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RainShine

Patrol Method not so much

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My son crossed over a year ago. I’m on the Committee and attend meetings and outings. It’s a real nice troop, 80 years old, solid reputation in the district. The Scoutmaster is a fine fellow with deep experience. He has forgotten more than I will ever know. The ASM’s are great and I like them personally. 20-some Scouts, we have a meeting once a week and an outing every month. Good retention, advancement is slow perhaps. Everything is fine. But…

I do not see Patrol method. Now, I have no prior Scouting experience so I wouldn’t know any different except I’ve been reading books and this forum. Apparently B-P said patrol method is not a thing, it’s the thing. I read Working the Patrol Method by Four Eagle Scouts, makes it sound like Patrol method is really significant. I’ve listened to podcasts and read the Troop Leader Guide and the Patrol Leader Guide. It’s one of the eight methods. So I think it’s supposed to be, you know, important.

But I just don’t see it in action. When the troops goes camping the Scouts are all mixed together. Until recently they didn’t know the names of their own patrols. They have to refer to a list at the back of the room to see who is in what patrol. I see young guys pursuing Scout rank get stuck on the Patrol requirement because they don’t know a yell or flag or even the name of their patrol. My sons patrol leader rarely attends meetings, never outings. He is never at the PLC. The SPL is a really impressive kid and certainly the Scouts look up to him. But you could hardly call what he is doing leading in any substantive way.

I brought up my concerns in winter and there was a little progress. At a couple campouts the guys cooked and ate and did KP by patrol. But there are no Patrol activities, no Patrol corner in troop meetings, no Patrol spirit.

I’ve observed that they self-select effortlessly into informal groups. It’s not that I’m that an oracle or something, one merely has to look to see it. It’s easy. My son and his friends hang out together (inside Scouting and outside Scouting). The other fellows - older guys - hang out together. No problem. Like at a Court of Honor, my son and his gang all sat at one table, the other guys at another table. At a recent camping event, my son and his gang all camped together, the other guys all camped together. But those gangs are not our Patrols.

I recently brought up concerns again and was told Yes it’s time for elections. The patrols will be reformed. The system is working. Oh. Okay.

So at the most recent PLC, the Scoutmaster says We should talk about xxxx and so we all started talking about that. The ASM goes to the whiteboard and starts sketching out what needs to happen for the next outing. The SPL has barely said a word. As the meeting is winding down I realize nothing is going to happen. So I whisper to the SPL, “what about elections?” He sits up straight and says out loud, “Oh, what about elections?” The ASM, who is still standing at the whiteboard, looks at us, looks at his notes on the whiteboard, then turns back to us and says, “Well it’s not going to happen right now”.  And that was that.

I thought with summer camp coming up now is the time. Reformulate the patrols, have elections, create flags and yells and skits and songs, get patches. Start creating those patrol identities, all that forming and storming and norming stuff. Just in time for camp, yeah let’s do this.

But apparently not. Shoot.

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Generally elections would involve every Scout in the troop, so elections at the PLC doesn't seem right.  Discussion of the Plc and SM to create the new patrol rosters would have seemed appropriate, so that elections could take place at the next troop meeting.  The ASM spending all that time at the white board tells me all I need to know- this is an adult run troop.  Adults, and I include the SM, should speak only when spoken to or are asked a question in a youth-led PLC.  Ideally, all the youth should be at the table and adults sitting on the outside.  Appropriate that the SPL would give the SM a moment or two to speak at the outset and give some general outline of what he/she was hoping for them to accomplish at this meeting, but the SPL needs to run the meeting.  Just because it isn't going as productive as the adults would hope, or even if it is an absolute disaster, we have to let the youth figure it out.  OK to give advice, but not OK to have the voice of adults all that anyone hears.    

Camping together, cooking together, and getting the work done together as a patrol, yes.  Depending on how patrols are created, you can have a few youth of the same age within each patrol, and those are youth that hang together at school, play on the same sports team, etc. so they are going to socialize and gravitate together at times.  Don't assume patrol members are going to be the best of friends and do everything 100% together.  But, keep being vigilant is my advice- but also recognize you may been the lone voice in a crowd on this, and it can take quite a while to see change, or change may never come.  

