It is time


After a lot of thought and discussion with my family, I have decided that it is time for me to step down as Scoutmaster of Troop 169. I’ll do my best to explain why and where I’m at.

Truthfully, I’m just burnt out. I’m out of gas. I’m not giving the program the attention it deserves, and that’s just not fair to the Scouts. I’ve been hanging on longer than I realized, hoping that the new infusion of Webelos into the Troop would give me the shot I need. It worked for a few months, but now things are right back where they were.

I’ve gotten a few more helpers in the form of Committee members recently, but that’s about it. My ‘usual suspect’ of an ASM has all but disappeared due to her sons lack of participation. No one has filled that hole, and I’ve been left trying to do more than ever.

I also think its just time for some new leadership. I think we are stuck in a rut, and with me leading the charge that’s not likely to change. This might even get the Scouts more excited, who knows. Or, it might spell the end. I sure hope not but you never know.

I’m not quitting Scouting, however. I think I’ll take the fall off and look to see what I can do at the District/Council level. I also need to help find the replacement SM, as the Committee didn’t feel a need to do it months ago when I gave them their first heads up.

I really questioned if I was doing the right thing, but when I wrote my resignation email and sent it off I didn’t have any regrets. Told me right there that I was truly ready to do this. 8 years starting and running a Troop all year long has taken a toll on me. I simply need a change.

What will become of this blog? I don’t know yet. I’ll probably change my Twitter handle to something appropriate, that’s all I have so far.  Right now, I’m just feeling a little more free.


Troop Committee Challenges


Help WantedIn our small unit, we have a limited number of parents.  This is starting to cause a problem because some of them are just ‘too busy’ to volunteer and help the Troop out.  I’m not asking any of them to run the show (and I know, as Scoutmaster I shouldn’t be asking anyone to be on the Troop Committee – but that’s another post all together).

Recently, a few parents have decided that they no longer want to serve on the Troop Committee.  I suppose that’s OK since they’ve at least served in some capacity at one point.  There are many that have never lifted a finger, and I honestly can say I don’t expect them to any time soon.

So my ‘challenge’ (I know, I know – it shouldn’t be MY challenge – but if I don’t make it mine, it just won’t happen) is this:  how to properly fill the Troop Committee with people who WANT to be there.  We have 9 new Webelos crossing over in less than a week.  I’m hoping some of them will want to help serve the Troop in one fashion or another.  I’ve already heard that one will not, however – and I’m worried that this trend will continue with the other parents.  I hope not, but I’m nervous that’s how it’s going to play out.  I can play hard-nosed or the guilt card – but I’m not very good at either.

I’m wondering if asking non-parents from our Charted Organization if they’d want to be part of the Troop Committee?  Is that something that happens a lot?  Is it a good idea?  I’d hate to open another can of worms if I do.

Anyone have any advice on this?  Comments are more than welcome here on this one.

Thank you all in advance, and keep on Scouting!


New Scouts = New Patrol?


With another season of Webelos Crossover upon us, I’m again faced with the lingering question of what to do with them once they’re in the Troop.  Ok, to be honest this year wasn’t very hard – but it did bring up the questions I have each and every year we bring new Scouts on board en mass:  have them be their own patrol (the ‘new Scout’ patrol), or mix them among the other Scouts in the Troop.

I can see it both ways.

If you keep them together, there may be a better chance of them sticking around longer.  Thus, you have retention and they will all get more out of the program that way.  They are familiar with each other, so there’s a level of comfort as well.  It also keeps the current patrols intact and hopefully allows them to be a better performing group by not introducing new members.

If you split them up, they have the advantage of having older Scouts in their patrol to mentor them from the beginning.  Yes, there are Troop Guides for that, but our unit isn’t very big and we haven’t had any luck with Troop Guides up to this point.  It also gives the older Scouts who need leadership the opportunity to actually exercise some of those skills within a patrol setting.

