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pchadbo

Need help with a "good" problem

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Hi all!
 

I am coming to the virtual campfire for some advice with a "good" Problem.

 

I am Unit Commissioner for a Troop that currently has 40-45 boys.  The Troop is strong in most areas, camps 11-12 months a year, has 1-2 eagles per year on average, we send 5-7 boys to our Council camps as staff each summer, one of our past SPLs is the Current OA Lodge Chief with our immediate past SPL serving as Chapter Chief. All of the boys take what the learn outside the Troop and bring it back.  The Troop is reasonably boy-led, but more as one big Patrol with SPL running everything not individual Patrols..

 

The Players:

 

Me: Unit Commissioner, District Training Chair, past Wood Badge Staffer

SPL: NYLT trained, motivated 16 year old

SM: Position trained, 2 years removed from accelerated transition from Cub Master to Scout Master due to SM leaving sooner than expected

ASMs: motivated group less than 3 years removed form Cub Scouts

 

The issue:

 

Our sister Pack has blossomed into a Pack with 90+ plus boys of which 40 or so are bear and above.  Meaning, if they sy=a=tay in and cross over, we are looking at doubling the size of the Troop in the next 3 years. This is a "good" problem to have. 

 

Why I am writing for advice:

 

Our SM is very well intentioned and trying hard but cannot seem to let go of control to the boys.  It is little things: he has told the PLC that they cannot meet without him, the agenda for PLC needs to run through him, he "approves" their decisions, He has also,at the request of Past SPLs ( I spoke with them and they did ask) taken a more active role in program planning. It is these little things that are concerning me.  I see the boys' leadership being slowly undermined and if the Troop explodes I can see the Troop becoming adult-led very easily.

 

I had the opprtunity over the weekend at our camporee to have a nice conversation with the SPL who would really like to run his Troop without the training wheels or brakes.

 

How can I support the SPL who wants to run the program the way it should be run without overstepping my role as UC or ticking off the SM.

 

FWIW the COR is on the side of the SPL (gottal love CORs who show up to help at Camporees)

 

Thank you in advance for the advice and ideas.

 

 

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Long term, I would have him help staff an NYLT course to see how the boys really can do everything (or most things).  

 

Is the SM willing to take input from you?  If he is, maybe have a frank conversation with him about staying in his lane.  He may not realize what he is doing and give him advice to discuss with the SPL ahead of time about what he would like to see happen and afterwards review what happened.  If he is unwilling to take input, there isn't much you can do without getting the CC and COR involved.

 

Good problem to have about the size, but what I have seen is troops that get too big tend to become move adult led vs. boy led.

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I'd strongly encourage the SM to go through wood badge training. Have the unit sponsor him. I would also recommend the ASMs doing the same. 

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My first thought is to start building patrols.  45 people is pretty hard for one Scout to lead - 85 people?  You bet it will become adult led at those kinds of numbers.  You have enough people for 4 to 6 patrols.  I'd get them up and running so when you do have another 40 people showing up, you can model it for the new Scouts correctly instead of trying to invent it when they get there.

 

Have you asked the former SPLs why they asked the SM to take a more active role in program planning?  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it's because you don't really have a functioning PLC (kind of hard to have one if you don't really use Patrols) and that the SPLs were just overwhelmed with all the responsibilities.  Solution?  Not wanting to sound like a broken record but form Patrols and get some other boy leaders involved in the planning - if the work researching and setting up things to do and places to go can be delegated down to the Patrol level (you have 12 months a year - if you have 5 patrols, each can be responsible for researching and putting forth 3-4 activities that the PLC can choose from and then responsible for helping to plan for two of those activities per year - the other two months?  Presumably one is Summer Camp - and the second could be SPL's choice (hmmm - I like that as a reward - the SPL gets to choose a place HE wants to go to).

 

Ok - so far, my suggestions are to put together Patrols and to put together Patrols.  Hmmmm - I'm seeing a pattern.  I think once the SM can actually SEE the Patrol Method and PLC working, it becomes easier for him to let some things go. 

 

You're right - this IS a good problem to have.

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As an aside - if you're anticipating the troop may soon have a membership of between 80 and 90, you may want to consider if your efforts should be directed towards getting a second, or even a third troop chartered?  As a single troop, you'd be talking at least 10 patrols?  Its hard enough to run a troop of that size and just keep your head above water.  I'm assuming the SM sees the writing on the wall as well as you do, and it thinking ahead to how tough his job is going to get over the next couple years.  He may also have a better read on some of the personalities involved - are there some "difficult" people on his radar that he feels the need to tiptoe around?

 

What kind of rapport do you have with the SM?  Maybe invite him and the SPL out to lunch as an opportunity to allow them to discuss the achievements and challenges their troop is facing?  Use that as an opportunity to reinforce the SPL's point of view.

 

Goes without saying, but anticipate that the SM is going to want to feel he has support, and someone to back him up if things start to go sideways. Make sure that as a UC, you're seen as a mentor who is invested in the SM's success, and not just another dude from "council" who talks the talk without walking the walk.

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@@CalicoPenn -- that is exactly what I did suggest to the SPL. I was just trying to see if there were any out of the box ideas anyone could come up with to help "run interference" for the SPL to put his plan in action.

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@@pchadbo, you might have the problem of leading a sated horse to water. If that is the case, as a UC, your hands are tied. If there's a troop in your district that is exemplary, you might want to offer for the two units to try setting up a joint activity. You might want to see if folks will pitch in to send PL's to NYLT. Other than that, you're kinda stuck.

