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What's the value of Wood Badge???

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John-in KC, good to see you around again.   Ideally, WB is supposed to MODEL the Patrol Method (did BP really use that term?). 

As a Scout Leader and Sub Teacher I continue to be surprised and disappointed when I see kids that have to be practically knocked up side the head to work together and plan and make decisions AS A PATROL.....   Most of our kids seem to be unable to think for themselves in the lower and middle grades. They have been so browbeat into WAITING for instruction, to be told what to do....  The idea of a Scout deciding , with his/her buds to go somewhere, do something as a team is foreign to them.  

WB should, if it doesn't usually, encourage the adult leader to permit the Scout to think and make mistakes (and deal with the results) themselves.  

 

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I am glad I came across this forum.

 

I survived a Wood Badge course in the Fall and have been wondering why it is held in such high esteem.

 

It is comforting to know that though I am in the minority I am not alone.

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Hi @SeanK. Welcome to the forum.

The best thing I got out of WB was the enthusiasm of the staff. Unfortunately, the rest of it wasn't what I was looking for.

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Almost immediately after becoming a scoutmaster a year ago, I started getting suggestions to do wood badge training.  This was even before I had taken the introduction to outdoor leadership skills program, which is an actual requirement, and which I found to be very valuable.  I have respectfully declined WB training to date but have had a few discussions with Council reps about the nature and purpose of the training.  The responses I have received have not caused me to elevate this program as a priority, particularly in light of the time commitment on top of actual scouting time spent at weekly troop meetings, a monthly parent meeting and a monthly camp out or service project.  

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On 4/10/2019 at 7:55 PM, MattR said:

Hi @SeanK. Welcome to the forum.

The best thing I got out of WB was the enthusiasm of the staff. Unfortunately, the rest of it wasn't what I was looking for.

I blame the staff, specifically the Troop Guide ASM and the Troop Guides. The course provides enough time for the Troop Guides to evaluate the participants so they can help them prepare for their assigned responsibility in the unit or district. The Troop Guides are supposed to work with the Troop Guide ASM on the best way to help each participant develop Ticket Items that would give them the most tools and experience for their unit responsibilities. With the right team helping the participant focus on more specific experiences, the Ticket Items are generally less work for more skills development because they are written specifically to the needs of the participant. Sadly the Troop Guide and Troop Guide ASM staff positions are generally handed out to adults next in line for WB Staff, not because they have the experiences or skills to truly develop the participants.

Barry

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Here are my two cents and keep in mind that my Wood Badge experience was not a good one.  For informational purposes I took a Pilot of the new five day course, things could/should have changed.

 

If you are not familiar business/management theory and its application to small group dynamics, it can be a useful course.

 

If you are not familiar with the patrol method or the history and aims of Scouting it can be a useful course.

 

If you are interested in checking a box on your Scout CV to work on things at the Council, Regional or National level it will be useful.

 

That said, do not expect a mountain top experience and though a lot of people will tell you “it is the most fun they have ever had in scouting” I think it is more them wishing it was from a rear view mirror.

 

Expect long hours of sitting and watching lectures with forced conformity and pre-set answers to problems being served up as creative thinking.

 

Most people get scared off by the tickets, you should be able to do those in the normal course of your scouting life.

 

For me the course did not live up to the high expectations that were set with the pitch.  If the pitch was more true to life, I may have not been as miserable as I was.  My background meant that most of the information presented was simplified to the point of boring me.  I am not at a stage in my life were over a 10-12 hour day consisting of 6-7h Lecture, 1-2h Recitation, 1-2h possible activity and 3 meals is appealing.

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3 hours ago, Eagledad said:

I blame the staff, specifically the Troop Guide ASM and the Troop Guides.

Well, you got me there. My troop guide, or whoever signed off on my ticket items, didn't really care. He was actually the one staff member I wasn't too impressed with. In hindsight the ticket items could have been more related to what I was hoping to learn but, as the saying goes, we don't know what we don't know.  I could see how the ticket could make the program.

