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BrentAllen

Setting Expectations, Attendance

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In the forum and here locally, I see many troops state they have a certain number of Scouts registered or on the books, and another number that are active. When we visited troops, we would be told that troop had, say, 60 boys but I could only count half that many present. This would happen on every visit. When they would go camping, troops would constantly form temporary patrols, since they didn't have enough patrol members to function. We did not like this approach.

 

When we started the new troop, attendance and participation was one of the main issues we wanted to improve upon. We had always had good attendance with the Webelos Den, so I didn't see why we couldn't repeat this at the Boy Scout level. We started the new Troop back at the first of September. We have had 31 Troop meetings and 7 camping trips since then. We started with 6 boys and are now up to 12. Our attendance at meetings has been 92%* and at campouts has been 92%*. We have 100% signed up for Summer Camp.

*Thanks to Troopmaster, it is very easy to calculate these.

 

While I would like to think this is just due to exceptional program, I think it is mainly due to the expectations that are set. We make it very clear to the parents that their son is making an obligation to his patrol mates and to the troop. We recognize there will be conflicts, and we do not require 100% attendance. Our Scribe does take roll, and at the troop opening ceremony, each patrol leader gives an attendance report, along with a uniform report. Attendance and uniforming count towards the Honor Patrol award. We have a poster board that shows every meeting or outing and who was present, which the Scribe maintains (visual aid for prospective Scout parents). My personal opinion is this extra emphasis on attendance has made a difference of around 10 - 20 percentage points. It may be greater than that, given that some less active Scouts who visited us may have chosen to join one of the other local troops, which is fine with me.

 

The following is included in our new Scout visitor packet:

Expectations of Members

 

Scouts recognize they have an obligation to the members of their Patrol and Troop. When a Scout is absent, he leaves his Patrol mates short. If a Scout cannot attend a meeting or outing, he should notify his Patrol Leader as soon as possible.

 

Scouts are encouraged to participate in activities outside of Scouting. If a Scout has a long-term conflict, such as during a sports season, he should notify the Scoutmaster. The Scout will be encouraged to attend meetings and campouts when possible, but he will most likely not be able to fulfill the requirements of a Position of Responsibility (POR) during such an absence.

 

Scouts of Troop 494 wear the complete, correct uniform to meetings, and to and from campouts, unless otherwise directed. This includes the Scout shirt, Scout pants or shorts, Scout belt and Scout socks.

 

Scouts will live by the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and will treat others as they wish to be treated. Name-calling, put-downs, discrimination or any form of physical aggression will not be tolerated.

 

Yes sir, yes maam, no sir, no maam, thank you, please will be used by all Scouts and Scouters.

 

So far, it is working for us. I think if some Troops put more emphasis on recognizing attendance, they would see better participation.

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Brent I want to congratulate you on getting off to a fine start with the new troop. It certainly sounds like the boys and families you are working with are thriving in the program you (collectively) have created.

 

I also think there's an element of size involved here. It is much easier to get very high attendance rates with small groups, than with large ones. It isn't just that larger programs are more likely to allow a boy to slip through the cracks un-noticed (not all do, mind you, but I think it is a lot more prevalent because 1 boy missing out of 30-40-50+ is just not as big a hole as 1 boy missing out of 5-15 boys). It is also that larger troops by virtue of size alone, will have a higher number of boys who are involved in a wider range of activities, and that larger troops will have more families who have difficulty getting Johnny to the meetings on a regular basis. Those folks may not stay involved for very long but it just seems to me that is part and parcel of working in large groups - it attracts people who wouldn't have ever joined a smaller group to start with. Hangers on, if you will.

 

So yes absolutely, I agree there's an important role for expectations to play. But I think small troops have some advantages here by virtue of size as well. Again, congrats to you and "your" boys on what sounds like a spectacular first year.

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Thats great,

More kids in scouting are always a good thing.

 

I come from one of the troops you speak of. We have 53 registered youth, although only about 30 show up to our meetings and campouts. I would love it if all the boys would show up every week, and we do put allot on attendance, but these kids have jobs and school and sports. But it is important to know that they are all advancing at there own pace and its not the same 30 kids every week. It is defiantly a problem we are looking to correct but saying that because 12 of 12 are going to summer camp is not as amazing as it sounds.

