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willray

Soliciting ideas : how do you notice, and recognize, scoutly behavior?

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Greetings all,

New-guy to the forum (well, I've been lurking for a few years), but not to Scouting here, looking to gather ideas for an experiment my troop is doing.

The request first, details after, so you can just jump past this if you're not interested.  Many, many more details if anyone wants to discuss in greater depth later...

Requested:

* I'm looking for ideas/methods that you may use or have tried in your unit, for noticing when Scouts are living by the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, etc. and ideas/methods that you may have use or have tried for providing recognition for those acts.   Any information on ideas that worked, or didn't work, would be most appreciated.

* I'm also looking for ideas regarding behaviors that you think are worth noticing and recognizing.

Philosophy:

Far too many scouts pass through the scouting program without acquiring the lifelong habits of character that the scouting experience is intended to instill.    In some cases these are young people for whom the activities of scouting simply held no appeal, but many are scouts who have acquired numerous ranks and badges, yet who still learned only the words, and not their meaning.

We have failed these scouts.  Whether it is because we have allowed ranks and badges to become prizes to be won, rather than rewards for a job well done, or because it is easy to be lazy about uniforming or flag etiquette when everyone around you is similarly lax, or simply because there is no reward for picking up litter, scout activities that fail to reinforce the Scout Oath and Law as habitual behaviors, are lost opportunities for furthering the BSA vision.

Because repetition is habit-forming, I'm working to collect and test a series of approaches for rewarding Scoutly* behavior in a regular, intentional and consistent form, to assist in reinforcing the development of Scoutly behaviors into habits.  I'm planning to eventually collate this into some kind of sourcebook of ideas for other units to use if they like.

[*] I don't have a better term than "Scoutly" for "habitually possessing of the general characteristics of an exemplary Scout, and acting in accordance with the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan".  Any suggestions for better terms, most gladly accepted!

Observations, Thoughts, and Rambling:

I asked a large group of Scouts "When is the last time someone thanked you for doing something Scoutly?".  The overwhelmingly most popular answer was "I can't remember the last time someone said 'thank you'".  That may reflect a large number of Scouts who aren't living by Scoutly values in daily life, but I suspect it's more about a large number of Scouts, Leaders, and Parents, who don't bother to take the time to say "thank you".  I think that's sad.

Some people will probably argue that Scouts should be living by the Scout Oath, Law, Motto etc. as a matter of course, and since that's "part of their job", they shouldn't expect thanks.  It's not a bad argument, if one ignores the fact that a Scout (and presumably Scouter) is Helpful, Courteous and Kind, and that Scouts are generally typically-developing human beings.  The Courteous and Kind bit says that we ought to be thanking them, whether they "require" it or not.  The Helpful bit hopefully recognizes that human beings require (a lot of) repetition to develop an action into a habit, and, that you get huge biochemical bonuses on creating a habit if you can tickle the brain's reward system (ie, by saying "Thank You") for performing the activity, until the action itself becomes its own reward.

The official BSA program only recognizes Scouts for being Scoutly by the awarding of ranks and badges.  This is great, I love the program, but, it's not optimized for reinforcing Scoutly behaviors in day-to-day life.  The longer you wait between an action and rewarding that action, the less effective the reward is at reinforcing the action into a habit.

We are testing a variety of ideas in my troop, that range from campfire "Scoutly Scout" callouts, where anyone who wants to stand up and say "I noticed seniorscoutJohn dropped his gear and went to assist newpatrolleaderTim mentor some younger scouts setting up their tent, Thank you seniorscoutJohn", to troop meeting "Scoutly Challenges" like "Next week, everybody bring in a photo of that yucky spot behind the toilet where the cat-hair collects, and how well you cleaned it, and we'll vote on the most-improved", to campout "Scoutly meta-challenges", like "Each patrol gets a batch of (differently) colored clothes-pins, and they hang them on other patrol's flags when they notice someone in the other patrol doing something scoutly.  Both the patrol that received the most clothes pins, _and_ the patrol that gave out the most clothes pins, win prizes at the campfire".

