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MattR

Dealing with a paradox

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I'm struggling with scouts. Recently a  few things have made it clear to me what that struggle is and I'm wondering if others have the same challenges.

The paradox is simple. On the one hand when I see a scout that grew, or had fun, or helped another scout, or just did something that showed our goals were being met, it's great. It encourages me to go on. It's pure heart when a scout says "I get it!". On the other hand, the BSA program has become a set of trigger words that just scream bureaucratic pain because none of it seems to be really helping me or anyone else help scouts. A few examples are JTE, wood badge, roundtable, membership, popcorn, ILST, council, explain-describe-and-discuss requirements, complaints about SM's on this forum, fees, MB universities, Trainer's EDGE and summer camp school classes. When I talk to adults in my troop it's usually about helping scouts. When I talk to adults in my district or, heaven forbid, my council, it's like watching an infomercial - I don't care anymore.

I can't change the bureaucracy and don't even want to try. I've done my part before and it's just a way to burn out. Rather, I just want to work with the scouts. I don't want to help them advance. I want to help them achieve their goals. If they want to learn a skill so they can advance I'm more than willing to help them learn the skill, but I don't want to sign scouts off. If they just want to learn how to cook pancakes without burning them I'd really like to help them do that.

So do any of you have similar issues? If so, how do you deal with this paradox?

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Like you, I focus on the scouts. My father used to have a saying he would repeat to us Scouts when we asked him a question, usually permission to do something (we never caught on that he never said yes/no). I doubt this was his own invention either.

 

Scout to SM: "Can we..."

SM  reply: " Is it safe? Is it fun? Is it scouting?"

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The #1 solution is FOCUS ON YOUR SCOUTS! (emphasis ;) ) I have been involved on district and council committees for a long time now, and I have burnt out. I had to deal with adult issues in a troop, and was slowly turning into an angry Scouter. The #1 thing that kept me going was MY SCOUTS. I could have a bad day at work, and MY SCOUTS would turn me around mentally. I could be dealing with problems, and wanting to skip the meeting, but MY SCOUTS would cheer me up and make me forget my problems for a while. Focus on who you can help directly< YOUR SCOUTS.

 

2 hours ago, DuctTape said:

Like you, I focus on the scouts. My father used to have a saying he would repeat to us Scouts when we asked him a question, usually permission to do something (we never caught on that he never said yes/no). I doubt this was his own invention either.

Scout to SM: "Can we..."

SM  reply: " Is it safe? Is it fun? Is it scouting?"

Reminds me of one of the camp directors I worked for. Whenever a staffer came to him with something the staffer thought was  major, he would ask, "Is anyone dead? No, then is anyone going to the hospital? No, then we don't have a problem, we got a challenge.

 

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My encouragement to you would be to find your fun.  Don't feel pressured into the lie that you need to care about all this stuff.  We are all different and have different interests.  That's what makes this all so wonderful.  There is a home in Scouting for all kinds of volunteers.  Those who love helping a 7 year old build a Pinewood Derby Car, those who love helping a 12 year old discover that he can camp independently, those who love helping a 15 year old be a great Senior Patrol Leader, and many, many more things.  We are all different and care about different things - and that's OK.  

Myself - I'm more the kind of person who enjoys the organizational aspects of what I do.  I enjoy problem solving and the challenge of figuring out how to get stuff done.  I get my fun in helping Scouters in our team to provide an outstanding program for the Scouts.  I don't mind the bureaucratic challenges and recognize that someone needs to deal with them. 

One of my favorite Scouters is our troop's SM.  He'd walk into the troop committee meeting when we were reviewing the budget, talking about the website, or some other administrative thing.  He'd promptly turn around and go back to working with the boys.  It's not that he didn't think they were important discussions - he just wasn't personally interested and didn't see any need to pretend he was.  He knew we'd cover it - so why did he have to care?

As the old saying goes - "don't sweat the small stuff."  If "JTE, wood badge, roundtable, membership, popcorn, ILST, council, explain-describe-and-discuss requirements, complaints about SM's on this forum, fees, MB universities, Trainer's EDGE and summer camp school classes" bother you then ignore them.  Let others worry about those things.  Focus on the things that you care about. 

