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Building a Stronger Patrol

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Helping the boys build stronger patrols is tough work!  I know a lot of us bemoan the fact that the patrol method isn't as well understood or as well practiced today as it might have been in the past, but why?  Are patrols fundamentally any different today?  What are the characteristics of a "strong" patrol? What are some things we might be able to suggest to the boys to help them strengthen their patrols and make them into the kind of group that can exemplify great teamwork and leadership?

To get some ideas, I was looking through old scout documents and I came across a description of the National Honor Patrol Award.  I've never heard of it before (maybe it doesn't even exist any more...)

Some of the requirements give me pause to reflect on how each element strengthens the patrol, and perhaps, to identify possible "points of failure" where today's patrols maybe aren't doing as well as they could, and perhaps might be an area to focus on.  Any thoughts?

 

The National Honor Patrol Award

The National Honor Patrol Award is presented to patrols whose members have gone all out to build the best patrols possible. Members can earn the award for their patrol by fulfilling the following requirements over a three-month period:

1. Have a patrol name, flag, and yell. Put the patrol design on equipment and use the patrol yell. Keep patrol records up-to-date.

2. Hold two patrol meetings every month.

3. Take part in at least one hike, outdoor activity, or other Scouting event.

4. Complete two Good Turns or service projects approved by the patrol leaders’ council.

5. Help two patrol members advance one rank.

6. Wear the full uniform correctly at troop activities. (To complete this requirement, at least 75 percent of the patrol’s membership must be in uniform.)

7. Have a representative attend at least three patrol leaders’ council meetings.

8. Have eight members in the patrol, or experience an increase in patrol membership.

 

 

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We break down at #3 and subsequently #5. At least my vision of it. I walked across town (and later drove around the township) to get together with my patrol and hike so buddies could advance in rank. Modern YPT makes that nigh impossible. But even before this year's strictures, the formal patrols weren't pulling this off.

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One area in which we all can improve is the removal of barriers to the Patrol Method. In general, all of the things adults do to make it easier or more efficient which could be done by scouts may be barriers to developing the patrol method.

For example, adults towing the troop trailer which stores equipment to the campout for easy access to gear which allows scouts to go back/forth whenever something is needed. This habit denies the patrol the opportunity to communicate, plan ahead, and learn to cooperate. Better would be the following: While planning the outing, the patrol determines which equipment they will need. The patrol QM (ad hoc) requests the equipment from the troop QM. The equipment is divided up among the patrol to be packed with their personal gear. Each patrol member is responsible for specific items. The patrol QM keeps track (a list?) of who has what. Upon return, the patrol mates return the equipment to the patrol QM who then returns it to the troop QM to store in the trailer. 

It is very common when I bring up these types of examples for adults to "defend their practice". While they sometimes have legitimate reasons, almost always they are just trying to justify their interference as they fail to even consider the positive rationale for doing it differently (ie, letting the scouts do it.).

What other "adult efficiencies" are barriers to the Patrol Method?

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1 hour ago, DuctTape said:

One area in which we all can improve is the removal of barriers to the Patrol Method. In general, all of the things adults do to make it easier or more efficient which could be done by scouts may be barriers to developing the patrol method.

For example, adults towing the troop trailer which stores equipment to the campout for easy access to gear which allows scouts to go back/forth whenever something is needed. This habit denies the patrol the opportunity to communicate, plan ahead, and learn to cooperate. Better would be the following: While planning the outing, the patrol determines which equipment they will need. The patrol QM (ad hoc) requests the equipment from the troop QM. The equipment is divided up among the patrol to be packed with their personal gear. Each patrol member is responsible for specific items. The patrol QM keeps track (a list?) of who has what. Upon return, the patrol mates return the equipment to the patrol QM who then returns it to the troop QM to store in the trailer. 

It is very common when I bring up these types of examples for adults to "defend their practice". While they sometimes have legitimate reasons, almost always they are just trying to justify their interference as they fail to even consider the positive rationale for doing it differently (ie, letting the scouts do it.).

What other "adult efficiencies" are barriers to the Patrol Method?

Great great post. I couldn’t say it better. We turned into a backpacking troop just for the example DuctTape gave. When we discuss the idea of giving up the patrol camp boxes, we thought the patrols might resist. But the opposite was true, the scouts loved it because they hated those boxes. 

