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#1 KenD500

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 09:29 AM

I'm the SM for a small Troop.  10 Scouts (a new one just joined on Monday).  2 Patrols: The Merlins - 4 Scouts, 16, 16, 15, 15 yrs old; & the Ghosty Goats - 6 Scouts, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11, 11 yrs old. 

 

3 out of the 4 Merlins are active, we see the 4th ~once a month - he just finished his Eagle project & then he's done; 6/6 of the Ghosty Goats are active.

 

We split into two Patrols in April.  Right now, we don't have an SPL.  Just 2 PLs. 

 

They'll soon be electing their new PLs. 

 

I'm struggling with the SPL position.  If they elect an SPL, he would most likely come from the Merlin Patrol- which would reduce the effective number of Scouts in the Patrol to 2.  One option is to have the Merlin PL also be the SPL.

 

I need your opinions/suggestions/comments.

 


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#2 Gone

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 09:31 AM

I'm the SM for a small Troop.  10 Scouts (a new one just joined on Monday).  2 Patrols: The Merlins - 4 Scouts, 16, 16, 15, 15 yrs old; & the Ghosty Goats - 6 Scouts, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11, 11 yrs old. 

 

3 out of the 4 Merlins are active, we see the 4th ~once a month - he just finished his Eagle project & then he's done; 6/6 of the Ghosty Goats are active.

 

We split into two Patrols in April.  Right now, we don't have an SPL.  Just 2 PLs. 

 

They'll soon be electing their new PLs. 

 

I'm struggling with the SPL position.  If they elect an SPL, he would most likely come from the Merlin Patrol- which would reduce the effective number of Scouts in the Patrol to 2.  One option is to have the Merlin PL also be the SPL.

 

I need your opinions/suggestions/comments.

 

Paging @Stosh.

 

If I am not mistaken he is in a similar boat and has not elected an SPL...sticks with mostly the PLs. He tells the story much better. ;)


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#3 KenD500

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 09:33 AM

Up to this point, I've been splitting the SPL duties between myself and the Merlin PL.  I'm just trying to take the next step back.


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#4 dfolson

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 09:35 AM

Our Troop is about the same size.  To address this same issue, we have the electrion for SPL first, then have the the remainder decide how they split into the two patrols and the the patrols elect their PL.  Not just anyone can be on the ballot for SPL - there is an approval process, for us it includes attending NYLT.


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#5 Stosh

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 10:17 AM

Dum ta da daaaa, Here I am to save the day!

 

Okay, a little over the top, but it's Friday.

 

With one patrol, the PL is the de facto SPL for any meetings requiring one.  Having the PL wear the SPL patch is about as over the top as my introduction at the beginning of this post.  Looks pretentious.

 

With two patrols, the SPL is still not all that necessary unless you set up your patrol structure in the traditional/formal management style.  In the case described by @KenD500 he already sees the problem where there really is in fact only one patrol.  The "split" is meaningless because of the numbers he's dealing with.  He's trying to make two patrols function in the place of one.  If people need POR's or whatever, the temptation to do this is strong.  However, it is totally unnecessary.

 

With three patrols, maybe, and a strong maybe only, is an SPL advantageous, not necessary but advantageous.

 

However, I run my troops differently.  I run the servant leadership format rather than management format.  This means the PL is the top officer in the troop.  Each patrol is an entity in and of itself.  When there gets to be enough PL's that an SPL is necessary to coordinate between the different PL's then it's time for the PL's to designate someone to do that and then give that person the SPL responsibilities.  

 

With one patrol (6-8 scouts) what does the SPL do?  Absolutely nothing except attend SPL meetings so he can come back and tell the PL what is necessary for the troop (duh, the one patrol) to be doing.  The APL could do that just as easily.  This is how my one patrol troop is set up.  In actuality, my strongest leader is the APL who is mentoring the new PL in his position.  The new PL is the Webelos cross-over from last spring.  He's mature and was elected by the members of his patrol and the old PL offered to support him as APL.  It's working very well.  As APL it's his job to make the PL look good and he's doing it very well.

