Monthly Archives: April 2011

Day 79 – Re-thinking Roundtable

Not a whole lot happening this week at all for Scouting in my world.  As we don’t have a Troop meeting on the 4th Mondays of the month, this tends to be a little slower time for me and for all the Scouts and adults in the Troop.  And that’s OK in my book.  Very soon, it’ll get pretty busy with camping, and the summer madness.

Tonight I put together the final report for our District after gathering data from the survey I put together for the Roundtables.  Interesting results, to say the least.  Some people were very honest about stuff, and other took it as an opportunity to tell the Council just what they think of our program.  Some of the answers made me giggle, as they just didn’t make much sense to me, but I put them all in the report so everyone can see what our volunteers think and feel about the current Roundtable situations.

I read a comment by a fellow blogger, Clarke Green the other day about Roundtables, and I’m starting to wonder if Roundtables – the traditional monthly meetings – are past their prime, and need to be re-thought and re-tooled to accommodate today’s Scouting leaders.  Our District is huge (covers parts of 3 states) and although we’ve been holding several Roundtables each month, the biggest issue for Scouters attending seems to be distance.

Roundtables have traditionally been used to pass information on at a District level.  Before cell phones, internet, e-mail and other technologies this was pretty much the only way to ensure that leaders had the information they needed.  It was also a really good way to add supplemental training and even some required training.  With the majority of training being available online these days, it’s hard to offer much training that will interest people to attend.

I’ve already thrown out the questions to our Council about web meetings – and other forms of communication that might better serve our District.  In fact, that was one of the question on the survey.  There wasn’t one favorite answer, either.  It seems like there’s a mix of people who still want that face-to-face meeting, just less often it seems.  There are those who would prefer just electronic communications (podcasts, newsletters, ‘online roundtables’).  I hope we’re able to do some, if not most of these things soon.

I’m not saying get rid of the traditional Roundtable all together.  I’m saying we need to re-evaluate the purpose of Roundtables.  We need to figure out what our Scouters need now – and not just rely on what has typically been done.  If we’re able to move in the right direction for the majority of them, I think we’ll see more participation in Roundtable, and possibly in all Scouting events at the District and Council level.

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”
– Gallagher


Day 74 – Advancement – do you push?

Today was a slow day as far as Scouting goes.  Received a few emails from our DE about some things, but nothing really noteworthy and I didn’t really have anything to work on for the Troop.  I did create a separate email address for the blog and potentially for a podcast –  Feel free to contact me there with any questions, comments or concerns you may have.  I did have some time to think about advancement – so I thought I’d pass my thoughts on to you and see if any of you out there have any comments.

How important is advancement in your units?  I’m primarily talking about the Boy Scout level here, but if you have something to say about any other level (Cub Scouts, Venturing, etc..) feel free to contribute!  I have heard of some Troops being called ‘merit badge factories’ – those Troops that focus primarily on advancement and pumping out as many merit badges and Eagle Scouts as possible.

Personally, I don’t like that idea. When I was a Scout I went to a few merit badge workshops – where they sit you down for 8 or so hours in one day and you just hammer it all out until you’ve earned the badge.  I don’t feel this is a good way to earn merit badges as you really aren’t able to absorb much of the material presented and thus don’t retain much of it.  Sure, you earn the badge, but that’s it.  You really don’t learn the skill.  I’d much rather see a Scout take 2 or 3 months to earn a merit badge (especially the Eagle required ones) than bust one out in a day.  They’re better for it in the long run, and so is the entire program.

That being said, I’ve been looking at the new Journey To Excellence (JTE) stuff for Troops and particularly the advancement portion.  55 to 65% of a Troop advancing one rank in a year isn’t really that terrible of a hurdle, but sometimes – in certain years and certain circumstances – it can be.  For instance, if you have a Troop that is full of Scouts that are First Class and above.  In that situation, it’s very possible that less than 50% of your Scouts will advance in the year.  I guess it all depends on how much you stress advancement, and how easily available you make it to them.  That’s one thing I’m struggling with at the moment – all of the Scouts that are First Class and above strictly need required merit badges to move them on to the next rank –  most even all the way through Eagle.

So how do I help them along?  We’ve tried the intro to a required merit badge during a meeting.  I think ONE Scout went with it and is now close to completing that one.  The rest, well, I think they took the Cub Scout mentality (no offense to any Cub Scouters) of group advancement.  I may take a few minutes next meeting and gently remind those boys that advancement is up to them, and will not be a group thing.  Of course, our younger patrol is currently on an advancement kick, and is utilizing one of our ASM’s to help them get lots of stuff knocked off up to First Class.  Still, there are many things they just can’t do as a group in a patrol meeting.  So they will have to advance at their own pace as well.

