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Hedgehog

Troop Guide in Mixed Age Patrols Without New Scout Patrol

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:)  Hedge,   You are correct with your thinking, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  That is a good adage to live by.  Unfortunately the horse and wagon concept worked great for hundreds if not thousands of years.  Even if it "ain't broke" leave the door open for ways of making "what works" better.

 

:)  When I have a NSP with a TG watching over it and SPL backing it up, and maybe a 2nd or 3rd year scout trying out his wings as a PL of the NSP, I have in reality a mixed aged patrol, but the dynamics are far different than what BSA would call a regular patrol.  Same set of different parameters for the Venture patrols.  There's nothing in the rule book about a hot-shot younger brother of someone in the venture patrol inviting his younger brother into the patrol. 

 

It's just that if there is any "mixing" in my patrols it is for functionality and efficiency.  The new Webelos boys cross over and want to select their DC as their PL?  Now one has a mixed age NSP.  If the boys want to scatter the new scouts throughout the other patrols fine if that works, but what works for the unit... is it what works for that particular group of new scouts joining or are they square pegged into the unit's round hole because that's the way the round hole says it works best? 

 

Every group of new boys that come into my units has always been evaluated on what works best for them according to THEIR choices.  Not the other way around.  It cuts down on a lot of group dynamic issues that would otherwise arise.

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I always look a the bigger picture and it seems you are looking for problem to fixed. The only struggle that really seems to stand out is in your last post mentioning "advancement". Are the new scouts not advancing? Are you trying to fix that because the PLs aren't doing a good job helping the new scouts advance? Why is there a concern on advancement? Who is complaining? 

 

Am I completely missing your concern here?

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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Hedge, it does seem like an unusual use of what a troop guide normally is. It might not be bad but whenever I see someone from outside of the patrol assigned to the patrol for some function then it can be troublesome.

 

It sounds like the underlying problem being solved is having someone look out for the new scouts in a regular patrol. I think that's a worthy problem to solve. You said the PL's are busy doing other stuff. Why not make a patrol troop guide, much like a patrol quartermaster? The PL picks him and not the SPL. This offloads some work from the PL and teaches him how to delegate, gives a scout some leadership, and keeps the patrol working as a unit without outside interference.

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I think what I might be doing is a "regular" patrol made up of all new scouts with a TG helping the new PL stay on course for the first year or so.  I just call it a NSP.  :)  At the end of that time period, the TG goes back to his regular patrol and the "NSP" is now a real regular patrol.  It's just a matter of semantics.  I guess.  This is how my scouts in my former troop preferred to do it and out of necessity this is how my new troop is doing it.

 

One of my current unit's NSP has selected one of the TF boys to be their PL.  That will be as it is.  There are no other older boys.  The other NSP has the other older boy but not as the PL.  I have given him the heads up he will need to function from "behind the scenes" in support of the new PL as their stand in TG.  One NSP with an older PL and no TG and one NSP with a newbie PL and a TG.  Been there, done that, both ways.  It'll work.  Is it the new "tradition" for the troop?  I doubt it, every year the boys can recreate themselves anyway they wish.

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Every group of new boys that come into my units has always been evaluated on what works best for them according to THEIR choices.  Not the other way around.  It cuts down on a lot of group dynamic issues that would otherwise arise.

 

Valid point.  The problem is our recruitment is like a box of chocolates -- we never know what we are going to get.  

 

I always look a the bigger picture and it seems you are looking for problem to fixed. The only struggle that really seems to stand out is in your last post mentioning "advancement". Are the new scouts not advancing? Are you trying to fix that because the PLs aren't doing a good job helping the new scouts advance? Why is there a concern on advancement? Who is complaining? 

 

My first concern is that we have four Troop Guides and no NSP patrol - not really "standard" BSA practice.  With that structure, I am seeing some problems with advancement where it seems that some scouts are falling through the cracks - having completed requirements and not having them signed off or just not knowing what to do to get the next requirement completed.  My sense is we have four guys not taking responsibility.  Like the saying goes - if everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.  I think having a boy who's job it is to be responsible for helping all the guys below First Class advance is a good idea.