 

With two patrols (12-16 scouts) what does the SPL do?  Not a whole lot more, now he has to notify two PL's of the information gathered at the SPL meetings.  He is also responsible for the PLC which will consist of him and two PL's.  Those two PLs will discuss what is necessary to coordinate between the two patrols.  Well, they could have done that just as easily over the phone as at a PLC meeting.   So the SPL is convening useless meetings.

 

With 3 patrols  (16-24 scouts) now maybe the SPL can actually be a bit useful in helping the three PL's coordinate their activities so there is no duplication of effort and everyone has a chance to know what the other patrols are planning on doing.  It also helps with the 2 on 1 voting that could occur on a regular basis in the PLC.  As the scout best qualified in the opinion of the PL's to help them, he can assist and mentor the PL's work through difficult inter-patrol issues and at time specifically support a PL, when asked, if he's having trouble in his patrol.

 

With 4 patrols (24-32), it is definitely time for the 4 PL's to have someone they trust to guide them with their inter-patrol issues.  It is at this point that many of the other POR's become troop level leadership rather than just patrol level.  Out of the 4 patrol QM's the QM's select someone to coordinate the equipment of all the patrols, because the inventory is getting too large for the 4 of them to handle.  Troop scribe is necessary because troop communications have gotten to the point where the individual patrols have enough to worry about just themselves.

 

Now, with the traditional management SPL who "runs the troop", there is basically no need for anything other than figure-head PL's  They just do what the SPL tells them to do and they relay the information on to their members.  It take no leadership skills to be a PL in this case.  Management skills on the part of the SPL are extremely important and this is where a lot of troops begin to fall apart at that level.  Most boys do not have such skills and must be trained and given time to develop them.  Unfortunately most troops aren't set up to do that so they rely on such things as NYLT and hope that the boy pays enough attention to be able to do an adequate job.

 

So, with the servant leadership style, the PL works with 5-7 other boys, max!  He actually must lead (serve) those boys.  My training program consists of telling the PL when he gets selected, to "Take care of your boys."  When they do that the patrols run very well.  With the PL's being the top position in the troop, when it gets to the point where communication between patrols is strained, a person is selected by the PL's to be their #1 go to help desk person when they need to work with the other patrols.  Someone who has shown they can take care of PL's.  In my former troop, this person was most often selected from the pool of APL's.  This person was identified as the SPL, the one who was functionally capable to helping the PL's.  When that person needed help, he would be able to tap directly into the SM and his staff.  The SPL did not "run the troop", he only coordinated, and facilitated the PL's through the PLC function.  

 

In reality NO ONE IN THE TROOP was responsible for more than 7 other people.  Boys at this age can handle that without any hassles.  Trying to "run the troop" with 40-80 scouts is impossible and any SPL who takes on such responsibility will quickly find out what abject failure is.  I will never do that to a boy. 

 

It is under this dynamic that the parents of slacker boys will eventually ask you to move on because "the boys are all expected to do too much leadership."   :)  With a boy-led, patrol-method troop, that's the best way to get kicked out of a troop!

 

I hope this helps.  I have worked with the more traditional management style of troop organization and found that the tendency is to have a strong adult-led process where the SPL and PL's are pretty much figure-head anyway, but seem to garner a lot of flack for not performing up to the adult expectations along the way.  Morale is kept at a very low level, but if the adults generate enough programming, the boys will all just follow along and be entertained.

 

Oh, by the way, my current PL hasn't gotten to TF yet, but his APL has.  None of my boys has ever attended NYLT on my watch and never felt the need to do so.  I've also seen some really competent Eagles pass through my program of which about half of them have gone on to WB and SM positions in BSA.


Edited by Stosh, 06 August 2015 - 10:32 AM.

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#6 KenD500

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 10:32 AM

 

 

Okay, a little over the top, but it's Friday.

 

You realize it's Thursday, right?


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#7 Stosh

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 10:37 AM

You realize I'm retired, right?   :)

 

(Every day is Friday except when the big paper shows up, then go to church.)


Edited by Stosh, 06 August 2015 - 10:38 AM.

