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Its Me

Patrol Issues

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"So I have eared in my program in developing a SPL with a strong sense of the patrol method. No amount of death by power point, SPL manual reviews, one-on-ones will change this scout's opinion that the Patrol method is a flawed method. He is a transferred scout who entered my program 8 months ago as a tenderfoot at age 14 with no PL or POR experience. I am tempted to ask for a contact at his old unit to see if they actually did disband the patrol method."

 

He must have been a heck of a popular Scout to get elected SPL. Point out to him that boy-led is an inclusive term, meaning all the boys, not just one. Don't the other patrol leaders have an input? Or is he just chairing the PLC meeting and then going with his decision?

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A 14 year-old Tenderfoot SPL. Yeah, one has a major problem there. This boy has no concept of leadership other than bullying and abusing. It appears that the troop exists for his pleasure. He has been allowed a sweet deal to say the least. My question is why is he allowed to waste the time of all the other boys in the troop?

 

This power/political positioning by the boys can be a problem in a tiered form of leadership. If it's adult-led the top of the food chain is the SM and if boy-led it is the SPL. At least the boy is a puppet for the SM. If the SPL is a strong leader with some valid experience, he might be able to pull off a good boy-led program on his own.

 

With BSA supporting such a structure one has to be particularly careful who gets control of the situation. Surely sitting around waiting for time to resolve this issue will drain off either the momentum of any excited boy and/or leaving on the part of boys who don't want their time wasted. Of course if they happen to garner a position in the king's court, they will of course stick around.

 

This is the #1 reason why I don't follow the BSA structure of leadership and why there are those on the forum who love to chastise me for it.

 

My highest ranking officer is the PL. As a worse case scenerio, he can do only damage to 7 other boys and not the whole troop. I have no SPL because I have only 3 patrols and no boy currently aspires to be SPL. If an SPL is needed for some reason, the three PL's usually "vote" to dump it on the TG who goes and collects the info for them and reports back. We seriously consider a troop officer position a step down in "power", and up in responsibility.

 

I may have a problem getting an SPL next winter when we anticipate taking on 30 new Webelos cross-overs and add 3 more patrols to the troop. That means the SPL will need to coordinate the work of 6 PL's and an ASPL to cooridnate with the work of 4-5 troop officers. That takes 10-12 boys out of the patrol-method. The 4-5 troop officers and SPL/ASPL will "patrol" up together for camp chores, but will not be part of the patrol-method program other than the responsibilities they have accepted to support.

 

Whereas I may have a problem with 1 PL and it would cause problems for one patrol, but to have a problem with a SPL in a troop-led program means the whole troop suffers. Gotta pick one's battles. I like to minimize the damage right from the start.

 

Stosh

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That takes 10-12 boys out of the patrol-method. The 4-5 troop officers and SPL/ASPL will "patrol" up together for camp chores, but will not be part of the patrol-method program other than the responsibilities they have accepted to support.

 

After workin' so hard to develop patrol method, jblake, why would yeh make this modification?

 

Yah, are yeh sure there's a good reason to take those lads out of the patrols they've come to feel a part of? Seems like they could still camp with their patrols, eh? Only their first task in their duty roster is whatever coordination task they have with other patrols.

 

For the troop you describe, that seems like it would be a better fit. Troop positions as somethin' like jury duty. Somethin' a lad has to go do as a service sometimes, but he still goes home at night to his patrol.

 

Beavah

 

 

 

 

 

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We (adults and boys both) discussed this at length when we first started and the boys decided that as long as troop officers were supposed to be tending to the needs of ALL the boys, it would be better if they didn't stay and split their focus on both their own patrol's concerns as well as everyone else in the troop. It appeared to be somewhat of a conflict of interest (focus). Thus the TG is not just for the NSP, he is TROOP Guide and works with all the boys, QM provides equipment for all the patrols, Chaplain is provides prayers and devotions for the whole troop (or any patrol when requested), etc.

 

The Troop Officers form up virtual patrols and focus their attention on the needs of everyone, not just one patrol. The patrol members are focused on the teamwork of patrol. If something is needed in the patrol, it would be better to find a troop officer for assistance rather than interrupting another patrol and its members for assistance?

 

Each boy that takes on a troop officer position knows this shift away from the patrol, but is quickly "adopted" into the fellowship of the other troop officers and bunks up with them on outings. Because of their prior experience in the patrol-method, they quickly form up the virtual patrols because it's a style/mode of operation they are familiar with. These are boys that know the importance of the patrol-method and quickly adapt into the focus of their role as troop officer. Maybe this outing the Chaplain will be grubmaster-cook and next outing it's the QM. There isn't as much patrol loyalty/espirit-de-corps in the troop officer "patrol" because even though they naturally hang together, their focus is still on support of the other patrols.