 

Hedge, it does seem like an unusual use of what a troop guide normally is. It might not be bad but whenever I see someone from outside of the patrol assigned to the patrol for some function then it can be troublesome.

 

It sounds like the underlying problem being solved is having someone look out for the new scouts in a regular patrol. I think that's a worthy problem to solve. You said the PL's are busy doing other stuff. Why not make a patrol troop guide, much like a patrol quartermaster? The PL picks him and not the SPL. This offloads some work from the PL and teaches him how to delegate, gives a scout some leadership, and keeps the patrol working as a unit without outside interference.

 

 

I think that is the idea that started the structure we have and then we stuck the Troop Guide label on the boys responsible at the patrol level for looking out for the new scouts.

 

So, I'm thinking about three options:

 

1) Give a boy the responsibility with or without the patch for TG

 

2) Change the current TG's to instructors and have them assist the PLs with more coaxing from adults to pay attention to advancement

 

3) Push the NSP idea again and have the TG work with the new scouts from when they cross over until the end of the school year and then have the TG continue to coach them (and any others below first class) as they progress as members of various patrols.

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Every new group (as well as the older groups) are a box of chocolates.  As soon as one thinks they have it all figured out, everything changes. 

 

The first session I hold with the boys after crossing over is all adult driven.  They get the bullying speech, the 3 rules of the troop, etc orientation things.

 

The second session the SM sits back and listens to what the boys want out of the deal and unless it is against BSA policy, event rules, or breaks one of the three rules of the troop, then the answer is always "Yes, I can help you with that."  At the end of the session of listening I turn to the new PL, whether he be a new scout or an older scout come down to be with the NSP, and ask, "What do we do first and when do we begin."

 

After two meetings, we have 2 patrols and directions to the older boys on what advancement issues they need to address first to get them ready for camping.  Menu planning, is usually the big first step along with proper packing and equipment for the outing.  First Aid kits are put together, etc. all so they can get out and do something. 

 

Both patrols want to do a easy river canoe/kayak float with sand bar camping.  So that's what we're gonna do.  Did they bite off more than they can chew?  Probably, but that's an important lesson to learn too.  :)

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There's no doubt in my mind that in mixed patrols, advancement can take a back seat. They need to work on skills acquisition. What you need to prepare your patrol for the next adventure may not mesh with what a boy needs to do for his next rank.

 

Our troop has not had as many land navigation opportunities as I would like, so I have a 16 year old (3rd year) who is has that requirement for 2nd class and orienteering for 1st. SM would like him to complete one rank before camp next week, and I think the boy really wants to move along. So, I instructed him on a plan to find a buddy and come to me with a plan and a map and I would add some landmarks that he would reach some day this week.

 

I could just as easily see this being handed off to a troop guide. The standing order: find the lowest rank or slowest advancing boy in each patrol, and help them plan their next move.

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There's no doubt in my mind that in mixed patrols, advancement can take a back seat. They need to work on skills acquisition. What you need to prepare your patrol for the next adventure may not mesh with what a boy needs to do for his next rank.

 

Our troop has not had as many land navigation opportunities as I would like, so I have a 16 year old (3rd year) who is has that requirement for 2nd class and orienteering for 1st. SM would like him to complete one rank before camp next week, and I think the boy really wants to move along. So, I instructed him on a plan to find a buddy and come to me with a plan and a map and I would add some landmarks that he would reach some day this week.

 

I could just as easily see this being handed off to a troop guide. The standing order: find the lowest rank or slowest advancing boy in each patrol, and help them plan their next move.

 

I guess my first reaction to this is why isn't his PL keeping an eye on this?  Boys shouldn't be slipping through the cracks.  If this is an issue, then why isn't the APL watching, too?  Patrol Scribe should have a updated listing of advancement for all the boys in the patrol.

