Troop Transition

The following is a summary of a presentation that was given to both the Troop Committee and to a Parents meeting recently. The topic of these presentations are some changes that we are working with the Scouts to change their experience within the Troop. In the end, these changes will be driven by the Scouts as we guide them forward in their leadership adventures.

After you've had a chance to read through the presentation please feel free to ask any questions that you may have. Both Brian Frey and I are available to discuss any thoughts you have regarding these plans. You'll find our contact info on the "Contact Us" tab above or we're at almost every meeting.

Yours in Scouting,
Stu Jackson

By now you've probably have heard that Mr. Beckwith is retiring as Scoutmaster on December 31st. As we enter this transition of leadership there will be a few changes made to the Troop program to help enhance the Scout's experience. This presentation is to help facilitate your understand of the planned changes so that you can support each of the boys and the Troop as a whole.  However, since this isn't a live presentation and I didn't want to bore you through a hour long you tube video. You're welcome.  However, before jumping in I wanted to give you a few quick words on the layout. The original slide will be posted and then comments for each slide (where applicable) will be added immediately adjacent to the slide in blue. Easy, right? As we go through the posted images of a slide is going to be small and probably hard to read. You can click on the image for an expanded view, or a lot of times I'll put the corresponding text right next to it.  Here we go!!

(1) Role of the Troop Adult Leaders. There always some confusion regarding the roles that the Committee Chair and Scoutmaster fill.  The next few slides are a quick summary of the BSA's description of those positions.

The Committee Chair has the following duties:
  • Organize the committee to see that all functions are delegated, coordinated and completed.
  • Maintain a close relationship with the chartered organization representative and the Scoutmaster.
  • See that unit leaders and committee members have training opportunities.
  • Interpret national and local policies to the unit.
  • Work closely with the Scoutmaster in preparing the Troop Committee meeting agendas.
  • Call, preside over, and promote attendance at monthly unit committee meetings and any special meetings that may be called
  • Ensure unit representation at monthly roundtables.
  • Secure top-notch, trained individuals for camp membership.
  • Arrange for charter review and recharter annually
  • Plan the charter presentation program
The Scoutmaster has the following duties:
  • Conduct the Boy Scout program according to the policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

  • Train youth leaders by conducting, at least yearly, an introduction to leadership and a team-building workshop.

  • Conduct an annual troop program planning conference to assist youth leaders in planning the troop program.

  • Conduct a monthly patrol leaders’ council meeting to plan weekly troop meetings and conduct troop business.

  • Conduct, through the patrol leaders’ council, weekly troop meetings.

  • Provide a minimum of 10 days and nights of camping yearly, including participation in a local council resident camp.

  • Assist in selecting and recruiting assistant Scoutmasters to work with the new-Scout patrol and the Venture patrol for older Scouts.

  • Work with the troop committee chair in developing a monthly meeting agenda that will address the needs of the troop.

  • Conduct Scoutmaster conferences for all ranks.

  • Participate in Boy Scout Leader Fast Start Training, New Leader Essentials, and Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster Leader Specific Training.

  • Provide the necessary framework (using the BSA’s Youth Protection program) for protecting the young people in your troop from abuse.

  • See that activities are conducted within BSA safety guidelines and requirements.

(2) So what does that mean?  For our Committee Chair, Mr Brian Frey, it means he's the guy that makes sure the business side of our Troop keeps functioning and that the Scouts are getting all the support and resources that they need.  For the me that means the Assistant Scoutmasters and I are the front lines of support and guidance for the boys.

The Scoutmasters are indeed the big brother to all the boys. Our job is to ask questions of the scouts, to help guide them in the right direction, and to make sure that no one ends up hurt. We'll be right there to assist the scouts the whole way, but we don't ever do something for them that they can do themselves. We'll also do our best to make sure the scout leaders are running the show and not us.

(3) You saw in the slide above that we mentioned the Aims and Methods of Scouting. These are critical to the success of our Troop and what will be a major force in the plans and activities of the Troop.
The Aims of Scouting are the ideas that we're trying to help the boys realize. By working through a program that emphasizes Character Development, Citizenship, and Fitness the boys become leaders that are ready to take on the challenges they face as adults. How we achieve the Aims of Scouting is through the Methods of Scouting. The Methods are usually more visible parts of the Boys Scout program. To use a common metaphor, these is where the rubber meets the road. The eight methods of scouting are where the program takes shape and the boys experience what it means to be a Scout.

(4)  Ok, so now to the nitty gritty of the presentation. Changes.

(5) As I started to prepare myself for the challenges of following in the footsteps of Mr. B I found myself asking a lot of questions. In a lot of cases I found that the answers were "because we always have".  Just like a scout, the ol' "because I said so" answer didn't set well with me and I started really digging in. Eventually I was able to whittle my questions down to just a few that I struggled to answer.  