3 hours ago, SeanK said:

 I am not at a stage in my life were ... 3 meals is appealing.

I have always been at the stage where 3 meals a day is appealing. ;)

 

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Thanks for the candor @SeanK.  You make the comment:

On 4/12/2019 at 3:51 PM, SeanK said:

For me the course did not live up to the high expectations that were set with the pitch.  If the pitch was more true to life, I may have not been as miserable as I was.  

Now that you are familiar with the course, what specifically would  you do differently?

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I can only speak to the pilot 5 day course I took in the Fall of 2018.

What I would specially do differently is not take the course... There was nothing in the course that was worth $300 much less missing the chance to be with my family for two weekends or using a vacation day at work.  My biggest takeaways from the course are how not to run an event.

In regards to the pitch:

1) Make it clear that it is designed to teach admission and leadership/management theory in a mostly lecture format.  Outdoor skills are a thing of the past and only marginally involved.

2) Stop describing it as “the most fun you will ever have in scouting” and stressing it is a worthwhile course for every scout leader.  My negative opinion of the course may be extreme but it is not unique. 

3) The course seems to be a vestige of when secret groups were allowed in scouting, that should change people should have a clear understanding of outline and expectations before they sign up.

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I loved meeting the people at Wood Badge the most. I was lucky to have a great patrol and a great staff. 

Also, one of my patrol mates brought his wife's homemade pickles, which were amazing.  

Edited by WisconsinMomma

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4 hours ago, SeanK said:

I can only speak to the pilot 5 day course I took in the Fall of 2018.

What I would specially do differently is not take the course... There was nothing in the course that was worth $300 much less missing the chance to be with my family for two weekends or using a vacation day at work.  My biggest takeaways from the course are how not to run an event.

In regards to the pitch:

1) Make it clear that it is designed to teach admission and leadership/management theory in a mostly lecture format.  Outdoor skills are a thing of the past and only marginally involved.

2) Stop describing it as “the most fun you will ever have in scouting” and stressing it is a worthwhile course for every scout leader.  My negative opinion of the course may be extreme but it is not unique. 

3) The course seems to be a vestige of when secret groups were allowed in scouting, that should change people should have a clear understanding of outline and expectations before they sign up.

Thanks to the Scouters on this forum, I've come to realize that there are councils out there that do a pretty poor job in recruiting leaders to attend.  Your points are all well taken.  Wood Badge is not an outdoor skills course.  It's not a secret group with a secret curriculum.  A good Wood Badge "recruiter" should be very clear about what it is and it is not.  Slogans, arm twisting, etc. do no one any good.  A strong course will be filled with participants that know what they are there for and interested in that learning experience.

I went into the course familiar with management theory, group dynamics, and the like.  Even with that background, I got a lot out of the course.  I enjoyed learning about the application of these skills in the context of Scouting.  I enjoyed focusing on developing as a Scouting leader with other like minded people.  Like @WisconsinMomma I too enjoyed meeting the staff and learning from them.

@SeanK - if going forward you think of some more specific things that might have helped the course itself be more useful for you, I'd love to hear them.  A Wood Badge course follows a pretty defined curriculum.  But, within that, there is always room for an indviduals staff members to think about how they present the material and support the participants.  There are forum members who do serve as Wood Badge staff members, so it's always helpful to share nuggets that might help them be better staffers.

Edited by ParkMan
accidental hit enter too soon. added final thought

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I have done Woodbadge, Seabadge, and Powder Horn.

IMHO, Woodbadge is good for newer leaders.  Experienced leaders are bored.  The networking is great and fun.  Woodbadge is promoted as the pinacle of training and it really isn't.  It is good yes.  People that are on the training crews for Woodbadge over sell it and also talk like they are better than others because they are woodbadge trained.  I don't think it made me a better or worse leader.  I learned very little from the course to be honest.  Sea Badge was better because it was focused and domain specific.

I do think it is worth while but for less experienced scouters.

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Warning this post is longer that I would like and could be violating my own guide lines #3&4 below.