 

Let's face it, if everyone is doing their job and functioning in their POR, the TG for a mixed patrol is a wasted POR.  Yes, a NSP doesn't have the maturity to handle this sophisticated level of patrol team work right from the beginning, that's what the TG helps them develop!  He's there to work with each patrol member and orient them in their functionality.  Within the first month the PL, APL, Scribe and QM should have a basic understanding of their patrol responsibilities along with working on their advancement and getting ready for their first few outings. 

 

I hear a lot about NSP's falling apart and causing more work, and everything else under the sun.  But I would bet dollars to donuts that the real reason is a TG that doesn't do his job and just lets the NSP flounder.  Like I commented before my best TG was an Eagle Scout.  He served the troop far better as a true TG than a sit-back-and-wait-for-something-to-happen JASM.  It was pretty much a microcosm troop with the TG as a fledgling "SM" and the PL and patrol the "troop". 

 

Don't waste a boys time as TG if there is no NSP and I'll guarantee a mess if one tries a NSP without a qualified TG.  The two are dependent on one another.

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If the scouts don't want NSPs, then any attempt to nudge them towards the NSP concept will no doubt cause friction.   And it will disrupt the natural cohesion of the current patrols.

 

If there is no NSP, there is no need for a TG.   Especially four TGs!

 

I'd give them instructor patches and assign them a variety of duties.    But I'd keep them out of the PLs' lane.

 

The BSA operated for nearly 8 decades without NSPs nor TGs.   The PLs can handle advancement if a) they know it is part of their job description and b) if they are trained.

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I wanted to weigh in on the comment about advancement and requirements not meshing with the patrol adventures. Most t-fc requirements can be part of the regular adventures, and in many cases necessary to complete the adventure. Done "right", the requirements are met just by participating in scouting adventures, unless the troop/patrol uses pre-purchased doodads, drive-up only, etc... "camping", and not real adventures. Sure there are a few which require an additional focus, but if all boys need them, then an instructor can help, in a mixed level patrol those who already know can help. Scouting adventures and most of the advancement requirements go hand in hand, they are not mutually ezclusive (or shouldnt be).

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I wanted to weigh in on the comment about advancement and requirements not meshing with the patrol adventures. Most t-fc requirements can be part of the regular adventures, and in many cases necessary to complete the adventure. Done "right", the requirements are met just by participating in scouting adventures, unless the troop/patrol uses pre-purchased doodads, drive-up only, etc... "camping", and not real adventures. Sure there are a few which require an additional focus, but if all boys need them, then an instructor can help, in a mixed level patrol those who already know can help. Scouting adventures and most of the advancement requirements go hand in hand, they are not mutually ezclusive (or shouldnt be).

DT - if a PL puts 5 miles of hiking and 10 miles of cycling on their agenda for the year, then that's two boys a year who can master those skills. Add to that most boys in our community being involved in such diverse activities that it's very easy for a number of them to miss out on the one patrol event (and related meetings) that helps them advance.

Compound that by the boy falling into the troop that spun off from ours because adults didn't like how we organized boy-led, then two years later spun off from that troop for who-knows-what beef with the selected SM, then after a change in guard, re-merges with our boys ... We routinely get boys who take 4 years to advance to 1st class. We don't consider it to be a problem. That is, our old troop doesn't, but the troop that we merged back with goes to a camp that strongly encourages scouts to advance a rank a year, and holds a special ceremony for scouters who meet that target with every returning camper ... the new SM wants to make that happen (yes, I tease him mercilessly about it), this boy wants to make it happen, his PL should make it happen, and given a year probably would. We have a week, no troop guide, no JASM,

... So, at the request of the SM, I had a conversation that sounded more like a hiking MB counselor type of discussion. The boy has four days to present a plan, which even if his PL or TG had stepped up, he'd have to do anyway.

 

But, here's this (for anyone who expects their patrol schema to facilitate advancement): at what point is a 16 year-old the responsibility of a TG or PL? The boy can read his book. He can say, "Hey guys, let's take a hike?"

Edited by qwazse

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Well there is a lot of darts being thrown in the dark here. Not bad advice, but it's different strokes for different programs.