 

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19 hours ago, MattR said:

I'm struggling with scouts. Recently a  few things have made it clear to me what that struggle is and I'm wondering if others have the same challenges.

The paradox is simple. On the one hand when I see a scout that grew, or had fun, or helped another scout, or just did something that showed our goals were being met, it's great. It encourages me to go on. It's pure heart when a scout says "I get it!". On the other hand, the BSA program has become a set of trigger words that just scream bureaucratic pain because none of it seems to be really helping me or anyone else help scouts. A few examples are JTE, wood badge, roundtable, membership, popcorn, ILST, council, explain-describe-and-discuss requirements, complaints about SM's on this forum, fees, MB universities, Trainer's EDGE and summer camp school classes. When I talk to adults in my troop it's usually about helping scouts. When I talk to adults in my district or, heaven forbid, my council, it's like watching an infomercial - I don't care anymore.

I can't change the bureaucracy and don't even want to try. I've done my part before and it's just a way to burn out. Rather, I just want to work with the scouts. I don't want to help them advance. I want to help them achieve their goals. If they want to learn a skill so they can advance I'm more than willing to help them learn the skill, but I don't want to sign scouts off. If they just want to learn how to cook pancakes without burning them I'd really like to help them do that.

So do any of you have similar issues? If so, how do you deal with this paradox?

Pretty easy solution, don't deal with the adults in the district or council.

Anytime I've had to deal with the DE, District folks, council folks, or Council professionals it becomes painfully clear that we have vastly different perspectives and vastly different reasons for being involved with Scouting.  Just say NO to roundtables, JTE targets, the wood badge cult, non specific membership drives, popcorn sales, getting worked up over district training targets, council "demands", MB universities, camp cards, Trainer's EDGE, etc etc etc

For me, as you seem to note, Scouting is great way to be part of developing (in our case) young men and seeing them grow and take on challenges.  Camping out in the dirt, the mud, and the burned or forgotten food.  Seeing a Scout who is incredibly upset that the rain is heavy and  cannot get his tent setup in the dark, but then an older Scout assists.  Seeing that same young Scout the next day having the best time paddling about the lake in a canoe.

For many not at the unit level my perspective is they have not seen an actual Scout out in the wild for a good bit.  Many have forgotten the "why" of doing Scouting and are just busy doing Scouting.  They feel that what they are doing is the most critical part of Scouting.  While it is important, the most vital part is youth facing leaders assisting and guiding the Scouts as they run the program.  

Be the best leader you can be at the unit level, watch the youth mature and sit in on some BOR's and it is always encouraging.

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3 hours ago, Jameson76 said:

Pretty easy solution, don't deal with the adults in the district or council.

Anytime I've had to deal with the DE, District folks, council folks, or Council professionals it becomes painfully clear that we have vastly different perspectives and vastly different reasons for being involved with Scouting.  Just say NO to roundtables, JTE targets, the wood badge cult, non specific membership drives, popcorn sales, getting worked up over district training targets, council "demands", MB universities, camp cards, Trainer's EDGE, etc etc etc

For me, as you seem to note, Scouting is great way to be part of developing (in our case) young men and seeing them grow and take on challenges.  Camping out in the dirt, the mud, and the burned or forgotten food.  Seeing a Scout who is incredibly upset that the rain is heavy and  cannot get his tent setup in the dark, but then an older Scout assists.  Seeing that same young Scout the next day having the best time paddling about the lake in a canoe.

For many not at the unit level my perspective is they have not seen an actual Scout out in the wild for a good bit.  Many have forgotten the "why" of doing Scouting and are just busy doing Scouting.  They feel that what they are doing is the most critical part of Scouting.  While it is important, the most vital part is youth facing leaders assisting and guiding the Scouts as they run the program.  

Be the best leader you can be at the unit level, watch the youth mature and sit in on some BOR's and it is always encouraging.

If I may...

