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Eagle94-A1

Changing a Troop's Culture, Balancing Boy-led versus Adult-led

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NYLT is out for at least 2016 as the only ones olde enough to go are Philmont bound.

 

A litte info about the troop.  3 patrols. Olders Scouts, 13-14 years, 3 First Class, 1  Second class,and  3 Scouts

                                                            Patrol of 12-13 yos who have been in at least a year if not longer and are  probably the best run. 1 Tenderfoot, rest Scout.

 

NSP

 

Oh, fun, lots of questions, 

 

How are the Patrols currently set up?  Aged based? or Mixed Age?

 

Take all the boys, put them in a room and give them 15-20 minutes to decide who's in what patrol, and when they come out, you'll have your answer.

 

Who made the calendar for the year?  Committee or PLC?

 

Unless everyone is in on deciding the activities, attendance will not hold up.  EVERYONE going needs to have ownership in the process.  The LAST people one wishes to have making the calendar is the COMMITTEE!  Those people don't even need to know what the calendar is until it is published by the boys!  PLC will not have enough scouts to put in sufficient input.  They will only pick the things they did last year because it worked, but the creativity and adventure won't be there.

 

Do the meetings follow the Troop Meeting Plan?  Who plans the meetings?  Who runs the meetings?

 

My boys do the flags together then break into patrols for activities.  The PL and APL are responsible for what needs to be done.  Plan for a camporee, do advancement, etc. All scouting is local.... :)

 

What does the SM & ASMs do during the meetings?  What do the other adults do?

 

They are there if the SPL or PL's need support, otherwise they drink coffee and sit in the back and talk quietly with other adults.

 

Suggestions:

Objectively grade the Troop on each of the methods.

 

Better yet subjectively grade the troop on whether everyone is having fun.

 

Formulate a long term plan to get to where you want to be.

 

The Aims of Scouting are supposed to do that already, but most people don't know what those aims are including those in Irving.

 

-decide what your priorities are.  You can't change everything at once.

 

The adults can make changes until they are blue in the face, but until the boys start making changes, nothing will really change.

 

Talk with the CC & your ASMs to share your plan.

 

Talk with the boys about your plan.

 

Start!

 

Okay, we agree on that one.   :)

Edited by Stosh

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Back.

 

My personal game plan is the following.

 

1) Talk to my friend who is suppose to take over. He's been with the troop since it was recreated, and has provided some vision as evidenced by us going to Philmont. But between his job, the Cub Scout pack, and upcoming nuptials, i do not think he has the time. So I want to talk and make sure I'm not stepping on anyones toes. Plus I will need his support with my evil plans :ph34r:

 

2) Talk to COR/CC about the switch.

 

3) If all approved, then talk to the Scouts. Try to get them to support the changes.

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Back.

 

My personal game plan is the following.

 

1) Talk to my friend who is suppose to take over. He's been with the troop since it was recreated, and has provided some vision as evidenced by us going to Philmont. But between his job, the Cub Scout pack, and upcoming nuptials, i do not think he has the time. So I want to talk and make sure I'm not stepping on anyones toes. Plus I will need his support with my evil plans :ph34r:

 

2) Talk to COR/CC about the switch.

 

3) If all approved, then talk to the Scouts. Try to get them to support the changes.

 

I would start with the boys.  If they aren't on board with the idea why make waves all over the place on the adult level?  Not only that the best allies you will ever have are the boys.  If they come back with "Naw, we like it the way it is with the adults doing all the work and all we have to do is sit back and have fun." then why bother?

 

You're heart is in the right place, but what about everyone else's, especially the boys.  After all it's their program.

Edited by Stosh
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@@Eagle94-A1, just a thought about your friend. Apply @@Stosh's modified Peter principle in his name.

 

"Guys, we have this SM who is going to be tied down quite a lot. He'll be great for conferences and such, but you all are gonna need to kick in a little more muscle to get things done around here!"

 

If your oldest patrol is 13-14, you have time to win them over. 

  • If someone in your district is fielding a solid venturing crew, you might wanna suggest that. They might be spending less time with the troop. But that's less time with them being a drag. And there's the odd chance they'll come back with an idea or two for the troop to try.
  • If you like the O/A advisor and lodge chief, you might want to challenge the arrowmen to participate at a district or council level. Same principle as with venturing, with increased odds that they will have more boy-oriented ideas.
  • For the ILST lock-in, let the older boys be your instructors. One or two of them each take a chapter.
  • Don't mess with their climbing? Okay, up the ante`. Challenge them to call your local Explorers club or someone else with serious mountaineering/spelunking experience.
  • Any Eagle projects in the pipeline?