 

I'm still not sure what falling through the cracks means, but I'm curious, shouldn't the SM be catching any of this stuff with conferences? Shouldn't he have a clue when he looks through the scout's handbook? This is where the SM can learn about scouts who are shy and too immature to ask for guidance. 

 

Looking at your list hedgehog, I don't see how going to NSPs helps your Problem. It only justifies you trying to fix the problem by your assigning PORs. Not the NSPs wouldn't help, but your justification doesn't make sense to me. Scouts are responsible for the balancing the Eight Methods, not the adults.

 

I think the trainers idea is a good approach. We sort of do the same thing, but we don't always have designated trainers. More often we have older scouts asked by the SPL to teach a skills when other scouts make a request. Sometimes the SPL will ask for a skills teaching saturday where any scout can request training for a skill. And our troop usually has a couple hours of free time on camp outs where the scouts are encouraged to ask the SPL for some skills training. Some skills like orienteering require a few hour advance notice. 

 

Now I say SPL, those are typically requested when several patrols need the same skills or the patrol doesn't have the resources.  Most skills teaching eventually is done at the patrol level. The adults don't even know when it happens. Taking care of your scouts is developed in the patrol, but the habit continues at all levels. 

 

By the way, you mention the PLs being too busy to deal with advancement. From my experience, the two hardest skills to teach youth leaders are patience and delegation

 

I feel like your trying hard to fix one problem by hand selecting PORs. But at some point the "taking care of the scouts" has to kick in and the job gets done because someone just steps up. I kind of feel that in the big picture, your patrols haven't really bonded to the habit of taking care of each other yet. Maybe they haven't really bonded as a patrol either. If I were to guess (and it really is purely a guess on the limited information), the adults are still a little too intrusive on the patrol method. Not that some intrusion isn't necessary because boys have to be reminded now and then to take care of each other using the scout law. But eventually that practice should go into autopilot and the needs of a scout will be filled by the will of their brother scout taking care of his boys. Just as Beavera hinted, it does work that way. The scouts just need a few nudges towards the beginging to keep them on course.

 

My first suggestion would be to give the adults and the scouts 300 feet separation during their activities and see what happens. That doesn't really require any policy or program changes and it gives the scouts a more breathing room. Then hopefully any interaction by the SM is reactionary instead of proactive. AS they say, you don't really know what you don't know. 300 feet will help both the scouts and adults learn what they don't know. Then you, the adult, can guide the scouts in how they initiate fixing their problem instead of you handing them your fixes to their problems. Of course habits take time and experience requires some tuning, but maybe it's time to let the scouts fail on their own instead of failing with the adults. As a result, the patrols may bond closer and that is a good start.

 

Barry

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Q,

 

I don't disagree. Scouting done well, with participation fullfilling most requirements will happen. Either TG, nor PL are responsible for others advancement any more than encouragement and help. Patrols can have on their meeting agenda a question about what fellows need to do what, and plan adventures which include those items. Of course if a scout does other things instead, he will miss out on both adventure and advancement. That is his choice.

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IMHO a Troop Guide is a very special cat who enjoys being around the young guys or at least can maintain a sense of humor. The Den Chief analogy is perfect. As for Instructors we have had some success for instructor-specialists (a guy for knots, a guy for fire making, etc)

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Every new group (as well as the older groups) are a box of chocolates.  As soon as one thinks they have it all figured out, everything changes. 

 

 Agreed.  That is why I won't rule out a NSP if we get 10 crossovers and won't automatically form one if we get 4.

  

@@Stosh and @@DuctTape, our issue isn't the lack of opportunity or coordinaton with the outdoor program.  We have at least one campout per year where the boys can do orienteering, a hike on half the campouts, two backpacking treks a year, etc.  The issue is like @@qwazse said, for the PLs advancement of other scouts is low on their list.  Nobody is paying attention to the fact that the guys HAVE completed the requirements and that is with TG's inserted in each patrol, presumably coordinating with the patrol leader and lots of encouragement from the Adults (i.e. suggesting one meeting a month to focus on advancement).  

 

I'd give them instructor patches and assign them a variety of duties.    But I'd keep them out of the PLs' lane.