I'd be delighted if the whole thing could be scout-run, but I am forced to the conclusion that there are behaviors and actions that are easier for the troop adults to notice, both through simple logistics (we have more luxury of observing activities, rather than participating), and experience/insight (for example, a watchful scouter may recognize the amount of additional effort that a scout with disabilities puts into something that looks trivial to other scouts).

We are experimenting with everything from "Thank you" callouts as rewards, to occasional physical prizes.  The prizes have so-far been random "swag" that I collect for handing out to the scouts, so hand-sanitizer, sharpening stones, choice of a desert for all the patrols cooked by the adults... Little stuff.  I'm open to suggestions on how we might do "bigger stuff", if perhaps there was some way of "collecting rewards by patrol", maybe over a year, or like old grocery-stamp-books where you can trade them in for prizes once their filled up.

I'm sensitive to the argument that we shouldn't be "buying" compliance with Scoutly values with rewards, but, at the same time, see my previous commentary regarding reinforcement of activities and generation of habits.  Somewhere between no-reward, and too-much-reward, there should an optimum (and honestly, I'm not above bribing scouts into developing good habits as habits, just so long as they come out as actually self-reinforcing habits in the end)  I doubt we'll find the optimum precisely, but, it's worth doing a bit of looking.   I will say, general reward/reinforcement paradigms say that to optimally reinforce a behavior, you don't want to reinforce it consistently, you only want to reinforce it occasionally, so hopefully the optimal lies somewhere around "occasional and amusing" rewards, rather than "constant/buying-behavior" rewards.

And, as just a bit of evidence that this isn't completely insane, our Senior Patrol leader has really taken to this idea and has been running with it for the past 8 months.  At a recent campfire "Scoutly Scout" session, one of our traditionally "less Scoutly" scouts raised his hand and thanked the SPL for doing the Scoutly Scout program, because it was making the campouts and participation have a lot more meaning for him.  If that's the best I do, I think I'm ok with that.

Yours in Scouting,

Will Ray

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I was once reminded by another teacher that the best way to modify behavior was to "catch'em good",  in other words it is better to compliment to good stuff rather than punish the bad....

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2 hours ago, SSScout said:

I was once reminded by another teacher that the best way to modify behavior was to "catch'em good",  in other words it is better to compliment to good stuff rather than punish the bad....

Exactly.   So how do we catch’em?  What do we look for, and how do we engage the scouts (and adults) in looking?   Possibly as interesting, what kinds of things are possibly “conditionally Scoutly”, where the action might be exceptionally scoutly from one scout, and either no big deal, or potentially an ambiguous, neutral, or even un-scoutly behavior from another?

Lest you think the last is not possible, remember that BSA is trying to be more inclusive, and cultural norms of courtesy are not universal.

 

Yours in Scouting

Will Ray

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Point it our right away don't wait until another time also make it a big deal without making the scout embarrassed.   A simple " Thanks Billy for helping the new scouts with knots tonight its great to see a scout step up without being asked" during a scoutmaster minute means more than you could ever know.

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9 minutes ago, my_three_sons said:

Point it our right away don't wait until another time also make it a big deal without making the scout embarrassed...

Definitely, the more immediate the feedback, the more effective it will be.   Unfortunately there are a couple competing goals here that don't always line up perfectly.  Immediate thanks maximize the reward/satisfaction potential, but public rewards maximize the "hey, I want some of that" potential for getting more scouts participating. Public doesn't always allow immediate and vice versa.  I'm definitely interested in input regarding how to optimize, and what has worked, or not, with different mechanisms for different units.

We're doing out best to turn the "thanking" into a scout-led activity.  So for us, it's primarily the scouts doing the thanking rather than the scoutmaster, though as I mentioned initially, there are some things that I think are inescapably on the adults.

