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3 years as SM - what a ride

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Just finished my third year as SM for our Troop. What an amazing ride it's been. Only two Scouts (my son and a 17-year-old soon to be Eagle) remain who remember the Troop with a different SM. From three years ago when we were top heavy with older indifferent Scouts, we now have a wonderful distribution: The aforementioned near-Eagle, 2 Life Scouts (14, 15), 2 1st class (13, 14), 1 2nd class (13), 3 TF (all 12), and 1 new Scout. Only 10 Scouts, but a great bunch of guys.


Three years ago I was considered an oddity amongst my fellow Scouters. Readily accepted and even admired by some during my years as a Cubmaster, I was met with curiosity by some and open derision by others when I became our District's first female SM. It was most difficult to accept the scorn from those people I considered my friends while I was a Cub Leader. Not to mention the boys that quit the Troop outright when the announcement was made that I was stepping up as SM.


Three years of ups and downs. There were times when I wanted to throw in the towel and let the Troop fold. Times when I was just overwhelmed with putting out fires week after week, month after month. Adult leaders that resisted attempts to turn the troop around to boy-led. Adult leaders who felt they didn't need to go to training. Older Scouts who resented the change of being required to actually do something in their POR. Older Scouts who had no idea how to teach a skill to the younger Scouts - or even cared to for that matter - mostly because they never really learned the skill themselves. SM conferences with Scouts who couldn't remember the camping trips they'd been on or what merit badges they'd earned, let alone any of the skills they had signed off to get them to whatever their current rank was (no, I wasn't retesting them or asking anyone to tie a knot for me, just asking questions about their experiences).


Three years ago there was no outdoor program, other than Camporees, summer camp and a smattering of State Park car camping. Meetings were mostly the SM or other adult allowing the SPL to open the meeting and then taking the floor to conduct the rest. Merit badges earned were only those done at summer camp. No uniforming. There were two patrols at that time. My new Scout son along with a couple of other new Scouts were one patrol, the other was all the older Scouts. Yes, there was a Troop Guide, but he hung out with the other older Scouts. I was the Advancement Committee Chair and asked to work with the new Scouts. Didn't know any better at the time, but husband and I and the Dad of one of the other new Scouts sure had a feeling that this just wasn't the way it was supposed to be. We went to training soon after joining - what an eye-opening experience that was.


So, here I am four years later (the last three as the SM). Boys having monthly PLC, making plans for meetings and carrying them out. Making a yearly calendar of campouts and activities. Getting more adventurous and including canoe trips, backpacking, caving, snow skiing, and a first for next spring - wilderness survival weekend. The best thing about all this is that with the exception of this fall's marching band conflicts, we routinely have 75% participation and at times 100% at meetings and campouts.


We have a very supportive Troop Committee and 3 ASMs who have all committed to completing their training. In fact, all the ASMs will finish their final component in January. The Scouts have seen the hard work done by our PLC and, rather than shy away from the responsibility, several are asking about upcoming elections and expressing interest in taking on leadership for the Troop.


On a more personal note, I notice that I am no longer looked upon with derision by my fellow Scouters. Sure, there are a few that still think of me as somehow inferior, but they are a very small number. At our District's fall Camporee I talked with many Scouters. We discussed our Troops and how things were going. The biggest thrill for me was when others mentioned our Troop, what a great group we had, and how they were impressed with how the boys worked together and the adults stayed out of their way. What really got me though was being asked how we managed to get our guys to do that.


Oh yes, even with all the turmoil, it's been a marvelous ride and I look forward to continuing the journey.


Sorry for the long post and the self-promotion, but I am feeling so good about this I just wanted to share.


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Yours is a wonderful inspiring story. You had to demonsrate much perseverence to influence the troop to move to where it is today. Thanks for focusing on what went right, and sharing the results of your leadership.


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Congradulations and thanks for sharing.


I think your experience provides a pretty good insight on the level of effort, commitment and timeframe it takes to change a troop culture. If anything I'd say your ahead of what I would expect. That's a credit to your time and effort.


Frankly I suspect you don't really know what you've done yet. You won't appreciate how much you've accomplished until 10-15 years from now you run into one of your former scouts and see the man they've become, partly because of your efforts.





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Hey Local, thanks for asking. Things are pretty much the same. I've resigned myself to the fact that I cannot go on all the campouts, especially in the cold weather. This was a hard pill to swallow because I didn't want the guys or their parents to think I was abdicating my responsibilities.


Husband takes the lead as "outdoor" Scoutmaster for campouts, even if I'm there. I handle the "indoor" stuff - SM conferences and other advancement things, training and mentoring the junior leaders, etc. Happily, our guys are handling themselves so well now, that there really is very little for me to do. Boys and their parents are very supportive and understand my limitations. I'm reasonably OK in the warmer months, but in the colder months I just can't sleep outside. So, when we are camping reasonably close by, I do go for the setup on Friday, return Saturday morning and stay until after dinner, and then again return on Sunday morning for pack-up and the drive home. If the guys are going longer distance, I do at least see them off and welcome them home. They are always so eager to tell me about the trip when they get back. I just love that!


It is all working out very well.

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