I had a discussion with my Wood Badge Troop Guide, and he put in the most concise, eloquent way I've ever read the idea that we (leaders and parents) are not grinding boys through a badge mill just as fast as we possibly can: "In the Church we are culturally married to the idea that successful Scouting means 'Eagle by age 14'. It takes time as well as effort to alter this perception."
I've thought of another term for it, the Ninth Method of Scouting: Git-r-dun.
Scout Committee Training Module 1.5, Methods: Personal Growth and Leadership
The troop and patrol leaders are those Scouts who have been elected/appointed to a leadership position, but even more so, are those Scouts who have learned a skill and can teach it to others. Larry Geiger teaches that a troop’s leaders are those Scouts who have achieved First Class rank. Their responsibility is to ‘lead, train and inspire other Scouts to achieve First Class. In other words, the boys are responsible for each other, the whole troop, especially younger, inexperienced Scouts. It is a system in which boys are encouraged to take an active interest in each other. So what's our role as adults? To train boy leaders. That’s in your Scoutmaster’s handbook.
One of the ways we can empower boys to lead others is by teaching them how to use the EDGE method: Explain, Demonstrate, Guide and Enable a boy in learning and teaching a skill.
So then, what is an Eagle Scout? A scout who has led, trained and inspired others to achieve First Class! For example, “While a Life Scout…give leadership to others…”
Boys are presented many growth opportunities in these formative years. Football and wrestling teams, student councils, band and orchestra, drama club, employment opportunities, time management; in all of these, scout troops and priesthood quorums included, they will confront good and bad influences. I think our role as adult leaders, both in a Scouting perspective and ecclesiastically, is to help them understand how the Oath and Law apply in everything they do; that they aren't just for 3 hours on Sunday and another hour on Wednesday. They are entirely consistent with the mission of the Aaronic Priesthood.
How does Scouting contribute to a boy’s growth in the priesthood? One way is through setting goals (this works for Grown-ups, too).
SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) actually force you to build a plan of action while defining the goal itself. They answer the "6 Ws" of the objective (Who, What, When, Where, Why, hoW). Instead of "Dad, I need fifty bucks for summer camp," it becomes, "I will earn $50.00 for summer camp by mowing lawns at $___ a lawn for ____ weeks."
Fishgutts has a great summary of EDGE training and SMART goals on his blog, which I stole and made part of the handout.
So, yesterday in Priesthood Meeting, a call went out for volunteers to ref the upcoming church basketball games. Predictably, hands were few and far between. I turned to the guy behind me and remarked that it's ok, just like anything else we do, you don't have to be qualified for that job, either.
We had a great patrol meeting last night. It was one boy’s last, and another’s first, in the EYOS patrol. We had a PL election, resulting in a tie vote (very easy when there are four boys), two Scoutmaster conferences (2Class and Scout), boy-led instruction and practice with lashings, and most importantly, we went outside to race around with the A-frame they built to demonstrate why your lashings (and the other things you do, whether school, football, band…) need to be done right. On Saturday, they'll build a water balloon catapult and see just how mad their lashing skillz are. It would not have happened so well without the Troop Meeting Plan worksheet*. I filled it in at work that afternoon (this job will transfer to the new PL soon enough) with events, supplies, &ct., followed it, and easily met
all the meeting’s objectives.
We started off the meeting talking about planning, and I told them about one of my favorite Air Force aphorisms: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” (I didn't use a more colorful example from The Hunt for Red October). The meeting ended with a
Scoutmaster’s Minute using Chesterton's dragon quote. It was a very successful hour and a half. And everyone got home on time.
Then I replaced my failing water heater with my father-in-law’s help. Successfully, too. I had a hot shower this morning!
*A note on the meeting plan: I didn't make this one, it's just the one I use, and then only as a rough guide to stay on track and ensure I've thought everything through and gathered my supplies. I won't fill in every line item. Another AF aphorism is "flexibility is the key to air power."
In the last few days I've held two scoutmaster conferences for Second Class. One for a boy whose 12th birthday is later this month, the other is probably going to make Star before his own 12th birthday next spring. (In LDS units, there's a patrol for eleven-year-old boys, and once they turn 12, they don't associate with that patrol anymore.) Both have been owned by their football coaches since August. Is there a difference between the boys? Other than age? Well, apart from one playing defensive tackle and the other running back, not really.
This is a fantastic example of boys progressing at their own rate. Who said that all boys MUST earn First Class in the first year? Where is that written? If that is the only measuring stick, then the boys and I have failed. And that's just silly. Granted, it's one of my goals to give them the opportunity to get there, but I decided I won't get heartburn over it. (And yes, I know all about the rationale of how getting to that point is an indicator of finishing.) It's not about what I want, it's about their individual development, and that is independent of rank advancement.
You have until you're 18 to complete Eagle, (or Denali, or 21 in the case of Venturing Silver) unless your parents impose some draconian driver license stipulation (which I disagree with, but that's their decision to make). What I tried to make clear to both the speed-demon and the soon-to-be 12-year-old is that they have plenty of time to accomplish their goals (Scouting and otherwise) and to enjoy the ride; that it's about finishing what you started, just like playing your heart out for a full 60 minutes. If you enjoy it, advancement will happen. If you race through it, checking off boxes as fast as possible just for the sake of finishing, you'll wind up like Nemo's tank-mates, bobbing in the ocean in plastic bags and wondering, "Now what?".
I did my first bridging ceremony last night for a boy whose birthday is next week. I found out at 4:30 that Pack meeting was at 6:30, found a bridge and recruited three Scouts (one my son, two had brothers in the pack) to welcome the new Scout. It was simple, but fulfilled its function of publicly recognizing that he's moving on, and may be the first step in turning a corner.
I have been known to have said that my only job is to provide the opportunities that my boys need to learn and grow into First Class Scouts. By providing good meetings and monthly activities, I feel that I have done everything I really can to do so. Some boys take advantage of that, some don’t; for some, Scouting is their world, for others, it’s just another thing on their weekly schedule, including school, homework, football, theater, band, etc.
Yesterday I had a Scoutmaster Conference with one of the latter type. He’s a dedicated Scout who has been owned by his football coach since August. As a result, he hasn’t been to very many patrol meetings in the last little while. We had a good discussion about the Scout Law, (“Let’s try for something a little more meaningful than ‘Trustworthy means doesn’t lie.’”) and I tried to convey that a Scout can be a Scout at football practice, because the Scout Law is universal, it applies to everything we do. It’s not the meetings, it’s the man-in-training.
That said, it makes it harder to learn the required skills if you don’t go to the meetings. Last night, we did knots and lashings in anticipation of building a catapult later this month. We (there are two of us “Eleven-year-old Scout Leaders” because I made a fuss about two-deep leadership and all that) had one boy in attendance, so we helped him review basic knots, showed him a couple of new ones and worked through square and diagonal lashings. He is also on notice that he’s the instructor next time when we have a new boy assimilate into the group.
This morning it occurred to me that in addition to providing opportunity, we are in effect the boys’ Troop Guides. This is, of course, a direct result of the quorum-centered compartmentalization that pretty much segregates 11YO boys from their 12-and-up peers (i.e., last week's team mates). That’s OK. I like working with them on these fun, new skills. It gives me a chance to remember what I loved as a kid, learn a whole lot more about the world, and hopefully pass along an appreciation for all of it.