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5 hours ago, Calion said:

To make sure they know what is going on, and to help guide the patrol leaders for whom the ASMs are the patrol advisers.

I was assigned to advise a patrol once. I told the PL that I'd be over in the opposite side of the building, he could come talk to me if he had problems. I think he might have once.

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15 hours ago, qwazse said:

I was assigned to advise a patrol once. I told the PL that I'd be over in the opposite side of the building, he could come talk to me if he had problems. I think he might have once.

Would that all patrols were capable of this level of autonomy.  While it's absolutely true that having an ASM perpetually "in the scouts' business" is a sure route to the adults taking over, it's equally true that some patrols/patrol-leaders can get into behaviors and situations that are destructive to the mission of Scouting if they operate in a vacuum of mentorship.

The "perfect troop" is only possible if all of the scouts are perfect scouts, and I'd guess that very few of us have been gifted with a full hand of those...

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59 minutes ago, willray said:

... it's equally true that some patrols/patrol-leaders can get into behaviors and situations that are destructive to the mission of Scouting if they operate in a vacuum of mentorship....

... some ... it can be noticed fairly quickly.  SM should adjust as things are noticed.

My point is this should be treated as a situation to address, teach and grow.  The possibility of this happening should not be used as an excuse to insert adults into the youth program.  

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28 minutes ago, willray said:

Would that all patrols were capable of this level of autonomy.  While it's absolutely true that having an ASM perpetually "in the scouts' business" is a sure route to the adults taking over, it's equally true that some patrols/patrol-leaders can get into behaviors and situations that are destructive to the mission of Scouting if they operate in a vacuum of mentorship.

The "perfect troop" is only possible if all of the scouts are perfect scouts, and I'd guess that very few of us have been gifted with a full hand of those...

We tried several patrol guidance practices in all sorts of ways. What I personally liked best was the SPL actively working with the PLs to learn how they were doing and observing any struggles. If just a single PL was struggling, then the SPL (and SM if needed) worked with him personally. But, sometimes we found that our patrol method process has a general flaw that caused most of the PL to struggle in a specific area, so we did a training session, usually about 15 minutes long. Sometimes the SPL might notice a general issue that doesn't require a training session, but could use some SM advice. Then I would do a SM Leadership Development minute at the PLC meeting specific to that observation (typically about 5 minutes).

Where we struggled with patrol advisers is their knowledge of problems that crop up. More often than not, they came to the SM for advice of advice to give the PL. For us, Patrol advisers turned out to be just a layer of oversight that didn't add an any advantage or value to the patrol method process. And it required a lot of adults, which was never our goal.

As I said, our troop was pretty large for a patrol method boy run program, so we tried ideas mostly to help the SM. But, we found a mature program doesn't really require constant oversight. Rather, the scouts need to trust avenues for advice and guidance, which is in the SPL and PL handbooks.

You can tell a more mature program by the quality of the SPLs. Our SPL are expected to run meetings and serve the PLs. Serving the Patrol Leaders is understanding their needs and making their path to those needs easier. It's the ultimate practice of servant leadership. 

I'm not suggesting a specific path because the skills and experience of the adults may require an approach that is step toward to a mature boy run program that I would never consider. As long as the adults have the goal of patrol method being the main vehicle for scout growth, the adults should make changes to keep that goal clear. 

Barry

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12 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

... some ... it can be noticed fairly quickly.  SM should adjust as things are noticed.

My point is this should be treated as a situation to address, teach and grow.  The possibility of this happening should not be used as an excuse to insert adults into the youth program.  

In my opinion, and I'm aware that this is not necessarily shared by others, it's useful to place ASMs at the patrol level, so that the SM can concentrate on the SPL/ASPLs/other troop-level youth positions-of-responsibility and overall troop guidance.

It requires quite a lot of focused attention to really understand each patrol's (potential) issues and to ask the right questions/apply the least-invasive nudges to provide appropriate mentorship.  Someone with too many irons in the fire, as many SMs would be if they were trying to actually mentor everyone themselves, is more likely to come at situations with blunt-instrument solutions, compared to what might be done by an ASM who is conscientiously focused on the patrol and on trying to stay, as much as possible, out of its way.

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13 minutes ago, willray said:

In my opinion, and I'm aware that this is not necessarily shared by others, it's useful to place ASMs at the patrol level, so that the SM can concentrate on the SPL/ASPLs/other troop-level youth positions-of-responsibility and overall troop guidance.

It requires quite a lot of focused attention to really understand each patrol's (potential) issues and to ask the right questions/apply the least-invasive nudges to provide appropriate mentorship.  Someone with too many irons in the fire, as many SMs would be if they were trying to actually mentor everyone themselves, is more likely to come at situations with blunt-instrument solutions, compared to what might be done by an ASM who is conscientiously focused on the patrol and on trying to stay, as much as possible, out of its way.

