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So no one is surprised at what I expect from scouts advancing through the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks, I have made a list of Eagle Characteristics. These are qualities of character that I believe indicate a scout is closing in on the Eagle rank:
- Aware of self
- Aware of others
- Aware of surroundings
- Recognizes what is needed
- Seeks to help
- Leads through example
- Supports younger scouts, does not reprimand
- Teaches, does not tease
- Guides, does not direct
- Instructs, does not insult
- Demonstrates Enthusiasm
- Puts Group goals ahead of personal requirements
- Has mastered extensive breadth of skills and knowledge
- Has earned respect of others
- Is self-directed and motivated
Advancing from Star to Life to Eagle ranks is not as simple as completing some merit badges, tracking a few hours at a service project, and holding a troop leadership position.
The written requirements for these ranks are purposefully vague in your Scout Handbook. For example, 'Be active', 'Demonstrate Scout spirit', and 'Serve actively' are difficult to quantify, as opposed to 'Earn 6 merit badges' which is obviously completed or not.
As Scoutmaster, I need to evaluate your growth towards the ideals of scouting. I look at how you have grown in your years with the troop and mostly how you have demonstrated scout spirit in the troop. In your scoutmaster conference, I let you know if you have demonstrated what I feel are the required characteristics of a scout your rank or if you need to demonstrate more growth in specific areas. When I sign off for your scoutmaster conference in your handbook, you then need to go through the same thing again with your Board of Review. Those adults involved in the troop are also monitoring your progress and considering your readiness to advance.
Our goals are not to prevent a scout from advancing. Nor do we want to surprise any scout that expects to advance in rank. That is why I have constantly requested that all scouts talk with me at least every 6 months – that is at least, which means more often is even better. I want you to know where you stand in my eyes at all times.
If you are not involved in many troop activities and you do not chat with me, then my efforts are spent on those scouts that are obviously active and involved. You choose how much effort you want to put into scouting and advancement and you receive back a proportionate share.
How do YOU demonstrate trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent?
I don't know if the scouts get better because of the Scout program or if the type of boys that join scouts are just 'good', but I see a noticable difference in the levels of self-control, leadership, empathy, and looking out for other people between scouts and non-scouts. This is in a church group where I'd also expect to see these qualities in the boys. I suppose its even more pronounced in a place like school or the mall where all types of kids can be found.
Of course, there are superstars and oddballs in any group, but in general I'm very pleased by what I see in the scouts - both those in our troop and other troops that attend our church.
Go to Handbook Survey and tell them what can be improved.
But, from what Philmont staff have told me, it really will be luck that determines our fate. Just because we did not get a crew in 2007, our chances for 2008 are not increased. If this is actually how the Philmont lottery works, then it is possible for a troop to put in for a crew spot every year and never ever get to experience Philmont. I find it hard to believe that such a step backward from the previous system could be in place, but I suppose its possible.
Come January, when we find out our fate, then I'll have bigger concerns if we don't get a spot two years in a row and I'll push harder for a change in the process. But, until then, we rolls the dice and takes our chances - as they say. :-)
Good luck to all you troops playing the Philmont lottery this year. I hope we see you on the trails in 2008. We have enough scouts interested to send 2 crews, just need adults to go too.
I enjoy having these visitors at troop meetings because its all new and interesting to them. Since we had scouts join in the spring, by now everyone in the troop is used to the routine and meetings sometimes become monotonous. Having a few fresh faces makes it interesting.
It also points out the need to keep troop meetings interesting for all the scouts. The PLC needs to try a bit harder to ensure fun games and activities are planned. They also need to remind the troop to be welcoming to our visitors and invite them to be their guests for games and such.
Since our troop does not have a specific Recruiting adult, that falls to me. I've written and called the local Webelos den leaders letting them know our meeting times. We've scheduled a special outdoor event just for Webelos. We've also offered to have scouts visit den meetings to talk about Boy Scouts. And, we have two Den Chiefs installed in a local pack.
Now, if the Packs follow through on their end, the scouts will have a good transition experience.
Our new SPL obviously has the respect of his team and they stayed on task very well all day. That was a great sign of a good 6 months ahead of us.
We start the day at 9am with the SPL, ASPL, scribe, and all Patrol Leaders reviewing the troop schedule for the next year and then adding 6 more months of activities to the end. We do this twice a year, scheduling events out 1 year and tweaking anything needing changes 6 months out.
Each patrol is supposed to have a meeting before this session where they come up with a list of ideas their patrol would like to do - well, theoretically that works great but this time not many patrols held that meeting and it showed. Something we can improve on in the spring.
At 11:30, the rest of the troop leadership show up for the Leadership Training part of the day until 3:30. They get an intro to BSA leadership, troop organization, and available adult resources. Then, we break for a team-building lunch. After that, we discuss troop processes (advancement, merit badges, success of new scouts, and positions of responsibility) followed by learning the EDGE teaching techniques.