 

I would love to here more as your troop progresses and I wish you the best of luck. Just don't knock the big troops that have been around for 80 years, its not like we are going to turn kids away.

 

And I will say that is vary difficult to give webelos a good view of what we do when they only come to one meeting. They always seem to come at the worst time, when to an untrained eye the meeting looks like complete Cayuse.

 

The best advice I can give is make sure you use the patrol method. Be a troop not a webelos den with new uniforms. The most amazing thing I see in scouts is when all 53 boys are there and the SPL can run a meeting of 5 patrols with 2 aspls with no adult interference, and still be organized and productive.

 

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Yah, hmmm...

 

I'm not sure about Lisabob's observation here. Seems like, off the cuff, a larger group should have da same percentage who miss as a smaller group. Just that for the larger group that percentage is a bigger number of people.

 

Seems like the "slippin' through the cracks" or lack of expectations and followup is the more likely culprit.

 

Anyone else seein' what Lisabob suggests? That larger programs attract a higher percentage of hyperinvolved / transportation problem / low attending lads?

 

I think this is where Patrol Method can play a big role, eh? There's no reason in a larger troop why everything BrentAllen suggests can't still happen - at the patrol level. Patrols are nice, small groups that are designed to build strong relationships and not let lads fall through da cracks, eh?

 

Anyway, nice job BA!

 

Beavah

 

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Beavah I know it can be done but I also see that the patrol method appears to be more of a struggle for many larger troops. There are economy of scale issues to overcome (bigger and more centralized isn't always better but it does often win out in adults' minds), adults' predilection for organization to overcome, and the need to promote buy-in to a common vision among more people too (which isn't always going to work). And then as thebigguy says, most larger troops I'm familiar with are highly unlikely to turn away new boys, whereas smaller troops seem to have an easier time enforcing stricter membership standards (and this is true of adults too - if we tried to do what Brent says he does with ASMs in training, I think we'd have a mutiny and a great deal of muttering about "ungrateful snobbish leaders who can do it themselves if they don't want help..." not to say Brent's method doesn't have some serious benefits, I just don't see it working everywhere)

 

And my take on the higher percentage of less-dedicated folks in big units could be wrong. I base it on my experience teaching very large, and very small, first year college classes. In the very large (100+) classes I find that no matter what I do a certain % of students who register do so with little intention of being actively involved. They chose a big class for reasons that were directly related to the experience they expected to get in a large group setting, where little attention would be drawn to them as individuals (or so they thought, ha!). In contrast, people who consciously choose very small classes tend to WANT to be highly involved in a tight-knit group, and they expect to get more time in the spotlight.

 

In scouting terms, in our larger troop we get parents all the time who tell us they chose not to join the "small" troop in town because they didn't want to be heavily involved as leaders, which small groups tend to require in order to function - it is a draw of a bigger group that, if they so choose, they can drop their kid off (though we actively discourage this, it is still a common attitude among some new parents).

 

So I guess I'm arguing that there is a degree of self-selection going on here that has less

to do with Brent's expectations, and more to do with what people perceive their role to be in a large vs. in a small group.

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With a new troop, perhaps the average age of the scouts is lower than in more established troops. Especially if started with a group of crossover Webelos. It would not be unusual for younger scouts to have better attendance than the population at large. At least that is what I have observed.

 

That not withstanding, I do not see that as taking away from Brent's point on the importance of setting expectations. Good job, Brent.

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Lisa,

I would agree with you about the impact of a boy being absent in a smaller troop vs. a larger troop. Some boys probably do want to be more anonymous in a larger troop, and they also just might like the dynamics of a larger group. I would have to disagree a little about the boys being active in other areas. Most of our boys are very involved in other activities outside of Scouting - sports, band, academic bowl, church, cotillion, etc. Since our boys are all on the younger end of the scale, we don't have the 16 year-old issues of cars, jobs and dates. It will be very interesting to see what happens when we get there, and I hope I will be open and ready for a jolt of reality.