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I've learned in Scouting that leaders have a certain style of leading. 

As a new parent, it's unlikely that you'll be able to get the SM & ASMs to change and to start adopting the patrol method.  This is because they don't believe it.  If they did, they'd be doing patrol method now.  My recommendation - find a way to help make what they are currently doing better by taking on some volunteer role.  Then, at some point when the opportunitiy arises, take on an ASM or SM role and be the change you want to see.

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Our troop got in this funk. It's hard to shake.

In this case, it sounds like there are too many adults in the room for the PLC.

Your best bet, if you attend events, is some form of positive reinforcement. If you have a patrol-specific prize like specialty chocolate for the patrol wins some challenge (loudest yell, win at Kim's game, fastest to tie all knots) you might encourage more patrol-specific behavior.

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one person attempting to change a group or organization is rarely successful. It becomes tilting at windmills. However, 2 people with similar goals increases the likelihood tremendously. (I cannot recall the stats on these.) 

Thus I suggest finding another ASM who can be an ally. Work together to steer the organization to a better place. 

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10 hours ago, HashTagScouts said:

Generally elections would involve every Scout in the troop, so elections at the PLC doesn't seem right.

Sorry I didn't mean that. They were creating the agenda for the next few weeks, leading up to the next outing. I was hoping patrol method would get a night. I was hoping to schedule it, not have it at PLC. Yes elections would involve every Scout, absolutely. Sorry I just wasn't clear.

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Have your scouts had any trading? TLT, ILSC, NYLT? 

Are your youth active in OA and attending events and OA training?

Too often youth have no idea of how they should/can organize or lead. Training is a good place to start. 

Even with training, our Scouts didn’t really totally grasp how they should/could be leading until they saw it in action outside the troop. They saw how it was working with OA and everything we had been teaching them sort of clicked and youth led took off like a rocket with them. 

Patrol system and youth led go hand in hand in my opinion. It also takes both the adults willingness to let it happen ( including encouraging and teaching it) as well as the youths willingness to take it on.

Try starting with teaching the youth what patrol method and youth is all about. Then assist the adults in staying out of the way.

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Rain:   Your comment about the Scouts forming informal groups is telling.   

A Patrol should be a bunch of  friends to learn/go/do/see/hangout/camp/hike/movie/ together.    

As you go thru Scouting, you will see three types of Patrols, which leads to three types of Troops:

**The traditional Patrol is mixed age, the older Scouts just naturally gravitate to leadership positions.  New Scouts are assigned to a Patrol because their buddies are there, the Patrol has room (no more than eight), or the Scouts have gravitated there due to neighborhood.  The Troop may/may not have a ASM "Troop Guide" assigned to "advise".  Usually, this type of Patrol leads to a Senior Scout cadre, who go off to do High Adventure Stuff, too, separate from the original Patrols.  Troop may name Instructors, but the PL is expected to train "his" Scouts in the various skills, and often pass them for rank.  Traditionally, the Patrol MIGHT (!) have  "Patrol Dad" as a mentor, but not always.  Patrol only activities are expected, encouraged. Adult accompaniment may /may not be seen as required.  

** The Age Patrol has all the Scouts of the same age and general rank.  They joined together (crossed over Webelos?) and stay together.   This leads the Troop to have older Patrols and younger Patrols, which often makes it hard for any type of competitions.  The older Patrols rank out, become Venturers, and leave the younger ones behind. eleven year old PL?  yep. By it's very nature, the Troop assigns a ASM Patrol Guide to the Patrol, to "guide " them.  Yes, there can be Patrol Only activities, but the ASM guide must approve....

** New Scout Patrol (method)  has the new Scouts all in one Patrol for the first year at least, during which time they are encouraged/required/led/expected to gain First Class. After the first year, the Scout is re-assigned to another Patrol, which may/may not be one of the first two types, "depending".  The Troop that has this construct is seen as the "Adult Led" Troop.  Nothing is done without the permission and planning of the Adult ASMs.  There are no Patrol Activities, only under the aegis of the Troop (adult) leadership.