The SPL and ASPL take their people separately to develop goals and fill out their goal wallet cards, then they each share a goal with the whole group.
We then go over leading games, leading meetings, and teaching skills.
If any scoutmasters would like details about our day, just send an email.
Starting in October, there will be two winners selected instead of just one. I hope it keeps up so I can continue with the gift card thing.
Hey, speaking of 'two', we've got two boys looking to join our troop. They both just moved into town and one has never been in scouts before. They attended our Court of Honor, so hopefully it wasn't too long and boring - I know the snacks were good afterwards at least!
The familiar theme from my boys is that there are too many scouts out there selling and its too much work for the funds raised. After a little family discussion last night to decide on a quota and set expectations, they are out today working together to see how much per hour they really can make. Our family decided that they would be expected to raise half of the cost of scout trips. So, if they only raise $50, they can go on $100 worth of trips.
It's a beautiful, sunny day and they had already reached 1/5 of their goal by the time they came home for lunch. As long as they can keep getting along, they should be able to finish up by Monday. One scout has historically sold to our church congregation on Sunday, so we don't do that. Two new cub scouts have started down the block, so we don't go down that way. So, they got out the town map and marked off some (hopefully) likely places and are out on their bikes now.
I don't know where you live, but in our town there are 6 troops and 6 packs - most of which sell popcorn and Christmas wreaths at this time. That makes it a challenge to figure out which neighborhoods have been covered, but not oversaturated. If there's just one troop, you can divide the place up, but we don't have cooperation between the different units. Maybe some day. Every year, I'm just sure there's a whole neighborhood someplace where no one sold anything but I've no way to tell.
If you have ideas that work for your pack or troop when selling door-to-door, I'd love to hear from you. And, if you have a really easy, sure-to-be-a-hit way to fund your scouting, please tell me all about it. :-)
I expect this next year will see some break-up of the group as the requirements and expectations for Life rank are encountered. I think it will be good to have some wait for a troop leadership position since they have lots of time to continue advancement.
This meeting was also the last one for the current leadership team. The new SPL and his team take over this week with transitions from previous leaders to new ones at each position. Then, leader training the first weekend in October and we're off and running! It's been a real good summer and the next group looks ready to keep the troop's momentum going.
I can see how countries with kings can get frustrated with the USA's 4-year term of leadership. It must be hard starting over with a new guy so often - just when he (or she) gets good at it, someone else takes over. Well, at least in Scouts, the growth and learning are more important than the efficiency and competence.
If you aren't involved in it, you should find out more about the Order of the Arrow in your district. There are some good benefits to scouts and the order does make some significant impacts.
At the national level, the O/A has a NOAC (National O/A Conference) every 2 years and in 2008 there will be the huge national service project called Arrow Corps 5 - actually five separate conservation-oriented service projects on U.S. Forest Service lands across the country.
The Shark Patrol is having a pizza party this evening. Our troop has a little contest that runs for 3 months at a time. In those 3 months, whichever patrol earns the most Patrol Spirit points gets to choose the reward they want. The Sharks chose pizza - that's what everyone always chooses :-)
But, they are going to eat pizza and then go do a Patrol Good Turn - packing meals at Feed My Starving Children. It's a great organization in Minnesota and a really fun service project to get involved with.
The goal of out Patrol Spirit competition is to get patrols to bring their flag to events, participate, and do separate patrol activities. I'll post the information about it in the 'Activities' section soon.
I spent 4 days last week at Northern Tier participating in a Leave No Trace Master Educator course. This training was a BSA National event and there were participants from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, and Missouri. I got to meet some people that volunteer in Boy Scouts at the national level and I learned a ton about both the BSA and O/A organizations!
The best part of the course was that I FINALLY got to visit the Boundary Waters and see what it's like up there - without the mosquitos and humidity since the weather has cooled off so much. The training took place out in the wilderness and our trek crew was guided by Travis and Davey. These two guys just finished their summer working at Northern Tier as Foremen for that Order of the Arrow work program that I think is so cool. O/A members can work for a week repairing portage trails and then spend a week on a paddling trek - for a very reduced price, something like $125 for the two weeks. There are similar programs at Philmont and SeaBase.
Anyway, Travis and Davey are amazing guys with leadership and outdoors skills beyond belief. They've both put in lots of effort to improve their own troops and have helped lead the growth of O/A programs. They also really live the Leave No Trace ethics when they are out with scouts and old guys like me.
Now, the challenge I have is to make use of the skills I gained. Our council has a Conservation Committee and I'm now getting involved in that. I'll be teaching LNT Trainer courses where I will teach others how to teach LNT workshops. These Trainers will in turn teach units the LNT principles and ethics. A goal we have is to have at least one LNT Trainer in each unit - that might be a new youth leadership position the troop creates or maybe the O/A Troop Rep position could take on the training duties. There are quite a few possibilities and I'm really excited to help this get going in the coming year!
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