Sorry if I’m babbling a little here.  I’m just letting you know my thought and how our Troop is currently operating.  I think advancement is important in the program, but I also think that we as leaders shouldn’t push them too much.  I have a Scout that is a founder of the Troop 6 years ago that is still Tenderfoot.  He likes to come to meetings and go camping when he can, it’s just that advancement isn’t important to him.  I think he still gets just as much out of the program as the boy who is all about becoming Eagle.  So I’m still pondering.

There is most likely a balance.  There always seems to be a balance.  It’s their Troop, not mine.  They’ll actually figure it out, won’t they?

Happy Easter to you all, I hope you have a great weekend!


Day 67 – 73: Catching Up!

Well, since it been nearly a week since I’ve written anything prepare to get an ear (or is it eye) full.  It’s been a busy week Scout-wise and non-Scout wise.

First off, we had our Troop meeting on Monday night.  Our newly appointed SPL wasn’t going to be there, and the ASPL couldn’t make the PLC the week before, so I knew there was going to be a little confusion this evening on what was planned and how to execute it.

We meet at 7pm.  7:15 rolls around and no one has decided to start the meeting.  I informed all the leaders and parents there that we all needed to let go a little and let them run this, and if that meant starting at 8pm versus 7pm then so be it.  Thankfully the ASPL finally realized what time it was and got the ball rolling around 7:20.  I was proud of all my adult leaders and parents for letting that little thing go, as it wasn’t easy for some of them (myself included).  Baby steps, right?

Another amazing thing happened that night.  Our younger patrol (the one full of Scout ranked boys and one Tenderfoot) decided that they wanted to go camping as a Patrol.  I sat with them for a while to listen to what they were working on, but the minute I walked away the real planning started.  I was amazed and impressed at how much they figured out in about 20 minutes.  Sure, they have lots of stuff to consider and plan for yet if they want to see this happen, but they sure got the ball rolling and if they keep it up will have themselves a fun weekend at some point this summer!

Tuesday we had a Troop Committee meeting.  Not a whole lot of exciting stuff there, except for the fact that we decided to order new equipment (stoves, rope, flag poles, etc…).  We ought to be really set for camping season this year with this new stuff.  We had a very successful fundraiser earlier this year and now we get to reap the rewards!  No Scoutmaster lounge yet, but I need to be patient for that (ha ha).  We also welcomed a new adult into the fold.  He’s going to be a merit badge counselor for now to see how he likes and go from there.

I checked the Guide to Safe Scouting on splitting mauls, as one of our ASM’s was wondering if it wouldn’t be safer for the older boys to use that when trying to split larger pieces of wood.  Yes, I know, it would be better if they just avoided larger pieces of wood – but sometimes firewood is scarce.  If we do get a maul, we’ll have special training and individual evaluation before anyone would be able to use it.  I double checked with our DE and he agreed that would be the best solution if we do get a splitting maul.

Wednesday was Church night, and a baseball meeting.  During the baseball meeting, it was brought up that our main baseball/softball fields does not have any concession area.   As it just so happens, my Life Scout is currently exploring options for his Eagle project and was contemplating possibly building a concession stand as his Eagle project.  So being the good Scoutmaster that I am, I made sure the baseball board was aware of his intentions.  I then saw said Scout at church that evening and told him to be sure to contact the athletic director ASAP if he wanted to be able to use that idea as his project.  So even on a non-Scouting night it seems to come right back to Scouting in one fashion or another.

And for the first time this week, I didn’t really do anything Scouting today.  Well, except for writing this blog.  It’s OK, I don’t mind.

Until next time my fellow Scout friends!

Day 66 – Well, that was unexpected.

So tonight was our Roundtable.  Sort of.  Only 3 people showed up.  Our DE, the presenter and an Associate District Commissioner.  Yea.  That was a let down.  I won’t take it too personally, however.  I understand that life sometimes gets crazy, and with the cost of gas going up constantly these days, getting people to attend Roundtables is going to be increasingly difficult.

One thing I’m thinking of doing is trying some type of online collaboration.  Not sure if it’ll be a web conference where we can be interactive with online viewers, or if it’ll be more of a recorded Roundtable and then put it up on a site.  I’ve been asking our DE’s and even Scout Executive what they currently have for web conferencing software – and if it would work for Roundtables.  I seem to be getting a positive response so far, but I’m still in the ‘feelers’ stage of this.

I recently put out a survey for Roundtables – and it seems the best way that people want to get information is “Online newsletters with links where I can find additional information, and connect with subject matter experts”, followed closely by “Quarterly, in person Roundtable meetings”.  So I’m thinking a mix of meetings and technology need to come together.  Just not sure yet how.