You bring up an interesting and complicated point about the scout not feeling embarrassed.  It's definitely true that we don't want this to be embarrassing.  At the same time, learning to accept thanks with grace is a valuable growing experience, and so there's a balancing act to be carried out here.  I think it's worthwhile to discuss ideas for walking that tightrope here as well.

Yours in Scouting

Will Ray

 

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What do I look for? Well lessee ...

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Loyalty
  3. Helpfulness
  4. Friendliness
  5. Couteousy
  6. Kindness
  7. Obedience
  8. Cheerfulness
  9. Thrift
  10. Bravery
  11. Cleanliness
  12. Reverence

How to recognize? Get scout's attention and say, "Mr. <insert scout's name here> that was one formidable act of <insert from 1 through 12 of the above here>. Keep it up." Then return to your coffee.

I have had parents tell me that their youth returned home bragging that "Mr. Q told me that what I did was the best ___ he ever saw!"

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Posted (edited)
1 minute ago, qwazse said:

What do I look for? Well lessee ...

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Loyalty
  3. Helpfulness
    ...

 

Ok, I guess I was asking for that... But, if you'd like to be even more helpful, consider, if my survey results are anywhere close to accurate, as a community we're doing a pretty poor job of looking for those things.

In both of my troops, we have highly dedicated groups of adult volunteers, we're solidly scout-led, and we're still not doing anywhere close to well enough.

One possible reason for that is that many of the scouts and adults don't have a clear vision of actions that go with the words.

I'm interested in collecting an "idea book" of specifics, for all of us who aren't necessarily as insightful at noticing the right actions as you might be.   You might think it's obvious (in general, I think it's fairly obvious too), but think about the number of times you've responded to people here asking for help on the most basic general scouting topics.  There are clearly a lot of people for whom your, or my "obvious" isn't.  I can build this "idea book" entirely from what I think is obvious, but I hardly think I've got a universal perspective.  I'd like input from other people who think they know what "obvious" is, in the hopes that I can help the people who obviously don't think it's so obvious.

In addition, while I agree, a kind word from someone (adults and scouts carry rather different, though not necessarily unequal weights), is worth its weight in gold, there's only one of you.  To maximize benefit, we need to give your brain to everyone else who has eyes on your scouts.  That's where a distributable idea-book comes in.

 

Edited by willray

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The challenge with positive feedback is it has to be sincere. 

I love my father, but he isn't a sentimental or emotional person. I'd bring home my report card as a kid, and he'd say "Pretty good." In his usual flat and unexcited tone. He was pretty much the same when I earned my Eagle, got accepted to college, graduated from college, got accepted into graduate school.. That's just who he is. I know he cares and he's proud of me. If he was to start giving effusive praise, it'd only be because my mother made him and it wouldn't be meaningful, because it wouldn't be totally sincere. 

I do think you're on to something @willray. Whether in the personal world or the workplace, people like to know they are doing the right thing. They like to be affirmed, and praised. @qwazse has a great example of it. It doesn't need to be something elaborate or over the top although over the top would work for some people. 

Story time alert:
Last summer when I staffed NYLT, I was brand new to staffing that program. I didn't know any of the youth, so I really made an effort to get to know them on our training weekends. When we were on course, if I saw them doing something well, I'd make a note of it and when the activity or event was over I'd catch them and say something like "Hey ______, great job with XYZ activity/presentation" or "Hey ______ that went really well!." It really wasn't something I thought much about, because I do that with my own Scouts and co-workers at work.

About midway through the week when the pressure was on and the sleep deprivation was on full blast, the SPL sought me out for advice because "You're the only one that ever tells me that I'm doing anything right." While I can say for a fact that's untrue, there's a perception on the part of a teenager to how they are praised and critiqued. That interaction has really stuck with me and has caused me to really evaluate how I praise Scouts, how I give them feedback, and what that ratio looks like. 

Just my two rambling cents. 

