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New Scoutmaster every few years

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Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum and have enjoyed reading everyone's comments on such varied topics.


I am a new Scoutmaster for a small troop. Have had the job for almost one year and have 12 active Scouts in the Troop. The Troop was chartered in 1998 and I am the 5th Scoutmaster since.


The transitions between Scoutmasters has never been smooth, mine has been no exception. I am trying very hard to get this Troop back to Scout led, but old habits die hard (we have successfully switched from using paper plates and cups on campouts and the Scouts now have to wash dishes - a small step, I know).


The Scouts are slowly coming around, and I've heard that I shouldn't be discouraged at the slow progress - that it could take a couple of years to get things running smoothly.


Would love to hear any thoughts, suggestions, or experiences you may have.

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Hi, Gwd! Getting a troop to switch to the three-pot method from "overnight picnic" thinking is no mean feat. Good on you! Five SM's in eight years is not good. Your being in place for more than a couple of years brings stability to the troop. If you make sure that the troop has fun activities that keep coming will strengthen you troop's program. One of the Troop Committee(TC)'s jobs is to implement the Patrol Leaders' Council(PLC)'s program requests. You are the liason between the troop and the TC. Go camping monthly, and you go on the campouts, and you have a good time on the campouts. Set the example.


Our troop wnet through a SM change a couple of years ago. The former SM was a young (30-something) man who enjoyed outdoor activities and could connect with the boys. Man, did we have fun! Entire patrols were aging out as Eagles! The current SM, well, . . . he's in his 50's and there has been a change in the troop. I am not faulting the current SM. We did have a bit of an exodus when the current SM became SM. A couple of years later, none of the boys currently on the troop remember the former SM. The SM may not be the one who runs the troop; that's the SPL's job. The SM's job is to train the SPL, . . . and be the "compass" for the boys' journey through scouting.


Ya know, an occassional viewing of "Follow Me Boys" ought to be required for SM's.



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My advice...make a personal commitment to continue as SM for at least 3-5 years to give the troop some much needed consistency in adult leadership. I see from your website that your ASMs are related to you (husband and Eagle son?), consider expanding this group as your troop grows to bring in some different blood (literally), ideas, and talents. Start grooming all of your ASMs now to be able to pick up the reins when you do decide to step aside. I would venture to say that the worst is now behind you, the first year always being hard even without the added issues you have faced. Sounds like you have a good grip on what needs to be done and are well down the path of making it happen. Good luck.



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Congratulations, and hope you can see things through.

Might I suggest backpacking trips, 3-4 times a year. Backpacking trips will focus the scouts on essential gear, patrol camping, and the OUTING in Scouting.

Backpacking is also a great venue for a whole host of scouting skills up to 1st Class, and then of course Camping, Backpacking MB's.

The trips do not have to be long, but make sure there are great views, or an activity at the end of the day's trek.


These days many troops have SM changes due to job transfers, and other personal changes. But if the adult leaders of the troop are all Trained, then who is SM should not be a major event.


Welcome to the forum, and make sure there is FUN.


Hopewell T8 SM

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I think a positive sign of a boy run troop is that changes are slow. But change is also visibly constant.


See, what makes adults so different from boys and also makes the program so valuable is personal experience. YOu have it, they don't. Boys changes are slower because they have to first learn how to create, plan, and practice the process of actions that make change. Its a no-brainer for us because we adults have been there and done that so much that we just do it.


As you get more experience in this job, you will find that developing the habits required to create, plan and institute a change are far greater accomplishments than the change itself. So change has to be slow enough that the scouts can see their mistakes or accomplishments and grow from them. These skills are the foundations to future of good planning and managing. As they grow, change will speed up and eventually go faster than adults can keep up.


Couple hints are dont ever except their attempts at change as perfect and finale. To continue to grow, the scouts have to continue to reach up. I remember once when our troop had got to the point that they could break camp, load the trailer and get in formation ready to leave in 45 minutes. All without adults in the area. At that point we knew we had to change something to keep them challenged.


Dont make each step appear so hard that they feel frustrated even before they start. Learn how to make any task or goal seem possible, fun and worth attempting.


