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DarleneBBB

Questions about "Boy Led" Troop

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Hello,

I would like to get a handle on a new troop we have just joined.  They claim to be boy led, and everytime I try to ask a question as a parent I am told to have my 11 year old son ask his Patrol Leader.

But the SM decides when trips will happen, after the scouts have a vague annual plan every August.  The SM takes the plan and books all the trips.  The SM also gives the scouts heavy direction with every decision.  He will strongly suggest that boys do something a certain way, possibly to the point of telling them what to do.  It is all done behind closed doors so we dont really know what is being told to the boys.  SM also will make sudden changes effective without running it by commitee, or just telling the Committee chair and the CC does not share with the rest of the committee or parents.

I dont see how this is boy led?

 

How does your troop run?  Do boys do planning?

 

 

 

 

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Hi Darlene,

The troop my sons are in is quasi- boy led.  They say it's boy led, but it's not 100%.   The outings chair takes a survey and then the adults plan the calendar. I am hoping to influence the annual planning process through the committee.  

It can be so frustrating as a parent to feel like you are shut out of getting information.  I feel that the adult leaders should answer your questions, but at the same time, they are trying to teach the boys to take care of themselves and handle their own stuff.  Still, parents are a big help, especially for the younger guys.

Hang in there, it should get better over time.  Try to volunteer for something or go to the committee meetings (or read their minutes) to learn as much as you can. 

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Try not to judge Boy Led (Y / N) just by outing planning.  If the SM is deciding what to do when, then that could be a challenge.  If the TLC is deciding what to do when, but the actual logistics are being done by an adult, sort of grey area.   

In our unit leaders sit with the TLC at annual planning, we provide the school calendar for reference, then a listing of past outings and events, how many attended, also they write down some new ones.  There are some general parameters based on distance, G2SS (paintball comes up every year), and cost (yes you could maybe do that, let's hear about pay options).  Then we wander off.  Some are straight forward to plan and some we need more detail on.  They wanted a lock-in several years ago.  We discussed what would they do, times, what would be needed.  CO was good with it and over the years this is a huge event.  Sometimes we want to go to a State Park to do a specific activity.  We have had to switch months due to conflicts at the park.  Typically we sit back down with the TLC and advise.  A leader will make the reservations, TLC will plan the activities

Some units may have the TLC make the reservations and figure out how to maybe put in a deposit.  

Now meals, packing, loading, campfires, duty rosters, clean-up, etc.  TLC works all that out.  Same with instructional times, flag ceremonies and other meeting items

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Ok so, I’ll make this short and simple. 

Your troop is somewhat boy led and somewhat not. Parents should always speak to adults. Leaders will always handle the money, book the trips (NOT choose), administrative stuff, etc. 

Boys should be the ones providing the program. Such as teaching younger scouts, following Leadership, planning every event at a yearly PLC and meetings at a monthly PLC, and so much more.

The SM probably doesnt have a scouting background and does not understand what boys are capable of.

My troop was somewhat like yours where adults did the planning. That changed once I became SPL. I made the WHOLE (yes, whole) schedule from camping trips to fundraisers. I did consult dates with the leaders (if they can take off work if needed, etc. and make arrangements). 

Edited by ItsBrian

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Welcome to the forums!

It's a very tough balance because parents these days really believe in having tons of information. For troop events, my parents were content with a permission slip that we filled out by hand a few weeks before an outing. It was so much fun teasing the SPL as he tried to rattle off the facts we were to transcribe. (E.g. "Sir, how does one spell 'April'?") 

Patrol meetings were even more informal ("Hey Mom! We're building our Klondike sled at Tom's house. Jeff's mom's picking me up in an hour. OK?")

Bless my mom, she really had no clue what I was putting in my pack until I came back and tossed it in the laundry or she went to the pantry and realized some canned goods were depleted. My distinct advantage was that my much older siblings were giving them enough grief that I learned from them pretty quick how to fly under her radar - most days.

It sounds like you have is a "boy-led" troop that's a bit shallow on the patrol method. The way this should work is the boys should record events centrally. (Really, a hand-drawn poster-board calendar is best.) Then, a committee member notes the calendar, and at some point in the committee meeting they ask the SPL and SM, "How can we support the events currently on the board?" This gets trickled back to the PLC, and the PL's counsel their patrol accordingly.

