During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
A FURTHER way of discovering activities that will appeal to the boys is for the Scoutmaster to save his brains by using his ears.
When in war-time a soldier-scout is out at night and wants to gain information of the enemy’s moves, he does so to a large extent by listening. Similarly, when a Scoutmaster is in the dark as to what is the inclination or the character of his boys, he can, to a great extent, get it by listening.
Scouting, the journal of the Boy Scouts of America, in its February issue, gives a delightful article on the value to Scoutmasters of listening. Under the suggestive heading “When a hike stubs its toe,” the author urges a Scoutmaster, who is on a hike with his boys and who is cudgelling his brains what to say to them on the subject of observation of nature, to listen to what his boys are talking about and to keep his own mouth shut.
They may be arguing together about a prize fight or something equally remote from the study of trees, but, in listening, he will gain a close insight into the character of each boy and a realisation of the way in which he can best be interested.
So, too, in the Court of Honour debates and Camp Fire talks; if you make listening and observation your particular occupation, you will gain much more information from your boys than you can put into them by your own talk.
Also, when visiting the parents, don’t go with the idea of impressing on them the value of Scouting so much as to glean from them what are their ideas of training their boys and what they expect of Scouting or where they find it deficient.
A few months ago I put forward a small suggestion in the same direction, namely, when short of ideas don’t impose on your Scouts activities which you think they ought to like; but find out from them by listening or by questioning which activities appeal most to them, and then see how far you can get these going — that is, if they are likely to be beneficial to the boys.
So, too, in giving instruction it is better by far to get your boys to debate a point or to ask you questions than to preach information to them. There’s a lot to be got by listening and observing.
The joke about new Scout activities is that they are just like the new toy that daddy brings home for the kiddies: daddy is the first to take to playing with the toy himself.
Well, that is just what it should be in Scouting.