The examples above are observed definitions.   Here's an example:

If a Troop 666 has a campout  planned/held and the Patrols are small, oh, let's say the Stinging Nettle Patrol has 8 Scouts on the roster , but only three will be coming, and the Muddy Gumper Patrol has 7 on it's roster but only one will be coming and the  Rolling Laughter Patrol has 4 on it's roster and all 4 are coming,   the first Troop above would have each Patrol camp/cook/work as they come. One Scout is a Patrol here...

Type two and three however, would say ,  meld the attending Scouts into ONE Troop Patrol for this campout. That's  efficient and  what the heck, the Scouts are camping, right?

What is the difference between the two types of camp?  

 

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2 hours ago, SSScout said:

**The traditional Patrol is mixed age, the older Scouts just naturally gravitate to leadership positions.  New Scouts are assigned to a Patrol because their buddies are there, the Patrol has room (no more than eight), or the Scouts have gravitated there due to neighborhood.  The Troop may/may not have a ASM "Troop Guide" assigned to "advise".  Usually, this type of Patrol leads to a Senior Scout cadre, who go off to do High Adventure Stuff, too, separate from the original Patrols.  Troop may name Instructors, but the PL is expected to train "his" Scouts in the various skills, and often pass them for rank.  Traditionally, the Patrol MIGHT (!) have  "Patrol Dad" as a mentor, but not always.  Patrol only activities are expected, encouraged. Adult accompaniment may /may not be seen as required.  

@SSScout ... Until I read more, I was going to protest.  Like your description, I agree "traditional" has an attribute of "mixed age", but it's because the scouts are his buddies or pull from the same neighborhood.  The attribute "mixed age" is related to buddies being different ages or pulling from neighborhoods.  But the emphasis is on finding a connection between the scouts so that they may hang together or see each other and have a reason to be together as a unit.  

Often these days "mixed age" infers forcing a spread of the scouts so every patrol has scouts of different ages to enable the patrol to have scouts at many different levels of development.  This often also implies re-organizing the patrols periodically take keep the balance.  IMHO, this was very different than the "traditional" patrol concept.  

But your definition of "traditional" matches much more with my idea that is often pigeon-holed as "same age".  My emphasis is less on same age or mixed age.  My emphasis is that these scouts should have a reason to hang together.  Otherwise, the patrol is an unnatural, work-only structure not reflecting anything in real life.  

 

@RainShine ... Scouters get passionate on their ideas.  Baden-Powell was right to emphasis patrols.  Patrols work and are key to making a program more "scout"-like.  BUT, I would separate that from your immediate concern, i.e. the quality of the program your scout experiences.   If he camps.  If he has adventures.  If he builds friendships.  If you can see his maturity develop each camp out in some small way, then he is benefiting from the program.  Beyond that, be careful to not pick battles that will affect his experiences.  Help.  Volunteer.  And, when you are in the right position as SM or CC or ..., then slowly help affect change to create the ideal scouting program envisioned by Baden-Powell and BSA's program guidance.  But the key is ... keep it fun for you and your scout.  

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4 hours ago, SSScout said:

The examples above are observed definitions.   Here's an example:

If a Troop 666 has a campout  planned/held and the Patrols are small, oh, let's say the Stinging Nettle Patrol has 8 Scouts on the roster , but only three will be coming, and the Muddy Gumper Patrol has 7 on it's roster but only one will be coming and the  Rolling Laughter Patrol has 4 on it's roster and all 4 are coming,   the first Troop above would have each Patrol camp/cook/work as they come. One Scout is a Patrol here...

Type two and three however, would say ,  meld the attending Scouts into ONE Troop Patrol for this campout. That's  efficient and  what the heck, the Scouts are camping, right?

What is the difference between the two types of camp?  

 

I'm confused.  "The first troop above" ?   What first troop?  Do you mean the first patrol definition?  Or something else?  

In my experience, any of the definitions (mixed age, same age, new scout, traditional patrol, other) can be muddied in many different ways.  Reorganized.  Impromptu combining.  Etc.  .

My preference is that patrols are the standing default organization.  They don't change because of low numbers or to re-balance patrols.  A new scout patrol is nice by-default.  But if a scout wants to switch patrols and the receiving patrol accepts him, then he can switch ... *** at any time *** ... *** his choice ***.  The only ask I have is it's a publishable switch and not an event-only switch.  If for a camp out, two patrols want to team together, sure.  But it's the patrols choice, not the troop.  