In other words, don't treat them as if they don't understand boy led. Don't treat them as if they might not buy in -- even though they may not. Treat them as if you expect them to succeed even though they may not.

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I would not say that all older scouts are not going to help out. I just went through this and some of the older scouts just shined. I sat down with each one and told them the litmus test for me signing off on scout spirit for Eagle is whether the younger scouts look up to them, and that means they need to get involved. We then spent the rest of the time searching for something they really enjoyed in scouts and how they could use that to help the troop. They really surprised me with what they wanted to do and close to half followed through on it. I'm not done yet so there's hope for a few more. Some will drop out, some will fester until they decide they want it.

 

I did something similar with the PLs. One just decided his patrol was going to earn the National Honor Patrol award. Another came up with some goofy name for his whole patrol calendar and that worked. Another thing I stress is that the PLs are responsible for delivering the promise of scouting. So I ask them what they did to provide fun, friendship, advancement, adventure, or service to his patrol members that wouldn't have happened if it weren't for him. So making a phone call when we send out stuff via email doesn't count, but encouraging a scout to complete a requirement is great.

 

For the scout leaders in the troop my job seems to be talk to them and help them put into concise words the vague ideas they have of what they want to do. That and a huge dose of this is how to apply the Oath and Law to problems you run into, and they are starting to take up the slack.

 

My challenge now is my SPL. He's the one that is having the hardest time making the change. He used to look up to the previous SPLs that were sort of the superman, I will do it all, type of leader whereas I'm more interested in the SPL trying to make the PLs successful.

 

The other challenge is educating adults. "My son is tired of burnt food, you have to cook for them or he's going to quit." No, I have to give them the opportunity to bring up their problems and solve them, but if your son won't talk about it then he's going to keep eating burnt food.

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I would not say that all older scouts are not going to help out. I just went through this and some of the older scouts just shined. I sat down with each one and told them the litmus test for me signing off on scout spirit for Eagle is whether the younger scouts look up to them, and that means they need to get involved. We then spent the rest of the time searching for something they really enjoyed in scouts and how they could use that to help the troop. They really surprised me with what they wanted to do and close to half followed through on it. I'm not done yet so there's hope for a few more. Some will drop out, some will fester until they decide they want it.

 

I did something similar with the PLs. One just decided his patrol was going to earn the National Honor Patrol award. Another came up with some goofy name for his whole patrol calendar and that worked. Another thing I stress is that the PLs are responsible for delivering the promise of scouting. So I ask them what they did to provide fun, friendship, advancement, adventure, or service to his patrol members that wouldn't have happened if it weren't for him. So making a phone call when we send out stuff via email doesn't count, but encouraging a scout to complete a requirement is great.

 

For the scout leaders in the troop my job seems to be talk to them and help them put into concise words the vague ideas they have of what they want to do. That and a huge dose of this is how to apply the Oath and Law to problems you run into, and they are starting to take up the slack.

 

My challenge now is my SPL. He's the one that is having the hardest time making the change. He used to look up to the previous SPLs that were sort of the superman, I will do it all, type of leader whereas I'm more interested in the SPL trying to make the PLs successful.

 

The other challenge is educating adults. "My son is tired of burnt food, you have to cook for them or he's going to quit." No, I have to give them the opportunity to bring up their problems and solve them, but if your son won't talk about it then he's going to keep eating burnt food.

 

1) the boy can cook himself and then the food won't get burned.

 

2) I as SM can burn the food with the best of them.

 

:)

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If I could +50 @@MattR, I would.

 

SPL should be a "coasting" position ... one that a boy would be thrilled to move into because it's easier than PL, but requires a notch more maturity ... and one certain boys will hold for consecutive terms, if their peers let them.

But, the fact is that elections don't always get you that boy right out of the gate. It can take consecutive weeks of attempts, fails, dust-offs, after-action review, and resets.

 

I don't know if other folks have seen this pattern, but SPLs seem to take the opposite tone of their predecessor. E.g., the drill-sergeant takes over from the chill-dude. So a lot of what gets done on the adult end is helping a boy to take charge as himself rather than the opposite of the previous guy.