Your mileage may vary ... but I've seen this done many times.  My experience is this.  

  • ASMs are often not as experienced as SMs.  It takes years to learn a more relaxed attitude and learn to sit on your hand to let the scouts really take charge.  
  • ASMs don't provide a consistent message from the SM.  
  • ASM attendance is far less consistent than the SM.  You might have one or two dedicated ASMs, but then the rest will be hit and miss.  
  • ASMs often work agendas thru their patrol at the expense of the patrol members. 
  • ASMs look for voids to fill instead of letting the scouts work it out.  

I really hate the term boy-led, but I'd really ask who's program is it?  My experience is kids live up to your expectations.  If you expect they will need an adult present, than they will need an adult.  If you let them work through it, they will blow it now and then, but they will learn.  

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9 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

We tried several patrol guidance practices in all sorts of ways. What I personally liked best was the SPL actively working with the PLs to learn how they were doing and observing any struggles. If just a single PL was struggling, then the SPL (and SM if needed) worked with him personally...

Where we struggled with patrol advisers is their knowledge of problems that crop up. More often than not, they came to the SM for advice of advice to give the PL. For us, Patrol advisers turned out to be just a layer of oversight that didn't add an any advantage or value to the patrol method process. And it required a lot of adults, which was never our goal.

As I said, our troop was pretty large for a patrol method boy run program, so we tried ideas mostly to help the SM. But, we found a mature program doesn't really require constant oversight. Rather, the scouts need to trust avenues for advice and guidance, which is in the SPL and PL handbooks.

You can tell a more mature program by the quality of the SPLs. Our SPL are expected to run meetings and serve the PLs. Serving the Patrol Leaders is understanding their needs and making their path to those needs easier. It's the ultimate practice of servant leadership.

In general, I'd say our troop (well, at least our Boys' troop - the Girls' troop is coming along but our adults on that side still need to learn to sit on their hands) does fairly well at being scout-led.   It's not unusual for them to get an hour or more into a troop meeting before noticing that the SM is absent that week, and we were well into the second day of the annual planning/ILST campout before any of the adults even spoke to any of the scouts.

That being the case, we still have issues where, for example our SM is trying to mentor our SPL to be a little less hands-on with the individual scouts and to push more responsibility down to the patrol leaders, and while that's happening, a patrol goes sideways in a fashion that probably could have been anticipated and diverted, if any specific trained individual had actually been given the responsibility of paying attention.

And lest someone say "things going sideways are great learning opportunities, you shouldn't try to divert them!", I'm with you - up to somewhere before the point that things go so far sideways you've got scouts deciding that their only choice is to leave the program to draw attention to the problem.

There is a balancing act to be done between too much adult involvement and too little adult involvement, and one of the almost guaranteed results of too-little involvement is an overreaction in the too-much direction.  In my experience, it requires quite a lot of focused dedication to walk the "just this side of too little" line, and if you have the dedicated adults available, it's a lot easier to have ASMs concentrate on walking that line for individual patrols, than for one person to try to balance there for every patrol simultaneously.

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28 minutes ago, willray said:

Would that all patrols were capable of this level of autonomy.  While it's absolutely true that having an ASM perpetually "in the scouts' business" is a sure route to the adults taking over, it's equally true that some patrols/patrol-leaders can get into behaviors and situations that are destructive to the mission of Scouting if they operate in a vacuum of mentorship.

The "perfect troop" is only possible if all of the scouts are perfect scouts, and I'd guess that very few of us have been gifted with a full hand of those...

I assure you these were not perfect scouts. The patrol leader was learning that he had a very short fuse and his patrol had attention deficits.  They didn't accomplish all of the goals they wanted to before summer camp. But ... when he was really stuck, he came to me and I either coached him through it or got him the help he needed. Generally, I helped him focus his energy on the scouts who were gun-ho and he let the rest of his patrol keep up. Summer camp and after, they pulled themselves together better and had an enjoyable time.

I found that time is the key ingredient. If we have terribly flawed scouts devoting time to one another, enduring a crappy meal because of a terribly planned menu -- but at least not as vile as what they had on the previous outing ... then we have scouts who go on to win camporees, enjoy the back-country, and overcome calamity.

If you have an SPL who hasn't learned to mentor and JASMs and Instructors who haven't been-there-done-that to support PLs, then maybe you need to have an adult mentor for every patrol. So, maybe when I was put on to advise a patrol, we were in that situation. But, I found that the bare minimum of coaching from me did a lot of good.

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48 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

Your mileage may vary ... but I've seen this done many times.  My experience is this.  

