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Joe MacDoaks

Retiring Scoutmaster

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The Scoutmaster of my sons troop will be retiring soon and I will be taking over as Scoutmaster. I am currently serving as an ASM. I am working on getting my Scoutmaster training out of the way and should have it done before next summer when I am scheduled to take over.

 

Our Scoutmaster likes to say that his troop is boy led but he doesnt run it by the book. He picks his SPL because he has to have someone "He can work with". He buys all of the food for camp outs and the boys eat as a troop. The patrols do very little on their own. He plans all of the outings, where the troop camps and what they are going to do on that camp out.

 

I just found this out recently, he has signed off merit badges that he is not a registered counselor for and now he is going to sign off stuff in my sons book that I know my son hasnt done. He likes to talk about all of the Eagle Scouts he has had over the years but, I am sure that none of them are close to really meeting the requirements for Eagle.

 

I mentioned all of this to our CC and he just wants to wait until the present Scoutmaster retires. This Scoutmaster is well respected at the Council, he is a Silver Beaver.

 

Its not an option to move to another troop, this is the only troop in the county we live in and the two nearest troops are in different councils.

 

My inclination is to try to get the current Scoutmaster to try to make the troop more boy led, he is set in his ways and I dont think he will do this, and then to change to a boy led troop when I take over. I also want to make sure that my son gets everything in his book done even if it is signed off already. Does anyone have any experience with a situation like this and what was the outcome?

 

I was only in scouts for a couple of years when I was a boy but, I was lucky enough to be in a boy led troop and it is and experience that has stayed with me for long time. I would like to let my son and the boys in his troop have the same experience.

 

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I took over for a very popular Scoutmaster who was leaving town.

 

Though there weren't any HUGE differences between our approaches to troop leadership, there were things that he did that I disagreed with and things that he didn't do that I thought should be done.

 

I discussed my views with him, largely when asked, but allowed him to do what he was doing. (Nothing was a serious as falsifying advancement, dictating youth leadership or making patrols superfluous.) Then, when I became Scoutmaster, I started doing things my way. (E.g., I immediately started doing the Scoutmaster Minute and have kept it up each meeting since.)

 

Of course there was a period of "but [old Scoutmaster) did it that way," especially from the older boys, but after a bit of transition, things were being done more in line with my vision. (A boy-led troop never quite operates as the Scoutmaster would hope. But it gets close enough often enough to make us elated.) It did help that the old Scoutmaster left town shortly thereafter.

 

If there isn't much time left in the current Scoutmaster's tenure, I would advocate simply letting it go. Use that time to develop your own plan on how you will do things as Scoutmaster. Of course, I agree that you should insist that your son actually do the things that are being signed off. Later, you can "back fill" a bit by going over signed-off items when your conducting the Scoutmaster Conferences with the other Scouts.

 

In all, I wish you good luck and extend my best wishes. Being a Scoutmaster isn't easy, but it sure can be rewarding.

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Transitioning from one SM to another is always a challenge for a troop. If the transition involves two SM with different ways of doing things, then the challenge in increased.

 

I have a couple of suggestions on how to make this transition easier. This from my own experience in taking over a troop from a SM that had an iron grip on things and while he did some things very well, there are some things he did that definitely didn't go along with the Methods of the BSA.

 

1. Decide and write down on paper what changes you would like to make as well as your vision of what you'd like to see the troop become.

2. If it is already know in the troop that you will become the next SM, start lining up support for your ideas. You don't have to present it as "this guy was wrong, we're going to do it better now". Present yourself as being different from the previous SM (not necessarily better) and let people know that things will be different. You aren't that SM and if you try to be just like him, you will fail (just as he would fail if he tried to be you).

 

Initially, have parking lot or phone meetings with other adults you feel are influential people in your troop. If this SM truly isn't doing things by the Patrol Method, then you should have other adults in the troop that recognize this. Speak to them about the changes you'd like to make. Show them the vision of what you'd like the troop to become. If you speak of your vision and line up their support, then the troop won't be in for a huge surprise and a part of the troop will already behind you, making it easier to implement the changes.

 

3. Is the current SM plan on sticking around at all once he "retires"? If he does, the you need to sit down with him and have a serious discussion. Let him know that you will be making some changes. He needs to know that you've always edified him and went along with his decisions. When you are the SM and are doing the work, he needs to respect your decisions even if they aren't what he would do. He needs to respect your judgement and not second guess you behind your back.

