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Troop Committee -- Scoutmaster relationship problems

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Over the last three months or so, the philosophical differences between the Troop Committee and myself as Scoutmaster are apparently widening, to the point where I do not believe I fit in with the direction they want to take the troop.


The committee members and parents are focused on earning merit badges, in my opinion to the point where they consider it an aim and not a method. This gives little or no chance for boy leadership to develop, which I have been trying to move the troop toward, as we are still adult-centered more than an "ideal" troop would be.


Also, I am concerned that this is turning the troop in to a "Merit Badge Factory." Boys earned certain merit badges earlier this year. When I went to those Scouts (chief among them the Troop Committee Chairman's son) to have them instruct in skills related to that badge, their response was to flatly refuse, saying "I don't know how to do that." The subjects were simple things like basic first aid, square lashings and shear lashings. If adults are brought into instruct in merit badges all the time, it becomes more like "advanced Cub Scouting" or "third year Webelos."


If this continues, I see myself leaving my Scoutmaster post, probably at the end of January due to commitments I made on behalf of the troop. I just don't believe they want a true Boy Scouting program anymore. I have tried to communicate this, but I am not getting through effectively.


What should I do?



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When I was in your shoes a few years back, I left the troop, found one that wanted to make use of a SM who wanted goals similar to mine and I've been a lot happier ever since. I miss the boys, but I don't miss the hassles.



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Yah, jackmessick, it's hard for anyone not seein' your situation with your eyes to tell if it's time to move on, eh? When it's no longer fun or no longer worth your unpaid time, I reckon.


On da hopeful side, however, my experience has been that most of da time, a Scoutmaster who takes the long view is able to outlast and out-achieve any typical troop parents / parent-run committee. It takes patience, and a sense of humor, and more effort on dealin' with adults than those of us who volunteer for kids sometimes like, but generally speakin' those that do the work control the outcome, eh? And that means the SM.


Yeh do it in small ways. Slowly selectin', training, and sending kids to MBCs who "get" the program, slowly droppin' the MBC registrations of others through the district or just lettin' 'em fade for lack of use. Givin' your time and attention to the parents and kids who want good scoutin', recruiting them for positions or just usin' 'em for help and gently shuntin' others to the side.


Parents who are focused on MB's I find by and large are a self-centered lot. Yeh can help fill their need by highlighting other Methods for communication and recognition. Start writin' blogs up about outings where yeh mention what different kids did on the outing and suddenly junior participatin' in the outing carries more weight. Add a "big deal" award for outing-related stuff (maybe making every outing for a full year) and you'll see that. Encourage patrol competition and start issuing awards and blogs on that, and suddenly Patrol Method means more to those parents who are focused on recognitions.


Eagledad sometimes says that about half da SM's time needs to be spent strokin' parents, and while I don't like da notion and think his percentage is a touch high, it really isn't that far off. But just like with kids, reward da parental behaviors yeh want with your time and attention, and let da others go.


Yeh will need to be willing to lose some kids and adults, eh? But that's OK. Yeh won't win everything, leastways not right away. But that's OK, too.


Only you can decide if yeh can have fun doin' that while workin' with the kids, and whether it's worth your volunteer time.




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I hope you have an active, caring COR. Of course, that would be an oddity :(


If you do, go have a couple cups of coffee with him. Share your vision and your goals. If your vision matches your Chartered Partner's vision, ask him to back you up.


Next step is a talk with the CC. With the COR, walk the dog on the Methods. Let the COR be your heavy, and lay out "it shall be this way".


Assert control over Merit Badges. YOU are the person to assign counselors to youth. Start doing that, and make darn sure the Counselors you know the BSA standard. This is one reason I like out-of-Troop Counselors. In-Troop ones, the kids know how to push the buttons.


If all these things happen, you've got a pretty good shot. If not, give your notice now, to the COR. Hitting your head against the door jamb isn't supposed to feel better than your service to the kids.


ADDED: Beavah and I were writing at the same instant. Much of what he has to say is worth reading, and worth trying!(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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I like Beavah's approach also. It uses carrot rather than stick; honey rather than vinegar. It would be a great addition to the SM/ASM specific training course.


I'm reading between the lines, and suspect that the parents are promoting merit badge class instruction at troop meetings, attendance at merit badge "universities" as a replacement for a campout, and 5 or more MB's at summer camp, rather than the proscribed merit badge process where a scout approaches the SM to ask to work on a merit badge, and the SM providing the scout with the name of a counselor to contact outside of troop meetings. Is this correct?


If the former, then in addition to Beavah's recommendations, education of the parents would be helpful. You could arrange an "all parents" meeting at the same time as a troop meeting, and then either you, or someone from the district training committee, provide instruction on the aims and methods of scouting. This could be scheduled on the troop calendar annually.


If you havent already, sit down with the committee chair and explain your vision and what you are trying to accomplish by following the scouting plan, and enlist his/her aid. Cajole him/her to attend the SM/ASM specific training class. Enlist the aid of your unit commissioner, if available.

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Good luck - tough situation.

There are some other things out of whack, too. Like the TC seems to think you work for them and must run the program they direct.

In the troops I have served, SM is responsible for program and TC figures out how to support it.

SM and CC are equals - both working "for" the COR. Some give and take is expected. TC is part of the feedback loop to you via BoRs as they gain some independent insight into how your program is running.


I agree with the others. Your TC and active parents definitely sound like they want an Eagle Mill troop. "Get Johnny to Eagle before he learns to drive, gets a girlfriend, blah, blah, blah."


Anything you can do to recognize and reward other Scout things can help.

On every campout, we give out a small award gift and recognize individual scouts as Honor Campers, Scout Spirit, and Leadership. A write up goes out to the troop singing praises for these individuals based on their weekend campout performance.

Same for patrol competitions, etc.


The PLC should be setting the meeting plans and working to execute them - working adults out of a job they shouldn't be doing. You might work with boys and ask them if they really want to come to scout meetings to have more classes after they were in class all day. Then you could recommend learning some advanced skills, fire-building skills, etc. to use on the next campout instead. Some of these skills might lead to merit badges, but they all lead to more fun and adventure.


You mentioned poor skills being a problem because they race through advancement with adults teaching and they don't get to reinforce their skills. Do you have a skill-based District Camporee? How do your guys do? Perhaps you could talk them into preparing for Camporee by brushing up on everyone's skills.


Good luck!



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