The following quote has been attributed to many individuals, with some slight changes, but is very relevant when directing a course: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.

Here are my suggestions for running any course and I wish they were followed at the Wood Badge Course I took.
1)    Have a dedicated time keeper and empower them to enforce the clock.  BSA syllabi are notorious for poor time management planning, someone at nationals will look at the number of topics that need to be covered and say they take x time to cover because that is what we have without thought to material needed to be delivered.  For instance the 2017 printing gives 25 minutes to cover Gear Selection(12 Pages of Material) and Camp Fire Planning(3 Pages).  Another example is IO have heard from nationals that the new YPT course with its ~23 minutes of mandatory video should be scheduled for an hour and a half, the face to face course is a good 2.5 hours.  The materials need to be evaluated beforehand and the schedule modified accordingly.  When you have a full schedule it is important to not allow one presenter to throw the next off as like dominos you will soon have a train wreck.  We were chronically behind schedule and no one seemed to be giving the presenter the 10 minutes left, 5 minutes, 3 minutes, wrap it up, your done signals.  It is also important to know that if the schedule has very little free form time, the earlier sections need to be pushed to stay under time for the inevitable hiccups.
2)    Allow instructors the leeway to teach.  We had multiple people, who I know understand the material, that as it was a Pilot course were reading Q cards point for point and not connecting with the audience.
3)    Stay flexible and understand what might need to be cut to get back on schedule. If you need to run over be clear to the participants and cut breaks as a last resort , down/alone time is very important for keeping introverts engaged.  
4)    Attention spans drop 10-20 minutes into a lecture without interactive stimulation, after about an hour and a half they are completely shot.  Small group break outs and physical activity need to be interspersed to keep the average person engaged.  This point was covered on the third day of the course about three hours into straight lecture, the irony was not lost on me.
5)    Expecting people who have never met before to perform as a cohesive group is stress full enough, artificially ramping up that stress in hopes of forming group cohesion can/will backfire on occasion, especially with participants trained to spot said “tricks”.

A few things specific to the WBC I was in that are more structural/nationals responsibility to fix:
a)    Though I did not find the Ticket process unnecessarily stressful, it was definitely a theme.  Some sort of pre-course packet should go out so people can come with ideas.
b)     Every person in that room was a “trained leader”, as there is more information that needs to be covered review items should be cut.  Examples would be to cycle every one through the model campsite it took at least an hour and if the leader is taking scouts camping those items are covered in BALOO/IOLS but that is an item for Nationals.
c)    Personality classifications are flawed, ones that use black and white 4-5 groupings, though easy to proctor/administer, are fundamentally flawed and cause more problems than help. Un/Self Proctored Myers Briggs tests can limit peoples thinking, but at least it fundamentally understands that its groupings age a range and metricized those groups.  We used something that had 4 groupings and allowed no flexibility, everyone is one and only one motivational type and if “A” then “B, C & D” are immaterial to them.

If you have read this far I hope it makes sense and you found the comments constructive.
 

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"First, tell the audience what you are going to tell them,  then tell them what you told them you would tell them, then tell them what you did tell them you would tell them  ."  

Then go home. 

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THanks @SeanK!

I think those are all great suggestions and worth reading for any trainer - not just those invovled with Wood Badge.

By way of full disclosure, occassionally I serve as a Wood Badge staffer.  I would share that our team really tries to do several of the things you write (staying on schedule, being interactive, being a rehearsed trainer).  Seeing that you felt the opposite in your course suggests to me that not all Wood Badge teams have those same goals.  That's really too bad and your experience shows me why it is so important.  That said - I know our team isn't perfect and we make mistakes too.  But, I think we do our best to avoid them.

Some of these things are kind of the point of the course: developing a ticket, strangers coming together to work as a patrol.  So, if you felt that these didn't work, then again, something didn't work here.  I think that's very good feedback for people to digest.

Point well taken on removing content that is unneccessary to "trained leaders" in favor of expanded learning on content that is new. 

Again - thank you for taking the time to share these.

As they say in Wood Badge - "Feedback is a gift."

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