 

I had that issue when I became SM. At troop meetings, while I'd be working with the Scouts, he would be sitting with the other adults telling them how things should be done (basically, he didn't want to do the work anymore, but he still wanted to make the decisions on what happened in the troop). After about two and a half years of him second guessing my decisions and having parents always question what I was doing (almost always after he would stop by one of the troop meetings), I finally got him to leave the troop completely. He couldn't stand to have someone else making decisions for the troop (including the Scouts and especially someone over 20 years younger than him). While he was there, he was a handicap for the troop.

 

If the previous SM is planning on sticking around after his retirement, then he should make himself scarce for at least several months so you can effectively assume command of the troop. If he is around, as noted in my above example, it will muddy the chain of command and make it much harder to implement your changes (he doesn't sound like he would support them). After several months, once people clearly recognize you as SM, then he can slowly become more active in the troop again with usurping your authority.

 

Good luck on your transition. I hope it goes much more smoothly than mine did.

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The "Short Way". (I don't recommend it.)

1. Shoot him.

2. Bury him near the Scout Hut.

3. Erect a monument over his grave but don't tell anyone that it is his grave.

4. Give a stirring speech about his greatness at the following Scout meeting. Make sure to include the Scoutmaster's Benediction.

5. Tell everyone that you will not be able to fill his shoes. (*mainly because he wont be taking them off.)

5. Go about your new job.

 

If your conscience won't allow you do possibly "life" over such things, then you might consider the "Long Way".

 

1. Be patient. Waiting things out sometimes works real well.

2. Be stupid. Don't let on that you know anything about any of the "problems" to anyone.

3. Hang a plaque in his Honor in the Scout Hut.

4. Give a stirring speech about his greatness, include the SM's Benediction.

5. Tell everyone that you will not be able to fill his shoes (*because he will still be needing them.)

6. Send him off into retirement while promising to consult him at every turn. (Follow-up is not necessary.)

7. Always assume that the last SM was honest and like him you will be honest as well.

8. The boys will love making choices.

9. You find as much (Eagle) success as the last guy.

10. You will not go to jail, see the "Short Way".

11. You will be able to retire one day and with a clear conscience.

FB

 

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I have pretty much figured out most of the stuff you guys have recommended on my own. I know several people who are not active in scouts because of the current SM. He is very controlling. He doesn't have a single MB counsellor signed up in our town besides himself. I have asked him for the last four years to get me the paperwork so that I could sign up and he hasn't done it. He is well thought of in the community by people that aren't involved in scouts. The commitee and some parents know that he is not running a by the book program. I have three fathers that are willing to help as ASM's once the old SM is gone. The CC wants the troop to be boy led. We have a couple of older Eagles in the community that want to see a real boy led troop and they are willing to step up to see that. I just need to wait him out and hope he doesn't try to stay to involved in scouts when he retires. I am worried that he will try. He works out of town and is gone a lot. Hopefully we will get through the transition before our next summer camp in July.

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Joe,

 

You do not need SM permission to sign up to be a MB Counselor. Go to your local Council office or download MB Counselor application and an Adult application. Both must be filled out and turned back into your Council office. Typically your application will go before the Advancement Committee to be evaluated/approved. Once approved you can begin teaching the MB. Most Councils publish a list of MB Counselors that are available. Once you are approved as a MB Counselor your name can go on this list so boys interested in the MB(s) you Counsel can contact you.

 

I personally have been careful not to teach too many MB's to my own son, but I have helped him to find MB Counselors for what he needed or wanted.

 

ASM59

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Going along with a Scout is Kind.

Remember that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Cut the poor fellow some slack and count the days till he is gone.

This Youth Led program is good stuff.

I really like it.

Someone a lot wiser than I once said:

Train Them, Trust Them, Let Them Lead.

Sadly there isn't a Youth Led Fairy!!

That first part the "Train Them" bit doesn't happen over night.

Even in Troops where they have a tradition of using the Patrol method, they still have to go back and train both the youth members and the adults.

Grab a group of Scouts, stick them around the table and tell them that as of now they are "Youth Led" and you will get the Deer in the headlights look.

Sending a few of them to NYLT and running an in house Training will help, but the best training will be the on the job training.

What I'm trying to say is, I'm overjoyed that you are heading in the right direction.

But..

It isn't going to be easy, take it easy, take pigeon steps and remember KISMIF.

Eamonn.

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Get your Scout Masters Training complete ASAP. Then suggest to the current SM that you "transition" into the position of SM. Start little by little taking on more of the SM responsibilities. Maybe start with overseeing the PLC and let the boys take on more.

But go at it as this will make it easier when he does leave, the boys and parents will have become accustom to your leadership style.