 

If folks are somewhat open minded -- even if they aren't gun-ho like the COR, you might want to ask around for someone with a big old field and tell the patrols they can plan a camp there on condition they set up on each corner (or on a 300' radius if the field is really really big) with the SMs in the middle and SPL/ASPL wherever they choose. The weekend would be basically a Brownsea reenactment. If the SM doesn't want to play it that way, the field won't be available. Just say the owner is a bit "old school" and has certain expectations when he invites scouts on the property.

 

Whatever you do, be direct in your intentions. You will tick off the SM if you try to be subtle. Be clear that you don't see eye to eye, you just want him to get the most out of the program, but if your vision is out of his comfort zone, you'll leave it between him and the CO as to what kind of program they want to deliver out of their house.

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@ Jwest09 that has been at least brought up and the history is there, we have the flags to prove it, CO is willing to split if we feel it becomes necessary, part of this is to see if this is an anomaly or will continue, as the Pack has exploded in the last 2 years from 35 - 90

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Doubling in size won't be good or bad so much as a big change. The question is who will be ready for the change? The adults will react faster so I think you're right that they could take over. I went through big growth spurts twice and there better be a plan with everyone on the same page or there will be problems. Unless you've dealt with that many new scouts before it will be new. My guess is neither the scouts nor adults know what is coming. There are lots of questions that the scouts should have answers to. What do the new scouts need to learn and in what time frame? Who will teach them? How will it be made fun? How will scouts be prevented from falling into cracks? How will problems be identified and solved? As I said, I doubt if the adults have answers to these and the scouts won't know they need to have a plan. The adults also need a plan: how are they going to prepare the scouts for this?

 

My suggestion is bring it up as an opportunity for the scouts to take on more leadership. And along the way the adults can be trained as well. I would not go around the sm. This should have his backing. If he isn't concerned then there's a chance to get someone that is concerned to help the scouts get prepared.

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@@CalicoPenn -- that is exactly what I did suggest to the SPL. I was just trying to see if there were any out of the box ideas anyone could come up with to help "run interference" for the SPL to put his plan in action.

 

You know, I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "run interference" - but I'd strongly encourage you to think twice before doing so.  The way I read it, it implies that you're looking to distract and deceive the SM while his SPL does things which he does not approve of, or is unaware of.  That is widely inappropriate.  You paint the picture of an SM who is a good guy, doing his best, and on the verge of having his troop double in size.  He's likely a little intimidated and overwhelmed.  He needs to feel that his UC is looking out for him, and willing to help him learn and improve.  He should not feel deceived or undermined by his UC.

 

To put it frankly - the UC's role is to support the Scoutmaster.  The UC should not be getting between the SM and SPL - even if the SPL is "right" and the SM is "wrong," your role as UC is to approach that through the Scoutmaster, not to insert yourself between the SM and SPL.  As an SM, if I learned that a UC were "running interference" between myself and my SPL, I'd be pretty upset, and would be informing the UC and DC that I have no further use for the UC's "assistance" with my unit.  The worst case here is, the SM gets ticked off and refuses to budge on his position, the SPL gets ticked off because now he's up against a brick wall, and you've just destroyed any credibility you might have had, and can no longer improve the situation at all.  

 

So don't "run interference."  Be open, direct and honest with the SM.  Present yourself as a resource, a mentor, and someone invested in the SM's success.

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@@jwest09 -- yes bad choice of words. perhaps, "help the SPL to get more breathing room to run the program with less SM control" would have been a better phrasing. I know I am treading in very dangerous waters here, which is why I came here for advice on the next steps. Yes, I am planning on having the conversation with the SM about the SPL's concerns, I am just looking for the advice of how to walk into this minefield without blowing everything up.

 

Edited to add:

I have also noticed the slow ebb of boy leadership since the SM has taken over, just did not realize until the conversation with the SPL how far the pendulum had swung

Edited by pchadbo

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I like the idea of new troops. If an adult is having issues managing 45-50 boys properly it won’t get better with double that amount. You’ll need 4-6 new leaders anyway just to manage the ratio of Scouts to adults. Making at least one other troop gives you the chance to build a true scout led program. Competition is always good. It might force the other scoutmaster to change his ways.

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I like the idea of new troops. If an adult is having issues managing 45-50 boys properly it won’t get better with double that amount. You’ll need 4-6 new leaders anyway just to manage the ratio of Scouts to adults. Making at least one other troop gives you the chance to build a true scout led program. Competition is always good. It might force the other scoutmaster to change his ways.

I've been through this split-and-remerge cycle and it can amount to wasted time and missed opportunities. Unless you have other COs in the neighborhood clamoring to launch a program for their boys, one of the troops will be under-supported ... only hurting those boys. It really is a second-best strategy.

 

Better to get the existing guys into four patrols and maybe a venture patrol/leadership corps. Slap some JASM patches on those former SPLs. Give them the stats on the pack and ask some of them to consider, upon turning 18, being the kind of ASM who can coach crossover adults about "what it was like." Basically, "brace for impact" by having a couple of decent and stable patrols with the goal of being the example of the new scout patrol, and possibly recruiting from them as their patrol members move up.

Edited by qwazse

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If the SM is the type of person who might benefit by seeing the patrol method in action - maybe arrange for him to "audit" a day of NYLT (assuming, of course, a well-run NYLT program and a willing NYLT Scoutmaster).  I've seen some powerful lightbulb moments from adults at NYLT who see that a youth led, patrol method troop can in fact work.  Its a lot more powerful to see something in action than it is to just talk about it.  

 

Woodbadge has been brought up - the difference between WB and NYLT is that NYLT gives you the opportunity to actually observe the youth doing real life, patrol method Scouting in real time.  As valuable as WB is, there's still a mental leap between adults simulating the program, and having youths actually enact the program.  NYLT can be a way to bridge that gap.

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