Andy’s Rule No. 1:
- Stupid has no cure.
Andy’s Rule No. 2:
- You show up at “troop volunteer night” and after ten minutes you still can’t figure out who the new Scoutmaster’s gonna be… It’s gonna be you.
Andy’s Rule No. 3:
- Don’t try to teach pigs to fly… It wastes your time and annoys the pigs.
I’ve been an avid reader for years and many thanks to you for being an invaluable source of information.
I’verecently assumed the role of Scoutmaster. For whatever reason, and not necessarily Scout-originated, our troop seems short on Scoutsshowing any interest inleadership positions. The PLC (“Patrol Leaders Council”) is barely if at all engaged in planning troop meetings andactivities, perhaps in part because these meetings have historically been led by the former Scoutmaster-as-PLC Chair. Maybe it’s a chicken-egg thing, but the genesis is actually less important to me than figuring out howto turn things around, so that the troop’s run by the Scouts, using their own (guided) ideas. Besides, when I try to fill in and plan troop meetings, they usually wind up pretty boring for the Scouts. It all ends up being a more-or-less closed-loop thing and I’m not sure how to break us out of it… In short, I’m stumped.
Early on, I even “threw out the calendar” and started from scratch, taking the time to describe to the PLC members what they should be trying to accomplish and what their goals should look like. But this doesn’t seem to be gaining any real purchase and the ensuing meetings have been lackluster as ever. I’m now applying some gentle prodding on our Senior Patrol Leader, with some quiet coaching on how to get things moving, but it’s time-consuming and sure isn’t producing any visible results quickly.
I’m trying to keep from just jumping in and starting to plan and run troop meetings myself—I do know it’s not how we grow boys and besides, it’s not in my <grin> “job description.” I’m willing give it some time—at least until the next PLC meeting—to see if there’s any spark of life here, but, frankly, I don’t see any celebration parties happenin’ anytime soon!
Maybe I just bide my time… We’ll have a new crop of Patrol Leaders and a new SPL elected in just a couple of weeks, and that’s an opportunity to start off the new terms with a TLT session for the incoming PLC, to show and “sell” how we should be operating.
Well, that’s my story. I’m open to anyideasI could use to turn things around—The goal is a Scout-directed troop operating in the mini-democracy model. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)
Back up and watch yourself as if in a mirror… As Scoutmaster, when you’re coaching the SPL, who’s doing most of the talking? If it’s you, and it’s about 75% to 80% or more, this is the first behavior you will want to change. I’m going to guess that, like most good guys trying to help a Scout, you have the tendency to do the talking…all about what the troop needs and what to do and how to do it and it’ll be OK if we just try a little harder, and on and on till Bob’s yer uncle. Stop this. Instead, only ask questions. That’s right: ONLY ASK QUESTIONS.
Here’s a sample of the new dynamic you’re going to establish with your Senior Patrol Leader, beginning the very next meeting…
“Hi, SPL, are you all set for tonight’s meeting?”
“Great! Say…who’s bringing the ropes, for the lashing demonstrations?”
Answer: “I dunno.”
“Hmm…So what’s your plan for what you’ll do if they don’t show up?”
Answer: “I dunno.”
“OK, so, do you need any help, here?”
Answer: “Yeah, maybe.”
“So… Who are you gonna ask for help?”
Answer: “I dunno.”
“Well, good luck. And if you need some help, come find me.”
(Then walk a little bit away, with a friendly smile that lets him know you do mean you’re there for him if he’s willing to risk reaching out. And don’t disappear, either. Remain nearby, so he knows you’re there, but don’t interfere or even speak unless he specifically asks for you.)
At some point, he’s going to wake up, and when he does, you’ll be there for him. But, in the meanwhile, you’ve not only stopped the “lectures of impending doom” (You know: No ropes = the end of the world…) but you’ve stopped the “rescues,” too (“No ropes? You’re lucky, because I, in my infinite wisdom—with the sad implication that you knew he’d forget—have some in my car! I’ll go get them for you…”)
Next, right after the closing ceremony you ask the SPL to ask the PLs to stick around for a quick “Roses n’ Thorns” session. (BUT, this one you do only after you’re comfortable remaining 100% in the question-only mode:) It will go a little like this…
“OK, some roses. What went well tonight…? What else…? What else…? Anything else…? Good!”
