify with each scout personally to find the right fit. It is the hardest route for the troop by far. BUT once the scouts were in their patrols, everyone one was happy including the Patrol leaders. We found that most new scouts aren’t that big on being with all their den mates, most have one or two friends they are especially close with and that was all they needed. Really, we never had a single new scout complain that they wanted to be with other friends.

 

That is not how we do it every year because circumstances change every year. If we have more new scouts than 2 per patrol, we usually do a NSP with the expectation that the new scouts will be assimilated into the patrols after summer camp. When we get a lot of new scouts, we might do buddy patrols with the NSP so the buddy patrol can help with the Troop Guide. That works ok, but it challenges the 300 ft separation rule. I just don’t like getting that many new scouts, but I guess that is a good problem.

 

Also, we never let the new scouts be Patrol Leaders like the BSA model suggest. Our Patrol Leaders work hard and have a lot of responsibility, so the experience doesn’t do anything new scouts who really just want to do the outdoor adventure stuff. I’m all about role models, so let the TGs be role models. We always ask for volunteers to be TGs and they are usually Life or Eagle 16 or older scouts. Folks here have heard me say before that I have never seen a good 14 or younger TG, nor have I ever seen 15 or older bad one. Maturity is everything with TGs.

 

Now saying all that, I really believe a troop has to search and find what works for them. We have great experiences here and can explain why some work for us and why some don’t. But I looking back, every new class of scouts was a little different and required some changes to make it work well.

 

The BSA looses more scouts in the first year troop age than any other age. That is why they started the NSP/TG program. But, statistic show that even after 20, the rate is about the same. What that means is the problem isn’t as much about the patrol experience as it is about going from an adult guided environment (parents) to a boy guided environment where the boys are expected to not only make their own decisions, but live with them. I wanted to fix the crossover and first year losses problem, so I interviewed a lot of scouts and their parents to find out why their leaving and how to fix it. The problem is simple, but the solution of getting scouts comfortable with the idea that the 13 year old patrol leader was now going to basically feed and protect them in the dark woods where creatures lurk. That is the best way I can say it. To keep those boys, it’s not as much about their patrol as it is easing them into a change of life philosophy. They are boys anymore, they are expected to behave and think like men. That is A LOT on a 10 year old boy, and that is why more boys quit scouting that year than any other year.

 

Barry

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There's nothing in my way of setting up patrols that mandates the boys have an NSP.  Those that do stay together seem to get up to speed faster than those that take their chances in an already established patrol where the focus is not on getting them acclimated to the troop's organization.  Yes they eventually get caught up, but I have found it takes a bit longer.

 

When a group of Webelos came into the troop, one or two of the boys went into open spots in patrols with older brothers.  Other than that, aggressive recruiting of other patrols that were short handed might have picked up another one or two.  But for the most part they stayed together by choice.

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Those that do stay together seem to get up to speed faster than those that take their chances in an already established patrol where the focus is not on getting them acclimated to the troop's organization.  

Just out of curiosity, who gets them up to speed with the troop's organization and how do they do that?

 

Barry

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Just out of curiosity, who gets them up to speed with the troop's organization and how do they do that?

A particularly important question given the fact that under the new requirements (Jan. 2016), a candidate for the SCOUT rank will be expected to explain at least part of the organization of the troop. ("Describe how the Scouts in the troop provide its leadership"; "Explain the patrol method. Describe the types of patrols that are used in your troop." Of course that last sentence would be easy in a troop with no NSP or Venture Patrol, since there would only be one type.)

Edited by NJCubScouter
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interesting points @@Eagledad.  

 

When i wrote what I did about sticking with his best Buddy..... I was thinking more on the micro-level.... a scout's best friend..... not from the high altitude macro level of the troop's perspective re. the whole den.

 

I suspect that you are spot on..... there's always a high probability that at least some don't care to stick with the entire den.  I would expect it unless the den was very small to begin with....

Or maybe from a pack with multiple dens where they are selected more like a boy led patrol is.... with only buddies together in each den.

 

Our den certainly fits your model.

My son has two other boys in the den he considers friends..... the rest he could care less about.  No common interests, different demeanors, etc....  Sadly, one of those boys will likely go to another troop because of an older brother and dad's involvement in another troop....

 

Honestly, as a dad, I would almost prefer he get put in different patrols from his buds so that he could expand his friend base more.... but I know better.... and that would be adult stuff getting in the way....

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Just out of curiosity, who gets them up to speed with the troop's organization and how do they do that?

 

Barry

I would think functional troop officers would be doing that.  PL's and their patrols are independent enough to handle their workload.  But if one's troop officers are not functional and only hold those positions to get advancement credit then there's going to be a problem.