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#8 qwazse

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 10:49 AM

Clearly the Merlin PL, by virtue of being older, is senior. ;)

 

What Stosh said. Avoid letting your boys fall into the rut assigning someone to do their pencil whipping for them.  The two PLs can get together and make a camp-specific roster for whatever needs to be done. (E.g. who's morning color guard, vs, evening color guard.) The older PL then offers to the Ghostly Goats: would you like my guys to teach you to ___?

 

Merlins are also effectively a venture patrol. Challenge them to set up the "cool" campsite, plan a unique trek, or serve in a unique way. Whatever.

 

My one-patrol troop, by way of mocking positions of responsibility and pushing back at my wanting them to only have PL as top-gun, elected an SPL, ASPL, PL, APL, QM, and Librarian. Being older boys, they all work together well, so I let it slide.


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#9 IM_Kathy

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Posted 18 August 2015 - 01:02 AM

we currently have same issue.  We have 2 PL's  they rotate odd and even months at who leads the opening/closing of meetings, thorns/roses at end of campout, calls out roundups, etc...  They wear PL patches, but we will refer to them as "acting spl".  So if I've forgotten whose month it is I'll ask who is acting spl this month?

 

Now for summer camp we have a separate election where we elect a SPL just for camp and they select their ASPL.  They do all the chore list planning and such before, attend the SPL meetings, and are the co-to guys for camp.  Now this only counts for 1 week of leadership, and the troop has done a great job of really voting in people that have a lot of good leadership and lots of summer camp experience.


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#10 Stosh

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Posted 18 August 2015 - 06:00 AM

we currently have same issue.  We have 2 PL's  they rotate odd and even months at who leads the opening/closing of meetings,

 

Not an SPL job, this could be done by patrol, but then the boys would need to follow the patrol-method, too.  The two PL's could decide at the beginning of each meeting who wants to do it.  How simple is this?  Well the one PL hands the patrol flag to his Assistant and the ceremony starts.  Not that much leadership to figure that out.  If one PL isn't at  the meeting, the other covers.  If both PL's happen to not make the meeting, the two APL's can figure it out on their own.  It doesn't need a Grand Scheme of Things to figure it out.  Let the PL's decide, that's why they are PL's.

 

thorns/roses at end of campout,

 

This is a patrol activity, not a troop activity.

 

calls out roundups,

 

?  Terminology I'm unfamiliar with....  If all one is doing is calling the boys back together, that's what the Bugler is supposed to do. or is the SPL the Super-Leader-that-runs-everything-in-the-Troop and everyone else is unnecessary as far as functional real leadership is concerned?

 

etc...  They wear PL patches, but we will refer to them as "acting spl".  So if I've forgotten whose month it is I'll ask who is acting spl this month?

 

Why can't the two PL's decide who's going to do what on an ad hoc basis and not worry about it.  It's the PL's job.

 

Now for summer camp we have a separate election where we elect a SPL

 

...and the two PL's can't figure this out on their own?  They should be able to do that, they're already in leadership positions and one doesn't need to waste meeting time holding elections for a job that can be figured out in minutes between the two PL's.

 

just for camp and they select their ASPL.  They do all the chore list planning

 

If the patrol-method is being used, there is no need for troop chore list planning.  Each patrol has it's own roster.

 

and such before, attend the SPL meetings,

 

One PL goes to the meeting and comes back and tell the other PL what was said.  Not a big ordeal.

 

and are the co-to guys for camp.  

 

That's what PL's are for.

 

Now this only counts for 1 week of unnecessary leadership, and the troop has done a great job of really voting in people that have a lot of good leadership and lots of summer camp experience.  

 

And what good were the PL"s then when the activity was run as a troop activity?  This kind of SPL activity does nothing more than undermine the authority and responsibility of the PL's.  Boy-led needs the patrol-method to work.  An SPL supports the work of the individual PL"s not usurp their authority and interfere in the patrol-method.  I have seen troops of 6-8 boys that have an SPL, an ASPL, a PL, and an APL.  That leaves 2-4 boys to be the patrol.  Seriously?  If one is hard up for POR's, there's a functional Scribe or functional QM that is more important than a duplication of effort SPL and ASPL.  