 

thebigguy, the patrol method is the ONLY method in my book, to borrow from BP. Of all the problems we ran into with the large troop we left, this was probably the most troubling. Other than patches on arms, there was no real patrol identity. No competitions between them; they wouldn't even form up together as patrols for the opening ceremony at troop meetings. One dad who I knew through Cubs asked me at the end of the week how Summer Camp went. After giving him an honest report, he said "At least my son knew who his patrol leader was for the week. Last year he never knew." Can you imagine that? A boy spends an entire week at camp and never learns who his PL is?!?! That is pretty indicative of the Patrol Method I saw in place. That could happen regardless of the size of the troop, so don't think I'm just bashing large troops.

 

As for the number of adults involved, and their involvement, that same large troop we left lists around 25 ASMs on their charts, but there would typically be only 4 or 5 at a meeting. I asked on of the few "regulars" if they had assignments, such as a mentor to a patrol. He said sure, they did. When I asked him which patrol he was mentor to, he said he couldn't remember. I couldn't find one who did know!

 

When we left, the boys coming over to start our new troop had the hard press put on them from some members of that troop. They explained how they had all these older boys, and that we had none. True, they had 16 Life Scouts and they had produced plenty of Eagles. Problem was you never saw those older boys at meetings, and most never went on campouts. In fact, it was a REALLY big deal last summer that the SPL (a 13 year-old) was actually going to attend Summer Camp!

 

They had plenty of Scouts on the rolls, which meant they were successful.

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Congrats Brent,

Looks like you are onto a great start. I think you hit the nail on the head though, you don't know what will happen when the boys reach those magic teen years when scouting isn't the most important thing in their schedule. I'm real curious to see how it goes for you.

I like your statement of commitment. I wonder how many prospective recruits move on to other troops because of it. That would skew your results a bit.

 

My son was real gungho on scouting through about 14. OA, SPL, two high adventures under his belt. After SeaBase this summer, he'll qualify for the the triple crown. Never missed a meeting unless he was sick or had a band conflict. But now at 15, scouting just isn't his priority. He still makes the majority of meetings and about half of the campouts, but other endeavors are tugging at him. Scouting is taking a back seat. He simply wants to do more than what the troop does. Oh, and the girl thing I think is starting to kick in. To add to that, he wants to help me rebuild a VW beetle project I've started. You think I'm gonna pass up an opportunity like that to bond with my son? I bet he thinks he will get the Beetle when its done, HA!

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Brent, that is amazingly refreshing to hear.

 

I apologize if I came off a bit angry, I have just seen to many troops formed because the parents want to do things there way. then the troop folds when there boy gets his eagle.

 

Im glad to hear that the patrol method is alive and well in your troop, and I would love to see how it all turns out for you. but just remember that all us big troops arnt bad. however it sounds to me as if you made the best choice in not staying with your old troop.

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Seems to me that the age of the boys in a Troop plays a big part in what percentage of Scouts attend the meetings.

The school districts in our area have Elementary, Junior High and High Schools.

The little Lads who cross over are still in the elementary schools, which don't have a lot of after school activities, the Junior High doesn't either, but the High school seems to have something going on just about all the time.

It is very easy for a Lad to get out of the habit of attending meetings.

 

Having a personal relationship with the Scout and his family is important, paying a visit to his home and meeting the parents on their ground and getting to know them can be a big help. - At least that way when you call on the phone they know you!!

Having a plan of what you are going to do when a Scout misses meetings will help ensure that no Scout falls through the cracks.

Being aware that we are only ever as good as our last meeting and working toward ensuring that each and every meeting is time well spent, will make Scouts not want to miss meetings or events.

Dealing with any conflicts that might be out there as quickly and as fairly as possible prevents them from becoming big issues, which at times do get in the way of a Scout attending.

 

I also think it's important that at camp that Patrols camp as Patrols, no matter how many Patrol members turn up. Mixing Patrol members to make pretend Patrol is not using the Patrol method.

This can of course backfire!! When a Patrol finds out that less than maybe half are attending the event, the half that were going might see it as a waste of their time? But once the Patrols know that they will be camping as a Patrol they tend to apply pressure on the other Patrol members to get them there!!

Eamonn.