 

Instead of a designated patrol patch, they wear one of the old red/black patches of an animal/mascot that they feel is who they are. Surprisingly no one has ever taken the mascot from the patrol they have left to be a troop officer.

 

There was discussion on whether or not DC's would stay with their patrols or move into the Troop Officer corps. It was decided to move them as well because with the focus in the Cub den, often times they were not available to work in their patrols, leaving the patrol shorthanded at times.

 

The boys took their time with this decision, but concluded that it was in the best interest in the patrols to have the troop officer corps separate from the patrols. But as I've said, there's nothing that says the troop officer corps can't forum up a virtual patrol of their own for convenience sake.

 

Stosh

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>>The Troop Officers form up virtual patrols and focus their attention on the needs of everyone, not just one patrol. The patrol members are focused on the teamwork of patrol. If something is needed in the patrol, it would be better to find a troop officer for assistance rather than interrupting another patrol and its members for assistance?

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I hear the humor in the comment, but there's a built-in safeguard in the troop officer corps that keeps the SM at bay!

 

The SPL is responsible for 2 ASPL's and support of all the PL's only. With 6 patrols for next year that would have him at 8 people (maximum limit for quality leadership) When we grow to more patrols, the SPL will no longer be hands-on with the PL's but will have 4 ASPL's to support, 2 of which will divide the PL's (4 and 4) and 2 to work with the troop officer corps. Each ASPL are supportive of 1/2 the troop officers. That way it kinda groups the troop corps to 2 virtual patrols. If not all POR's are filled one might be able to get by on 1 ASPL. The ASPL(s) are the "PL's" of the virtual patrol(s). This multiple-directed responsibility keeps even the troop officer corps divided up enough not to think that anyone person or group is going to be running the whole show. And yet for leadership development, no one is responsible for support of more than 8 people! Leadership people are not overwhelmed by big numbers.

 

The closest thing the SM gets to hands on is supporting the work of any JASM and SPL. Otherwise he's there to do teaching, feedback, bouncing off of ideas, resource person. He has enough to do keeping adults at bay, lining up rides, working with CC and ASM's and other things the boys are not expected to do that only adults can handle.

 

Most of the time I do a few comments at the opening flag ceremony (troop-wide) and closing ceremony (SM minute). Other than that I'm usually pitching in with Eagle projects, service projects, etc. things that multiple patrols may be involved with. During "troop" meetings, each patrol is doing it's own meeting after flags, the SM gets tied up in SM conferences and other opportunities to get to know each boy individually, and/or visit in on patrol meetings to see how things are progressing. It is also a good time to train my troop officer corps individually because they are not involved in patrol activities.

 

By not being involved in the operation of the unit I have the time to observe, offer comments, and have fun. Whatever combination these boys have come up with, it seems to be working quite smoothly for them, and when they're happy, so am I.

 

Stosh

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>>The closest thing the SM gets to hands on is supporting the work of any JASM and SPL. Otherwise he's there to do teaching, feedback, bouncing off of ideas, resource person. He has enough to do keeping adults at bay, lining up rides, working with CC and ASM's and other things the boys are not expected to do that only adults can handle.

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Well, for one thing, at the present time we have 18 boys, 24 on the books, 3 patrols, 3 PL's, 1 TG, and one OA Rep. No SPL... Once we take on more scouts (30 Webelos coming available in February) we will go up to 6 patrols and at that time the boys may choose to have an SPL. Thus far the three PL's have found no reason to have one. Jobs in the troop are based on need of functionality. The two or three times a year a SPL is needed (Summer Camp and Camporees) the TG fills in that function. The boys don't think that little bit of work merits a POR.

 

If it was adult led, with all the programatic emphasis of the BSA, there would be a QM, SPL, Scribe at least with 3 people sitting around doing nothing more than collecting up POR credits without earning them. The boys have seen through this and decided it wasn't necessary to have those positions filled.

 

I'd like to have a QM and Scribe to help out with needed work to be done, but then I'm not calling the shots, the boys are. It's been discussed, the boys know the situation and they seem to be doing very well as is.