“Were there any thorns? What didn’t go so well tonight…? What else maybe could have gone better…?”
THEN: “So, what can you do next week so that (first thorn) doesn’t happen anymore…?” And so on…
This is called directed discovery… This is a powerful form of teaching-without-teaching that beats the lecture and demonstration techniques hands-down, every time!
Try these… After you’ve used them for a week or so, let me know what’s going on and we’ll talk some more about converting this bunch o’ boys in tan shirts into a real kick-ass troop!
I’m kind of going back to your last column, where you spoke to someone about an inarticulate Scout…12 years old…who was brought before his board of review for Life Scout rank.
He had just returned from his Order of the Arrow “Ordeal weekend,” but when asked directly, he was unable to state what the purpose of the Order of the Arrow is. (This is despite the fact that he’d just been appointed Troop OA Representative—a position of responsibility qualifying for Eagle rank!). When asked, further, what the importance of the citizenship merit badges is, he indicated ignorance. When asked how he would make a decision between sports, a camping trip, or homework, he was unable to do so. When he did answer, he used single words wherever possible, and any subsequent words needed to be dragged out of him. Some question were even met with total silence. Yet, in school, he’s an Honor Roll student.
The committee members sitting on his review didn’t want to pass him on to the rank of Life. While I almost understand this, my suggestion, instead, was that it would be kinder to point out that he really didn’t complete the time required toward a Scoutmaster-approved service project, rather than tell the Scout that he can’t seem to answer many of the questions asked. Others, I suppose it should be mentioned, just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of a Life Scout who, at 12 years old, sort of stares his way through a board of review.
My own thinking is that they shouldn’t have failed that boy. Yes, his lack of maturity in expressing his thoughts is glaring, but if he’s completed the stated requirements, then he’s earned the rank. At least that’s how it seems to me. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)
Ever notice how, when you open up a can of worms, it always takes a bigger can to get ’em all back in?
Seems like a whole bunch of wheels fell off of this wagon… Let’s start with the conference, where the Scoutmaster is supposed to be preparing the Scout for his board of review. What happened there, that the Scoutmaster allowed this Scout to move to the next step knowing full well that the Scout’s borderline inarticulate? If I were chair of the review, or the troop advancement coordinator, I’d be asking the Scoutmaster why he sent us an unprepared Scout. But there’s more. What is the thinking behind asking a Scout, in a review of this type, what he thinks the “importance” of the Citizenship merit badge group is? Other than the answer, “They’re all required for Eagle,” what else were you all expecting. If the Scout had, instead, said something like, “These help me better understand my community, country, and world, so that I can be a better citizen when I’m of age,” would you have been comfortably satisfied? Or would you have figured that this is a pretty smart Scout, because he’s shinin’ us on and givin’ us what he figures we want to hear. So my question to you would be: What was your point? Maybe some better questions might be more along the lines of how much he enjoyed his field-trip and how did he go about selecting a charitable organization to work with and what was that experience like?
On the other question, you mentioned, about decision-making between sports, Scouts, and academics: what were you looking to learn from him, other than trying to balance these three along with other extracurricular activities like band, theater, clubs, and so on, plus church and its youth group, plus family obligations and dealing with brothers and sisters and maybe another generation in the house can get overwhelming at times. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed, you’re telling me you’re a regular blabbing Cyrano De Bergerac, oui?