The harsh reality is that BSA requires adult leadership on every trip, and SMs have real schedules to work around. (Not just them, if the SPL/PL are on various extracurricular activities or go to different schools, settling on a date for a troop activity is chaos.) So, we wind up having narrow envelopes in which to operate. What's worse, for a few years, we had to fill out tour plans online, and SPL's didn't have access to them. So BSA has conditioned SM's into thinking that they are travel agents.

Now, if the SM is vetoing boys' decisions to the point that the promise of scouting is not delivered (e.g. campouts dropped in favor of merit badge classes, back-country ideas dropped in favor of flushies and electricity, etc ...), then you begin to have serious problems.

Charlei

Edited by qwazse

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Problems can also come from 21st century parents. Parents that have been doing everything for the kids and you suddenly have an old fart like me telling them, little Johnny can decide where to go or what to eat on a camping trip. It does not sit well with the more controlling parents. 

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3 minutes ago, krikkitbot said:

Problems can also come from 21st century parents. Parents that have been doing everything for the kids and you suddenly have an old fart like me telling them, little Johnny can decide where to go or what to eat on a camping trip. It does not sit well with the more controlling parents. 

NOOO... Little Johnny needs our help to survive!!!

Image result for fleet of helicopters


 

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 "As the Unit Commish, I once sat in on a PLC meeting.   The SM was making suggestions for activities, trips, places to camp.... The calendar was on the table , between the SPL ( a new one) and the three Patrol Leaders.  The SM kept saying, "Well, what do you think?"  and the Scouts were looking at each other....  

Finally, the SPL  looked at the SM and said, " You mean I can make that decision?"   The SM nodded vigorously and said,  "DUHHHH ?? "   . 

After that, the four Scouts had fun figuring out the monthly themes and camping weekends and writing it down on the calendar.  

Edited by SSScout
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Hi Darlene,

My sense is that your son's troop is pretty typical.  I get the sense that very few troops fully provide a youth led program.  I know that ours does not. 

In our troop, we have a long time Scoutmaster.  Though he's been a Scoutmaster for a long time, I get the sense that he really doesn't understand what youth are capable of and/or how to motivate them to really lead.  I think deep down he thinks we're boy led, but just doesn't realize that there is a lot more to it than what he does.

One thing that really disappoints me reading your note is that it sounds like no-one is willing to sit down with you and try to explain what's going on.  As a Scouting volunteer, I am never too busy to talk to a parent and to explain.  I may not agree with their request, but I will always listen.   If I ever told you "have your son ask his patrol leader", it would be accompanied by a longer explanation about why I was suggesting that.  

Having spent four years fighting a Scoutmaster and an established cultuer, I've realized that the better thing would have been to simply find a better troop.  I'm the Committee Chair of the troop and in hindsight really wish my son had chosen a different troop. 

Sorry to be a bit negative - but this is the frank feedback that I wish someone had given me.  I had all kinds of alarms going off about my son's troop and I said "well, I can volunteer and fix it".  I was wrong.  If you've got a Scoutmaster that doesn't get it and you have a bunch of adults that like his style, there is not a whole lot you can do.  To that end, I'd really consider if this is a troop you want to make work. 

Best of luck!

 

 

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14 hours ago, DarleneBBB said:

How does your troop run?  Do boys do planning?

I hate the term "boy led" because it's too often used as an absolute "We're Boy Led !!" and quickly followed with a slight or knock against other troops or other leaders.  Using the term "Boy Led" seems to lower scouter debates to almost a base level at times.  IMHO, this happens so much that I'd almost like to see the term gone. 

I love the term "boy led" because it's an idea, great for training and creating a quick image.  But keep it to training and as an ideal  It's an end-goal that is not achievable, but that we should continually strive for as mentors to our youth.  It's in working toward that goal of "boy led" that we see growth in our scouts.  

I say that it's not achievable because

  • Youth leaders are chosen by other youth.  It's an intentionally imperfect process.  
  • Youth leaders are not chosen because they already have perfected leadership skills, but rather so they can learn and grow those skills.

