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The Latin Scot

Supporting the Patrol Method - as Unit Commissioner

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I was recently told that many of the LDS Scouting leaders and families in my area will be gathering next week to discuss the start-up of a new, LDS-centric (but certainly not exclusive) unit to serve boys of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our community who wish to continue Scouting after the end of this year when the church will cease its formal relationship with the BSA. It's likely that I will have the opportunity to serve as Unit Commissioner for this new unit, which I find to be an exciting prospect - but also one for which I want to be (if the phrase isn't a little too on-the-nose) prepared

I am acutely aware of the fine line a commissioner must walk between being a helpful resource and becoming a meddlesome busybody, and I want to make sure that I am a familiar presence without burdening the unit with constant or over-zealous intervention. But of course, I want them to succeed! And to run the Scouting program right. They have a wonderful gentleman stepping up as Scoutmaster, and he is committed to the Green Bar Bill school of thought - as in, letting the boys run their own program, and doing things by the book. So that's a comfort, but I know parents will get involved and there will be the usual factions and disputes as the unit gets off the ground and other adults try to get their grubby paws in the running of the program. With that in mind, would any of you please offer suggestions that might help me play a meaningful role in the formation and launch of this new unit, specifically as its Unit Commissioner? I'm already very comfortable letting the boys do their thing, so it's not as much the youth angle I'm concerned about as much as it is how I can appropriately, and helpfully, work with the adult leaders and parents to ensure the Patrol Method is being preached, protected and preserved for the boys in this new unit. 

I suppose I may not be articulating my concerns as well as I might hope, partly because I'm still digesting the ramifications of what my role will entail as this new unit develops. So any thoughts or guidance that might help me prepare for this coming year will be deeply appreciated. Thank you! 

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Congratulations! And, thanks in advance for all you'll do for the youth in your new position.

I think as a UC, your focus is the key-3. Keep your CC, CoR, and SM in the loop. Encourage them to attend roundtables. And, encourage them that they set the tone for their program.

Your starting out with continuing parents, so they are coming with visions of how things should work. Most of those are probably good ideas. So, the hard work is telling them that not every good idea can be rolled out at once.

FInally, find out if you can tag along with a UC you trust as he/she attends to a unit.

I'm sure you'll do a fine job.

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As a Unit Commissioner, your primary job will be to: (1) Assess the health of the troop on an ongoing basis, using the criteria in the detailed assessment - which are largely the same as the Journey to Excellence objectives.  (2) Encourage and assist the troop leaders on an ongoing basis to evaluate how the troop is doing compared to BSA's "best practices" (NOT rules) for troops - which are found in the detailed assessment / JTE objectives and in other written BSA sources such as the Guide to Safe Scouting, the Troop Leader Guidebook, the Scouts BSA Requirements Book, the Guide to Awards and Insignia, the Scouts BSA Patrol Leader Handbook and Senior Patrol Leader Handbook, and the content of the online training for troop leaders.  But you don't really talk to the troop leaders about those parts of your job.  

In helping to form and launch the troop, help the leaders to build a three-year plan for unit success, using JTE objectives and other BSA best practices to create annual activity plans and benchmarks in all areas, from uniforms to leader training to fundraising to advancement to high adventure.  Once they have a plan with objectives and benchmarks, help them to stick with it by reviewing it at every Troop Committee, SM/ASM meeting, and Patrol Leaders Council meeting.  Each year, they should extend the plan another year.  Helping them develop the strong habit of having a long-term plan in line with JTE and other current best practices will cover 90 percent of your job as a Unit Commissioner. 

The long-term plan, three years out, also helps prevent big shake-ups when the leadership rolls over.  It is harder to toss out an ongoing approach to program when there is a plan, everyone knows the plan, the plan is consistent with BSA guidance, the plan has a record of success, and the plan has created expectations in the Scouts and parents.  It is also easier to carry out a succession plan when the new leaders just have to follow the course that has already been mapped out and that they are already familiar with.

To be a resource for program elements such as Patrol Method, you need to know the current BSA program materials (like those listed above) and be sure you can point to something in those current materials to back up what you say.  Leaders or parents who want to deviate from best practices won't care what Baden-Powell or Green Bar Bill had to say on a subject; it is BSA's current guidance that will be persuasive.  But that cuts both ways:  If you don't like current BSA guidance on a subject, as a UC that is the official program and you can't ignore it.  But you may be able to help the troop to build on it without deviating from it.