Then, who in the world told him that his OA ordeal would provide sufficient service project time to meet req. 4? If his Scoutmaster did, ahead of time, then you’re obligated to take the Scoutmaster’s word on this. But if not, where did this come from? And, in this regard, if the reviewers don’t believe it’s sufficient, you SUSPEND the review until a specific later date, at which either the Scout produces evidence that he did, indeed, put in a full six hours of service (the hours can be accumulated, BTW, they don’t have to be all at once) or he adds to his ordeal service time with additional service time elsewhere, so that the new total is now six hours. Now do you truly believe that this Scout “doesn’t know what the OA is,” or was he avoiding spilling the beans to non-Arrowmen? Are you absolutely sure you know which dynamic was operating? The central purpose of all boards of review is to determine how well the troop is meeting the needs of the Scouts, as they pursue the advancement trail we so encourage them to. A board of review gives the Scout the opportunity to tell us what’s working, in our troop, and how the troop needs to improve, for the Scouts who come after him. All of this is described in the Scoutmaster Handbook.
My recommendation to you all is that you get your hands on the materials you need to read right away, give yourselves fast refresher crash-readings, have a pre-conference with the Scoutmaster and ask him to prep this Scout better, and then reconvene the review following the new insights you’ve gained about what you’re all supposed to be doing. Don’t let any grass grow under your feet, here. This is a Scout you don’t want to lose.
Meanwhile, don’t ignore or try to duck the boy’s advocates (his Dad and his Scoutmaster). Tell them that we’ve talked, you’ve listened, that you have some quick reading you want to do, and then you’re going to do a “re-set” and make this happen the right way…for this Scout and for all Scouts from now on! You can do this! Go for it!
Just so everyone’s clear here: If this Scout indeed completed all stated requirements, the reviewers have no choice but to congratulate him on reaching his next rank. Some of you are interpreting his monosyllabic answers as being “immature”… Are you absolutely sure that that’s right? Scouts don’t typically get elected to Scouting’s Honor Society by their fellow Scouts because they’re “immature.” Are you sure he wasn’t buying where you all were going, and clammed up because he was legitimately annoyed?
For the Cub Scout Academic and Sports Belt Loops and Pins, can the Cubs complete the requirements at any time, or do all the requirements for the loop/pin need to be completed within the “Scouting year”? I have several Cubs who completed two of three belt loop requirements. Will they need to repeat them to earn the belt loop when they move from Wolf to Bear? (And yes, I tried really hard to get them to complete that third req., and to impress on their parents to complete the step with them.)
Also, I can’t figure out how to search your columns to see if my question’s already been answered, which is a shame! I read through a year’s worth of articles, and I see what seems to be the same questions asked and answered over and over again. (Dan Fehler, Wolf Den Leader & “Cubmaster-Elect”, Northern Star Council, MN)
First, we do understand that this is a supplemental enrichment program and isn’t designed to be any sort of “replacement” for the Cub Scout advancement program as laid out in the Tiger-through-Webelos handbooks, yes? And we get it that this is the Cub Scout equivalent of those old “Whitman Sampler” boxes of assorted chocolates, yes? And you’ve bought and read the Cub Scout Academics and Sports Program Guide, yes? So you already know that, if a boy (or his den) chooses to stop a particular activity after having earned the belt loop (only), that’s considered OK.
And you also know that belt loops and pins can be earned by Tigers, Wolves, Bears, Webelos, and Arrow of Light Scouts, and that Webelos Scouts may earn a belt loop or pin a second time, in order to qualify for certain Webelos activity badges.
To find stuff in my columns, use Google’s “advanced search”… Put, for instance, “belt loops and pins” in the “all these words” dialogue box and then put “Dear Andy” in the “this exact wording or phrase” box. Not perfect, but pretty close! Try it! Or, simply write to me if you can’t find an exact match to what your question is! That’s what I’m here for, and it’s the only reason I’m here!
I’m trying to gain an understanding of what an Eagle mentor or coach’s responsibility should be. We’re looking at the idea of having a troop Eagle mentor or coach, and we seem to have some differences of opinion on what the responsibilities should be. I’m hoping you can give us some guidance. (Joni Hougan, Cascade Pacific Council, OR)
An Eagle coach or adviser is an adult; an Eagle Mentor is a pin.
Many troops have a committee member (who’s taken YPT of course) whose sole responsibility is to guide (with a feather; not a cattle prod) the troop’s Life Scouts, meeting with them from time to time to see how they’re coming along on their trail to Eagle, helping them resolve problems of logistics or personalities, finding a Merit Badge Counselor (because the one in the book moved six months ago) and also to just “be there” for questions, concerns, and so on. He’s sort of the Life Scout’s “friendly uncle who you can talk with about anything.” Got it?