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My approach to SPL is well documented in the forums, but whether anyone agrees with it or not, I do not have anywhere near the problems with the position than others seem to be experiencing.  I have NEVER had a drill-sergeant attempt at the position by anyone,ever.  They have always been functional and yes, a couple held multiple terms for quite some time.

 

I found early in my scouting career that troop elected SPL's don't last very long   In an adult-led program they are there only to fill in the POR and are assigned by the adults to do the adults' bidding.  In my book that is truly a set-up-to-fail disservice to the boy. "Running the troop" is also a catch-all for problems.  Most adults and no boys are capable to running a large group of boys without having to face major disciplinary problems.  Again, the set up is to fail.

 

Take a large troop 50 boys, 6 patrols.  What boy is going to get elected to be SPL if the whole troop votes?  The most popular of course.  But 44 of the boys in the voting pool could care less about who the SPL is because they will have little or no contact with him during his term of office.  He will be a figurehead MC at the flag ceremonies and Pet Scout of the adults.

 

On the other hand if the Patrol Method is used and the PL's are the ones really running the show, the SPL is put into position by consensus/election of the PL's who will want him there as their #1 support person, the most senior in maturity and expertise as a PL himself.  That's what makes him truly functional as SPL and with only 6 PL's to worry about, his disciplinary problems are virtually nil.  He will be doing more support of the PL's doing disciplinary issues than dealing with them himself.  Under those circumstances he has a chance to win without massive adult intervention and leadership.  "Running the Troop" is truly a figurehead position.  He goes and gets info at the SPL meetings and reports back his findings to the PL because the PL's are busy with running their patrols.  He MC's the COH's and flag ceremonies because the PL's are busy with their boys.  He's like the most experienced APL on steroids for the PL's and that is what will make him a successful leader.

 

I have seen too many SPLs in the adult-led, troop-method set up that are not really leaders, but are nothing more than adult manipulated puppets filling a POR for advancement.  I really don't think that's a formula for successful leadership for the boy.

 

@@qwazse mentions the SPL position is a coasting position and it may look like that to most of the people in the troop, but behind the scenes, it is his job to make sure all of the PL's in his charge are successful.  He has the tools to help them be successful and when they are successful, he is as well.

 

When he runs the PLC, he is the political glue that holds together the different interests of different patrols.  The younger boys want to go to summer camp and the older boys want to go to Philmont.  The SPL works with the troop officers and adults to make it happen. He coordinates the annual calendar so everyone gets what they want in terms of program and activities.  If a PL is facing a problem any any sort, he's there to back him up with advice and support.  If a PL has a problem with a couple of boys in his patrol, he can't just drop everything to deal with it.  He has a patrol to run.  So his first call for help is his SPL that he personally help select to be there for him. 

 

Like I said, I'm not really a big fan of SPL's in a small troop, but once the troop gets up to 3+ patrols, then the SPL is a god-send.  By the time one gets up to 5+ patrols, he is mandatory for the support that needs to be given to the PLs' success.

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Going back to the original point about changing culture. It's hard to do it in a big bang approach. Trying to will set yourself and the scouts up for failure. So take one step at a time.

 

If you want the PLs or indeed any other scout to take charge then you have to give them the skills to do so. And I think the starting point is how they communicate.

 

Last night our scouts spent a short part of the night packing away some tents that had been drying since our summer camp. One of the PLs was quite inexperienced and I watched him flounder for a few minutes while his patrol got under each other's feet. I had a quick word to him and what I said was quite simple. I said "There are 6 other scouts in your patrol, none of them are called "everyone", "guys", "you" or "we". Go through their names in turn, and give each name a job to do, using their name when you do so". Worked a treat. 2 minutes later no one was tangled in guy lines or tripping over each other and 2 minutes after that a clean dry tent was back in the stores where it should be.

 

That idea of named jobs for named individuals is a very simple one that to adults (well most adults, not all of them) comes naturally. It doesn't always for a teenager. Give them basic skills like that, try and get it second nature and the rest, the more intangible scout spirit stuff, will flow as they are able to turn their mind more towards it.

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If I could +50 @@MattR,

SPL should be a "coasting" position ... one that a boy would be thrilled to move into because it's easier than PL, but requires a notch more maturity ... and one certain boys will hold for consecutive terms, if their peers let them.