I read lots of topics of the form [district folks, Wood Badge cult members, professionals, or council folks] drive me nuts when they keep pushing [roundtables, JTE, Wood Badge, membership drives, popcorn, training, ...]  That's fine and all that, but I get the sense that people get themselves pretty worked up over it.  I find the various conversations like those in turn get people frustrated and demoralized.  i.e "the Wood Badge cult people in our council are a clique that are destroying Scouting because they keep forcing me to go to Roundtables where they force us all to hear about their adult led Merit Badge Universities which hand out Merit Badges every hour in an effort to ensure that every 12 year old makes Eagle and earns 7 insta-palms".

I'd simply offer that Scouting is made up of all kinds of people.  It's fine and fun to rant and rave on the internet about those we disagree with - that is the primary reason Al Gore created the internet after all.  But, at the end of the day we're all just people who are doing what we know to do to try and making Scouting a richer program.  Again - I'd encourage everyone to find their fun and focus on it. You don't like membership, fundraising, training, and the like - then ignore them.  But, don't get worked up that others do like them.  Simply recognize that we all can find a place to contribute and leave our own little mark on Scouting.

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As one who has worn silver loops for most of the time I have been a scouter, let me say that I both understand and am saddened by your frustration. Many of us at the district level are trying to help units provide a good, safe, consistent scouting program to as many young people as possible.  This means that our priorities are sometimes different but they should not be at odds.  I was a Roundtable commissioner for a little while and I tried to make sure that the program was useful to the unit leaders that came.  Maybe they were just nice, and maybe the ones who didn't approve just didn't come but I never got any bad feedback.   If you have a problem with Roundtable, then maybe no one has expressed to the district that there is a problem. 

I get that JTE is frustrating to many, but like the Quality Unit award, it isn't meant to differentiate between the great and the excellent troops.  It is meant to give struggling units goals to improve their program.  After all, a gold award only requires 55% of the possible points. 

I haven't done wood badge, but I don't think it is a bad program.   I think the problem with wood badge is more about the "cult of wood badge" than it is the program.  In my experience, the problem woodbadgers are unit leaders not at the district or council level

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What we deal with here  is three categories of "things"...

1)  What is REQUIRED. **Legalities (localities, zoning, county, state, national).    **BSA required. (YPT, rank requirements to be awarded a patch/certificate/knot/etc. /bling). **faith/health/conscience ("A Scout is....", what is physically possible)

2) What is POSSIBLE  . **financially (not legally, tho a consideration),  **physically (I can't reach that high, run that fast, see that well)

3) What is AVAILABLE.  ** enough people?  **Big enough property for that activity? ** Who forgot the haybales?  **at work, we called this "knitting" .  Using what was available to do what was needed.

This has to do with OPPORTUNITIES. This is all we do as Scouters,  offer OPPORTUNITIES. For the kids, for the adults, for each other.  If the OPPORTUNITIES aren't there (camporee, Woodbadge, Philmont,  Bugling Merit Badge,  CPR/ADE training, Mobile Climbing Wall (the Scouterhorn!),  what else is there?  If the OPPORTUNITIES (KiS MiF) aren't there , for kids to learn, practice, fail at and then succeed at, see that "AHA !" moment for themselves, why are we having this conversation?

If the LDS folks see their faith as requiring them to develop a new program for their kids, then God Speed to them.  BP had a vision and we are the result of that vision, are we not? 

"All Scouting is local"  absolutely.  Hike, camp, pray, carry water, cut wood.

 

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On 12/16/2019 at 8:19 PM, ParkMan said:

My encouragement to you would be to find your fun.  Don't feel pressured into the lie that you need to care about all this stuff. 

Yes, I'm searching for my fun. 

Sometimes the pressure is easy to avoid and sometimes not so much. Skipping meetings is getting surprisingly easy ;). Telling the SM I have no desire to "sign scouts off on requirements" causes friction. The thread about jte is a good example of how "stuff" gets in the way. Everyone gets caught up in the metrics and don't understand where I'm coming from. 

I need to find my niche. A happy place where I can help scouts learn while playing in the mud. What I'm not sure of is how being a moderator on this forum ties into that. 

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18 hours ago, MattR said:

... I need to find my niche. A happy place where I can help scouts learn while playing in the mud. What I'm not sure of is how being a moderator on this forum ties into that. 

We could sling a little more mud .... 

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