John Thurman was a prolific writer and Camp Chief of Gilwell Park from 1943 to 1969. I have taken some of his thoughts on the patrol leaders council (called the Court of Honor in the UK at the time) and updated them with modern terminology suited to Scouting in the U.S.A. I plan on sharing it with my senior patrol leader this week;
The Patrol Leader’s Council
The moment you took over your patrol you became not just one leader, but two.
You became the leader of your patrol. But, at the same time, you became a leader in your troop, with the duty of sharing in the task of running the troop.
With your patrol leader’s badge goes the privilege of being a member of the patrol leader’s council.
In this patrol leader’s council, you meet with the other patrol leaders, at regular intervals, to plan the activities of the troop and to discuss and solve troop problems.
At the patrol leader’s council you have the chance to express the aims and hopes of your patrol, to explain what it is doing and what it expects to do. Here also, you receive the guidance and help you need to conduct your patrol affairs and train your boys.
In the patrol leader’s council you pick up inspirations for making your gang into the best possible patrol. Here you’ll discover that by running a good patrol that takes an active and loyal part in Troop life, you are helping to make your whole troop good.
All the patrol leaders and the Troop senior patrol leader are there. The Scoutmaster may be present as an advisor and guide. Assistant Scoutmasters may also be there to join in the planning.
The patrol leader’s council is a business meeting, in every sense of the word, and should be conducted along formal lines.
Meetings of the Patrol Leader’s Council
To be effective the patrol leader’s council should meet regularly. Many troops find that a short meeting following the regular troop Meeting each week is satisfactory. This plan with a longer meeting once a month has also proved valuable. The longer meeting away from the regular Troop meeting gives the patrol leader’s council a chance to discuss problems more fully and to plan events in detail.
It is up to each individual patrol leader’s council to set its own time. In order to save time and get right down to business the senior patrol leader should draw up an agenda and follow it.
Here’s how a typical patrol leader’s council Meeting might go:
The senior patrol leader calls the meeting to order and takes the roll.
The scribe reads the minutes of the last meeting. They are short and to the point.
From here we go to unfinished business. One after another some of the members report on projects assigned to them at previous meetings.
Now they turn to planning for the month ahead. The long range plans have already been made and now is the time for putting the plans into action.
The discussion continues with plenty of planning and training. Slowly the program for the next few weeks takes shape: a whole pile of things to do at troop and patrol meetings until the big event comes off.
The patrol leaders make notes.
New Business! This is the time for other decisions to be made.
Opportunities for community service and participation in other events are discussed
Now each Patrol Leader has an opportunity to stand up before the patrol leader’s council and report on his Patrol’s activities since the last meeting—what meetings it has held, what service projects it has undertaken, which boys have advanced. Everything that shows the progress of his patrol.
Now the Scoutmaster has an opportunity to say a few words and then the patrol leader’s council is properly adjourned.
Short, interesting meetings that show progress and keep all the members on their toes are the thing. As a member of the patrol leader’s council you should contribute to the discussions and join in on the planning. Remember you are there to represent the thinking of your Patrol and to present their ideas. You are not serving them well if you take a back seat and do not actively participate.
The Job of the Patrol Leader’s Council
The Patrol leader’s council is the governing body of the Troop. It is responsible for:
Guarding the honor of the troop: you as a patrol leader must have a sense of responsibility, both personal and corporate, for tradition and honor. A troop without honor and a sense of its responsibilities will not contribute anything worthwhile to the development of its individual members, or to Scouting as a whole.
The patrol leader’s council and the patrol leaders who form it, must set the highest standard possible in regard to courtesy and general efficiency. The joint example of the patrol leaders will do more than anything else to develop the right spirit in the troop.
All new recruits should come before the patrol leader’s council before they join, so that the traditions of the troop and the function of the patrol leader’s council may be explained to them. They should also be told what will be expected of them in return for the privilege of joining the troop. Membership is a privilege—don’t let any boy think that he can treat it lightly.
Program Planning: Each patrol leader brings the ideas and wishes of his patrol to the notice of the patrol leader’s council. These are discussed and those receiving majority votes are put forward as program material. In this way the type of troop programs are built which the majority of boys want.
This is real democracy. The patrol leader has to learn to represent his patrol and to put their case forward even though he may not agree with it personally. He has to persuade his patrol to back up loyally any decisions of the patrol leader’s council, even when they are contrary to their own wishes. He must learn to accept success or defeat with equanimity.
Program planning should be achieved in three stages— Long Range, Short Range and Immediate Planning
LongRangePlanning consists of setting up objectives to be achieved during the coming year, noting special events scheduled to occur and developing general themes and ideas which will help the Troop achieve its objectives.
LongRangePlanning must not become too large or involved—too many items or too much detail at this stage will cause congestion and confusion. If you plan too many things over which to spread enthusiasm, you may well end up indifferent to them all.LongRangePlanning is best done in the period July-August and the ideal place is Summer Camp when a special event can be made of it. Then, at the last camp fire, the Troop can be let in on some of the adventures in store, so they can look forward to something special.
ShortRangePlanning is the main business of the monthly patrol leader’s council. Here the Long Range Plan is taken and expanded to cover the immediate future, usually the period of the next three months. More details are added ; possibly additional objectives are included, dates are fixed and organizing responsibilities are allocated. Programs for the immediate month are put into outline shape.
Immediate Planning is done by the person or persons responsible for the activity. Most immediate planning will be done by the Scouters using the Short-Range Plan submitted by the Patrol leader’s council as a basis. However, the patrol leader’s council should take on given activities to organize from time to time. Last minute suggestions for final plans will be put forward at the weekly patrol leader’s council meetings.
A few minutes should also be taken at the weekly patrol leader’s council to analyze the last program, to learn by mistakes, note what was popular and to make necessary adjustments in the coming programs.
In addition to program planning patrol leaders should be accustomed to running troop meetings and the troop should be accustomed to their doing so. During a troop meeting (but not necessarily every troop meeting) each patrol Leader should be responsible for an activity, which he will prepare and run by himself.
(3) General Administration: A patrol leader’s council also looks after the administration of troop funds (weekly dues). It is responsible for the proper maintenance of all troop equipment and any general decisions affecting the troop.
Patrol leader’s council CodeAs a valuable aid to establishing and maintaining a tradition of sound patrol leader’s council operation, it is strongly recommended that each troop adopt a patrol leader’s council code. This code should be visible at each meeting of the patrol leader’s council and should be used or presented in card form to each patrol leader at the time of his investiture as a patrol leader. It would serve as a guide to the job he has to do, a constant reminder of the responsibility which he has to discharge.
The extent to which a patrol leader’s council can be left to itself depends on the experience and training of the patrol leaders. Patrol leaders need as much training and guidance for their work with the patrol leader’s council as they do for skills.
Remember the Scoutmaster is the catalyst who stimulates the action of his patrol leaders. The patrol leader’s council represents the hub from which action in the patrol System stems. Thus it is evident that a troop can only be as good as its patrol leader’s council.
Here is a suggested Code, use it or write your own but keep it simple and to the point:
PATROL LEADER’S COUNCIL CODE
It is the duty of each member of this Patrol leader’s council:
- To set a good example in living the Scout Oath and Law.
- To uphold the honor and tradition of the troup.
- To consider the wishes of his patrol before his own.
- To be fair and just in making all judgments.
- To abide cheerfully by the decision of the majority.
- To loyally work with the Scoutmaster, his assistants and the committee in the efficient operation of the Troop.
Walter Underwood says
There is even a game named after him, the “Thurman Throw”. You’ll need one Scout Staff per patrol.
It is on page 72: