This is the sixth of twelve installments in a story that follows a new Scoutmaster, Chuck Grant, attempting to use the patrol method in a troop that has forgotten how.
I’ve based this work of fiction on the stories shared by readers and listeners, questions they have asked, and the advice I commonly share in reply. Scoutmasters can expect to encounter challenges and setbacks along the way.
I’ve tried to avoid being unreasonable optimistic, or overly pessimistic about the progress we can make when we stick to the basics.
Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three
Chapter Four | Chapter Five
Two weeks before our mountain climbing trip I sat at the picnic table with our patrol leader’s council.
Jake and I had exchanged several emails and talked on the phone a few times since we last met. We discussed appointing a quartermaster, and Jake chose Alex Monroe, the last of the five older Scouts I originally met with who had yet to take on a specific responsibility.
Jake had been preparing for what came next and he looked like he was ready to get things moving.
“I have a couple of things to do, so Jake is going to let you know what happens at tonight’s meeting.” I said, “Alex, I’ll get together with you and Mr. Borgatti when the patrols are meeting.”
Alex nodded, and with that, I walked away from the table.
“Tonight we need to figure out two things, what your patrol needs for the camping trip, and what each Scout should bring, “ Jake began, “the lists of what to bring for Scouts is in the Handbook, right here,” Jake held up an opened handbook.
“I want you guys to write down what your patrol will need on these cards.” Jake handed each patrol leader an index card, “and pick out one Scout to be your patrol quartermaster.”
As Jake worked with the patrol leader’s council, I met Rob Borgatti, my fourth assistant Scoutmaster, as he pulled into the parking lot. Only Dave Katz had been around longer than Rob, who had settled into being our “gear guru”.
Rob looked after the troop gear, made sure it showed up when we were camping, and that it all made its way home again. He had made it very clear he wasn’t interested in doing more than that.
I explained what I had planned to give the Scouts more responsibility for the gear.
“Let me get this straight, the Scouts are going to tell me what to bring?” Rob was not happy.
“Yes, we’ll have a Scout serving as the quartermaster to see that they get what they need,” I said.
“We don’t need a quartermaster and I don’t want one,” Rob said, “we tried that years ago and it didn’t work.”
“Our senior patrol leader has appointed Alex Monroe to be the quartermaster, let’s give it another try,” I replied, “What do you think?.”
Rob grunted and walked over to the equipment room.
I headed back to the picnic table, “everything good? I asked Jake.
“I think so.” he replied.
“Hunter, what page is the Scout gear list on in the handbook?” I asked.
Hunter looked at his notes, “page 274.”
“Great, sounds like you guys are ready to meet with your patrols,” I said, “remember we need your patrol list along with your patrol quartermaster when you finish patrol meetings tonight.”
Only two meetings in Jake was finding his feet as senior patrol leader. He managed to get the troop assembled and listening while I corralled my assistant Scoutmasters in the back of the room.
“Everybody has something to do right?” I asked,
“Yes Sir!” George shouted, as he delivered his exaggerated salute.
“So Wayne will be keeping George quiet,” I laughed, “it’s a big job, buddy but I think you are up to it.”
Wayne glared at George, and George made himself as small as possible.
“Seriously though,” I went on, “as soon as Jake has opened the meeting what happens next?”
“I’ve got all the stuff on the list in the handbook to show them,” George said.
“I’ll show them how to pack a pack,” Wayne said.
“And I’ll talk about tents.” Dave added.
“Right, three patrols rotating through three stations, ten minutes at each station, Jake will be keeping time and telling everyone when to change stations.” I said.
As the stations were going on, I talked to Jake.
“So far so good?” I asked.
“Yeah, pretty good, but some of the older guys just don’t pay attention to me.” he replied.
“Well, it’s not all going to be easy, but we’ll get there, sometimes they don’t pay attention to me either. Is there anyone I should talk to specifically?” I asked.
“No, not now.” Jake answered.
“Remember what I told you,” I said, “I will talk to Scouts who are having problems, that’s my job. Most of the time things will work out, but when you need me don’t be afraid to ask.”
Jake looked at his cell phone, “Time for patrol meetings, excuse me,” and he headed to the middle of the room to move things along.
A little later, I stood in the equipment room with our new quartermaster, three patrol quartermasters and a grumpy gear guru.
“Alex and Mr. Borgatti will help you three guys put together what your patrol needs for our next camping trip.” I began, “Everyone have their cards?”
