Thursday, October 9, 2014

Scoutmaster Me, One Year Later

At the end of the month, I’ll have been scoutmaster for Troop 125 for a year.

It’s quite likely on or near enough to the anniversary date not to matter we’ll be on a campout, preparing for our first 25-mile bike ride as we come to the shaky close of earning the Cycling merit badge. We may not get through the badge this year – we’ve still got another 25-miler and a 50-miler to go, and we can’t count on good weather holding into November, though we’ve been surprised before. I’ll call that just a bit of the learning curve. Next year, we’ll work the badge into our schedule a bit earlier, and get more aggressive on finishing the rides before scout camp, so we don’t have to squeeze most of them in afterward.

The troop has grown – we’ve gone from eight boys to thirteen. Three boys – including my own – made progress towards their Eagle, with one needing only that final board of review before his work on that rank is done. Including that eagle, that makes 21 rank advancements this year. They’ve also earned about a hundred merit badges. Not shabby, though we could be doing better.

Here are a few other numbers:

  • Number of boys injured: None.
  • Number of boys (including 11-year-olds) who went to Scout Camp this summer: 14.
  • Number of leaders/parents (including one mom) who went to Scout Camp: 7.
  • Number of service hours completed: Approximately 175.
  • Number of times I’ve threatened never to take them on another campout due to nighttime noise levels: One.
  • Number of times I wished I weren’t Scoutmaster: None.

That last number, at least at the moment, is the most significant.

Best memories: Performing the Polar Bear Plunge at Island Park Scout Camp with a group of boys. Having Talon Shiffler wave to me while he was passing the Sacrament. Having Connor Turpin (not one of my Scouts at the time, thus his absence from the injuries list) come up to me with blood pouring down his leg and asking if I had a band-aid. Watching Dean Halverson step into the role of Senior Patrol Leader with a lot more maturity and sense of responsibility than I suspected he had in him. Listening to Josh Miller reflect on his Eagle service project and say “Next time, I won’t be as bossy. They didn’t like it when I was bossy.” Having Zach Hinkley, who has graduated to Varsity Scouts, ask when our next campout is and ask if he could come along.

What I’ve learned: Give the boys credit. They’re a lot smarter and a lot more willing to learn and take on tasks and responsibility than we might think.

Goals: Apply more of what I learned at Wood Badge last year to see this patrol become more boy-led and adult-guided. That’s going to be hard because I’m a little bit of a control freak. But it’s going to be done whether I like it or not, because running the program themselves will help the boys enjoy it more. 

And while I’m on the tack of wanting the boys to enjoy Scouting more, we’re going to work on individually-tailored plans to get each boy to their next rank advancement. That’s going to make our jobs as leaders more of a challenge, because we won’t be able to sit down Tuesday nights and have every Scout working on the same thing.

Why do things that way? Well, for one, they’re advancing at different speeds. I’ve got one Scout already done with Cycling – because he had a parent willing to take him out on the bike rides independently of the troop. I’ve got some who have completed their Communication merit badge, while others have not (and maybe they don’t necessarily want to, but I’ll show them that finishing something they’ve already started is going to get them to their next rank advancement more quickly). And they’ve got varying interests. I’ve got two seriously interested in the Game Design merit badge. So who am I to stand in their way?

Another goal: In another year, I’ll have my Scoutmaster Training knot. And another year after that, my Scoutmaster Key. To do that, we have to get serious with record-keeping, rank advancements, outdoor activities and other items. I’ll keep the ball rolling on that, pushing myself to get this recognition as I push my Scouts to get their own. That way, they see their leaders working on something alongside them.

Yet another goal: My son Liam is an Eagle project away from his award. He also wants to keep earning merit badges. I need to do what I can to help keep him moving. He’s got good Varsity Scout leaders – but I’ve seen firsthand what a help it is when parents at home are as interested in keeping their boys motivated as are the leaders. Which brings me to my other son Issac, who is a Webelos Scout now and wants to earn his Arrow of Light soon enough so he can work on merit badges at scout camp this summer. Got to keep working with him too.

And then there’s our daughter Lexie, who’d be a Scout in a minute if they’d let her. I’d like to do things to keep her involved and active and interested and rewarded.

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