 

My sense is that the we give the other folks who would be TGs within a patrol the Instructor patches and leave them within the patrol and develop clear responsibilities.  Part of problem solved.

 

I'm still not sure what falling through the cracks means, but I'm curious, shouldn't the SM be catching any of this stuff with conferences? Shouldn't he have a clue when he looks through the scout's handbook? This is where the SM can learn about scouts who are shy and too immature to ask for guidance. 

 

Right now, that is being done by the ASMs.  My sense is that should be done by a boy.  That really is what I see as the problem, ASMs intervening to make sure the boys pay attention to advancement.  You pinpoint the exact scouts that I'm worried about -- the ones that won't ask for help.  

 

I feel like your trying hard to fix one problem by hand selecting PORs. But at some point the "taking care of the scouts" has to kick in and the job gets done because someone just steps up. 

 

 

So I see a guy working with guys in his patrol and others with teaching skills and signing off on requirements, being a friend to the new scouts and working as a Den Chief.  This is the guy that goes over to the scout sitting by himself on a campout and asks if he is OK, that goes into his tent to get a sweatshirt for the scout who's jacket got wet because he left it outside his tent.  He is doing the job and I want him to continue doing the job and be recognized as a leader.  

 

I kind of feel that in the big picture, your patrols haven't really bonded to the habit of taking care of each other yet. Maybe they haven't really bonded as a patrol either. If I were to guess (and it really is purely a guess on the limited information), the adults are still a little too intrusive on the patrol method. Not that some intrusion isn't necessary because boys have to be reminded now and then to take care of each other using the scout law. But eventually that practice should go into autopilot and the needs of a scout will be filled by the will of their brother scout taking care of his boys. Just as Beavera hinted, it does work that way. The scouts just need a few nudges towards the beginging to keep them on course.

 

My first suggestion would be to give the adults and the scouts 300 feet separation during their activities and see what happens. That doesn't really require any policy or program changes and it gives the scouts a more breathing room. Then hopefully any interaction by the SM is reactionary instead of proactive. AS they say, you don't really know what you don't know. 300 feet will help both the scouts and adults learn what they don't know. Then you, the adult, can guide the scouts in how they initiate fixing their problem instead of you handing them your fixes to their problems. Of course habits take time and experience requires some tuning, but maybe it's time to let the scouts fail on their own instead of failing with the adults. As a result, the patrols may bond closer and that is a good start.

 

The patrols seem to be functionally oriented toward deciding what to do for the one week a month they are in charge of the Troop activity portion of the meeting.  The adults do keep their distance and the SMs and ASMs are reacting to the boy leaders not taking care of their boys related to advancement.  For most of the PLs the concept of advancement seems to be treated as an adult agenda item ("does anyone need help with advancement... no?  OK, let's do something fun now").  

 

 

IMHO a Troop Guide is a very special cat who enjoys being around the young guys or at least can maintain a sense of humor. The Den Chief analogy is perfect. As for Instructors we have had some success for instructor-specialists (a guy for knots, a guy for fire making, etc)

 

 

My sense is to give the boy the TG patch, tell him that his job through next March is to do the things that are bolded in the description below and that if we have enough scouts to have a NSP, we will have one (from crossover through summer camp or sooner if the boys in the patrol want to integrate into the troop).  Most likely the majority of scouts crossing over would be from the Den he is the Den Chief for, so that role would seem natural. 

  1. Troop Guide

    • Introduce new Scouts to troop operations.

    • Guide new Scouts through early Scouting activities.

    • Help set and enforce the tone for good Scout behavior within the troop.

    • Ensure older Scouts never harass or bully new Scouts.

    • Help new Scouts earn the First Class rank in their first year.

    • Coach the patrol leader of the new-Scout patrol on his duties.

    • Work with the patrol leader at patrol leaders’ council meetings.

    • Attend patrol leaders’ council meetings with the patrol leader of the new-Scout patrol.

    • Assist the assistant Scoutmaster with training.

    • Coach individual Scouts on Scouting challenges. 

Edited by Hedgehog

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