This year, I asked the incoming parents what they felt would be the best.  They all agreed that for at least a while, having them start as a new Scout patrol was the best route.  I’m OK with that.

I’m always interested in what others think about this one.  I’ve heard good arguments for both.  For our Troop this year we’re going with the New Scout patrol.  Let me know how your unit does it, or how you feel it ought to go.

Happy Scouting!


Webelos Crossover Time


Webelos to Scout TransitionIt’s that time of year again folks – Webelos transition time!  This year, due to some changes in how our Council does re-chartering, things will be a little different (and in my opinion, better) for the Webelos who are planning on crossing over.

First of all, all Troops in our area only chartered for 11 months last year.  This makes us have to re-charter by the end of January.  All the Packs in our area re-chartered for 13 months, meaning they have until the end of March now before they have to re-charter.  What this means for Scouts who want to cross over at the end of February is they will only need to pay the $1 transfer fee to join the Troop until the end of the following January.  Not a bad deal, huh?  I hope that it makes it a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to any fiscal decision whether to join the Troop or not.  A great idea from one of our newer DE’s who ‘borrowed’ the idea from his former Council.

Of course, our Troop just recently held our annual ‘Transition Night’ meeting.  The Scouts plan for an outdoor activity for the Webelos (which I believe helps them earn one of the requirements for their Arrow of Light).  This year, the Scouts planned a campfire demo outside the church and then brought in s’mores and banana boats to make as well.  Scouts get to demo the proper way to light a fire using the EDGE method – and in the end all are rewarded with yummy goodness.  There was also question and answer time, but I’m not sure how many questions were actually asked.  Everyone had fun, to be sure!

While the Scouts and Webelos were outside – it was time for the potential new parents to get their time with the adult leadership of the Troop.   Our Committee Chair, one of our Committee Members, our ASM and myself briefly discussed the differences between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to them.  They had lots of good questions, and we tried to make everyone comfortable with how we wind up doing things.  We passed out our Troop calendar, behavior contract, info for summer camp, and the transfer form to transfer to the Troop.  We of course talked about how important it was for them as parents to help the Troop by either serving on the Committee, or becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster – or just helping out when the can.  I’ll talk more on this soon.

Sadly, we’ve only had one Den Chief up to this point.  I’m hoping to get a few more this year, but I’ve found with such a small group of boys in the Troop at this point, it’s tough to find anyone wiling to do it.  I’ll keep trying, though as I know it’s an important link between the Pack and the Troop that we are missing at this point.

We have a potential of having 9 new Scouts in a month.  I’m very excited and hopeful that they will all cross over and become Boy Scouts.  I think we have a solid foundation laid for them, and some great Scouts to lead them!

What do you do for crossover time?  Do you have something like what our unit does, or something completely different?  I’d love to hear what you do!


A Time To Reflect, A Time To Refocus


2011 is in the books.  All in all, I’d say it was a good year.  It had it’s ups and downs, but on the whole I’d say it was a good one.  As we pass into this new year, I’d like to take some time and reflect on some Scouting things, and also look ahead at what’s to come.

A Time To Reflect:

First off, 2011 was my first attempt at blogging.  The 100 Days of Scouting thing got me into this whole blogging / twitter-ing stuff.  I have made many contacts and friends through these technologies, and for that I am most grateful.  Some of the ideas, information and suggestions I have gotten over the last year have greatly helped not only myself, but my unit, my District and my Council.  It’s like we’re one big Roundtable sometimes, isn’t it?

Secondly, there was the #CSPSwap.  I have a whole bunch of awesome CSP patches from all over the country now, and I hope that we can do it again sometime this year!  On a side note, I know that I owe a few of you folks some CSP’s still.  I haven’t forgotten who I owe patches to, and I will still get them to you – sooner than later I hope.