If a patrol has one member and he's on the camp-out and he wants to camp as a patrol of one, fine.  That's his choice.  I once saw a 17 year as the only member of his patrol.  I had no issue with it.  All his buddies had aged out and he didn't want to switch for the last several months. 

Edited by fred8033
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Friend Fred:   I was in the Eagle Patrol in my Scout Troop  It had been the Eagle Patrol for some years previous, had gear collected, a "treasury bag",  and ribbons on it's Patrol flag (!).  I was in the Eagle Patrol until I graduated out of Scouts.  It was in existence for some years, I found out, after I left, but eventually dissipated when the Troop came on hard times.   Same Patrol, different boys coming in and out.  Different ages , therefore.  As I got older, I went from Patrol member, to Patrol Quartermaster (cook kits,  tents/tarps) and treasurer, and Patrol Leader.  Assigning chores on hikes and camp outs was the toughest part, I guess. That is my model in judging B-P's "traditional" Patrol.

I had friends of my age and older and younger in it.  When I visit the Troop Meeting place/CO, I look at the Eagle Plaque and remember the faces.....

The other two types I generalized about usually last only as long as there are Scouts of a certain age or rank.  Even the "new boy" Patrol is designed to disappear when the Scouts get too old.  

If a Scout only has the one type of Troop/Patrol to experience, they may say "that's the way Patrols SHOULD work" and leave it at that.  If the Troop Adults don't worry about their interference ("we' have to control and make everything safe") in the Scout culture,  then that will be the Troop culture.  I still remember my stints as a sub teacher, and how hard it is to get today's middle schoolers to give out an original idea, rather than sit there and wait for the teacher's instruction..... 

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Don't judge the troop leaders harshly; they were probably never trained in what the Patrol Method actually is and how it works.  That is perfectly understandable, because BSA is totally oriented to the troop as the basic operational unit of ScoutsBSA, and has been for decades.  Patrols in ScoutsBSA are for administration (collecting and distributing information and resources) and a nod to tradition, but not for operations -- by which I mean planning, preparing for, and carrying out campouts, hikes, service projects, etc.  In particular, the smaller the troop, the less need to subdivide the troop for administrative purposes. 

A big factor contributing to the near abandonment of the patrol as the basic operational unit in ScoutsBSA is the widely variable attendance by patrol members at meetings, outings, and events, as in SSScout's example.  When I was growing up in a small town in the 60s and 70s, the only organized youth activities besides school were baseball in the summer and Boy Scouts.  Electronic entertainment was radio and three channels on television.  Things are very different these days.  The Patrol Method is based on shared responsibility.  It only really works when most of the patrol members are in attendance at most activities.  It just doesn't make sense for five Scouts in a patrol to plan and prepare for an activity when only two members of the patrol will be attending.  It is much more practical to plan and prepare at the troop level, where there will be a higher degree of attendance predictability based on historical data.  Many troops that are trying to use the Patrol Method try to adapt to this problem by having artificially large patrols (10 to 15 youth), so that they are likely to have a minimum number of patrol members in attendance at any particular troop activity.  But that's not really the Patrol Method either, because the responsibility for execution isn't distributed among all of the patrol members.   

The fact is that BSA has replaced true Patrols -- intended to teach teamwork and citizenship (living together peacefully and productively in a defined community) -- with Positions of Responsibility -- intended to teach leadership.  As a practical matter, that is more in tune with what parents and Scouts want these days anyway.  The modern Scout troop (including its token administrative patrol structure) offers many Positions of Responsibility and thus many leadership positions with opportunities for progressively greater responsibilities.  And for many, many troops that works great. 

Whether you are talking about a troop that emphasizes patrol organization or a troop that pays lip service to patrols but emphasizes Scouts holding leadership positions, the real concern is whether the troop is actually adult-run rather than youth-run.  Both the Patrol Method and the Leadership Method are based on youth exercising responsibility, which is hard to do when the adults keep a tight grip on what the troop does and when and how they do it.

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