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New Here! From Pittsburgh


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Hello everyone!  I'm Matt, and I'm a 27 year old scouter from Pittsburgh, PA.  

 

I currently serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster within my troop, and have been filling the role on and off for about 3 years now.  Prior, I was a scout in the same troop, receiving my Eagle Scout in 2011.  From 2013 to 2018, I was in school, earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  Came home, re-registered, and here I am...

I will admit, however, that I am not here out of mere curiosity.  I come looking for ideas, as my troop seems to have lost its way a bit.  Due to COVID, a bit of apathy, and a lack of leadership (from myself included), morale and productivity is at an all-time low in the troop.  This is not an indictment on my scouts or fellow leaders.  All are great, and I am genuinely thankful to be a part of their endeavors.  We have just reached a "funk" that we have found it difficult to dig ourselves out of.

I have finally hit a turning point.  Not one of those new year's resolution type of turning point, but an actual moment where the motivation to improve has exceeded my usual 27 yo mindset.  For the time being, I have effectively thrown the idea of "boy-led" out the window.  I have been leading the last few meetings.  I am, essentially, re-teaching the troop how to be a troop.  Elections are coming up, and I hope this can help the new leadership understand that meetings can be both productive and interesting.  My intentions are to continue this with the new PLC, slowly backing off through the spring.  I have every intention of sending a few scouts to NYLT (something my troop has neglected since I left in 2013), and I hope this will be a major catalyst to bigger and better things for the boys.

So far, results have been positive.  Scouts seem to be more energized, and momentum is building with each meeting.  I have had one scout even tell me that he intended to quit before the routine changed.  Part of me never wanted it to come to this, being a huge advocate for the boy-run model.  Desperate times, however...

 

My first two questions for the forums at large:

1.  Am I doing the right thing?  Is there a point where the troop can/should be strong-armed in the right direction, even if it means temporarily removing some of the traditional hands-off mentality?  Am I potentially setting up the troop for an even bigger fall, or is there a good way to work my way out of this, hopefully leaving things better than I found them?

2.  Is this blog worthy?  I have dabbled in the idea of creating a blog from the view-point of a young scouter in a young, rather small troop.  I feel there is a lot of development and story-telling that can be had.

 

If you made it this far in my post.... Wow.  Kudos!

Matt

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Welcome to the forum, @Scouting412

I'm not sure boy led is a binary thing. Some scouts need more help as they learn. Where are they not leading?? Do they know what could be fun and are just not motivated or are they just out of ideas? Are they overwhelmed with how much needs to get done? Do they have a process to come up with a good calendar/plan and are stuck at some point or are they just flailing? Are they just afraid of failure?

My point is keep it boy led but figure a way to help them improve. That's your job description. I think you're going in the right direction.

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Absolutely Welcome.  Yep, Scout Led is cyclical, counsel, encourage,,,,

One of my favorite stories:   Once I sat in on a PLC,  these Scouts were mostly fairly new, the Troop was "rebuilding" as you mention. The SM (not me) was making suggestions, pointing out maps of trails to hike, noting that Troop Meetings could be for training, Patrol competitions, that sort of thing. Finally, the nascent SPL  WOKE UP. He said, "You mean I can make that decision??? " SM (a good man) responded "DUHHH" and the Troop had a good new year.....

Pittsburgh?  I hope you are considering the GAP and C&O Tow Path , all the way to Washington, DOWNHILL ALL THE WAY (mostly).  Nice to plan and do as a summer adventure (all the way?  Come home by train?) or chew off a piece at a time....  Great Allegheny Passage (gaptrail.org)

 

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Matt, welcome!

As @SSScoutastutely points out, the best definition of "boy-led" is them making the decisions.  This will be the hardest part for you to accept.  Let them make the decisions about what to do.

Now, they cannot make informed decisions, unless they are informed.  That's where you come in...become the "expert" Scouter, and inform them of the program opportunities out there.