Our unit is currently in the process of recharter.  I’m not sure how we’ll pan out for the Journey To Excellence, but I think we’ll score high enough to at least get Bronze, if not Silver.  We look good on paper – but in practice I feel we have a long way to go.  This last year, I learned quite a bit about how a boy-led Troop is supposed to work.  For the past 6+ years, I have held too tightly to the reigns of the Troop (including planning, decisions and just about ever facet).  I’m learning to let go, let mistakes happen, let learning begin.  Training the boys isn’t about standing up in front of the Scouts and droning on and on about something.  It’s about letting them figure out what resources they need to learn a skill, and how to procure those resources.  It’s about asking the right questions.  Questions that lead them to discover the answers for themselves.
I have to admit – this is the toughest thing I’ve done this year.  And it’s caused a little bit of strife with some of the adult leadership.  Some feel there needs to be more adult-provided structure.  Maybe they are right.  I just don’t know, and we’ll have to see how things go.

I became one of the Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioners for our District.   I took my training, and am still learning and trying to come up with ways to make Roundtables something people want to attend.  It’s not easy.  And – it’s not my top priority.  Being Scoutmaster trumps being Roundtable Commissioner and I feel that at times, the Roundtable programming suffers for it.  It’s about finding a balance, and I’m still working on it.

Speaking of our District – our Council re-organized our Districts from 8 down to 2 very large Districts.  They had a contest to re-name each District – any the name I submitted was selected for my District!  We’re now part of the Northern Trails District of the Voyageurs Area Council, and I had a little something to do with the name.  Way cool, huh?

A Time To Refocus:

A new  year brings new opportunities.  Here are a few of the things I’m looking forward to so far in 2012:

We just held Troop elections – which means we have some new leaders and some returning leaders.  I’m looking forward to being able to train them using the new ILST.  It looks promising, and I hope to be able to use as much of it as I can to help these young men understand and start down their journey to becoming leaders.  It’s as much a learning process for me as it is for the Scouts.

We have a pretty good group of Webelos 2’s (or, should I say Arrow of Light Scouts?) possibly crossing over in late February or early March.  We could sure use a good influx of Scouts and just as importantly – new adults.  Our Committee is very, very thin right now and we need some people to step up and fill some important positions.  Hopefully we can get it all worked out and our Committee can, dare I say, start to do what a Troop Committee should do.

Summer Camp.  The possibility exists that a brand-new Troop in our area is going to piggyback with us to summer camp this year.  Our first year, we piggybacked with another local Troop to help us figure out the whole camp thing.  Time to pay it back – and to make it even better – their Scoutmaster and I used to be in the same Troop years ago!  I’m really looking forward to helping them down the right path so they can be a strong, boy-led Troop as well!

Blogging – I hope that I can blog more consistently this year.  Not sure I’ll do the 100 Days of Scouting or not – depends if it happens.  I feel like I lost all my steam after it last year, and I just didn’t give the blog enough of my time.  Granted, I got pretty burnt out on Scouting at one point this last year – and that definitely affected whether or not I wanted to write about it.  So I may try to pace myself more this year and see how it goes.

I have submitted my application to be an adult leader for the 2013 National Jamboree.  Our Council hasn’t picked any adult leaders yet, so I don’t know if I’m in or not.  If I do get picked there is one thing I know I have to do:  lose weight and get in shape.  I know I can do it, and it would be a great incentive to me to get my butt off the chair and moving and eating better.  Getting healthier is one of my goals for the year, but being part of the contingent would really light a fire under me.  (So if anyone from the Jamboree Committee is reading this….*ahem*).

I could go on and on about what I’d love to see…..but when it really all boils down to it – what I really want for 2012 is for everyone in my family (and extended Scouting/church family as well) to be healthy, happy and safe.

Feel free to share your hopes/dreams (dare I say resolution).  I’d love to hear what you are most looking forward to!

Here’s to the new year!


The Best Part of Waking Up…


…Is a Scoutmaster outside your tent singing loudly and out of tune!