Also, you are their cheerleader always giving them a positive view, but you are also honest and consistent and have a way of showing them where they stand. You are never negative in your evaluations because every action is lesson to improve the next action. For you, failure is a good thing. Never fear it, grow from it. You will be amazed at what boys are willing to try when they know you except failure a positive growth. We adults as parents, teachers and coaches have taught our kids to fear falure to the point they fear even trying. Trying is the hardest step and you will know it when you get them beyound that place.


Your example of the paper plates tells me you know what you are doing and will be a great SM. I look forward to your future post.


I love this scouting stuff.




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Wow, so many quick responses.


Let's see if I can cover some of the points made.


Over the past year, our troop has had some kind of outing every month, trying to use the program helps and themes, and move away from car camping and do more backpacking. This has actually been the hardest transition so far since the Scouts haven't really done any of these things for a couple of years.


Husband and son are indeed the registered ASMs, but our Committee Chair and Advancement Chair also attend meetings each week and go on many of the outings. Am working on more leadership, but it sure is hard to get people to commit. And, I think as an example to the Scouts, I would much rather have a handful of leaders that are consistent and commited to the program, than a bunch who just drop in from time to time.


The most difficult thing for us right now seems to be getting the Scouts to organize their PLC and have regular meetings and program plans.


Lastly, even though it's been a rough year on me - receiving quite a bit of negativity from others in my District - I agree that it's important to keep the job for several more years, at least to add some consistency for the Scouts. Looking forward to it!


Thanks for encouragement and advice guys!





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Thanks for the comments Barry. PLC is difficult in just getting the boys to make plans to HAVE a meeting. The concept is very new to them. In fact, this past August, we had our Troop's first weekend planning meeting. Scouts got together and worked out their overall plans for the year for outings, merit badges, etc.


Now, the PLC has to get together to refine those plans.


I had been a Committee Member in this Troop in the past witnessed how it was leader run. I knew that turning it all around when I stepped up as SM would be met with resistence, but it is working.


In fact, I had said many times that we should let the boys fail (as long as safety wasn't an issue) rather than always immediately stepping in to fix things. Doing things the adult leader's way may make things go faster, but the boys will never learn how to do things themselves. Never got very far with this though.


District giving me a hard time - I'm the only female SM among many male SM who feel women don't belong - but that's another discussion elsewhere in this forum.

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Getting the PLC scheduled is important. We make it part of our calendar. They meet once a month for almost an hour, and then have informal meetings in between. They actually need more formal meetings, but they haven't gotten there yet.


Ours recently went through a great change. I and a couple of ASMs are normally present, and we try to keep fairly quiet. Arriving at a PLC meeting a few months ago, the SPL told me it was going to be in a different classroom. It's a smaller room, with a smaller table. There were only enough chairs around the table for the youth. Where were the adults to sit??? In the chairs along the wall. This was the SPLs idea, to make it visibly clear that we were not part of the PLC, but mearly observers/advisors. I knew we had made it across another threshold when he did that.

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One more thought. When our troop was about one year old we had nine boys. They were not grasping the boy-lead thing at all. We held our first Troop JLT. It was a great experience and started the balls rolling in the right direction. Now I've seen the new YLT material. It's quite a bit different. I think it has some good stuff in it, but I'll probably pull some stuff from the old material as well.


One thing I like about the new YLT is that it starts with the SM giving his/her vision of where the troop needs to be. I think this is a great experience. I did it for our boys in a troop meeting a few weeks ago. Some got it, others are still learning it. No matter where you are in this journey, you should have a vision of where you want to go next. Your vision will change, as your troop changes. That's to be expected. Put it in front of them and challenge them to help the troop get there. You'll be surprised what they can do!

