I had this message from Tom; the same Tom you hear when we have a Scoutmaster panel discussion on the podcast. Any of us Scoutmasters who are invested in youth leadership and the patrol method have times of frustration and doubt – at least I know I do!
Well my Scoutmaster OCD and ADD and ADHD really kicked in last week!
But by the end of the weekend I felt a lot better.
We planned to go camping Mother’s Day weekend, but only 4 Scouts signed up. Our senior patrol leader called off the trip and went to plan ‘B’ that he made up right on the spot: a five mile map and compass hike for the new Scouts.
I was full of questions; When are you going to teach some of the skills involved in this? How many scouts are going? How many adults are going?
The senior patrol leader did get a list Scouts who wanted to attend, that was good. I suggested he send out an e-mail stating what was going to happen, when and where, a roster of names that have signed up and see what happens on Saturday. Then I bit my tongue and let him alone.
Well around Friday part of this was done. (I had to go to the ER to get my tongue sewed back on, again…)
When Saturday arrived I had some ideas for the senior patrol leader and he took me up on some of them. He had enough older Scouts to pair up with the younger Scouts and he assigned adults to these teams of Scouts.
I briefed the adults involved that we were just advisers and would let the Scouts handle things unless they got really stumped.
There is a natural area nearby with 5 miles of trails if you go in the correct order. Years ago I had made four different 5 mile route maps. There are about 19 intersections on each and you can get turned around pretty quick if you don’t keep up with them. I suggested that the SPL assign maps since there was such a large number of us going – nice and orderly just like I like it.
Nope, he just let each team pick one.
I stopped worrying (mostly) on Friday. This is only a hike – I thought – if the senior patrol leader thinks all is well, then so should I.
Of course I am worried that they really understand what is going on. Things like planning and practicing skills from the book, not just jumping out of the car and heading into the woods. I know the process is important; but I want the Scouts to actually learn these skills too. Worry, worry, worry.
Once I was in the woods watching the two scouts in my team work together I started having a MUCH better time. At the beginning of the hike our new Scout was completely confused by the map and compass. Even with plenty of hints from the older Scout he was struggling to ‘see’ what was on the map vs. what was in front of him.
Three hours, 19 intersections, and 19 compass readings later he’d get to an intersection pull out the compass orient the map take the correct heading for the next leg and say, ” that way, lets go!”
I was privileged to witness this total transformation. I commented to his dad, in front of the Scout, how much he had learned in this short time. From what I heard from the other groups there were similar stories of success.
When you ‘train them, trust them and let them lead’, things do go much smoother than you (or I) may have expected. I know the saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff” – I always sweat the small stuff.
The Scouts and adults that participated had a really good time out on the trail. It was shorter than a camping weekend, but I think we got a lot out of it.
Thanks for your help over the last year! Writing this helps me deal with the frustration of getting this right – I think I am getting better at it though.
Tom Gillard Jr. Scoutmaster Troop 402 Tullahoma, Tennessee
What happened on that hike? A new Scout learned how to use a map and compass, an older Scout how to instruct and an even older Scoutmaster how to trust his youth leaders a little bit more.
It doesn’t matter how many years we do this; we’ll always have our doubts – I know I do. “Train, trust, let” is not as easy at it seems!