To add, our PLs are responsible for finding transportation to their activities. The camping ASM assisted them at first because they are responsible for signing up drivers, but the PLs eventually learned how to call the usual drivers. And, the patrols didn’t have to drive together, they could set their own schedule, although I never saw them do it.

Ducttape is right on with adult resistance. But that is just human nature, I deal with the same thing at work. The best way to get by-in quicker is give them ownership and seek suggestions idea for making it a success.

Barry

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13 hours ago, DuctTape said:

What other "adult efficiencies" are barriers to the Patrol Method?

Is it about efficiency or just not trusting the scouts? Not trusting them to "do it right," not get in trouble, not get someone hurt or not believing that they can eventually figure it out?

 

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2 hours ago, MattR said:

Is it about efficiency or just not trusting the scouts? Not trusting them to "do it right," not get in trouble, not get someone hurt or not believing that they can eventually figure it out?

 

I suppose I am using "efficiency" in the most vague, most broad way. I think they all stem from lack of trust of the scouts and the program.

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Sounds fair.

I think there's another issue. Where does this drive for efficiency come from? Scouts are busy. Parents are busy. Everyone is trying to cram more into a week. Asking for more volunteer hours is like squeezing water from a rock. Unfortunately, scouting growth is kind of like a good loaf of bread, it takes time to rise. The longer it takes the better it tastes, and using yeast can really wreck it, not to mention make it less nutritious. (Can you tell I'm hungry?)

I was surprised the first time a scout told me one of the best things about scouts is you can just hang out with your friends and get away from the rush. Not anymore. Yesterday I was talking to some random, older scout, at a camporee I was helping with and heard something similar. I regularly ask scouts what kind of events they want to see and this scout said, whatever, it didn't matter. And I asked him if he'd still have fun if the job was shoveling manure from a barn and he thought about it for a bit and said that if his friends were with him and there was music, he'd have fun doing that as well.

Efficiency kills that motivation. Friendships don't happen in a time stressed environment. It might be better to focus on developing friendships rather than getting eagle quickly. I think most scouts get eagle because of external motivation but the reason they stay in scouts is internally motivated and friendships are most of that. I don't think many adults understand this. I say that fun is an important method in scouting. This past summer I saw a great example of leadership and now that I think about it it was really a case of one scout making it fun and friendly for all. He didn't even think of it as leadership. There might be some lessons in there. It's not servant leadership so much as just making things fun. Fun with a challenge, fun with a skill, ... fun with a purpose.

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So many good comments here.  I fear to say I think the largest obstacle to patrol success is the passion adults put into the patrol method and scouting in general.  In addition, I think it perverts the program; stresses the scouts; and saps the fun and excitement from the program.   

When I look at the requirements for a national honor patrol, I envision a set of friends getting out doing things.  In the process of that, they help each other grow, plan and coordinate.  And, they take pride in their friendship and identity as a patrol.  

Yes, modern youth protection makes this harder, but I think that's just an excuse.  Patrols can still be active and do things if the adults learn to back off a bit.  

 

On 9/28/2019 at 12:54 PM, Eagledad said:

... We turned into a backpacking troop just for the example DuctTape gave. When we discuss the idea of giving up the patrol camp boxes, we thought the patrols might resist. But the opposite was true, the scouts loved it because they hated those boxes. 

I think this is a great example.  IMHO, I think it's the adults that love those patrol boxes.  I'm not saying every patrol has to be a backpacking troop, but I think we force so much structure on the scouts that it saps their fun and energy.  It would be an interesting troop if a new patrol would need to spend a few months assembling their own cook kits.   Buying stoves.  Visiting the good will for pans and utensils.  Deciding how to pack and prepare the stuff.  Each patrol could develop their own true identity.  

 

15 hours ago, MattR said:

... Where does this drive for efficiency come from? ... I was surprised the first time a scout told me one of the best things about scouts is you can just hang out with your friends and get away from the rush.  ...  And I asked him if he'd still have fun if the job was shoveling manure from a barn and he thought about it for a bit and said that if his friends were with him and there was music, he'd have fun doing that as well.

I hugely agree.  It's good to have a central reason to have a camp out.  But I also think it's absolutely okay to leave a large part of the time unstructured.  Let the scouts have their free time.  Let them take three hours for dinner if that's what they want.  IMHO, it's in the unstructured time that the magic happens.  