Eagle Mentor is a pin that the Eagle Scout can choose to present to a person who he believes helped him along the trail to Eagle in a most significant way… This pin may be presented to anyone except a parent, and it’s done at a court of honor when the Scout receives his Eagle medal.
Does the Assistant Scoutmaster have a vote in a committee meeting? I’ve looked in lots of books to see if I could find this, but the only thing I can find is that the Scoutmaster can’t vote; it says nothing about the Assistant Scoutmaster. (Shawn Spratt, ASM, Katahdin Area Council, ME)
First: Only registered members of the troop committee have “voting rights.” Neither Scoutmasters nor Assistant Scoutmasters are registered as committee members; consequently, they don’t “vote.”
But more importantly, troop committees have virtually nothing to “vote” on… The troop’s annual and monthly programs, and weekly meeting content, are all developed by the Scouts themselves, in the Patrol Leaders Council (Chaired by the Senior Patrol Leader, with the Scoutmaster covering the SPL’s “6”), and then shown by the Scoutmaster (or ASM in the SM’s absence) to the troop committee for their input and suggestions (but not their “vote” or “veto”—the committee isn’t the ultimate decider of the troop’s programs. They can make suggestions, which the Scoutmaster takes back to the PLC for their consideration, but that’s it. (And we also know that we don’t “double-register” as some sort of “loop-hole” way around this, because that sort of thing violates BSA policy.)
I’m an active Scout andVenturer. I’m 17 and will be turning 18 in about a month. I know that in Venturing you’re considered a “youth” until you’re 21, but in Scouting it’s up to age 18. I really want to stay involved in trips and in educating my younger Scouting friends, as well as have a good time, but what are the rules? I looked online, but couldn’t find much on my specific issue. Another problem is our summer camp. I really want to go to summer camp this year, but summer camp takes place one month after my 18th birthday, so I’m not sure how that would work. I have a strong desire to continue my Scouting experience without having to separate from my friends or worry about having to train myself and be restricted from traveling or beingwith them. My troop has been unclear and says I may be restricted. If you could offer any advice or information, I’d very much appreciate it. Thank you so muchfor your time! (Scout’s Name Withheld, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)
Yes, there are two sets of rules here. If you remain registered in your troop beyond your 18th birthday, it can only be as an Assistant Scoutmaster. This means that, as an adult leader at summer camp you’ll have a very different set of experiences than you did when you were a Boy Scout! You now get to guide and oversee the Scouts in your troop and, in particular, quietly support and guide the Senior Patrol Leader as he runs the troop through the Patrol Leaders. This can be fun and rewarding, but make no mistake: It’s very different from anything you’ve ever done before. Your “buddies” in camp will be staffers and other guys your own age and position, and that can be cool, or not, depending on your own “come-from.”
Now if you want to still hang with the guys, then go to camp as a member of a Venturing crew instead. You’ll get to do other stuff and you’ll be hanging with guys you like, but you’re a “camper” now; and you won’t be hanging with staffers your own age.
So, what do you want to do? Frankly, if I were in your shoes, I’d go get myself a camp job on staff—for Scouting, fun, fellowship, and making some money with free room and board for the summer! But that’s me. You’re you. You can figure it out—You’re a Scout!
When should troops allow and encourage Scouts to begin working on merit badges? I’ve been wondering at what age or rank troops should begin encouraging Scouts to work on merit badges. We have several different opinions on this matter. I seem to remember that First Class rank was when merit badges started, but other adults don’t agree; they think that Scouts can be doing merit badges as soon as they cross over. Any advice would be appreciated. (Thomas Fitzwilliams, MC, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to rely on either opinions or past history for the answer to this one, because the BSA already has a policy, and it’s that any Scout can go for any merit badge any time he wants to! Yup, it’s a policy, and it’s in the handbook and the requirements book. So take a deep breath, relax, and encourage your Scouts to seek out whatever interests them and learn more about it (that’s what merit badges are for, after all)!