Recommend you focus first on going camping.  A camping trip per month, if you can.  In the lead up to the camping trip, have them divided into patrols for program planning, gear assembly, menu planning, shopping, cooking, etc.  If you don't do it by patrols, then you are not Scouting.  You are gaggling.

Your primary responsibility as their mentor is to oversee the health and safety of your Scouts.  This is your ONLY veto power as an adult leader.  Let them decide what they want to do, and only intervene if it is for health and safety.  You will never get this 100% correct, and that's OK.

There's a lot more devil in the details, but that is the gist.

And one more thing!!  Watch out for some guy named @qwazse on the forum here...  He lives in your area, and may wind up corrupting you 😜

 

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20 hours ago, SSScout said:

Absolutely Welcome.  Yep, Scout Led is cyclical, counsel, encourage,,,,

One of my favorite stories:   Once I sat in on a PLC,  these Scouts were mostly fairly new, the Troop was "rebuilding" as you mention. The SM (not me) was making suggestions, pointing out maps of trails to hike, noting that Troop Meetings could be for training, Patrol competitions, that sort of thing. Finally, the nascent SPL  WOKE UP. He said, "You mean I can make that decision??? " SM (a good man) responded "DUHHH" and the Troop had a good new year.....

Pittsburgh?  I hope you are considering the GAP and C&O Tow Path , all the way to Washington, DOWNHILL ALL THE WAY (mostly).  Nice to plan and do as a summer adventure (all the way?  Come home by train?) or chew off a piece at a time....  Great Allegheny Passage (gaptrail.org)

 

Unfortunately I am not much of a hiker, but there are some adults in the troop who are!  I was always more of a canoe/kayak kind of person :)  We are pretty lucky to have a lot of nice hiking and biking trails around here.

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20 hours ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

Matt, welcome!

As @SSScoutastutely points out, the best definition of "boy-led" is them making the decisions.  This will be the hardest part for you to accept.  Let them make the decisions about what to do.

Now, they cannot make informed decisions, unless they are informed.  That's where you come in...become the "expert" Scouter, and inform them of the program opportunities out there.

Recommend you focus first on going camping.  A camping trip per month, if you can.  In the lead up to the camping trip, have them divided into patrols for program planning, gear assembly, menu planning, shopping, cooking, etc.  If you don't do it by patrols, then you are not Scouting.  You are gaggling.

Your primary responsibility as their mentor is to oversee the health and safety of your Scouts.  This is your ONLY veto power as an adult leader.  Let them decide what they want to do, and only intervene if it is for health and safety.  You will never get this 100% correct, and that's OK.

There's a lot more devil in the details, but that is the gist.

And one more thing!!  Watch out for some guy named @qwazse on the forum here...  He lives in your area, and may wind up corrupting you 😜

 

I'm glad to say I have always tried to be the "expert" as you so eloquently put it.  I have been to multiple jamborees, high adventure, NOAC, etc, and have always been a huge advocate for doing things outside of the troop environment.  I stress that to my scouts, and regularly remind them to reach out if they have any questions.  :)

 

We do camp almost every month.  November and December are our exceptions due to school activities, holidays, and such.  Something I have noticed is that campouts have turned into blow-off weekends, however.  Nothing is accomplished, no activities... nothing.  Football and cards.  Even when we go to planned camporees, it can be like pulling teeth trying to get scouts to enjoy the activities.  When they finally get out, they enjoy the things they do, but it almost seems like they are afraid because their lack of basic scout skills makes the activities intimidating.   

I think I have realized that, as stated above, the youth-adult interaction is a cyclical thing.  When I was a scout, the troop was extremely active, dynamic, and skilled.  There was a great cycle of education within the troop.  As the troop changed, scouts got younger with not nearly as many experienced scouts to teach.  Leadership was extremely hands-off.  The hole was dug at that point.  If I can do a bit to get the pendulum swinging the other way again, without interfering in the scouts autonomy, then I will have succeeded.  Even something as simple as swinging the energy into a positive direction would be a great start.  