Edited by Stosh, 18 August 2015 - 06:03 AM.

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#11 Chippewa29

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 10:54 AM

Several years ago, my troop had three patrols and no one wanted to be SPL. We took it as an opportunity to reinforce the patrol method. The main reason why no one wanted to be SPL was because of the large amount of planning they needed to do for meetings and campouts. The patrol leaders, on the other hand, didn't really do much (everyone wanted to be a patrol leader or ASPL). Since no one wanted to be SPL, we shifted all responsibility to the PL's. It was the best thing that could have happened to the troop and patrols. Each PL planned his weekly meetings and the three coordinated joint activities between them. By the time we elected a SPL a year and a half later, the patrols were much stronger and we had a deeper bench of youth leadership. The SPL now worked with the PL's to coordinate their activities and help them plan as needed.

With a troop of only 9/10 Scouts, in reality you only have one patrol. My guess is that on campouts, your Scouts either operate as one patrol or the Scouts in the smaller patrol are working non-stop since there are only three of them. If you have only one patrol, either the patrol leader or senior patrol leader are redundant.
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#12 Stosh

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 01:33 PM

Several years ago, my troop had three patrols and no one wanted to be SPL. We took it as an opportunity to reinforce the patrol method. The main reason why no one wanted to be SPL was because of the large amount of planning they needed to do for meetings and campouts. The patrol leaders, on the other hand, didn't really do much (everyone wanted to be a patrol leader or ASPL). Since no one wanted to be SPL, we shifted all responsibility to the PL's. It was the best thing that could have happened to the troop and patrols. Each PL planned his weekly meetings and the three coordinated joint activities between them. By the time we elected a SPL a year and a half later, the patrols were much stronger and we had a deeper bench of youth leadership. The SPL now worked with the PL's to coordinate their activities and help them plan as needed.

With a troop of only 9/10 Scouts, in reality you only have one patrol. My guess is that on campouts, your Scouts either operate as one patrol or the Scouts in the smaller patrol are working non-stop since there are only three of them. If you have only one patrol, either the patrol leader or senior patrol leader are redundant.

I wish I could give you more up green arrows, but the software only allows one.  Your boys allowed you to see the beauty of the PL's running the patrol method!  This is exactly what I teach and your boys figured it out on their own.  Kudos to your boys and to the adults that trusted them to do what turned out to be a great thing for your troop.


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#13 hmscouting

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 01:31 AM

I am a new SM for a new troop.  We are a small troop, about 16-17 scouts, about eight or nine of which are new-ish (just came up from Webelos), and seven or eight who have anywhere from six months to three years of scouting, but none with leadership experience.

 

We've been trying to follow what we interpreted the Scoutmaster Handbook was saying, with six or so of the older seven or eight boys in a "regular" patrol, and the younger boys in a "newbie patrol" with the PL & APL being selected from the older scouts (and by older, we're talking twelve vs. ten, right), assigned by the PL of the "regular" patrol.

 

But the PL for the regular patrol is struggling trying to keep track of his patrol, planning the troop meeting, and so far planning both patrols part of that meeting (the assigned PL doesn't know what to do yet, they're all new to this leadership thing, and we're pretty much just following the format outlined as we understand it, though maybe we're misunderstanding it).

 

So, misc. Q's come up.  The older patrol wants to stay together, and want to bring the older scouts back from the newbie patrol.  Does it make sense to just evolve that newbie patrol into it's own patrol, let them take over their own management?  As new boys trickle in, do we put together a new newbie patrol, and get that going, or do we add them to the current patrols?

 

I have no idea, and the PLs/APLs have brought up arguments in both directions.

 

-Charles


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#14 Stosh

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 05:42 AM

First of all @hmscouting welcome to the forum. (you've been around a while lurking, but that's good too.)  :)

 

This debate rages on here on the forum.  Age based vs. mixed ages.  Both have their benefit and limitations.

 

I'm from the age based group and it sounds like the dynamics you describe, that's kinda what the boys are leaning towards.  So, even thought it's my emphasis, I would go with what the boys want!