This is a tradition that I have carried on since I was a Boy Scout years ago.  It is now requested that I do this at least once a camp-out (if possible).  I now submit to you – for the first time ever in a public place – my ‘Good Morning’ song:

(don’t worry, I’ll keep my day job)


Overcommitted


First off, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I apologize to those of you who visited here from time to time hoping I had something new to say.  I’ve been busy finding a new job, and just working on keeping myself and my family healthy and happy.  New job = happy Kyle = Scout musings….

We had a Troop meeting last night.  There were 6 boys who attended.  Only one was First Class or above.  I expected it, however.  See, most of the older boys had a football banquet to wrap up their season.  Not a big deal.  We were also supposed to have a PLC after the meeting, but since only one boy was there from the PLC, I made the call that we’d let the young Scouts who were there plan the next meeting.  It went very well, and I’m glad these boys had the opportunity to see how a PLC meeting runs.

After the meeting, it got me thinking.  And I realized something I think will help not only the Troop, but myself as well.

In this day and age it seems that the older boys are way too overcommitted.  School, sports, other activities….they all add up and as these boys are getting older it seems Scouting is taking a back seat to just about everything.  Some simply drop out – they get ‘the fumes’ as I call it – car fumes, perfumes, etc…  Some stick with it, but just don’t have the time to participate fully anymore.  This raises a question:  How am I supposed to judge ‘active’?  No, they’re not around much anymore.  No, they don’t hold a position of leadership anymore because they’re not around much.  Yes, they do participate fully when they are here, and they are great leaders when they are here.  I know Clarke Green just had a podcast about this….think I need to re-listen to that one and take some notes.

I guess what I’m getting at is this:  I can not assume that the older boys are going to be around enough to be considered reliable.  At least, not the ones that are currently in the Troop.  I won’t generalize, but as of right now, that is the case.  I’m going to have to go back to the days when we didn’t have older Scouts in the Troop – almost like starting the Troop over.  It’s not a bad thing.  I’ve been running under the assumption that some of these boys will want to make the Troop their priority – and sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case.  This has caused me quite a bit of frustration – and I think the Scouts that do participate can notice that as well.  So – away I go!

I think the first thing I’m going to do is sit down with the older boys and find out what other things they have going on that will interferre with Scouts.  What I mean is what extra activities do they particpate in that will keep them from regularly attending Troop meetings.  Outings are a totally different thing – at least where I’m coming from.  Once I know that, then I can move forward.  We have a Troop election coming up – and then ILST….

It’s sad that the boys are overcommitted.  Of course, I’m biased in saying that I feel Scouting will be with them for the rest of their life, and sports most likely will not.  That being said, it’s not always the boys that make the decisions as to what they do – I have seen many parents live vicariously through their son in regards to sports.  I always tell them the door is open to them if they ever want to come back, and I sure do miss some of them.


My Biggest Pet Peeve


If there’s one thing I can not stand – one thing that just annoys the snot out of me, it’s seeing a Scout in uniform with his shirt UNTUCKED!  I don’t know why, but boy, when I see a Scout with his Class A uniform shirt on, but not tucked in, I have to say something.  Of course, I’m nice about it and usually just ask ‘can you please tuck in your shirt?’ and it gets fixed.  It’s a uniform, and you should be proud to wear it – so wear it properly!

I’m very thankful that one thing is my biggest pet peeve.  I’m sure it could be something much bigger, much worse that would drive me nuts all the time – so I’m counting my blessings.

Anyone else have a Scouting pet peeve?  I’d love to hear what gets to you.  Remember to keep it civil, please.  Just throw me a comment!

 


Summer Camp


Look what a week together does to us....

Summer camp.  I missed last year (new job), so preparing for this year I was even more of a Nervous Nelly than usual (just ask my wife!).  And as always, all my worrying and fretting instantly disappear when the rubber meets the road and we’re off and running.  I just want everyone to have a great time all week, and I worry before-hand to ensure it all goes well while we’re there.