 

15 hours ago, MattR said:

Efficiency kills that motivation. ... Friendships don't happen in a time stressed environment. ... It might be better to focus on developing friendships rather than getting eagle quickly. I think most scouts get eagle because of external motivation but the reason they stay in scouts is internally motivated and friendships are most of that. I don't think many adults understand this. I say that fun is an important method in scouting. This past summer I saw a great example of leadership and now that I think about it it was really a case of one scout making it fun and friendly for all. He didn't even think of it as leadership. There might be some lessons in there. It's not servant leadership so much as just making things fun. Fun with a challenge, fun with a skill, ... fun with a purpose.

Great comment.  

The best SPL I ever saw really focused on the scouts having fun and doing things.  But it was not just a duty roster / camp schedule thing.  He drove the scouts to do more and have alot of fun when doing it.  

The best SM I ever saw was calm, easy-going, mello and friendly to all scouts.  He never got stressed or angry.  He had a gift of knowing how to work with the personality of others.  

I often question how scouting teaches leadership.  ... The above example is great.   .... I have also flipped to focus on making scouting activities interesting, fun and new experiences and let scouts naturally learn during those activities.  I say this because I think most adult leaders are not inherently gifted enough or trained enough to teach leadership.  While servant leadership is important "as a style" of leadership, scouting misses big time on teaching the psychology and attitude of leadership. 

In fact, the only places I see scouting consistently give good leadership training is during the scoutmaster minute.  I wish we'd advise scouters to forget teaching leadership at any other moment then during the scoutmaster minute.  And then to use good, short, thought-provoking SM minutes.  ... And I do mean "minute" ... 60 seconds. 

 

Edited by fred8033
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5 hours ago, fred8033 said:

The best SPL I ever saw really focused on the scouts having fun and doing things.  But it was not just a duty roster / camp schedule thing.  He drove the scouts to do more and have alot of fun when doing it.  

The adults have a different agenda, or they are supposed to have a different agenda. I taught that adults are responsible for Character, Fitness, and Citizenship. Scouts are responsible for Patrols, camping, advancement, relationship with adults, growth in making decisions, decisions base from Oath and Law, leadership and uniform. Scouts don't have much of a problem with their responsibilities, it's the adults that can't seem to stay in their lane. 

So, to your point of the SPL driving a fun program; scouts know what fun is, so the scout should be driving the fun.

5 hours ago, fred8033 said:

I often question how scouting teaches leadership.  ... The above example is great.   .... I have also flipped to focus on making scouting activities interesting, fun and new experiences and let scouts naturally learn during those activities.  I say this because I think most adult leaders are not inherently gifted enough or trained enough to teach leadership.  While servant leadership is important "as a style" of leadership, scouting misses big time on teaching the psychology and attitude of leadership. 

You are right to question how we teach leadership. But I'm not sure about teaching the psychology or attitude of leadership is the starting place, even for adults. After experiencing life of working with youth, good leadership is best learned by watching good leaders.

Of course the question is what are the qualities of a leader? I've come to realize that each SM has their own ideals of leadership, and most try to teach that those qualities to their scouts verbally. Ironically, what the scouts take away from their leadership mentors are the actions of their mentors, not the words. Scouts need less teaching, and more actions of application.

The only adult course I believe that taught leadership specifically was the old Woodbadge, which ended in 1999. And that course was designed to teach advanced teaching skills, not leadership skills. BSA doesn't have a real leadership course today. And maybe that is a good thing. I used to believe that all people have some leadership abilities, but I've come to realize that only a small percentage of the population have good leadership abilities. The rest just have a few learned skills that they can apply in specific situations that they happen upon. So, maybe courses should focus on how to let the scouts work the program where leadership decisions are forced so the scouts can reach high goals and maintain an orderly culture by making decisions based on the oath and law. 

Where the adults fail today, as compared to my troop as a youth, is that they don't allow the scouts to work toward high goals that forces them to organize for success. I've use the example of Laser Tag a lot; I watched a group of boys who didn't know each other come together as a team in just a few minutes because they were highly motivated to be successful. The goals of success and motivation for success was so clear to each person in the group, that some members were willingly submissive to the stronger leaders, just so they could succeed. That is amazing to me. Imagine a goal so strong that each member of the group wants so bad that they go against their pride and humbly find their spot on the team just to so they could share in the team success. That is the instinctive description of a wolf pack. And how does each member learn the skills of leadership, by simply watching the leaders of their group. I've seen it, when the time forces it, even the submissive person will step up to lead because they have the knowledge. 