Adult leaders ... (perhaps another term that should be re-placed ... Mentor?  Coach?) ... is to continually look for the next small opportunity to help our scouts develop their skills, character  and confidence.  So we as adult leaders need to help the troop succeed enough (being active, camping, etc) so that the scouts have a great time, build friendships and keep coming.  But at the same time we back down quickly so the scouts learn and grow.  

How does our troop run?  ... Mixed.  When ever possible, we try to help the scouts realize this is their experience, not ours.  Anytime they show leadership or ownership, we try to quickly step back and become silent.  We try to avoid interjecting even just a little if the scouts are showing ownership and energy.  It yields imperfect, but always interesting results.  :)

Do boys do planning?  ... This is where our troop shines.  I've always been proud of our scoutmaster as he would meet with the SPL (and the SPL's dad) the night before and coach the SPL through the planning session.  The SPL would fully run the planning session and the SM would sit off in the corner and only interject if asked.  It's not always been exactly the same, but it started with a review of the past year, then laying out new goals (voting on them to choose), then laying out ideas for camps and activities (then voting on them to choose), then laying out the calendar in detail.  Usually, the SM and SPL would have already marked up the base calendar with holidays, special school dates, elections, troop mtgs, PLC meetings, etc, district camp dates (so the troop knows the dates), OA dates.  Sometimes those dates would be kept and sometimes the troop would choose to change the dates.  ... By the time the scouts are done, we have calendar for 18 months out.   And between each session was food and games.  Sometimes a team building game.  ... Best planning sessions were done as a planning camp out.  ... Usually anyone in the troop was invited to attend, but the active talkers were the PLC official members.  Often we'd get half the troop as the scouts had fun doing the planning.  The SPL would encourage people to feed comments through the PL.  Never worked perfect, but it worked enough.  

My opinion is the SPL grew significant skills and confidence through their first planning session.  The prep and the confidence leading it really helped them become stronger leaders.

Edited by fred johnson
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3 hours ago, fred johnson said:

... I say that it's not achievable because

  • Youth leaders are chosen by other youth.  It's an intentionally imperfect process.  
  • Youth leaders are not chosen because they already have perfected leadership skills, but rather so they can learn and grow those skills. ...

^^^This. The method of scouting is leadership development. Not leadership.

We expect rough edges. The real question is, "How rough?"

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10 minutes ago, qwazse said:

^^^This. The method of scouting is leadership development. Not leadership.

We expect rough edges. The real question is, "How rough?"

I was the “new quiet scout” when I first joined my troop. I wasn’t PL or anything, I went straight to ASPL and that’s when I broke out of my “shell” and started leading (The SPL ended up leaving due to family reasons halfway through). I can say that being SPL forced me to learn a whole bunch of things, I’m even better at public speaking. It just depends on what the scout makes out their “leadership development”

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5 hours ago, fred johnson said:

How does our troop run?  ... Mixed.  When ever possible, we try to help the scouts realize this is their experience, not ours.  Anytime they show leadership or ownership, we try to quickly step back and become silent.  We try to avoid interjecting even just a little if the scouts are showing ownership and energy.  It yields imperfect, but always interesting results.  :)

Do boys do planning?  ... This is where our troop shines.  I've always been proud of our scoutmaster as he would meet with the SPL (and the SPL's dad) the night before and coach the SPL through the planning session.  The SPL would fully run the planning session and the SM would sit off in the corner and only interject if asked.  It's not always been exactly the same, but it started with a review of the past year, then laying out new goals (voting on them to choose), then laying out ideas for camps and activities (then voting on them to choose), then laying out the calendar in detail.  Usually, the SM and SPL would have already marked up the base calendar with holidays, special school dates, elections, troop mtgs, PLC meetings, etc, district camp dates (so the troop knows the dates), OA dates.  Sometimes those dates would be kept and sometimes the troop would choose to change the dates.  ... By the time the scouts are done, we have calendar for 18 months out.   And between each session was food and games.  Sometimes a team building game.  ... Best planning sessions were done as a planning camp out.  ... Usually anyone in the troop was invited to attend, but the active talkers were the PLC official members.  Often we'd get half the troop as the scouts had fun doing the planning.  The SPL would encourage people to feed comments through the PL.  Never worked perfect, but it worked enough.  