  • ASMs are often not as experienced as SMs.  It takes years to learn a more relaxed attitude and learn to sit on your hand to let the scouts really take charge.  
  • ASMs don't provide a consistent message from the SM.  
  • ASM attendance is far less consistent than the SM.  You might have one or two dedicated ASMs, but then the rest will be hit and miss.  
  • ASMs often work agendas thru their patrol at the expense of the patrol members. 
  • ASMs look for voids to fill instead of letting the scouts work it out. 

I should absolutely caveat that all of my thoughts, are in the context of ASMs who are well-trained, and "on board" with the idea of a youth-led organization.  There are absolutely more adult-induced failure points in the system, if there are more adults in the system!

Our Boys' troop has an abundance of quite well-behaved adult leaders who "get" the culture of youth-led troops, and who largely self-police in terms of keeping out of the way as much as possible.  With this troop, I think we fail the scouts more by the extent to which we keep the adults away from them, than by the extent that our adults meddle.

Our Girls' troop has exactly the problems that you're describing, with adults who simply cannot keep their fingers out of the pie.

To a large extent, I place this on a necessity to have a SM who is skillful at both managing both scouts and adults.

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Posted (edited)
57 minutes ago, willray said:

That being the case, we still have issues where, for example our SM is trying to mentor our SPL to be a little less hands-on with the individual scouts and to push more responsibility down to the patrol leaders, and while that's happening, a patrol goes sideways in a fashion that probably could have been anticipated and diverted, if any specific trained individual had actually been given the responsibility of paying attention.

This one sentence tells me that your troop is on the right track. Based on my experience. the most difficult challenges for an SPL is less hands-on and delegating. And these are two great skills for scouts to learn for the rest of their life.

Quote

And lest someone say "things going sideways are great learning opportunities, you shouldn't try to divert them!", I'm with you - up to somewhere before the point that things go so far sideways you've got scouts deciding that their only choice is to leave the program to draw attention to the problem.

I agree. I teach adults to push their patience to the point of when the scouts aren't having fun. That is when the program has to pulled back a tad. And, that is difficult for younger troops because the scouts (and adults) don't know how to change the program before it reaches that point. For example, I learned that most scouts advertise they will make a bad decision before they make a bad decision. We had a scout walking barefoot through camp. All the scouts saw it. Then he took off running and broke his toe on a tree root hidden in the shadows. I asked the scouts why they didn't warn him to put on shoes. They basically said they didn't know they were supposed to. Well, we all learned a new skill that day, everyone has permission to stop bad decisions before they happen. Not only do they have permission, but stopping bad decisions is expected of everyone. And if not, those who could have stopped the bad decisions will likely have consequences.

That is one small lesson, but you get the point of how a young troop grows into a more mature troop. The scouts need to be trained (more importantly given permission) to speak up before things go too far sideways. They will do it after a little practice. One myth about scouts is they like chaos. Nope, they hate it just as much as adults. Our PLC hated large groups of new scouts because it meant chaos. But, once they developed a few lessons on controlling young scouts, they become more independent to prevent bad decisions going too far.

Quote

There is a balancing act to be done between too much adult involvement and too little adult involvement, and one of the almost guaranteed results of too-little involvement is an overreaction in the too-much direction.  In my experience, it requires quite a lot of focused dedication to walk the "just this side of too little" line, and if you have the dedicated adults available, it's a lot easier to have ASMs concentrate on walking that line for individual patrols, than for one person to try to balance there for every patrol simultaneously.

The best troops have adults who keep pushing out  the line to find the limits, and readjust. The key is that the line never is stagnate. One the scouts learned they were expected to stop bad decisions, there was no need for adults to monitor situations to prevent bad decisions, the scouts were in control. Now the adults push the line out a little farther. 

So long as the adults keep moving the "gone too far" line out, the program will grow and mature. And it is amazing to watch. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
  • Upvote 2

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9 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Once the scouts learned they were expected to stop bad decisions, there was no need for adults to monitor situations to prevent bad decisions, the scouts were in control.

Best thing I've read all day, Barry. Thank you for this sentence, it will be part of my next Scoutmaster minute.

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1 hour ago, qwazse said:

If you have an SPL who hasn't learned to mentor and JASMs and Instructors who haven't been-there-done-that to support PLs, then maybe you need to have an adult mentor for every patrol. So, maybe when I was put on to advise a patrol, we were in that situation. But, I found that the bare minimum of coaching from me did a lot of good.

This may be one of the key differences in views on what's possible - our troop is almost completely lacking in senior scouts above the patrol-leader level.  Once they've been patrol leader, they either go on to be one of two ASPLs, SPL, or they wander off and disengage from the troop.  We have some former scouts registered as JASMs, but I don't think they've attended a single meeting since being appointed to the role.

If we had senior scouts who could keep an eye on things, I think I'd feel differently about the wisdom of having adults in that role.  As it is, our troop actually does not use ASMs in the role where I'm suggesting they're useful, and as a result, we do occasionally have disasters that would have been better avoided than experienced.

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