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about tonight.  The DE, presenter and I sat around for darn near the whole hour talking Scouting though, so it was still a productive evening – just not the way I thought it would be.

Day 64 – Life to Eagle

Tonight I attended a Life to Eagle seminar at Gander Mountain in Duluth.  My Troop currently has one Life Scout who is working on Eagle, and a few Star Scouts who are pretty close to earning their Life rank, so it was worth it for me to get the refresher on what all needs to happen.  I’ve only had one Eagle come through the Troop, so I don’t have a whole lot of experience yet with this.  I’m also very curious to see how I’m going to feel/react when the first Scout that I’ve had in the Troop from the beginning earns that Eagle.  I might get a little emotional…

With me at the meeting was said Life Scout and one of the Star Scouts who’s – and this is his words – ‘half a merit badge away from earning Life’.  It was a very well attended meeting, which is nice to see!  Glad there are a lot of Scouts interested and close to earning Scouting’s highest rank.  I think there were 4 Dads/Leaders in the room, and about 8 or more Mom’s.  Is it true that behind every Eagle Scout there’s a pushy Mom?  I’ve heard it quite a bit, but I have yet to make my own observation on that.

Funniest thing I saw while there – the presenter – a Scouter who has been doing Eagle BOR’s since the early 90’s – informs all the parents, especially the Moms out there that they need to let their Scout do all the planning and work for the Eagle project.  If the Board suspects that Mom and Dad did it versus the Scout – they’ll be denied.   Then, every Mom in the room turns to their Scout and orders them to write that down.  I got a few looks for snickering, but hey, it was kinda amusing.

Right before the meeting, I received a call from a former Scout who lives in the area and is interested in helping the Troop out by being a merit badge counselor.  Sweet!  I got his contact info and just sent him the merit badge form to fill out.  He’s coming to our Committee meeting next week so we can be properly introduced, and fill out the necessary paperwork.  It’s really nice when someone who doesn’t have a child in Scouting steps up to help.

Until Tomorrow. . .


Day 63 – PLC

We held our PLC tonight with just 3 boys (SPL, one PL and one APL), but it went well.  I let the SPL have the reigns of the meeting, and although it was a long meeting time-wise, we were able to get the stuff planned that we needed to.  I just had to remember that these boys can’t focus for long periods of time, and just about every thing planned comes with at least one story from each and every boy.  I let it all happen, and in the end we still accomplished what was needed without me being the ring leader.

So we planned the next 2 Troop meetings, discussed what needed to be done at each meeting, and what other events we have coming up that need sign-ups/payments.  We also discussed helping out Chartered Org out by helping with games for the vacation bible school.  I’m glad they agreed to help – maybe me reminding them that it will count as service hours towards advancement helped, ya never know!

So far, this transition is going surprisingly well.  So much so, that I’m finding that I kind of keep waiting for the big bomb.  That moment where I’ll question whether or not I should have put these changes into motion.  Maybe it won’t come, but for some reason I’m still apprehensive about all the changes, and if they’re going to work.  But I know that it works – you guys and gals keep telling me it works, and I see it working elsewhere  – so I know.  It’s all good, right?


Day 62 – we’ve taken the first step.

Saturday saw our first Troop Leadership Training in several years.  We hada majority of the Troop show up, which was a good sign!  Another good sign was that someone brought doughnuts!  In all seriousness,  it was awesome to have that many Scouts attend leadership training.

I personally think it went rather well.  As we’re focusing on having the Scouts actually lead the Troop – this is going to take a little adjustment, but I think I’m ready for it to happen.  When I held this training 2 years ago – EDGE wasn’t in the Scout Handbook yet.  Now that it’s there, this is a much easier topic to cover, as they have all at least had some exposure to it.

What’s not in the TLT training guide is how to use the SMART criteria to create your goals for accomplishing your vision.  So I made sure we went over that and used it to make sure their goals were SMART.  For those of you wondering what SMART is, its:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

If you want more of an explanation, just search for SMART goals and you’ll get all the info you can handle on the subject.

We have a PLC tomorrow.  The first one with the newly trained Scouts, and the first one with the newly elected SPL.  We’ve taken our first steps into a new boy-led world and right now I like what I’m seeing!  If this boy-led Troop thing wasn’t a good way (or really, the only way) to run a Troop, the BSA wouldn’t be working on their second hundred years.

Keep up the good Scouting!

Day 60 – TLT Time!

Tomorrow morning I’m leading Troop Leadership Training (TLT, or sometimes still referred to as JLT).  I think I have it all put together – so wish me luck!  This is only the second time our Troop has done this, and thus it’s my second time as well.  Should be every 6 month, and I’m hoping to stick to it this time.