 

TG - overall guidance of the new boys

Instructors - advancment and leadership orientation

QM - instruction on how the equipment policies work

Scribe - instruction on how the financial policies work

 

But like I said, these people have to actually be functional for it to work.  I would think that with everyone concerned about "older" boys working with the newbies, this would make a nice opportunity for them.  But if the boys are only holding POR for advancement credit and not doing their job, then one will need to find other alternatives or force the boys into the older patrols where they will have to be babysat until they are up and running.

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I was just curious how your troop does it since you say the NSP scouts get up to speed faster with troop's organization. The Patrol Leaders are the first line of working with new scouts in our troop, Not a big thing, just curious. 

 

Barry

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IMHO new scout patrols are the new guys who stay together as a patrol until they get their feet wet, make some friends, see how the troop works, get some more targeted help from a troop guide that is assigned to the patrol by the spl (After volunteering to work with the new guys of course).  And once they feel comfortable, they should be allowed to join any patrol they want to. 

 

Ours stay together as a NSP from crossover sometime around March-May, until after summer camp/school starts back.

By then they've camped a couple times as a NSP and they aren't lost newbies anymore (hopefully) and have a couple things signed off in their books on their way to advance.

 

Around August they are told they can stay together or join another patrols  The troop does elections for spl and allow patrols to fix themselves (too small due to drops or whatever).  About half join another patrol or three, and about half decide to stay together cause they have more in common with each other than they do with the older boys in other patrols.

 

Now we lose about 1/10th of our webelos crossovers. (2 or maybe 3 out of 20 new scouts) with our NSP in place for the last 4 years.

 

Before NSP, we used to lose 3/4 (15/20) of our new cross over Webelos scouts, often within the first month[sometimes the first meeting when they'd join a patrol]. They often were intimidated to be stuck in a patrol with huge guys that are almost twice their age or size. Picturing my 15+ year old almost 6 foot scout towering over the 10.5 year old 4 foot tall scouts.  Even though he has a "big brother" attitude to the younger guys and most of them know by now they can go to him if they need anything ever-- at first he intimidates the heck out of them with his size.  When he works with the new guys he sits down or gets on his knees :D

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I found that the PL's job especially the younger ones, find it difficult to focus on multi-tasking.  We have 2 boys working on Scout rank, a couple more finishing up on FC, the older boys want to go to Philmont instead of summer camp, etc.  With interests all over the place it puts a pretty heavy duty burden on the PL's.

 

Whereas the NSP's single focus is orientation and working on scout skills.  Interrupt that with going camping and learning how to do that which fits nicely into the advancement expectations.  The older boys already know this stuff and would be more than ready to dump it all on the new kid for the sake of his advancement.  :)

 

If the NSP elects an older boy (which they can very well do with my program) that scout might be only a year or two older than the newbies and his skill level as a PL is limited.  Well he might have just come out of the S-FC training himself and can focus on that rather than a number of other things with a mixed bag patrol.  His skill level as a new PL will be limited and a single focus would work well for him.  He as a fledgling PL at say 12 or 13 years of age would also have TG at his right hand to help out and Instructors to do the training.  He could focus on his organizational management skills by lining up programming for the patrol with this other troop officers.

 

It is not beyond the skill set or maturity of a 12 or 13 year old to be able to handle that.  I have had 13 year olds running the popcorn sales fundraiser for the troop and doing as good a job if not better as any adult.

 

If the NSP picks one of their own to be PL, then the TG and Instructors will need to help get him up to speed rather quickly, but I would say a focused 2-3 months would be all it would take.  At that point the TG and Instructors could be handing off some of the management skill sets to he responsibility of the newbie PL.

 

How do I know this?  I took over a failing troop and grew it to 30+ scouts in 4 years.  I am taking a handful of boys and putting together a troop.  I do not have the luxury of having boys old enough to go to NYLT to get trained.  I don't have any FC scouts to pick PL's from.  I don't even have enough boys right now to form a single patrol, but I have two boys working hard on leadership skills getting ready for when the others show up.  

 

It was a real blow to spend a whole year developing a scout only to have him recruited away by another troop in the next state over.  His parent and grandparent stayed with the unit in the hopes it doesn't fold.  So we start again.  The new Webelos PL is doing just fine.  Shows up in full uniform, shows up with his book for advancement, has his organizational notebook to keep track of things needing to be done, has organized the full year calendar for this year.  Made plans for next year's summer camp experience all since he came on board in March of this year.  He is not my oldest boy in the troop, but he's going to be an excellent scout by the time he's 13.

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