That said, yes, your memory’s intact: There was a time when merit badges couldn’t be started until a Scout was a specific rank. But that was changed quite some years ago and now it’s wide open!
Thanks. We have a Scout who’s not even 11 yet and he’s earned seven merit badges. This seems so wrong to me. He got his Arrow of Light and then crossed over into our troop as soon as he’d earned it. At this rate he’ll get his Eagle before he’s 12, which somehow seems like it’s not right. Anyway, thanks for the input on this one. (Tom)
In Cub Scouts, each rank is grade-specific, so that a boy earns the highest rank (Arrow of Light) right at the sunset of his Cub Scouting “career.” Consequently, any number of fine Boy Scouters and Boy Scout parents believe that the Boy Scout ranks work the same way, and that the “proper” time to earn Boy Scouting’s highest rank (Eagle) is at the sunset of Boy Scouting: Right around the young man’s 18th birthday. Nothing could be more wrong.
Because of tenure-in-rank, it’s unlikely that a boy can earn Eagle before his 12th birthday, but it’s absolutely not at all unreasonable to earn this rank by age 13, and more power to the Scout who does it! This is wonderful! What a fine example he sets for his fellow Scouts!
Now some would argue that a 13-year-old Eagle “isn’t mature enough.” But these people forget that the Scout must be pretty darned mature, to have completed all the necessary requirements and merit badges—these aren’t “no-brainers”! Besides, having sat on a pretty substantial number of Eagle Scout boards of review, I can assure you that the best answer to the question, “Why do you believe you deserve to be an Eagle Scout?” is this: I deserve it because I’ve done the work.
So, relax, enjoy, and applaud any young man who decides to “go for it,” and then does!
(I heard a completely mistaken Scouter once say to a Scout who had earned some 50 merit badges as well as Eagle rank: “Get a life!” The Scout—who was no more than about 14 or so, by the way—looked that horribly wrong gentleman coldly in the eye and said, “I’ve not only earned Eagle, but I’ve learned about 50 different subjects, from Aviation to Zoology, along the way, and you’re telling me to ‘get a life’?… I don’t think so, sir.”)
Is there a rule book of Scouting? We’re a new troop and need to know the Do’s & Don’t of Scouting. Thank you. (Monico Alvarez)
You need only three books: The Boy Scout Handbook, Scoutmaster Handbook, and Troop Committee Guidebook. Read them in that order. Be sure you read about what the BSA promises the boy that he’ll get, as a Scout. They’re available at your Scout shop or www.Scoutstuff.org.
How do you conduct a proper Cub Scout (and leader) uniform inspection? How do youencourage boys on how important the uniforms look? How do you deal with boys who don’t wear their uniforms correctly? (Art Aigner CM, Greater Niagara Frontier Council, NY)
Start with your adult uniformed volunteers… Get everyone in full uniform, including pants, culottes, or skirts for the women, and pants (not jeans or “almost look like Scout pants”) for the men. Then help everyone get the badges as close to in the right places as possible (but don’t allow grossly wrong stuff, like a non-Jamboree badge above the right pocket—unless allowed on some but not all Den Leader blouses). Use the actual uniform inspection sheets!
For all new, incoming Tigers and other age groups, as part of the parent orientation meeting that you’re going to hold for all new pack families, tell them that their sons are expected to be in uniform because Scouting is, indeed a uniformed movement. Tell them the uniform goes from head to toe–including navy blue pants as well as Cub Scout belt, and so on. Make it understood that if there’s a hardship and alternate brand of navy blue pants will probably work but that jeans and denims definitely won’t and any color but navy blue won’t work. Tell them that this is important because it helps their sons feel a part of and accepted into the pack!
Then, have rewards at pack meetings for fully uniformed dens (which must include the Den Leader, too!)—Any den in full and accurate uniform gets to sit in the first row and gets a “treat” of some sort (cookie, string cheese, whatever boys of that age group are into, in your area), but never criticize or “put down” the dens that don’t succeed in this.