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"... we are only ever as good as our last meeting and working toward ensuring that each and every meeting is time well spent, will make Scouts not want to miss meetings or events."

 

That says it all. When a boy chooses to miss a meeting or skip a campout, he's thinking about how bored he was at the last meeting and last campout. That's when "other activities" begin to look better.

 

A savvy SM won't blame the school band, little league, debate team, church group, or fumes. Rather, the excitement of the next troop activity has dropped below the excitement of band practice.

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Amen to that Fscouter and Eamonn! I've noticed in our troop that there are peaks and valleys in terms of when the older boys(11-12 graders) are most likely to show up. This spring we have 3 camp outs in a row that the older boys are pretty excited about. One is a giant game of outdoor hide and seek (really an orienteering event in disguise). Another is rock climbing, and the third is aviation. On the 1st of those, we saw a couple of boys who have been to hardly anything all year long.

 

Now some adults are grumbling, saying those boys shouldn't be allowed to do the "fun" things if they aren't going to be more regular participants. And to some extent I do understand that attitude. But...if, after an absence, we punish the boys for coming back? I don't think that will work very well either. Why would they come back at all in that case?

 

 

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I am not sure what to do with adults who get their dander up when they accuse scouts of only going on "fun" events. I feel the same way when I hear about a Hospital Lab doing a "legal" blood collection. So, does that make other blood collections "illegal"?

 

So, does that make the other events by default "not fun", attendance at the "fun" events may be up because, well, the scouts are having fun. Perhaps the attributes of the fun events could be studied and applied to the not fun events

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I don't think it's just as simple as scouts is less interesting than band etc. Example 1....I have a scout (Almost 17) who suggested a Mountain Bike outing, several other older scouts supported the idea and it made the calendar. I was fine with adding it even though experience has showed that only ONE Bike related trip over the past 4 years in our troop was NOT cancelled. Now the scout who proposed it is heavily involved in Baseball with a rigorous game and practice schedule, he will likely not go to the event and there are only a handful MAYBE who will go. The problem is not alweays simply the activity is not interesting enough, it sometimes is that scout activities are viewed as somewhat optional where things like team sports have a rigid schedule and expectations period. If I took that approach with scouts my troop would plummet in membership.

The bottom line is that things like school football, baseball, wrestling, mountain bike racing clubs etc are cooler and when kids start reaching age 15-16 girls and other things noramlly become more interesting, it is the way it is so I am not going to sweat it. We schedule campouts or backpacking one to 2 times a month, we add in hikes and ski outings, we have patrol competitons and dutch oven coooking at troop meetings along with some popular activities like steal the flag, dodgeball, soccor, football etc and we only get about 65-80% meeting participation.

Some of it is schedule conflicts and both scouts and parents regard troop schedule to be the most flexible and easiest to skip, I have other scouts and parents that are clueless and in a fog and space meetings and events and many other reasons.

When Scoutmaster conference and board of review comes around, those who are rarely seen, or hardly help out etc don't pass the review and if the parent gripes we happily show them the attendance sheet and roster of attendance at the last few months activities.

Another thing we implemented is a bead/point system. Each patrol has a plaque with strings to hang beads. They get beads for meeting attendance, beads for activies attendance, beads for monthly uniform inspections and other beads for accomplishments as a patrol. The effort is to get teh boys to see where they stand as a patrol vs other patrols and have them self motivate as a team to increase their bead/point count to make honor patrol at the next court of honor. This has an element to help encourage meeting and activity attendance.

Unfortunately both parents and scouts view the troop as the first thing to look at when making adjustments in their schedules and the easiest to cancel out of or skip and there is little I/We can do to change that. When you try to set forth expectations and voice the notion of responsibility and commitment, some parents look at you as being out of touch and unreasonable for not falling into line with how they see theri lives and society run. We are patially burdened with irresponsible kids of irresponsible parents that are self absobed and over commited and many times lazy.

 

 

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highcountry,

It sounds to me like some of those boys you mentioned need a lesson on the Golden Rule. How would they feel if you (assuming your are SM) or the other leaders only showed up when you felt like it or when it was really convenient? Would they like that? It's a two-way street to me.

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