 

Stosh

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Its Me:

Not sure your specific role in all this, but if I were in your shoes and as SM:

1.) I'd make it very clear to the troop committee that the patrol method is the way the troop will be organized and operated. If they aren't willing to accept that then my resignation would be in their hands within minutes. Give it up as you will never be happy watching the train wreck occur. However, if they are, then there will be many forthcoming changes that will draw the ire of a lot of parents and boys. You may lose some of them. But for nearly 100 years this method is tried and true and without it in place for a troop this size means doom. You are seeing the indicators of this developing already and its only going to get worse. Dont let the guys from folded troops bring their failed methods to your unit.

2.) I'd have a sit down with this SPL and say the same to him, with the only difference being that if he isn't willing to accept it that his replacement will. While we wish to promote when at all possible a boy-lead unit, it still needs to be adult guided. The organizational decisions should be made by the SM with the input of his ASMs, Committee, and PLC, but ultimately is the SM responsibility.

Sounds like you all need some serious training as soon as possible: Fundamentals, Troop JLT, NYLT, Woodbadge, Committee. Get some help from your UC or other experienced Scouters in your District quickly!

 

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OGE,

 

I spend about 5 minutes at the beginning of the weekly meeting sometimes giving a pep talk to the boys, maybe some announcements of information I have received from Council as SM, but I generally give this info to the TG or PL in charge of the ceremony to make. Then I have maybe 5 minutes at ending closing ceremony for a SM minute. I'm going 5-15 mintues per week, tops. Add into that, for the Court of Honor (the only other time the unit meets as a "troop", i.e. gathering of patrols, I welcome the parents at the beginning on behalf of the troop, and introduce the scout doing the MC work for his Communication MB.

 

I'm thinking that's about it and I'm the only adult that addresses the troop as a whole. If I'm not present, maybe an ASM will fill in or what happens most often when I'm absent, the TG addresses the troop as a substitute SM/SPL type of person. There has been occasion when I was gone that the PL and patrol in charge of the flags, did the flag ceremony and then immediately dismissed the patrols because there wasn't anyone to speak or needed to speak. There have been occasions when I didn't have any info to relate and the boys needed to get quickly into their patrol programs, that I simply didn't go up in front of the troop and the PL just went ahead and dismissed the patrols.

 

Gee, I hadn't thought much about it, but working with the troop as a whole is very minimal.

 

Stosh

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ursus snorous roarus

I have done your first part. I started about a month ago dropping to my ASM's that I didn't think we were using the patrol method nearly as well as we should. That a patrol reorganization may be needed. Last week the SM's voted on changing the patrols. The CO a retired Marine Corps Lt Colonel sat in on our meeting. He voiced that we need to re-org the patrols. I then phoned the CC and mentioned the results of the SM's meeting. He agreed.

 

So from the adults standpoint a re-org would serve the troop. The trouble is that this spooked the SPL and several of the older scouts.

 

Your second point about sitting down with the SPL is valid. I have provided training. Three JLT programs over the last nine months. A day long intense training within a month of the current SPL taking his position. Obviously my training failed at least with this scout to demonstrate the value of the Patrol method.

 

Really all the "training" is useless unless put into practice. Like I said this SPL was never a PL or in a POR. He had never been in a troop that used the patrol method. A power point presentation and a controlled game won't replace a real meal planning event or a campsite selection or any other patrol leader responsibilities. This must be experienced first hand.

 

 

 

 

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Its Me, would your SPL be willing to try this out on an interim basis? I'm not sure whether this is a great solution because it depends on how open minded your SPL could be going into things (if he believes it is doomed to fail and is vocal about it, then it will fail of course). But maybe, ask him to give it 4-6 months and then you'll re-evaluate together?

 

Sometimes change is really hard, no less for teens than for adults. If you can acknowledge that with him, yet also couch things in terms of flexibility and open thinking (also good leadership traits), maybe he'll be on board.

 

Of course if you were to go this route, it would mean the group would have to be committed to doing it as well as they could - no half measures and then "see it didn't work, we knew it."

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Its Me:

Agreed = sounds like youve prepped as much as possible, time to put it into action. Dont be so hard on yourself, youve taught the theory but the skepticism will last long until they see results thats human nature. Be ready for the naysayers and thats not the way weve always done it Time for a Dr. Phil moment: So hows that working for ya? I hope you have a thick neck, because you'll need it. Sounds like your adult leadership is with you, which will really really help, they all just need someone to guide them through putting the theory into practice.