Be sure the Den Leaders uphold the uniform thing in den meetings, too! Finally, after a few pack meetings, ask your Commissioner to come and do a “formal pack inspection” (Commissioners are instructed to do this at least once a year for the units they serve), with rewards for the best dens and the “top three Cubs.”
Behind the scenes, let word go out to all families that the pack is sensitive to financial considerations and any family that would have a problem with the cost can speak with either the Cubmaster, privately, or the Committee Chair, privately, and help will be forthcoming. Concurrently, ask the families of older Cubs to please bring in uniform shirts, pants, and so on that their sons have outgrown, so that some other boy can share an “experienced”: uniform and then pass it on! (This is done all over, by the way!)
Is that enough to get you going in the right direction? Once you’ve started, I’m sure you’ll come up with some ideas of your own, too!
For the new National Outdoor Achievement Award, where and how is it worn on the Boy Scout uniform? I’ve dug around the BSA site, as well as asked at the local Scout shop, and it seems that the medal would work like any other such medal, above the left breast pocket, but the placement of the badge remains a mystery. I have a couple of Scout in my troop who have earned the award and want to wear it correctly. (John Watson, ASM, Central North Carolina Council)
Congratulations to those Scouts! The five-faceted NOAA badge, with “rockers,” isn’t an easy thing to achieve! Yup, the medal gets worn, on special occasions, where all BSA medals are worn. And the badge and rockers are centered on the right pocket—they’re not a rank, so they can’t go on the left pocket; they’re not a Jamboree emblem, so they can’t go above the right pocket; they’re not square knots or the World Crest, so that eliminates over the left pocket. What’s left? The right pocket, where all “temporary” badges go—one at a time (except in the case of rockers). And here’s the BSA’s little secret (as I’ve been able to figure out)…”temporary” really means “at the wearer’s discretion.”
Can you please help to clarify our thinking about youth members with drivers licenses driving themselves to and from troop meetings and camping trips? The GTSS speaks about adult-to-youth ratios in the same vehicle, in the section on “Leadership Requirements for Trips and Outings”: “If you cannot provide two adults for each vehicle, the minimum required is one adult and two or more youth members—never one on one.” This seems to emphasize the prevention of one-on-one contact, but does it also prohibit a youth driving alone? The GTSS also gives very specific circumstances where a youth may be the driver of a vehicle transporting other members in the “Transportation” section, but this is about transporting others. Do we interpret this to mean that a youth member can’t drive himself unless he’s 18? (Name & Council Withheld)
The BSA has no “rule”—YP or otherwise—on how Scouts get themselves to meetings and events. YP training and the GTSS are both silent on individual Scouts walking, running, jogging, skate-boarding, roller-blading, cycling, motor-cycling, mopeding, driving, and so on to and from troop meetings, patrol meetings, or Scouting outdoor events.
Where licenses are required, the state you live in has plenty of regulations. Stick with those.
Thanks, Andy. Our concern is that if a Scout has his own car, he may decide that he can come and go as he pleases, even when his parent or guardian thinks he’s at the Scout event. (N&CW)
I’d say that’s an issue between the young man and his parents…and his own conscience. We’re Scouts; not watchdogs.
Where can I find a BSA policy on whether pets (specifically, dogs) are allowed at troop campouts? (Cliff Strat)
I don’t think you’re going to have much luck, because the BSA tends not to have policies on what would be considered normal good sense. No pets on campouts, hikes, or any Scout activity, ever. Why? Simple, if the animal gets injured, gets lost, damages equipment, poops in the wrong place, tangles with a woodsy denizen, and whatever, all of a sudden there’s no more Scouting! It’s over. Everybody back to the cars, because the pet’s gotta get to a vet, or we have to go find Sparky ’cause it’s getting dark, or whatever…
If some bozo of a parent insists, then insist right back that there will be no pets and if that means their son doesn’t go on the trip because the parent’s having a hissy fit, then their son doesn’t go.
If some other bozo of a parent insists on bringing his or her own pet, on the basis that they’ll take care of it; not their son, same answer: Not a chance—Not on my watch.
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