Monday, October 17, 2011

Leader Training 1.4 - Patrols and Uniforms

Fourth in a series of Ward Scout Leader training sessions.

I'd like to revise a previous statement of mine about one method not being more important than another, by saying that if the patrol method is properly implemented, the other methods will take care of themselves.

What, then do we mean by, "a Scout is trustworthy"? It goes beyond they don't lie and steal to, we trust them to be responsible. For being honest, and also for keeping their commitments to each other and themselves.

The patrol is the basic unit of Scouting, not the troop, not the committee. It is in the patrol (including Varsity squads and Venturing crews) that the work and play of Scouting happens. Baden-Powell has said that the patrol method is not a method, it is the only method. So, then, whose patrol is it? In short, it’s the boys’ patrol; they are the members and they are the leaders. From the Scoutmaster Handbook, “Patrol members share the responsibility of making the patrol a success.”1 They also define what success looks like.

I read Clarke Greene’s blog frequently, and he pointed me to this great video filmstrip about how the patrol method works. Yes, filmstrip, like we used to watch in third grade, complete with beeps to announce that you have to turn the knob and advance the frame. The format may be outdated, but the information is perfectly relevant. Here are some questions to consider while you watch:

  • What ownership did the boys have in their experience?
  • What did they do in the Scoutmaster’s absence?
  • When did Rod make changes to the boys’ program?
  • What kind of response did this elicit from the boys?

Patrols are supposed to be boy-led. This is on purpose. It makes the boys responsible for their own experience, and keeps Scouting from becoming just another class where they sit and listen to someone talk about something. It starts with the Patrol Leader. Often times in LDS troops, the Deacons’ Quorum President is the de facto SPL, but it doesn’t have to be that way. They can be different individuals (that’s in the Green Book). According to the Scoutmaster handbook, the Patrol Leader’s responsibilities include:
  • Take a leading role in planning and conducting patrol meetings and activities
  • Encourage patrol members to complete advancement requirements
  • Represent the patrol as a member of the patrol leaders' council
  • Set a good example by living up to the Scout Oath and Law.

A big part of this is the patrol Leaders’ Council. This meeting of boy leaders is a chance for them to brainstorm and come up with what they want their troop to look like. Here are a couple of blog posts that really explain why this works. A pertinent quote from the second link:
“Older Scouts leave because they don’t have any real responsibility or engagement. They stay [and benefit] when they have real responsibility, they thrive on it; it is what Scouting is all about!”
So what's the Scoutmaster's role? In the words of "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt, it's to, "Train 'em, trust 'em, and let 'em lead." That, and the occasional Scoutmaster's Minute.

Some thoughts on uniforms: Though a uniform is not required to be a Scout, (boy and adult) leaders should set a good example by properly wearing one and encouraging others to have and wear one. The uniform consists of a Scout shirt with appropriate insignia, pants, belt and socks, with a hat/neckerchief being optional at the Patrol’s discretion. It’s a Scout Uniform. Not Burger King, not Little Caesar’s, not 7-11. It’s a symbol that you belong to something great. Take a look at what the Scoutmaster Handbook has to say about it.

I have worn a few uniforms in my life. Most have been occupational. The uniforms that truly mean something, though, have been my tan Scout one and my blue US Air Force one. They are important symbols of belonging to something bigger than myself, of achievement and of responsibility.

During the training session, we determined that one of the single best ways to encourage boys to be uniformed is for adult leaders to model the desired behavior. If uniforming presents a financial hardship (and yes, the uniform is pricey these days) perhaps use Goodwill/Salvation Army or another thrift store as a source. Have a ward uniform library where older gently used (not threadbare) uniforms can be made available for boys who need them. The bottom line is that any official uniform item (even discontinued berets or green shirts) are appropriate.  Another option is to select a troop activity uniform for getting dirty in.

There are times to wear the uniform, and there are times when it should not be worn, including:
  • All ceremonial and indoor activities
  • Outdoor activities like flag ceremonies, Scout shows (Scout-o-rama), summer camp
  • An activity uniform may also be worn for outdoor events/informal activities
  • NOT for selling, even Scout fund-raising
  • NOT where wearing it would imply BSA endorsement (political rally, demonstration…)
  • NOT while engaged in any activity that could discredit BSA, uniform or the individual

1 - The Scoutmaster Handbook, p. 20
Summary handout

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