When we think about a patrol leader’s council we form a picture of Scouts sitting around a table talking and making plans but what’s really going on?
The Senior patrol leader is in charge, the patrol leaders are assembled , the scribe is ready, the Scoutmaster is on hand to advise… what happens next? More importantly what’s happened before they all get to the table?
Here’s how you can show your senior patrol leader the planning part of his job – four steps and fifteen minutes of advising:
To make things happen for the troop you need to build four components – structure, content, planning and preparation.
Structure – The framework of your plan. This may be a schedule or something similar. The main framework is our schedule of meetings and outings; the dates and times. There are some sub-components of the framework too like individual meeting plans and the schedule you develop for our outings.
Content – What the Scouts will be doing. It may be cooking or pioneering or how to start a fire. The content fills the structure. Most of the content is pretty simple to find because it’s in the Scout handbook. If the patrol leader’s council want’s to do something new you’ll need to develop the content.
Planning – Once you have the structure and the content sorted out you plan by determining who is going to be responsible for making things happen. It’s a lot like who plays what position on a team.
Preparation – Once the plan is set whoever is responsible for a part of the plan needs to prepare. It’s not good enough to simply know who is going to do what, you also have to assure yourself that they are prepared to do it. Once you have the structure, the content and the plan it’s time to get up from the meeting and prepare.
Is it really that simple? Yes and no. Establishing the idea that there are four distinct components to the idea, that planning and preparation are different (Adults infer that preparation is a part of planning, Scouts don’t) is important. Naturally there are more details as you drill down into the preparation stage (where will this happen?, what will they need?, exactly what will they say and do?) but trying to work on every single detail of the plan at once can be distracting and discouraging for Scouts, step them through the process by asking questions, soon they’ll learn to ask the questions themselves.
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Jeff Person says
Great piece and I enjoyed the comments. Glenn added a wounderful idea. In our Troop execution is the weak link. I am sure that having the PLC do some of the prep work at the PLC meeting will help. Will share with SPL and PLC.
We have the annual planning in August and then we refine this at each PLC meeting. At the PLC meeting the scouts are working 3 months in advance. For the farthest away month they decide if they still want to do the topic that was picked during the annual planning. After that they come up with some specific meeting topics and decide who will be providing instruction or leading an activity. Then they move on to the upcoming month and go over the plans that they came up with at the last meeting and remind all scouts that volunteered to be prepared. Then finally they discuss the current month. If the scout providing instruction is a patrol leader they are asked to discuss what they have prepared. Otherwise the patrol leader is instructed to contact their scout and make sure they are ready. The PLC also disusses outings and activities but I focused ont the meeting topics/activites.
We still periodically have unprepared scouts and no shows. I keep notes on which scouts are doing what at upcoming meetings and I will casually ask them what they have planned. Being absent or unprepared just means you get moved to the next meeting.
The SPLs have figured out who they can count on to follow through for the most part.
Alex Adkins says
I have learned that part of my advisory role as Scoutmaster requires that I be flexible according to the strengths and weaknesses of the SPL himself. This is not to say that the SM makes up for the shortcoming of the SPL in a PLC. Far from it. It means that the SM must recognize those shortcomings (and strengths) and advises him accordingly PRIOR to the PLC.
Second, in my experience, most of the friction in a PLC is attributable to a misunderstanding of expectations on someone’s part. Copious reinforcement of expectations has always been welcomed by the boys in my unit. There are so many distractions and other activities vying for their attention, helping the boys see the larger picture and their role in it over time seems more important than ever.
I agree with Tom, that’s the hardest thing for my Scouts as well. They are effective and hardworking at meetings and events, but once they are out the door, not much happens. I’ve looked to see if BSA has ever published anything on how to backwards plan stuff, so that scouts know how to put dates and times on stuff, to help them set their own deadlines for stuff, but haven’t seen anything. Don’t if it would help or just be more paperwork for them.
Tom Gillard says
Ya! It is the preparation during ‘their’ time that I have been missing. I agree that it would be nice if during the week, all the guys would go home and prepare for the next few meeting programs, but that mostly doesn’t happen. Let them do it or at least get started during the PLC. Keeping the sit-down meeting short is a good idea.
I Like This !!
I’ll propose this to the SPL tonight.