My troops experiences are that we dont use a new Scout patrol and intersperse all ages. Outside of a few hard rules split brothers, try and split/keep together beneficial/detrimental friendships, I randomly spread them out. Only six month terms and they cant have the same POR two consecutive terms or hold more than one POR (luckily with about 25 guys we are deep enough to cover them all). We hold SPL elections early spring and fall, he picks his ASPL & QM. That gives me a week to adjust the patrols to return the past leaders back into weaker patrols where they are NOT allowed to be PL or APL. Where we try to get them to learn leadership without authority and support the new PL leadership. If I need to move others around that is the time to do so, and then they have PL elections. Weve expanded and contracted between three and four patrols over the years, currently three with pretty good depth. The SPL, ASPL, & QM are part of our leadership patrol with me & ASMs. We cook for those guys on campouts so they can relax some, get a great meal, spend time with us to talk and vent while still keeping an eye on the patrols, gear, and other PORs. Plus visiting adults are a part of our patrol as well so they can stay away from their little Johnny, see our interactions, and learn a little more about our leader development. Im not saying its perfect, but keeping this kind of plan has helped things go fairly smooth over the years.

 

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This is a classic example of why the troop-method of scouting is a poor way to run a program. It doesn't matter if it is adult-led or boy-led, it still doesn't work, the numbers will be small and the effectiveness of the unit will suffer.

 

Very few adults can run a troop of 30-40 people. Most run 20-30. This is why scout troop sizes tend to run in these ranges for numbers. Turning this over to a boy means even fewer because youth at that age cannot handle the group dynamics of such sizes. Either the adult will continue to lead through the SPL or the numbers will naturally fall.

 

The patrol-method is intended that no youth are to be responsible for more than 7-8 boys. This number is well within the skill capability of youth of this age. To be able to delegate this out is difficult when one has adopted the POR positions to politically prestigeous positions instead of functional positions. Charismatic youth get the jobs and then sit back and enjoy the benefits without ever having to do the work. The adults continue to do the work and the POR's strut around basking in their self-importance.

 

Let's take the magic number of 40 for a decent sized troop. That's 5 patrols. 5 PL (POR's). To coordinate that many boys, the first thing the SM does is designate a SPL. This position is not as necessary as a QM or TG. So let's take one patrol and break it down into the troop officers. 1) TG, 2) Scribe, 3) QM, 4) Instructor, 5) Chaplain, 6) DC, 7) ASPL 8) SPL

 

That would mean the SPL is responsible for 4 PL's and an ASPL. (5 people)

 

The ASPL would be responsible (pseudo PL) for the Troop Officer Corps (virtual patrol) (6 people)

 

Each PL would be responsible for his patrol. (7 people each)

 

A troop-method style would have SPL and ASPL drop out of the 5 patrols leaving 1-2 patrols short on numbers (no big deal)

 

The SPL would be responsible for 5 PL's (PLC which meets maybe once a month)

The ASPL would be responsible for nothing unless the SPL was absent.

The 5 PL's would be responsible for only part of their patrols because different members of their patrols would also be under the directive of the SPL, i.e. DC, Scribe, QM, TG, etc.

 

This structure in any other world would be a fiasco. PL's undermined by SPL who has the QM running off doing something while his patrol is short-handed trying to do something.

 

SPL sitting around with basically nothing to do 90% of the time. The tendency would be to want to run the Troop so by doing so he will automatically undermine all the PL's and start micro-managing the patrols. Patrol 1 does this, patrol 2 does that, patrol 3 does something else, etc. etc.

 

Its Me is figuring out exactly how effective the troop-method can be in creating chaos in a troop.

 

So how big can a patrol-method troop be? 1 SPL has 8 ASPL's, 7 ASPL's have 8 PL's each PL has 7 members of his patrol. Ok, that comes to 457 boys and one hasn't even started counting the Troop officer Corps under the 8th ASPL. With 457 boys, that means one has multiple TG's, Scribes, QM's, etc. to handle that many boys. 500+ boys ????? Impossible! But even then NO ONE BOY LEADER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE THAN 8 BOYS!!!

 

The beauty of the patrol method is that no troop, if run under an appropriate boy-led, patrol-method program will ever be too big or too small for any boy leader to handle. Anybody can work easily with 8 others and it's a small enough number for the new budding leaders that they will be challenged but never overwhelmed.

 

It is this dynamic that allows Cub Packs to handle numbers well over 100 without any difficulty. A Cub den of 8 boys? What DL wouldn't love that? Three dens per year? 120 boys? Sure, we have 3-4 packs in our council with those kinds of numbers. Even if we have 2 dens of 12, it's still the same number.

 

The problem? We have small groups led by adults = Cub Scout program and we have large groups trying to be led by youth = Boy Scout program. The Cub Master doesn't run the Pack, why should the SPL run the troop? When the boy can't handle it, (duh!) the adults take over and run the troop.

 

I would love to have someone point out to me the fault of my logic.

 

Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)

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