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I agree with Eamonn. I stepped in a year ago for a SM that was very much beloved. He is a great guy actually, though a lot of the way he was running the troop was not in line with BSA. He was honest and didn't do anything even remotely sketchy. After he stepped down, he said he wouldn't be coming around much so as to let the boys know that I was the person to come to, not him. I mistakenly tried the "this troop is now boy-led" and it didn't work out as I expected. This August we had our annual troop planning meeting (the first one in years) and it went better than I expected. Our SPL has grown significantly since last October and our PLC is finally understanding what it is supposed to do.

 

However, I still feel that I went overboard in changing everything right away, and I feel that we would be further along now if I had done a little more training. Just keep in mind that it will not become the "perfect" troop overnight, if ever. It has been almost a year and our troop still has growing pains!

 

Good luck as SM!

 

 

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"Start little by little taking on more of the SM responsibilities. Maybe start with overseeing the PLC "

I'm sorry Linda, I really have to disagree.

The PLC works with the Scoutmaster, adding more adults takes away from what the PLC is trying to do.

Also if the Scoutmaster who is on the way out is as Joe describes I can't see that the PLC is doing very much anyway.

Things might be a little different if the SM wasn't retiring.

If Joe has the time, he might want to visit and get to know the SM's of other Troops.

Maybe he could ask the R/T Commissioner to do something about moving toward the youth led unit at a couple of meetings.

As SM I seen the time spent at PLC's as the time I had with the youth leaders.

I did invite our adult QM to attend on condition that he only spoke when he was spoken to or asked a question.

Everything that the Troop does comes from the PLC meetings. It's hard enough to get the SPL to run and plan the meeting without adding more adults.

pargolf44067

Whatever happens don't spent time beating yourself up on what might have been. Troops and I hope Ship's?? Seem to have cycles. One year the youth leaders will be the best group ever and things will go that way for a time. Then it seems like a group comes along that are lazy little toads, who need constant reminders and for some unknown reason even with the best will and training just never seem to get it. But then the tide changes again.

We as leaders make the same oath as the Scouts, we are all doing our best.

Troops change, for a while you might have a large group of older Scouts and then it seems that they are gone and have been replaced by a group of little Lad's who have just crossed over.

Enjoy the ride. Enjoy spending time with the Scouts, they know and can see how much you care.

They may not tell you now, but I'll bet my last dollar that 20 years from now they will remember you with fondness.

Eamonn.

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Hey Joe. Others so far have given you good advice and shared the wisdom gained from their experiences. I, too, took over for a "much beloved" SM about two years ago. At that time, the troop operated a lot like the way you describe yours.

 

Take your time during the transition. Just as pargolf mentioned, making a statement such as "this troop is now boy-led" probably won't yield the results you hope for. It is a long slow process making big changes in a troop.

 

Go on as many outings as you can with the scouts during the transition and get to know them. More importantly, let them get to know you. As Eamonn posts "enjoy spending time with the Scouts, they know and can see how much you care." They will feel more at ease when you step up as SM if they feel you are not some stranger coming in to turn things upside down.

 

After I struggled along during my first year as SM, I found this forum. What a tremendous help the folks here have been. The best advice I received (and also the most discouraging) was that changing a troop from adult-led to boy-led can take 3-5 years. I was told that many times the older scouts in the troop just won't buy into change. As they are aging out and your troop has a couple of years of new recruits that learn and operate from the start as boy-run, that's when you will start to see a big difference. I was told to take things in stride. Nothing happens overnight. If, as your troop slowly progress, you suddenly take a giant step backwards, it is not your fault - just growing and adjustment pains.

 

It is not easy, it is a slow process, but it can and will work if you keep yourself focused on your vision for the troop.

 

Over the past two years I certainly have had moments of despair - moments when I just wanted to give up. "Why should I care so much?" I would ask, "no one else does." But then, there would be one small wonderful moment during a campout or meeting when I could see the guys were beginning to understand what a Boy Scout Troop was all about. With renewed spirit I'd charge ahead toward the next small change. And, like orennoah posted "A boy-led troop never quite operates as the Scoutmaster would hope, but it gets close enough often enough to make us elated."

 

I can certainly agree with that. A few days ago I posted a happy little thread praising my guys for having a PLC and making an agenda for this weekend's campout. I'm sure some who read that post are thinking to themselves "big deal, we do that all the time." But, it's a first for our troop and a huge step forward for our guys.

 

Good luck to you, Joe. Remember, small steps. Take enormous pleasure when your scouts do well, but don't take it personally when they do not.

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