As you no doubt understand, the world our boys live in is constantly changing. Usually it's moving so fast that it's tough as adults to keep up. On of the questions I asked was what happens if the Troop doesn't change to meet their needs?  Do we lose scouts?  
Through this process I also was able to get closer to the foundation of our Troop and found how amazing it really is. There's 50 years of history supporting our boys and I think you'll agree that we want to keep adding to that foundation.  How do we do that?
Finally, I also discovered some of the visions of the Troop leadership that just needed the right time to find their place with our boys. I feel that time is now and we just need to build a plan to bring those visions to fruition.

(6) However, those were the easy questions. There was one main question that I really struggled with and its implications for the Troop  

As adults we have a tendency to know what's right for our children. As parents, we've all strived to make sure that our kids are getting the absolutely best that's available to them. That's just what we do! With Scouting, we're giving them a great opportunity to become leaders, experience the outdoors, and become upstanding young men by working diligently on the lessons of Scouting.  BUT, what if that doesn't necessarily that we're being successful as a Troop?  Now, let me make this very, very clear: 
This question and the results from trying to answer it are in no way a reflection of what is being done now, or of the Scouts that engage as leaders of the Troop. 
We're here for the boys, and their growth. Getting to the heart of that effort and answering this question from their point of view is what inspired all of this.

(7) There are 4 initial areas that you're likely to see changes in.  They are:
      • Patrols
      • Youth Leadership
      • Troop Meetings
      • Scoutmaster Roles

(8) First up are the Patrol changes and the following is a list of what's likely to change. In the end, most of this will need to be done under the direct leadership of the scouts and specifically the Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leader's Council. These changes are not going to be mandated, but instead they will presented to those youth leaders as possible changes they have the authority to make for the Troop. With their input the patrols will change in the following ways. Many of these changes come directly from the training materials that are availble from the BSA for Youth leaders. I'll warn you that this is going to be a long section.
  • Patrol Membership - What happens when the boys get to the Troop Meeting? Nine times out of ten they'll head over to their friends and hang out until we call them for flags and ask that they sit with patrols. Why not let them form patrols with their friends?  Isn't that what we all try to promote when they go to meeting, being with friends? If we allow them to be with a group of their own creation then they will likely form a stronger group that's ready to work as a team toward a common goal. It's also a lot easier to be a leader among your friends than it is working with a group of people that you only vaguely know. With friends its easier to reach outside your comfort zone because most the time they're going to be outside theirs. Development of leadership skills starts in the Patrol and as those skills develop the boys learn to apply them to the larger group as a Troop leader.
  • Patrol Term - Right now we're switch Patrols every 6 months. It's tough for boys that are developing leadership skills to apply those skills when the group he's in changes all the time. Just as they grow comfortable with each other everything is reshuffled as they have to start over. We're going to look at extending that patrol membership to at least a year and if things go well we could go much longer. That will be the decision of the PLC and the scouts that it represents.
  • Patrol Identities - These will be heavily encouraged by the Scoutmaster. I feel strongly that they boys should have an identity based around their patrols and getting patches, making flags, etc. helps develop that bond.  
  • Eagle Patrol - The members of the Troop 212 Eagle Patrol are welcome to create or join their own patrols.  They will still be members of the Eagle Patrol and STRONGLY encouraged to maintain membership in that group, but for day to day Troop activities the EP members should have the same chance as the other scouts. This is where their leadership will really come into play.
  • New Scout Patrol (NSP)- As our Troop continues to get new members we need to make sure we're addressing their needs. One way to do that is to place them in a patrol that consists only of our new scouts. This does not mean we're going place a 14yr old that just transferred into our Troop into a Patrol of 11 year olds.  The NSP will primarily consist of scouts that transitioned into the Troop from Webelos. Have a dedicated patrol for them will help ease the transition of scout and parent as they enter the ranks of Boy Scouts. The boys will be part of an NSP for 9 to 12 months and then will transition to a regular patrol.  The regular patrol they join can either be a new one created from the membership of the NSP or they will be allowed to join an existing patrol.
  • Troop Honor Patrol - This will be a project that the SPL and his ASPL's will take up immediately upon their election this month. They'll develop a system that Patrols can use to earn points.  At the end of 6 months we'll award the patrol with the most points a pizza party (or something similar) to celebrate their dedication to each other and to the Troop. This is to try and promote Patrol Spirit!
  • National Honor Patrol - This is a BSA program to award Patrols that meet certain criteria with a "rocker patch" that they can place under their patrol patch. You can see the star patch under the snake patrol above. This award is not very common and to get it is a badge of honor for the boys in the Patrol. We're going to really encourage this one.
  • Patrol Campouts - Eventually we're going to promote at least two of our yearly campouts as Patrol Campouts. That means that the Patrol members will all stick together at a campout including cooking, sleeping, activities, etc. It'll be critical that as many of the Patrol members as possible are at those campouts!

(9) The next question is naturally to ask why we'd look at changing our Patrols.  The following slide attempts to answer that.  In addition, I'll cover some of the concerns that were covered during the live presentations.

