Monday, September 30, 2013

Working with 11YO, er, New Scouts

Something I wrote in response to My Scout Stuff's post entitled, Advancement Plans for Eleven-Year-Old Scouts:

You have to be organized. I use spreadsheets a lot for this. On one spreadsheet, I track incoming boys for the next two to three years, and monitor their progress. I use this 12-month calendar for planning the allowed three camp outs, lots of monthly hikes and a few winter-specific activities, taking advantage of Council opportunities at GSLC’s Camp Tracy (Winter Fun-O-Ree and their New Scout Summer Camp). It takes the T/2/1 requirements and combines them into skill groups, and we focus on one group per month. In reality, some skills need more than this, some less, but everything gets covered, and there’s flexibility built into it. I plan to condense it into a 6-month plan, because I’ve come to realize that a year is overly long to revisit many of these topics, especially with boys entering/leaving the group at random intervals.

I’ve found with 11YOS New Scouts, that often it’s the parents’ first time around the Scouting block, too. This hit me my first year when I realized that of seven Scouts, five were the oldest in their families. The parents need just as much training as the boys. When a Scout is about to turn 11, I meet with him and his parents, to help them understand what to expect, and what’s different from Cub Scouts. I tell them that Akela stays in the pack, boys are responsible for their own Scouting program and keeping records (I show them how a Handbook works), to be prepared for Patrol meetings, etc. and anything else I feel they ought to know at the outset. I am very clear with the parents that Scouting is not in the business of handing out badges, but of developing young men’s talents and potential, the badges are merely one form of recognizing this. I also provide them with a “welcome to Scouts” letter, one for the boy, one for the parents, outlining policies (BSA, not mine), expectations, and needs.

That said, it’s the boys’ first rodeo too, and they need plenty of guidance as they make plans, choose activities and carry them out. They’ve never had this kind of autonomy, or responsibility, so, in a way, because we’re told not to “cross the streams,” you have to almost be their Troop Guide for this first year. Clarke Green and other very wise Scouters would not like this arrangement, but it’s almost forced upon us, because older and younger boys almost never interact in a Church setting, let alone pass along what they have learned to the younger groups. That’s not necessarily by Church design, but it’s the de-facto reality, and there’s almost nothing we can do about it.

I think of myself as an Assistant Scoutmaster, (“Eleven-year-old Scout leader” only exists in Church documents, not in any BSA publication). So I make sure to represent the Scouts at Committee meetings, because if I don’t, they’ll be forgotten: they’re still in Primary, but they’re not Cub Scouts; they’re Scouts, but not “Young Men.” It’s the closest thing we have to Limbo in the Church.

At the end of the year, the goal shouldn’t be that they’ve all been dragged across the First Class “yard line,” – it’s their job to take advantage of the opportunities provided (I’m just the driver) and meet their own advancement and other goals – but that they’re prepared to take on a bigger role in the Deacon’s quorum and the “real” Scout Troop, leading, making and executing plans and activities, and serving others.

And the most important thing for any LDS 11YO leader to realize: the Church does NOT mandate that boys go camping with their fathers in attendance. Doing so penalizes them for situations out of their control (for example, dads who are divorced, displaced, indifferent, deployed, deceased, etc.). Here’s what the handbook REALLY says: “Fathers are invited and encouraged to participate in the over-night camping experiences with their sons and with boys whose fathers cannot attend.” We can’t, on the one hand encourage them to achieve First Class, (while limiting their opportunities, only three camp-outs allowed), then on the other say, ‘because of a situation you have no control over (dad can’t/won’t go camping), we won’t let you advance. However, when you are lucky enough to have dads who will take time off work and such to participate, you have to pre-brief them that it’s the boys’ camp-out, and not to interfere; it’s not a father/son camp, either.

I’m probably missing a few things, but I have to get back to work.

Prepared. | For Life.™

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