We will see how it all works out.  I feel like there is light on the horizon somewhere.  Just gotta help them up the next few steps so that they can see over the horizon too!

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@Scouting412, welcome to the forum. And my apologies for letting life get in the way of helping to roll out University of Scouting for Laurel Highlands Council. We could have met, I could have served you some insanely good espresso, and I would have advised you to hop on these forums for even better ideas. Besides referring you here I would have advised:

  • Your job, based on your position, is to assist the scoutmaster. If he/she feels you’ve done that, you’re golden.
  • Pandemics are a drag, but don’t use them as an excuse.
  • Elections: only vote on SPL. Let him pick his assistant. Divide patrols (if they aren’t obvious already) based on friendships and who will be least likely to bully someone else. Each patrol elects their leader.
  • Go through the patrol building steps … name, flag, yell, etc … Opening flag, do roll call by patrols. This can be fun.

Not much of a hiker? Dude, start walking! Get dahntahn with the boys and check out the trees and lights! We’ve made hiking out to be this complex activity. Keep it simple, have fun!

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4 minutes ago, qwazse said:

@Scouting412, welcome to the forum. And my apologies for letting life get in the way of helping to roll out University of Scouting for Laurel Highlands Council. We could have met, I could have served you some insanely good espresso, and I would have advised you to hop on these forums for even better ideas. Besides referring you here I would have advised:

  • Your job, based on your position, is to assist the scoutmaster. If he/she feels you’ve done that, you’re golden.
  • Pandemics are a drag, but don’t use them as an excuse.
  • Elections: only vote on SPL. Let him pick his assistant. Divide patrols (if they aren’t obvious already) based on friendships and who will be least likely to bully someone else. Each patrol elects their leader.
  • Go through the patrol building steps … name, flag, yell, etc … Opening flag, do roll call by patrols. This can be fun.

Not much of a hiker? Dude, start walking! Get dahntahn with the boys and check out the trees and lights! We’ve made hiking out to be this complex activity. Keep it simple, have fun!

The corruption begins... 😜

 

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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3 minutes ago, qwazse said:

@Scouting412, welcome to the forum. And my apologies for letting life get in the way of helping to roll out University of Scouting for Laurel Highlands Council. We could have met, I could have served you some insanely good espresso, and I would have advised you to hop on these forums for even better ideas. Besides referring you here I would have advised:

  • Your job, based on your position, is to assist the scoutmaster. If he/she feels you’ve done that, you’re golden.
  • Pandemics are a drag, but don’t use them as an excuse.
  • Elections: only vote on SPL. Let him pick his assistant. Divide patrols (if they aren’t obvious already) based on friendships and who will be least likely to bully someone else. Each patrol elects their leader.
  • Go through the patrol building steps … name, flag, yell, etc … Opening flag, do roll call by patrols. This can be fun.

Not much of a hiker? Dude, start walking! Get dahntahn with the boys and check out the trees and lights! We’ve made hiking out to be this complex activity. Keep it simple, have fun!

Imma just go through these one at a time, because every one is a great point to address!  Thanks for the welcome by the way!  It is great to hear from other scouters in the area.  Imma keep that espresso offer open, for the record.  I'm sure we will cross paths at some point.

1. Scoutmaster and I are on the same page, but I had to teach him how to tie a clove hitch this past week.  All for what I am trying to do now, but also learning as he goes.  Great guy, and I think he is a great scoutmaster.  He is very optimistic, very enthusiastic, and very willing to participate.  I think I have become the go-to scout skills type of leader :D

2.  Did that.  So over it.  I think my scouts are too, so crossing my fingers!

3.  I like this.  I think this is the plan this year.  Other positions that we allow scouts to "campaign" for would include things like historian, chaplain, etc.  Positions outside of the PLC...