The three patrol quartermasters each held up an index card.
“Alex will take those, and hold on to them for you until next week. You guys can go join in the game now, and next week you’ll come in here and sort out your patrol gear. I need to spend a little time with Mr. Borgatti and our quartermaster.”
“So here’s the plan.” I said once the patrol quartermasters had left, “Next week Alex will meet with the patrol quartermasters and go over each thing on their list.” I turned to Alex, “as you go over each list item they’ll check the gear to make sure everything is there and ready to go, and then you’ll set it aside so it can be loaded up Friday night. Got that Alex?”
“Sure, sounds easy enough,” Alex replied.
“Work for you Rob?” I asked.
“I don’t know why we have to go through all this,” he shot back, “usually I just put things in the truck and we go, what’s wrong with that?”
“Thanks, Alex,” I said, “I want to talk with Mr. Borgatti for a moment, you can go back to the troop.”
I turned to Rob, “I am trying to get the Scouts involved in the whole process. It will be fun for them, and they’ll learn a few things too.”
Rob looked at the ceiling, “You know we tried all of that before, years ago.” he glared at me, “Scouts forget things, they break things they lose things, that’s why I do what I do. It’s a lot easier and cheaper by the way.”
“If this was about going camping in the most efficient and easiest way possible I’d agree with you, but that’s not our goal.” I began, “I want our Scouts doing more things for themselves. It may take some more effort on our part at first, but think about what they’ll be learning as a result.”
Rob ran his hand over his head and said, “Well, then, I’m out! I have this all figured, I’ve been doing it this way for years and no one complained.”
Not what I was hoping for at all,
“I am sorry if you feel that I am complaining, Rob.” I said, “All I am asking is that we get the Scouts involved, I am certainly not trying to complain about the job you’ve done.”
“Well, I have had it! I’ll call John and tell him,” Rob pushed past me on his way out the door, “good night.”
Two weeks in and one volunteer down; I wonder if that’s a new Scoutmaster record?
Read the rest of the story in my new book:
Shoololongela Filippus says
we must share good idea and learn.
James Stonehouse says
“If this was about going camping in the most efficient and easiest way possible I’d agree with you, but that’s not our goal.”
I agree, that is not our goal. As a troop scouter and a high school auto teacher I always run into leaders and parents who do the work for the youth “because it is easier this way”. I deal with allot of “learned helplessness”. Mom or dad always did it for me, why should I do it. Is a common situation I run into. I am not the troop leader, my patrol leaders are, myself and the other scouters in the troop are a valuable resource for the troop, but the youth are the leaders. I have a shirt that says “I did not do anything wrong, I did something that I have now learned not to do again”.
“Scouts forget things, they break things they lose things….”, Unless it is an immediate safety issue, all information and instruction comes from the patrol leader. If a scout forgets something, breaks something or loses something they need to go to the patrol leader for help. It may require using emergency supplies, using tools/duct tape or rope from the toolbox to fix it or maybe do without for that activity. A scouter may be asked to help with a specific situation, but only to help (usually skill instruction), not to take over.
Being prepared does not prevent disasters from happening, it helps you to survive and learn from it. Sometimes we need small disasters to help us see the need for being prepared.(forgetting our spare mantles – having to use and empty tin, tin-foil, a piece of rope and some cooking oil to make a lamp),
Jim Hilliard says
It does seem like our hero could have used a different approach here, knowing that the Scouter was only interested in managing gear and would feel put out if he thought that responsibility was being taken away. A more collaborative approach like, “We are trying to get the Scouts to learn how to figure out what they need and how to take care of it better. How do you think we could do that?” He’s doing a great job bringing the boys along with the Socratic approach but is sort of bullying the vested adult leaders along the way. (I realize that is probably a pretty good representation of how many new SMs work to implement the patrol method in a unit that doesn’t have such a history.)
Clarke Green says
Good thoughts Jim! The whole story isn’t told yet though.
Chuck ran into some resistance in this chapter, let’s see how things go from here.
I don’t think he’s “bullying” his fellow adults, he’s leading them. I haven’t written some of the longer conversations he’s having when them in detail, because those details are revealed when he talks to the Scouts.
In this chapter when Chuck meets with Rob in the parking I did imagine he explains what he’d like to do before Rob reacts, but somehow I left that out. I’ll edit it in.
Dustin Tarditi says
A volunteer who insists on doing things only their own way is not really helping things out in an organization like scouts.