But, the fact is that elections don't always get you that boy right out of the gate. It can take consecutive weeks of attempts, fails, dust-offs, after-action review, and resets.

 

Our SPLs will tell you they never worked so hard in their life. For me, SPL is basically SM in training. That means motivating the scouts to run the troop. Along with that is making sure all the paper work is done and all the details are considered. Our SPL goes to all the troop leader meetings at summer camp and is responsible for representing the troop in an official capacity. They work so hard that the troop pays for their camp fees. But the Scouts consider it such and honor that they strategize months, sometimes years a head to run and get elected for SPL during the summer. After six months in the position, they are ready for a break. But several of them run again six months later saying the first six months was just training. I invite all of them to camp with the adults since they are handling adult level responsibilities and you can see in their face that they consider the offer a great complement, but none of them took me up on the offer. Personally I'm glad, scouts need to hang with the buddies as long as they can.

 

I tried to build the program so that every scout was being challenge at their maturity. By the time they get to SPL, they are pretty mature, so it takes a lot to keep them challenged. 

 

Oh, I agree with Quazse, wonderful post MattR.

 

Barry

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Way my old troop ran the SPL job, he ran it all. He made sure everyone did their job. He mentored and counseled PLs, made sure instructors were ready to go, etc. More organizational and planning than hands on.

 

More later

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Back.

 

One concern is tring to change the culture, and the Scouts just going along with it without them thinking about it, offering ideas to improve, etc. Basicically being a bunch of automatons, and going along with it. I want them to OWN the change. Not be just adult led. Hence the 'Balance" in the title.

 

Ok,I'll be back

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One also has to overcome the hurdle of taking adults seriously about the change.  For 11-17 years they have heard the adult line about growing up, being a big boy, and making their own choices, but more often than not the rug has been pulled out from under them a lot of times along the way.  

 

One more false promise of us running the show.  We'll just wait and see.  So while they wait, the adults become frustrated and take the reins back and the boys conclude, "See, just like always."

 

Most adults don't have the nerve to allow the youth to fail multiple times until the boys learn to trust that they are really in control of the program.  No other program out there has the potential to do that.  There's always going to be the band director, the coach, the teacher, the pastor, the parent telling the boy what his options are and which of those options is the best.  Yeah, right, that's letting the boy decide.

 

They have never been given the chance to really decide for themselves and theoretically BSA is the only program that allows that possibility.  The only thing standing in the way are the mentoring, guiding, directing, correcting, manipulating and even bullying adults.  No successful SM brags about the fact that his boys are making choices and failing right and left as they try out their wings.

 

No SM wants to hear from a parent about the failings of their perfect child.  No SM wants the parents to show up at a troop/patrol meeting and be greeted by semi-chaotic activity going on all around them.

 

Keep it in mind, even with all the organizational time and effort that goes into burning out SM's, it's still easier than turning control of the chaos over to the boys to figure out and decide.

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One also has to overcome the hurdle of taking adults seriously about the change.  For 11-17 years they have heard the adult line about growing up, being a big boy, and making their own choices, but more often than not the rug has been pulled out from under them a lot of times along the way.  

 

One more false promise of us running the show.  We'll just wait and see.  So while they wait, the adults become frustrated and take the reins back and the boys conclude, "See, just like always."

 

That's why I'm hypersensative about this and trying to find the "Balence" between trying working with them on a vision of the troop and improving it, versus telling them what I want done and tellign them to do it.  Inspiring, motivating and letting them take ownership. One reason why I call being an SM an "art"

 

Most adults don't have the nerve to allow the youth to fail multiple times until the boys learn to trust that they are really in control of the program.  No other program out there has the potential to do that.  There's always going to be the band director, the coach, the teacher, the pastor, the parent telling the boy what his options are and which of those options is the best.  Yeah, right, that's letting the boy decide.

 

They have never been given the chance to really decide for themselves and theoretically BSA is the only program that allows that possibility.  The only thing standing in the way are the mentoring, guiding, directing, correcting, manipulating and even bullying adults.  No successful SM brags about the fact that his boys are making choices and failing right and left as they try out their wings.

 

NAILED IT!  I've seen new leaders from Cub Scouts that had to be reigned in. Heck I found out that one dad whose son isin the NSP made teh menu and did the shopping for them. Son is sick was the excuse.  One reason why want the oler Scouts taking on more responsibility. Our troop guides have been in name only.