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My best advice for you, @The Latin Scot, is to just show up and have fun. But there's a bit more to my advice. If you really want to help you first have to listen and learn. Find out where they are, what their struggles are, how they do things. The only way to do that is to be there. Next, if you want someone to take your advice at all seriously they first need to trust you. Giving advice from the start is not the way to develop trust. I call it making silver bullets. Have some fun with them and really enjoy their company so when the time comes to telling them something they don't want to hear, they'll listen to you.

BTW, you're the perfect person for this job because you know where these scouts and leaders are coming from. Empathy will not be an issue. Also, this is a self selected troop. They all want to be there. Good luck!

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Thank you all for your kind words, counsel, and suggestions. I really appreciate it. It's nice to know that there are so many boys in our area who will continue Scouting after this year, and even nicer to know I will have a meaningful role to play in it! 

Another question - I was asked to be on the committee, which I gladly accepted with the request to be put over leadership training (since, you know, training is kind of 'my thing' :rolleyes:). I figured that would be a role I can fill without it being too much of a conflict of interest, what with my being the Unit Commissioner and all, and since the UC basically checks up on training anyway I thought it would be a good way to be a registered part of the troop without being too meddlesome. Am I playing with fire here, or could I make it work? I won't have a "home unit" after the Church leaves Scouting next year, and I would like to have a troop I can call my own once my current pack and troop are canceled. Any thoughts, as always, are welcome!

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10 minutes ago, The Latin Scot said:

Thank you all for your kind words, counsel, and suggestions. I really appreciate it. It's nice to know that there are so many boys in our area who will continue Scouting after this year, and even nicer to know I will have a meaningful role to play in it! 

Another question - I was asked to be on the committee, which I gladly accepted with the request to be put over leadership training (since, you know, training is kind of 'my thing' :rolleyes:). I figured that would be a role I can fill without it being too much of a conflict of interest, what with my being the Unit Commissioner and all, and since the UC basically checks up on training anyway I thought it would be a good way to be a registered part of the troop without being too meddlesome. Am I playing with fire here, or could I make it work? I won't have a "home unit" after the Church leaves Scouting next year, and I would like to have a troop I can call my own once my current pack and troop are canceled. Any thoughts, as always, are welcome!

This is going to be a growing experience for you. One to recognize when you are going too far. And two, doing something about it. We all go through it, some of us better than others.

Barry

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39 minutes ago, The Latin Scot said:

I was asked to be on the committee, which I gladly accepted with the request to be put over leadership training (since, you know, training is kind of 'my thing' :rolleyes:). I figured that would be a role I can fill without it being too much of a conflict of interest, what with my being the Unit Commissioner and all, and since the UC basically checks up on training anyway I thought it would be a good way to be a registered part of the troop without being too meddlesome. Am I playing with fire here, or could I make it work? 

That's something to discuss with your "boss," the District Commissioner.  Generally, being Unit Commissioner for one's own unit is discouraged so that the UC can be a neutral and objective friend to the unit.  Obviously, you are already invested in the success of this unit, so you may want to consider making the most of that enthusiasm by serving as an adult leader in this unit, but also serving as Unit Commissioner for a different unit.  The District Commissioner might appreciate knowing that in addition to the SM there is another experienced and dedicated Scouter in that start-up unit; and he'd still have you as a Unit Commissioner.  Win-Win.

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Another option would be to take on some roles on the district training committee. 

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From the school of hard knocks ...

2 hours ago, The Latin Scot said:

... Another question - I was asked to be on the committee, which I gladly accepted with the request to be put over leadership training (since, you know, training is kind of 'my thing' :rolleyes:). I figured that would be a role I can fill without it being too much of a conflict of interest, ...

This ends badly. For the love of your SM ...

Look around at your commissioner corps. If you are not the best available UC for this troop, have the person who is take that assignment so you may keep yourself registered as an MC. Take a UC assignment for another unit.

If you are are the best UC for this troop,  stay that way. For your personal growth, look to see if you can MC another unit. Then listen very carefully to what those unit leaders have to say about their UC. Adjust how you approach commissioning accordingly.