This year was a very special year for me.  This year was the first year that my son came with.  I’ve been to camp for 4 years, and he was still in Cub Scouts all that time.  So this is my very first time that I had to be Scoutmaster AND Dad….and according to my son, I did just fine.

This was our first year at Tomahawk Scout Reservation.  We decided as a Troop years ago that we’d switch it up from time to time (2 or 3 years) so the older boys didn’t get bored, and since we have so many camps in our area, we wanted to experience them all, if possible.  The boys chose to go to Sioux Camp, where food is delivered right to your campsite, and you eat in camp.  I’m very happy with that choice for two reasons.  One, it gives us a little ‘Troop time’ every meal, so we can discuss the day’s activities, address any issues or concerns and so on.  Secondly, if there wasn’t enough food (and it did happen) – we had our Troop trailer with us, and we could make other food to complete the meal.

11 boys earned 22 merit badges over the week.  Several more have just one or two requirements left to finish them up.  All in all, the staff at TSR Sioux Camp were awesome.  We weren’t really tickled with the campsite given to us, but we feel we’ve upgraded for next year.  Our Troop also won the sailing regatta and the ‘fear factor’ challenge (eating nasty things).  This was many boy’s first go at summer camp, and I have to say that I’m very proud of them all for their work and attitude throughout the week.

A few of my gifts

Just a few things that were given...

One thing to note, is that they do treat the adult leaders there very well.  I felt respected and listened to all week, not to mention some of the cool things they wound up giving me!  Several patches, a very nice belt buckle (for having over 75% of the troop attending) and a Scoutmaster coffee mug were given to me throughout the week.

Finally, I would like to thank the other leaders that took a week and spent it with me the the boys.  I always have a blast at summer camp, and this year was no exception.  I hope to be doing this for many more years!

YIS


CSP Swap – my patch collection


Left-front of my patch blanket/poncho

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a whole bunch of us on Twitter that have gotten involved in swapping out council strips with each other.  It’s really fun, and if you haven’t gotten involved in it yet and would like to, hit me up on Twitter.  My handle there is @MNScoutmaster – and I’ll be happy to get the ball rolling for you!

I not a typical patch collector.  I’m not trying to get every patch available.  I’m not trying to get all the cool patches.  I prefer to have a connection to each patch I have.  Typically this has been patches from places I’ve been or events I’ve attended.  The only exception to this rule is my OA flap collection.  I’m trying (kind of) to collect all of the old flaps from my old lodge that no longer exists.  Trouble is, for years they were restricted and thus are hard to find and expensive!  But, I have a few and keep my eyes open….it’ll be a life long thing I have no doubts.

Front-right of my patch blanket/poncho

The question has come up recently in some posts and tweets as to what to do with all the patches.  Well, here’s what I have done.  I have 2 ways of displaying my patches.  My event patches are on my patch blanket/poncho.  I’m way behind on sewing them on, but you can see from the pictures I’ve done my fair share of sewing so far.  Back patches and my Many Point puzzle patch collection are on the back, and the rest of them, dating back to 1983 are on the front.

Back of my patch blanket/poncho

My other method of collecting is plastic sleeves.  Yea, I can’t really display them as easily this way, but I keep them safe and organized this way.  This is where my OA flaps and all the CSP’s I’ve been getting go.  If you send me a note with the CSP, I put that behind it – makes it that much more personal to me.

All my CSP's and OA flaps

Anyone have other ways of displaying your patches?  I’m always interested in seeing how others collect and display what they have.  I have a ‘Scouting wall’ in the living room as well that’s full of my awards and plaques, but I don’t know if all those patches would fit or be allowed to be there.

As you can see from the last photo, I still have a ton of patches to put on – but it’s tough to want to sit down with a wool blanket in July and sew stuff on.  I typically wait until winter to do stuff like this as it’s a little easier.

Always more to sew on....


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