If the adults could get the scouts to that point, then the scouts would be ready for the next step of polishing their leadership, which then would be learning the psychology and attitude of leadership. That is where styles of leadership would come into play, and where the SM could show the advantages of servant leadership. But, in the real world most adults are a long ways from that point of leadership development. Pragmatically, I would happy to just see most SMs stand back and let the SPLs and PLs run the program.

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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2 hours ago, Eagledad said:

I'm not sure about teaching the psychology or attitude of leadership is the starting place, even for adults. After experiencing life of working with youth, good leadership is best learned by watching good leaders.

Of course the question is what are the qualities of a leader? I've come to realize that each SM has their own ideals of leadership, and most try to teach that those qualities to their scouts verbally. Ironically, what the scouts take away from their leadership mentors are the actions of their mentors, not the words. Scouts need less teaching, and more actions of application.

...

...

If the adults could get the scouts to that point, then the scouts would be ready for the next step of polishing their leadership, which then would be learning the psychology and attitude of leadership. That is where styles of leadership would come into play, and where the SM could show the advantages of servant leadership. But, in the real world most adults are a long ways from that point of leadership development. Pragmatically, I would happy to just see most SMs stand back and let the SPLs and PLs run the program.

Barry

I agree... we don't need to teach psychology, but we should somehow teach attitude / approach.  I do agree with you.  The best way to teach it is by example.  

I hugely agree with most of your comments.  The one that I'd like to expand on is where the SMs sit back and let SPLs / PLs run things.  My comment is driven by everyone learning best by example.  If SM "sits back", it teaches SPLs / PLs, they can sit back.  It teaches people can sit down when their job is done.  My better thought is SMs and adults need to help each other and keep working so that scouts see that SM / adults help each other and help others.  Leadership is never about "sitting back".  If the SM sits back, then we are teaching our scouts they can sit back when leading or when others need help.  

Now there will obviously be lots of times where adults can sit back.  But I think it's important that we lead by example.  If we expect scouts to help each  other, we need to help each other.  If we expect scouts to bus / clean tables after meals, then adults need to do their share too.  

The key is we need to model the behavior we want to see.  

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Well, I said Stand Back, and my point was the problem of adults not letting scouts run the show. I think you find that the adults of successful patrol method troops somehow someway set the example of successful leadership while giving them room to make decisions.

I remember asking a new ASM what he thought about our troop. This was after 3 campouts, he said “I’m surprised that the scouts side of camp mimics the adults side.”. He was surprised because the adults camp was typically out of sight 100 yards away.

Just what kind of example should adults set 100 yards away, and out of sight? I’m not sure, but if the adults are truly giving the scouts authority to run the program, and still holding them accountable for their decisions, something in that process must work.

I always told everyone that the adults weren’t scouts and not to expect them to be a patrol. Not in the troop sense anyway. We always stood behind scouts during assembly, and never where we would be a distraction to the youth leaders. Adults never put up the scouts sign first, but instead modeled a reaction to the youth leaders putting their signs up. Maybe that in a way was a model of leadership, I don’t know. Maybe adults, in their maturity, already set the example of helping each other. But as I said, I have found that when a group needs to help each other to be successful, someone is going to step up and help. And that will likely be a more mature scout who has been around long enough to learn from his mentors.

Barry

 

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On 9/29/2019 at 9:31 AM, MattR said:

Is it about efficiency or just not trusting the scouts? Not trusting them to "do it right," not get in trouble, not get someone hurt or not believing that they can eventually figure it out?

Oh, I don't think it is a matter of trust.  Adults value efficiency.  Allowing Scouts to try, fail, try again, fail, try again, succeed is inefficient.  It is much more efficient to show them how to do it right the first time, and if they don't get it, take over and show them again how to do it right.  And another example I saw often at summer camp:  It is inefficient for Scouts to just hang out around the campfire talking and joking and whittling when they could be working on merit badges (which is really the point of summer camp to many adult leaders and parents).  And patrols are inefficient:  they are an additional bureaucratic layer between the Troop youth leaders (SPL, ASPL, QM, etc.) and the Scouts; they make organizing activities more complicated; they require having more trained adults to support/supervise patrol meetings and activities; and they encourage groups of Scouts to do different things at different times instead of everyone sticking to the same agenda.  So the more that the function of patrols can be minimized, the more efficient the troop will be.

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