I’ve got the projector, the laptop, the PowerPoint presentation ready.  I’ve got the syllabus, the books, the position cards.  I’ve got all my ducks in a row.  Am I nervous?  Nah, not really.  I always have a bit of apprehension with training, though but I suppose that’s a good thing.

I’m really excited to train these Scouts  – I have high hopes that they can start to turn our Troop around and get us heading in the right direction.  Only time will tell though, and so I have to have patience…….which is sometimes easier than it sounds.

Tonight I put the final touches on the TLT stuff for tomorrow.  I also filled out our summer camp deposit form, and got all the money put together for the Troop.  Gonna hand it off tomorrow to our CC and he’ll cut one big check for the deposit.  Then we’re one step closer to summer camp!

I know I’ve said this a bunch of times on here now, but I am still thinking and working up the courage to finally sit down and try my hand at doing a podcast.  I don’t think my microphone is very good, but I can’t justify spending any money on a better one if I don’t at least try and make one with what I have.  I just need to script it out as best I can, and sit in a quiet room (hard to do here in my house) and go for it.  Any words of wisdom?  Words of encouragement?  Words of warning?

Tomorrow will be fun, I think.   It’s a very important step in building the leadership of our Troop, and of our Scouts.

Day 57 – Venturing, too?

As if I don’t wear enough hats in Scouting – I may be getting involved in a Venturing crew now.  My daughter and wife have been waiting in the wing now for over 3 years until my daughter turned 14.  So now that she’s 14, there’s talk in our house of Venturing.  The Mrs. and I have taken as many classes as we can on Venturing so we are in the know, and I have some very good resources at my disposal if I ever have any questions regarding the Venturing program.

This will be different for me in many ways.  First, I won’t be the one in charge – that’ll be the Mrs.   Secondly, there is a lot more ‘freedom’ or ‘hands off’ when it comes to Venturing, and I know that’s something I’ll have to be very conscious of from day one, or they’ll tell me to knock it off.  But I think the whole thing will be really, really fun!

I’m hoping our church will charter a Crew as well as the Troop, but as of right now, that’s not clear.  I would sure make resources much more easily available for them from the get-go.  We’re really in the ‘talking about it’ stage.  We have informed our DE that we’d like to, but haven’t gotten much feedback from him – which is kinda surprising as I would think he’d be jumping up and down to start a new unit – but I digress.

Listened to Clarke Green’s podcast on the way to and from work today.  Really loved the part about giving advice to himself in the past.  It’s wonderful to hear that the things (Scout Drama) that happen here happen elsewhere.  If you don’t listen to his podcast, I sure suggest you give it a try!  You can find it here:  A quality show, and quality information.

As I always end my Scouting emails – if you have any comments or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Day 56 – I’m jealous

Springtime in Northern Minnesota is tough.  I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but for us here in the great Northwoods we’re in spring fever mode big time right now.  Even my dogs are starting to go nuts.  The weather is starting to warm up – a little.  We’re losing snow fast now, but the ground is still frozen, so we’ve got muddy puddles everywhere.  Spring is coming, but it’s not here yet.  I want it to be here.  I’m ready for winter to be over as it was a pretty rough season this winter.  Trouble is mother nature just isn’t ready to let winter go.  I wanna get the ‘outing’ in Scouting – I want to be able to go camping, or at least take a hike outside without sinking up to my knees in mud or ice cold water.  Yea, I’m kinda whining.  Sorry.

Reading all of the other Scouters who blog and are on Twitter talk about campouts isn’t helping.  I really wanna get out there, but it’s just not time yet.  Reading about your adventures does help in some ways, I suppose, as I get to live vicariously through your stories until I get to create my own again this summer.  I have big plans – and I think most of them can happen!

Tonight we had our first Troop meeting with our new leadership in place.  Our SPL did a great job for his first meeting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how all the leadership evolves over the next 6 months.  I have a good feeling about all of them, and think our Troop will be in a much better place in 6 months.  Troop Leadership Training is Saturday, and it’ll lay the groundwork for all the good things to come.  I know it won’t be smooth sailing all the time, but if we can make the bumpy parts learning experiences, then it’s all good.

Tonight we also held OA elections, had patrol meetings (where the younger guys patrol decided what advancement they wanted to work on – a big step for them!), and played some team building games for fun.  I have a really good feeling going forward, and I need to make sure that I thank my ASM’s that are helping make that happen.  Thanks Dave and Trish, you both are helping big time, and I want you both to know I appreciate it.  And Trish, you’re my favorite Scouter (yea, I’m biased, but that’s ok….we’re married!)