My opinion is the SPL grew significant skills and confidence through their first planning session.  The prep and the confidence leading it really helped them become stronger leaders.

This very well describes how our troop operates.

Our troop has an annual planning/calendaring meeting led by the SPL. We are a small troop, so everyone gets to vote. The boys choose our camping destinations with the understanding that dates may shift around based on the availability of campsite reservations. Adult leaders are the ones who take that information and go make the actual campsite reservations. If changes are needed, the boys vote again on a new plan (example: this year the boys voted for snow camping but unfortunately there was no snow).

For campouts, the boys always do their own meal planning, equipment assignments, tent assignments, etc. Adult leaders on the campout cook, eat, and tent separately.

Under direction of the PL or SPL, the boys also vote on the activities for weekly meetings. Sometimes the agenda is preset (i.e. we will always hold a campout planning meeting right before a weekend campout). Sometimes the boys have voted to work on rank advancement, sometimes to have a merit badge class,  sometimes to help with a service project,  sometimes to have a game night - there is a lot of variety.

Boy leadership should have its limits. On a recent troop hike, our SPL was leading a group of boys in front who were sprinting to the finish. We were getting spread out too far apart on the trail, so I asked him to return and rejoin the rest of the group. It was a safety issue of potentially getting separated and lost. The SPL became indignant, saying "so much for boy leadership". Sometimes adults know best - such is life.

I give our troop a "B" grade for boy leadership. We are somewhat hobbled because our troop leadership is quite young (13 year old SPL). Our older Scouts rarely show up or put any real effort into leadership assignments, so it falls to the younger Scouts who have the enthusiasm and commitment. We are doing ok, but I recognize there are definitely things we could do better. It is an evolution, and I can see improvements in our boy leadership over time.

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23 minutes ago, gblotter said:

... Boy leadership should have its limits. On a recent troop hike, our SPL was leading a group of boys in front who were sprinting to the finish. We were getting spread out too far apart on the trail, so I asked him to return and rejoin the rest of the group. It was a safety issue of potentially getting separated and lost. The SPL became indignant, saying "so much for boy leadership". Sometimes adults know best - such is life. ...

Not sure how getting lost is a safety issue. Given their age, I might understand your concern. However, I've seen enough adults get stupid lost that I'm convinced that they often don't know best.

But, the aspect of boy leadership that the SPL failed to grasp is that one should not abdicate one's responsibility to tend slower scouts.

If our runners want to sprint part of the trek, they need to give us a plan that includes rendezvous points, sets up trail signals, identifies which boys will serve as PL in their absence, and confirms that they have all they need to survive the night if they do take the unintended trail (which, they have done ... although it only costed them an hour -- not a day -- of their time).

One time, I revised a hike plan on the spot because the younger scouts wanted to keep hiking while the older boys wanted to cut short a loop in the trail to spend the afternoon lounging at camp. They were pretty steamed at me. I told them "Go ahead, tell Mom and Dad that Mr. Q made you hike an extra three miles for the sake of enthusiastic 1st-years. Let me know how they reply."

They caught on that day that boy leadership included making good on the promise of scouting -- for everyone.

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yeah, I to would guess your son's troop is typical.

I feel like I know in theory what it could be...how great of an experience for the scouts it could be I mean....

and so I used to get very frustrated, knowing I was in no position to affect real change.  With the help of folks here,. as well as some advice I got form Clarke Green at scoutmastercg.com, and some reading I had done by BP that said something to the affect that EVERY boy will get some good out of scouting, as long as the SM does no harm...(don't remember the exact quote)....I started coming around to the idea that while the troop experience may not be perfect, fun will be had and good will come of it...  My thinking is that the SM (and other scouters) in your example is doing harm in that he's taking away opportunities for the scouts.... but it's not harm in the sense of abuse or danger...so the overall net will be something more than the scout would get if he wasn't a scout.  You've got to let it go

For such a simple concept there really is no clear definition or training.  there's just too much interpretation and grey area so in the end that sort of experience is very typical in my observation....

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