4. This will be done!

 

Don't have to tell me twice on walking around!  I used to live in Oakland and Squirrel hill.  One of my hobbies is street photography.  I'm all for that kind of thing!  I want to do ice skating at schenley park with the troop :).  Just don't ask me to put on a pack and hike 10 miles with a bunch of gear!

 

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21 minutes ago, Scouting412 said:

Nothing is accomplished, no activities... nothing.  Football and cards.  Even when we go to planned camporees, it can be like pulling teeth trying to get scouts to enjoy the activities. 

Sounds like football, cards, camaraderie, camping, and cooking were accomplished!

So...what do they want to accomplish...and what do you want them to accomplish?  Guarantee they will not be the same!  Remember, "This will be the hardest part for you to accept."

And put yourself in their shoes...probably every minute of their lives is scheduled with some activity.  They need unstructured time to develop.  There are a hundred studies that show this...  Do not be a slave to the "activity."

If they are camping and cooking, then those "activities" will lead to advancement.  Be available for them.  Set up your chair and another (for a Scout) near the fire and tell them anyone who wants to work on a requirement will have your undivided attention.  If a Scout takes you up on it, work on ONE requirement, them kick them to the curb for a few minutes and give the opportunity to another Scout.  I find this quite effective.  If no one takes you up on it, the start with one and do a Scoutmaster Conference (and sign it off if not previously done).  Talk for a few minutes about what they like about the Troop, what they would like to see in the Troop, and what they wish the Troop would stop doing (start, stop, continue...sound familiar?)  Ask them what their goals are for Scouting.  If they do not wish to pursue advancement, you have to be fine with that!  Help them set one goal.  SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited).  Write it down, and make a commitment to follow up with them on it.

A parting thought... do not try to make your Scouts follow in your footsteps, do the things you have done, and become you...they won't, and they aren't.  Help them find their own way.

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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7 minutes ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

Sounds like football, cards, camaraderie, camping, and cooking were accomplished!

So...what do they want to accomplish...and what do you want them to accomplish?  Guarantee they will not be the same!  Remember, "This will be the hardest part for you to accept."

And put yourself in their shoes...probably every minute of their lives is scheduled with some activity.  They need unstructured time to develop.  There are a hundred studies that show this...  Do not be a slave to the "activity."

If they are camping and cooking, then those "activities" will lead to advancement.  Be available for them.  Set up your chair and another (for a Scout) near the fire and tell them anyone who wants to work on a requirement will have your undivided attention.  If a Scout takes you up on it, work on ONE requirement, them kick them to the curb for a few minutes and give the opportunity to another Scout.  I find this quite effective.  If no one takes you up on it, the start with one and do a Scoutmaster Conference (and sign it off if not previously done).  Talk for a few minutes about what they like about the Troop, what they would like to see in the Troop, and what they wish the Troop would stop doing (start, stop, continue...sound familiar?)  Ask them what their goals are for Scouting.  If they do not wish to pursue advancement, you have to be fine with that!  Help them set one goal.  SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-limited).  Write it down, and make a commitment to follow up with them on it.

A parting thought... do not try to make your Scouts follow in your footsteps, do the things you have done, and become you...they won't, and they aren't.  Help them find their own way.

I appreciate the introduction and the advice!  I will keep that parting thought in mind going forward.  I may have to do some reconciling with that one.

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  • 1 month later...

@Scouting412 Welcome!  It took me a second to figure out your name, but then I got it - Pittsburgh, 412 - area code.  It's been a while since I saw 412...

Anyway, I don't have any fabulous advice or anything (mostly I'm waiting for the coffee to kick in).  You'll find a wide range of experiences and advice on this forum.

Welcome to the campfire.  Find a seat (camp chair, bench, tree stump), and help yourself to some coffee (or one of qwazse's espressos).

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On 12/9/2021 at 8:10 AM, InquisitiveScouter said:

If no one takes you up on it, the start with one and do a Scoutmaster Conference (and sign it off if not previously done). 

As an ASM?

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