It's kinda like when Sons #1 and #2 looked like they were serious about engineering. I told them to back-off their service-sector high school jobs and call a buddy who I knew was short on help renovating his apartments. Changing toilets and hauling tons of bricks isn't pretty, but I told them, "You need to learn about the kinds of poor engineering that people complain about when the engineer isn't in the room!"

Being a good engineer UC means knowing how folks changing toilets and hauling bricks trying to manage their unit feel about engineers commissioners who set them up. And I'm sorry that people are this way, but they ain't going to fairly evaluate your job as a UC if you are also an MC. Because you're a nice guy, they may not even do it if you are just UC, but the odds are in your favor if you're only that.

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Thank you all for your thoughts! I can see why this might be a problem, and you've all basically confirmed my suspicions about the duality of roles and the perils of so doing. I'll pass on the committee position.

What then do I do about finding a "home unit?" I don't mind passing on the committee role and sticking to the part of Unit Commissioner, but am I able to "free float" as a registered member of the BSA without having a unit to belong to? Or can I register as part of the unit without filling a specific role? I just want to have a troop or pack I can call my own after my current unit (which I joined as an 8-year-old Wolf way back in 1991) is (tragically) cancelled at the end of this year. 

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24 minutes ago, The Latin Scot said:

What then do I do about finding a "home unit?" I don't mind passing on the committee role and sticking to the part of Unit Commissioner, but am I able to "free float" as a registered member of the BSA without having a unit to belong to? Or can I register as part of the unit without filling a specific role? I just want to have a troop or pack I can call my own after my current unit (which I joined as an 8-year-old Wolf way back in 1991) is (tragically) cancelled at the end of this year. 

Unit Commissioner is a registered position at the District level.  

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In your position, you could:

  • Lean in to the new position. UC two or three units. (There's no reason why a UC can visit a troop on their activities.)
  • Fill your time with district/council activities.
  • Sit on the committee of a ship or crew who might need one. The reason I suggest this is for networking. Ships and crews often plan activities that would be of interest to other scouts. Also, it is astounding how much venturers love doing Cub Scout games and crafts!

 

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I became a Neighborhood Commissioner and was assigned a group of Troops with veteran SMs. One troop has known as the "Battalion" due to the leadership style of the retired Marine Major who was its Scoutmaster.  i learned it was true; his voice was the only voice you heard during troop meetings. (Fortunately, its patrols met independently every week.)

The DC counselled me to be helpful before any thought of being a teacher/counselor.  So updates, offers to help, information on resources - my job for months until I had some "cred' with the unit Scouters,  and then questions before statements.  "Softly, softly."   I hope i would have figured this out on my own., but I only had to follow his advice.  It was an interesting two years.

My relative youth was a problem to overcome.  I am not sure if being the SM of a strong troop helped or hindered. (At least T43 was known not to "poach" from other troops.).

You already are sensitive too the "fine line."  👍

 

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I note with interest the centrality of JTE in the UC's assessment role. 

 

"Patrol method" is one category for  JTE scoring points.  Yet JTE gives no points for actually using the Patrol Method.  You can score "Gold" if the PLC plans nothing and the patrols do nothing.  One "Gold'""winner" for 2016 with which I am familiar, had PLs  (wearing the patch) who could not say which patrol they were in.  They had no actual leadership responsibility - apparently wore the patch for POR purposes so the troop could churn out "Eagles."  Even troop games ("Time for recess," the SM would announce.) were 1s vs 2s.  The UC for that unit only attended Eagle courts of "honor."   Scoutmaster is also the defacto unit CC.  He was council "Scoutmaster of the Year' for 2011.  

Down the road in the next town was a "Scout-run troop," whose Scouts, I was told, had "no time" for any patrol activities whatsoever.  At least the PLC was given a menu of adult-choices for campouts and really got to pick from those choices - except summer camp ("Too important for kids to choose.").  They had patrol contests. SPL ran the meetings.  PLs or ASPLs were assigned by the SM to run piece-parts of meetings, , although the SM would  regularly interject emphatically if things got messy .  ("We have our standards," he related.)  I saw six meetings.  Each was the same sequence of elements: opening; half hour of adult announcements; Scoutcraft instruction by an adult; game; more announcements; closing; PLC run by SM or ASM.

JTE could actually encourage use of the Patrol Method.

Edited by TAHAWK

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