 

No SM wants to hear from a parent about the failings of their perfect child.  No SM wants the parents to show up at a troop/patrol meeting and be greeted by semi-chaotic activity going on all around them.

 

Keep it in mind, even with all the organizational time and effort that goes into burning out SM's, it's still easier than turning control of the chaos over to the boys to figure out and decide.

 

But it's worth it because the scouts get more out of it.

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In theory, you should be able to go into the next scout meeting, announce that the troop is now boy-led, open up your camp chair, sit down, put in ear-plugs (to deaden the sounds of chaos) and drink coffee.  So what if they fail, that is the point, right?

 

@@Eagle94-A1, you are correct that it is a balance.  It is the adult leadership that enables a troop to be boy-led.  Start with a core group of the CC, SM and ASM who buy into boy-led.  Their goal should be to provide as many opportunities for the boys to make decisions as possible and to prevent other adults from interfering.

 

I'm going to use our Troop's outdoor program as the example.  Let's start with planning.  Adult tells SPL that the PLC needs to come up with the outings for the year.  At the PLC meeting, the boys brainstorm and then decide on a list.  In our troop, the adults then go make the reservations, draft the permission slips and send out the e-mail to the Troop for each trip (paperwork is for adults).  The boys announce the trip at the meetings, hand out and collect the permission slips and checks.  One of the scouts volunteers to be the grubmaster (satisifying T-1st cooking requirements) and another to be the quartermaster (satisfying Camping merit badge planning requirment) for their patrol.  We have "handouts" for the grubmaster and the quartermaster explaining what they need to do to prepare for the campout.  One of the ASM's reviews the Grubmaster's menu and the Quartermaster's gear list.  On the day of the campout, the quartermaster is responsible for packing all of the patrol's gear (signed out from the Troop QM).  On the campouts, the adults camp 200 feet away from the scouts and each patrol sets up away from the other patrols.  Each patrol, including the adult patrol, has its own gear so there is no need to share any gear.  The SM / ASMs meet with the SPL, PLs and APLs upon arrival and each morning for 5 minutes to do a "briefing" - allowing the adult and boy leaders to be on the same page.  For the activities, the SPL and PLs run the show.

 

Now, this has evolved from the past where the adults would plan the cooking and pack the vehicles, where the adults would be telling the boys when to start cooking and yelling about cleaning up, where the adults would be telling the boys when to get up, when to get ready to leave, where to go when hiking, etc.  Can we become more boy-led on outing?  Yep.  The troop QM can work with the quartermasters who volunteer for each patrol.  We could have the PLs or APLs work with the grubmasters on the menu.  We could have the SPL run the morning briefings rather than the SM.  In time...

 

My point is that you can come up with a list of what needs to get done on outings and write down who is doing it.  As time progresses, start turning things over to the boys.  Once you turn it over to the boys, they tend to keep doing it year after year because they have seen the leaders before them do it.  

 

That is the practical part.  The other part is cultural.  You have to get buy in from the key adult leaders and they in turn become advocates for boy-led.  They explain it to the boys. They explain it to new scouts. They explain it to parents.  They explain it to new adult leaders.  They explain it again to parents.  They tell the boys that they are doing a good job of it.  You get the picture.  Every parent that comes on a campout with us gets my "coffee cup leadership" lecture and my "how amazing it is to see the boys lead" talk.  Every boy leader gets used to my response when they ask if they can do something, "if it isn't illegal or against the Guide to Safe Scouting, you can do it -- you are in charge."  The boy leaders get used to me coming to them with problems and asking them to solve them ("new scout just arrived this morning on campout -- he needs a tent buddy but we have an uneven number...").  The leaders get used to me asking them questions ("how should we handle this?" "what do you want to do after lunch?").  The new scouts at camp get used to my response when they ask me questions ("it says Boy Scouts of America on my uniform, I'm not a boy... try asking one of the boys" or "obviously you've mistaken me for someone in charge, I'm not in charge, the boys are.").

 

Finally, it helps to have several adults pushing boy-led.  We all revert back to the "it is easier if I do it" mentality sometimes and it helps to have another leader to remind us, "let the boys figure it out, that's their job."  We all see boy-led differently and we try to get our involvment to be the lowest common denominator (i.e. if any of the leaders think the boys should handle something, they get to handle it).

 

Good luck.

Edited by Hedgehog

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