There are a few key things here to take note of. I believe, and the 100 years of scouting experience before me reiterates the idea, that the Patrol is the start for the scouts to really sink their teeth into leadership and working together as a team. Thankfully, instead of sitting through another round of leadership training like we sleep through at work, the boys get a chance to have a good time learning these skills and a lot of time not realize they're doing it. We're changing the patrols to give them a change to grab onto scouting and the lessons it teaches. With this changes we're looking at making it more engaging for all the boys and so that they can enjoy it with friends.

One of the first concerns brought to my attention is related to the formation of the patrols going forward. One of the challenges the boys will have to answer is how to create these new patrols. My suggestion is going to be that we let the scouts form their own patrols without any sort of engineering by adults. Initially, the scouts will be encouraged to create their own groups of 6-8 and then report back to the SPL for his approval.  Chaos yes, but it means that the boys are making their own decisions and by doing so we'll be encouraging them to own the decision. Now, the question has been raised what happens if a scout doesn't immediately fit into a group during the initial patrol creation?  A very valid concern, and frankly one that I've struggle with.  However, one of the things we try to teach scouts is the embracing of the Scout Law & Oath. If you use those as your guide then no one should be left out, right?  That's going to be part of the discussion with the Scouts as we go forward with this process. I'm confident that all our scouts will understand and embrace that ideal. However, if there is a situation then the SPL, with the Scoutmaster's guidance, will have the authority to place scouts in appropriate patrols.

Another concern voiced about the patrols relates to the interaction between older and younger scouts. There is absolutely no denying that one of the most important aspects of SCouting is passing on of knowledge from our older scouts to our younger scouts.  When we allow them to create their own patrols in all likelihood the two groups will form patrols with boys of similar age and interests.  No longer will there be engineered patrols with a mix of older and younger boys. The concern that this will effect cooperation between these two age groups is a real one.  However, the PLC will be guided with every effort to provide opportunities for our older Scouts to work with our younger scouts.  You'll seem them working together in inter-patrol activities as well as seeing many of our older scouts acting as instructors for the various scouting skills that will be taught in meetings. Working together, regardless of age will become a large part of the program that the PLC develops.

(10) The group of changes you'll hear about is some modifications of to the way our Youth Leadership functions. As we move forward you'll likely see a change in the way that youth leadership functions in the Troop. At all levels, from the SPL to the Patrol Leaders, you're going to see the boys asked to take on more responsibility.  We'll be there to guide, but they will have the opportunity to really work as the leaders of the Troop. The first step on that journey begins with the Troop Elections in November.

Boy Scouts is intended as an environment were boys can learn to lead with all the support and guidance we can provide. There's a good chance they're going to fail as they go through the leadership process and there's no place better to do that then in a Boy Scout Troop. We'll pick them up, dust them off, talk about a few lessons learned, and then ask them to give it a shot again.

Starting with this Election (November 2014), only the SPL and ASPL's will be elected by everyone in the Troop. All of the other Troop leadership positions will be fill by appointment from the SPL. Scouts will be asked to submit leadership position request to the SPL and then the positions will be filled based on the SPL's thoughts with guidance from the Scoutmaster.  Additionally, moving forward the Patrol Leaders will be elected by their patrols after those have been formed.

The Length of Term for Troop leadership positions will remain at 6 months.  However, Scouts will be allowed to work in a Troop leadership position for 2 consecutive terms if re-elected or re-appointed to the position.  All patrols will be asked to change Patrol Leaders every 6 months and a scout may not serve in that role consecutively.

(11) For those of you that are curious the BSA has the following guidelines for Troop elections.

(12) Beginning next year you might see some additional changes to our Troop Meeting structure. The scouts will be encouraged to utilize some of the tools that the BSA has produced to facilitate their leadership of the Troop Meeting.

The BSA Meeting template provides for the following sub sections of each troop meeting: Pre-opening, opening, skills, patrol meetings, inter-patrol activity, closing, after the meeting. The SPL and his team will be encourage to use this framework to plan meetings for the Troop. In addition, some of our special meetings like CPR training, drug awareness, abuse training, and others will continue to be presented to the whole Troop.

There will be a renew emphasis on the patrols and activities associated with them.  

The New Scout patrol will have the opportunity to engage in different activities than the older scouts at times so that they can focus on requirements they are trying to meet and the older scouts don't have to repeat the same activity they've done for the past 3 years. Another change you're going to see is that some of our older scouts, and only after receiving clear instruction, will be given the authority to sign off on requirements in Scout books for those scouts who are still working on ranks that are 1st class and lower. This will encourage responsibility for our older scouts since at any time a Scoutmaster may review what they've sign off on!

(13) Finally, you might see some changes in regards to the Scoutmasters. We're going to try and focus some of our skills so that we can provide better support to our scouts in some critical areas. 

You might hear us talking about Camping, Cooking, Equipment and other specialized Scoutmasters. We're looking to make experts out of a few of us that that we have a solid grasp on the subjects we're being asked about. There are so many different topics in Scouting that knowing a little about everything is good for the general questions, but when you start talking about things like requirements for cooking we need someone to answer all the hard questions.

That's about it.  Please let Brian or I know if you have questions.  Thanks for taking time to look at this presentation and I look forward to having the opportunity to server your son as Scoutmaster.

Stu Jackson