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I too am a female Scoutmaster...the first one in our district too! At least in my case, the district has been 100% behind me, as were most of the other adult leaders. I did meet with a bit of resistance from some boys, who did drop out, but that's their problem, not mine! I also just finished my first offical full year of being the Scoutmaster, in a troop that sounds very much the same situation that you face. I can attest that you can not expect overnight "miracles" when you're trying to make these major changes in the way a troop runs. In my case, while I'm slowly making progress with the remaining older boys, I am focusing on rebuilding from the bottom up. My new scout patrol is very strong..I have a wonderful adult leader who is helping to bring them along properly and setting the standard for the other boys to follow.and they're starting to understand, little by little. It took me the first whole year to begin to build a foundation for and with the boys and with the recent troop elections..they're now ready to try and start taking over. When I took over, a very wise friend told me "You don't have to be perfect to be a success" Hang in there...keep to your "vision" and if you haven't done it...please consider going to Wood Badge if you can. It will really help you learn how to make that vision come to life over time. It is tough to gain the respect of some of these "old school" people but just continue to do the job the best as you can and they'll soon have to accept things!


Sue M.

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gwd-scouter, my troop has also had a constant turn over of scoutmasters. The one difference with my troop is that my troop has been around for over 50 years and we have lost a lot of the organizational structure over the years. When I joined the troop, they had dreadful Boards of Review where they hardly asked anything meaningful of the scouts. I talked to the committee and we have slowly made changes to become organized and boy lead. To try to solve the consistancy problem with the high turn over of scoutmasters, we started putting together a troop operations manual for the scoutmaster. This manual will then be handed from Scoutmaster to Scoutmaster.


Most of what we have in the manual is directly from BSA, and the rest is a collection of things like sample permission slips, court of honor ceremony, etc.

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SueM - nice to find out I'm not alone and there are other ladies out there in similar situation. I mentioned before that I had a couple of Scouts drop out when I took the SM job and for the first half year, we were lucky to have 6 Scouts attend meetings. But, now almost a year later, we usually have 10-12 at every meeting.


Funny you should mention woodbadge. I tried to attend last year but unfortunately the Scoutmaster Outdoor Training was on one of the same weekends. Now that I've had all the necessary SM training - I'm woodbadge bound this coming Spring.



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Congratulations!! You'll LOVE Wood Badge! It is one of the best experiences that you'll ever have in Scouting! It will help you to both define and reach your vision for your troop and help you learn how to build a better team! If you're -really- lucky, you'll also get to be in the Beaver patrol!! ;)


sue m.

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I really enjoyed the stuff that Barry posted - But please don't tell him!!

I think I kinda have a problem with the "Scout Led" and "Boy Led" terminology!!

I much prefer using "The Patrol Method".

I know that this might seem like splitting hairs, but I think that we have to be a little careful that we don't confuse the two.

Of course I'm 100% behind the "Train Them, Trust Them, Let Them Lead" philosophy. I just worry that when we use Boy led or Scout Led that we might forget the "Train Them" bit!!

Starting with such a small group and not having a tradition of proper use of the PLC is hard. It is however really important. Your big job is training the youth leaders.

Most SM's try and do everything. Don't fall into that trap. Let the other adults do what they should be doing. You have to work on training the members of the PLC.

You might want to spend a little time telling the other adults, that the new catch phrase in Troop 123 is "Have You asked your Patrol Leader?"

I know it sounds silly but most adults want to help and when asked will dive right in or answer the question, but having them understand the right way is very important.

If you can get the video tapes from Scoutmaster Fundamentals take them home and view them again, there is some really good stuff in there that often get missed when you view it with a group.

Don't ever be scared of holding people accountable for what they are supposed to do. If they do it praise the heck out of them, recognize a job done well. Not only the big things, but the small things as well. Scouts need to know when they have done well, kids of Scout age are really eager to please. A few kind words of earned praise go a very long way. Of course then there is the other side of the coin -when things don't go well or as they should. When this happens I found the best thing to do was ask questions and not get on their case. Scouts can be a lot tougher on themselves than I ever could!! Still when they mess up I have to think what could I have done that would have helped him do his job? Not do it for him, but what support didn't I give him? What would have made a difference? It's strange I use much the same skills with the District Committee.

If I ask or someone offers to do something, I will make sure that I call them or meet with them just to see how things are coming along and see if they need any help or support.

As for the District stuff! I would take plenty of NO notice.


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