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Scoutmaster minute: I was at a donuts shop the other day enjoying coffee and reading the newspaper. I looked up to noticed a teenage boy near me eating a donut while deep in thought. I went back to reading the paper, but over heard him dial is talk his phone. He asked the person on the other end if they needed stock person. He said he was hard working and trustworthy. I could tell by the way he thanked the person he called that they didn’t need anyone. After he hung up, I felt the need to console the young man, so I said there are plenty of other places looking for hard working employees. He looked at me with a smile and proudly said, “Oh, I don’t need a job, that was my boss. I was just checking up on myself”. How are you doing with the Scout Law? Have you checked on yourself? Have you asked your Scoutmaster? How about the SPL? Or even your Patrol Leader. But living the Scout law is a full time job, it’s not just a scout thing. So, have you checked on yourself with your teacher? What about the big check, your parents? And don’t forget your brother or sister? What would they say. Great meeting, see you next week.

This a really good subject. The adults need reminders now and then of why we are here. We get so wrapped up in the weeds of the program that we could use reminders now and then.

i use to take a bag of the cinnamon candy “Fireballs” and a box of “Tootsie Pop” suckers to all our camp outs. I kept a few Fireballs in my pockets to handout when I saw a good deed or actions of the Scout law. I didn’t even have to say anything, a Fireball and a smile said it all. I even gave em to adults.

I gave the box of Tootsie Pops to the SPL to place in the middle of camp. He told the scouts they could have as many as they wanted if they followed two requirements, only one at a time and no liter. If either requiremwas broken, the box would be given back to the SM. The box was given back to the SM only after a few minutes the first time. But it only took a couple camp outs for it last long enough to be emptied.

We did a few other things to remind scouts of the law, but this post is running long. 

Great talk.

Barry

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6 hours ago, Sentinel947 said:

...
About midway through  (NYLT) when the pressure was on and the sleep deprivation was on full blast, the SPL sought me out for advice because "You're the only one that ever tells me that I'm doing anything right." While I can say for a fact that's untrue, there's a perception on the part of a teenager to how they are praised and critiqued. That interaction has really stuck with me and has caused me to really evaluate how I praise Scouts, how I give them feedback, and what that ratio looks like. 

Just my two rambling cents. 

 

That's a valuable two cents, and, exactly why I think it's worth thinking about, and trying to develop some tested and effective ideas for "doing it right".   The other folks who gave your SPL positive feedback and weren't heard, weren't trying to be invisible, but somehow failed to leave an impression.  If we can learn what works and when - even just in general form - we can build a resource to help people do better.

And I hear you about your father.  Mine was the same way.  I truly treasure the "You did good, Will" memories.

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45 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

i use to take a bag of the cinnamon candy “Fireballs” and a box of “Tootsie Pop” suckers to all our camp outs. I kept a few Fireballs in my pockets to handout when I saw a good deed or actions of the Scout law. I didn’t even have to say anything, a Fireball and a smile said it all. I even gave em to adults.

I gave the box of Tootsie Pops to the SPL to place in the middle of camp. He told the scouts they could have as many as they wanted if they followed two requirements, only one at a time and no liter. If either requiremwas broken, the box would be given back to the SM. The box was given back to the SM only after a few minutes the first time. But it only took a couple camp outs for it last long enough to be emptied.

I love the Tootsie Pop idea.  That's exactly the kind of insight I'm looking for.

The Fireballs idea is pretty good too, but can you think of any way to spread the "eyes" around so that the scouts were watching and rewarding as well as the adults?   Despite a scout being Trustworthy, I'm thinking there might be a bit of self-rewarding going on, if they had fireballs to hand out themselves 🙂

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Posted (edited)

It is a sad comment on society that we often forget to remind each other what's important.

I worked for the county transit authority. When I retired, my job title was "Transit Coordinator", for lack of a better description,  I was a "street supervisor", my office was a Jeep Cherokee...

