I received this email from a new Scoutmaster a day or two ago:
I was presented with the opportunity to take over as our new Scoutmaster some months ago and asked your advice.
I had some concerns about the level of adult involvement in what should be a boy-led troop. In your response you suggested I define my vision of the patrol method clearly, present that vision and (if the other adults involved didn’t agree with that vision) be prepared to walk away.
I presented the vision of a boy-led, patrol method, program and became the new Scoutmaster; “jumping into the volcano” as you like to say.
You also told me it may take 2-3 years to get to where we needed to be. So, how are we doing ?
The reality is that it has been difficult at times and I’ve often wondered if I did the right thing. Then something wonderful happens!
When our troop functions like the small democracy B-P described I realize that any amount of hassle or consternation on my part is well worth it.
We’ve gone from an adult driven program to one that is more and more in the hands of the Scouts.
Our troop wasn’t dysfunctional or objectively bad and our adults meant well; but they were focused on creating a lively, event packed, program to the detriment of employing the methods of Scouting to achieve its aims – character development, fitness and citizenship.
Scouts advanced and become Eagle Scouts without really having the opportunity to lead the troop and run the program. Results were confused with process.
My fellow Scouters are genuinely buying into the program. There’s a bit of skepticism but to their credit they’ve stepped outside their comfort zones and are learning the role of the adult in the boy-led troop. It’s hard going sometimes; we’ve had setbacks, but we’re trying and we’re progressing.
The Scouts are coming along too. It’s been a bit of a culture shock for some of them but they are starting to see the program is theirs, that they have real responsibility. I see sparks of Scouting greatness in the Scouts as they actually start to get it.
On a couple of occasions Scouts have told me to step away, that they have it under control. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!
It seems like our oldest and our youngest Scouts pick up on things better than our middle-aged Scouts. The older guys figure they know it all and our younger Scouts haven’t been around long enough to know the program as anything else.
I need to push and prod the middle-aged Scouts more than the others. They’re used to someone laying it all out for them as the adults did in the past.
As we worked on our annual calendar those middle-aged Scouts looked at me like “a dog with a new pan”. I chuckled when I heard that saying on a podcast because it is exactly the expression they had; their heads cocked, slightly, to the side with a blank stare.
Few of the Scouts had ever been involved in making these sorts of decisions about their calendar. “What does he mean by what do we want to do this next year?” They did get it though, and they did create a plan.
I’ve been using your patrol method self assessment tool to measure our progress. Our initial score of negative 90 is currently at positive 85. Not bad! The assessment tool keeps me focused on aspects of the patrol method that are otherwise difficult to quantify.
As for me? I’m pretty happy with the way things are going and definitely happy that I made the decision to jump into this volcano.
There are days that I’m not sure I’m doing the right things but your resources and advice help me through the ruts.
I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that I’m not alone and not inventing something brand new. I believe in the Scouting program and as long as I follow the advice of Scouters like yourself and stick to the recipes written by B-P and folks like Green Bar Bill I’ll be fine and my guys will do well.
Thanks again, Clarke, I appreciate that you take the time you do to share your experience with those of us just starting out. It does makes a difference.
We are all in this together!
There’s few, if any, situations or circumstances Scouters haven’t faced before in the century since Scouting was founded. Situations may differ, but the principles remain constant.
Every good Scoutmaster I have ever corresponded with knows that they are travelling along, and never really arriving; things never really settle into routine – we are always moving!
Volcanoes shape the planet’s surface, just as Scouts are shaping the landscape of their lives. Scouting through the sometimes chaotic, and ever-shifting terrain of the patrol method can be much like navigating volcano territory when you are a new Scoutmaster, but what fun!