One morning, I was stationed at the Big Transit Station. Lots of activity, bus routes coming and going.  A driver (call him Tom) came up to me and said he wanted to show me something, so I walked down to his stop.  He pointed to the right mirror and said he had brushed a street sign with it, and wanted to report it. I looked at the mirror and saw some scratch marks on the outside,  I asked Tom about the street sign, was it damaged? He said no.  Nothing broken, I told him "no damage, no accident. Don't worry about it".  He thanked me and went back to work.

After thinking about it, I decided to write a "compliment" on Tom.  Here was something he didn't have to do, he could've said nothing, no one would have been the wiser, but he had hit a stationary object and here he was reporting it to me.   I wrote a "incident" report that way,  complimenting Tom for his honesty, and passed it on to his supervisor.   The supervisor came to me and chastised me for reporting on nothing that was anything out of the ordinary, that Tom was required to report such things. This was not worthy of a compliment, it was not over and above Tom's "expected" duties.  Yes, I had done the right thing in not treating it as a full scale accident,  necessitating hours of paperwork and lost service,  but it was still not worth a "compliment".  Overt honesty not worthy of a compliment? 

That supervisor had just lost most of my previous admiration  for him.

From that day on, I looked for things to "thank people for".  Every time I served as the Desk, the task assigner,  I made it a point to fill out "compliments" on all my  "Stand By" drivers and Extra Board drivers.  I noted when they volunteered, when they mentioned things that needed to be done (that I could assign them to do !) and sonofagun, I started having more available drivers.  I remember one man, he had a family, he was a part time postal carrier. Evenings, he would report to the depot in his USPS uniform, as he signed in, he would strip off his USPS uniform shirt, throw on his Bus Driver shirt and be out the door in minutes with his Bus Assignment in his pocket.  I tried to save an "easy" run for him....     And the other Supers (not the first I mentioned) noted that these were good things to have in the employees file for when work reviews came up.  Last time I checked, my USPS driver is now a "Transit Coordinator".  

Edited by SSScout

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20 hours ago, willray said:

The Fireballs idea is pretty good too, but can you think of any way to spread the "eyes" around so that the scouts were watching and rewarding as well as the adults?   Despite a scout being Trustworthy, I'm thinking there might be a bit of self-rewarding going on, if they had fireballs to hand out themselves 🙂

That’s a good idea. Just leave a box of Fireballs in the middle of camp for any scout to grab when they see a good deed. 

Still, let’s not get confused here, Scouts (youth) learn most from observing. The best way to change a habit is to continually set the example of living that habit. We don’t use fireballs to change behavior, we used them as a fun reminder of how good it feels to serve others. After all, Living the Scout Law and Oath is simply serving others. A Fireball is a treat, a Thank-you is a habit.  

Barry

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10 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Still, let’s not get confused here, Scouts (youth) learn most from observing. The best way to change a habit is to continually set the example of living that habit. We don’t use fireballs to change behavior, we used them as a fun reminder of how good it feels to serve others. After all, Living the Scout Law and Oath is simply serving others. A Fireball is a treat, a Thank-you is a habit.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "learn".  Youth definitely absorb a great many ideas and concepts through observation, but they're far better at learning "doing" by doing.  This is why Scouting is activity-based, rather than lecture/presentation based.

Habits, in particular, are learned by repetitive doing:  No-one learns to play the piano well by observation, and likewise no-one learns to _habitually_ bend over and pick up litter, to habitually help beyond their own dishes with KP, or to habitually say "Thank You", by observation either.  People learn to do these things habitually, by doing.

One might argue that the best way to generate the "doing" is simply by setting the example and waiting for the youth to start "doing" by osmosis and possibly peer-pressure.  I would counter that I see no compelling reason to wait for osmosis, if we can prime and accelerate the process by doing a bit of clever incentivizing.   Most of Scouting's program is designed around this kind of incentivizing -- "fun, with a purpose".   I don't think Scouting would be nearly as successful as it is, if the primary method was "have the scouts sit around and observe the adults being decent people"...

Will

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