 

It is good you are following the book for your structure, but you need to also be aware of the fact that your boys and your unit need to develop into what it is supposed to be, not what some book says it's to be.  As far as "understanding the book", I feel it's more important to understand your boys and their needs and then work to meet those needs.

 

Right now you have a young group with very little management or leadership skills.  In my experience these are two different animals that need to be dealt with.  Management of the troop should fall on the PL's.  They are the ones designing the program for their boys and in this case the older boys can focus on a broader range of topics than the younger newbie boys.  They might be focusing in on S-FC skills and the older boys, planning outings and learning to work together as a group.

 

I would make sure your boys are lead by the most experienced and skilled of the boy leaders.  They should be allowed to pick and choose that person on a daily basis until they find the right person for the job.  Too often units set up a 6 month term cycle and if a boy gets elected to a leadership position that can't do the job, the group suffers for 6 months until the next election cycle.  I don't do it that way, If the boy is struggling, signed up for sports, having trouble in school, or whatever, he can step down and be replaced in a heartbeat.  Let the boys decide how they want to handle their leadership.

 

I would think some sort of organizational training would be in order for the boys to grab onto the idea of the patrols.  The old Green Bar Bill material is really good for that and BSA as other programs NYLT and TLT programs that will help with the management part of the program.  Leadership will be different.  It's not the directive and often "bossy" style that is mistaken for leadership in many troops today, but it is instead the boy that stands out as the one willing to take care of the others in his charge.  A boy with this caring attitude can be taught to manage, but a directive manager will find it almost impossible to learn how to take care of his people.  They seem to remain too focused on simply getting the job done and doesn't care who does it as long as it gets done.  I have always had trouble dealing with boys like that and have found the natural caring leaders develop quicker and are more productive than the managers who when the boy balk at their insistence become frustrated and sometimes lash out.

 

Get your nose out of the book and watch your boys for clues as to what they need to be successful and open up opportunities for them to act on those impulses.  Scouting should be a place to try new things and if you fail, pick yourself up and try something else.A good leader has made many mistakes to get where he's at.  He will never be able to train a new leader who fails unless he knows the routine on how to survive failure himself.  :) 

 

Give me a boy who knows how to organize and I'll show you a good manager  Managers focus on tasks.  A good manager doesn't need to be a leader..

 

Give me a boy who cares about his people and I'll show you a good leader.  Leaders focus on people.  A good leader already knows what it is to be a good manager.... of people., not tasks. 


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#15 Eagledad

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 07:31 AM

I am a new SM for a new troop.  We are a small troop, about 16-17 scouts, about eight or nine of which are new-ish (just came up from Webelos), and seven or eight who have anywhere from six months to three years of scouting, but none with leadership experience.

 

We've been trying to follow what we interpreted the Scoutmaster Handbook was saying, with six or so of the older seven or eight boys in a "regular" patrol, and the younger boys in a "newbie patrol" with the PL & APL being selected from the older scouts (and by older, we're talking twelve vs. ten, right), assigned by the PL of the "regular" patrol.

 

Sounds like the program is too complicated for both the scouts and adults. Maybe you are jumping into the boy run thing in too deep and are struggling to keep your head above water. You handed the keys over to the scouts but they don't have the knowledge or experience to run it like the SM handbook. Neither do you really.

 

You need to scale the program back to where the adults can at least feel there is continuity in the program structure. Help the PL plan and learn with along with him how to plan a simple activity. How about helping the PL plan a simple hike at the next troop meeting. Nothing big or complicated. Just the guys trying to get from point A to point B back to A. What does that require in planning? Start time, destination. Pretty simple. Make it fun, add pizza somewhere in there. Close with a SM minute and go home. 

 

The scouts aren't the problem, the adults are because they don't really know what they are doing. So when the program seems out of control, pull it back to where you can see the scouts "having fun" and growing from the activities.

 

Older scouts are harder because they are set in their ways. But if you hold the right carrot in front of them (make it fun), they will make a turn. 

 

You want the scouts to lead (honestly lead) so the troop learns to respect youth authority, but you have the problem of scouts with no leadership experience. So become part of the team and learn together. Let the scouts know that you (the adults) don't really know what you are doing either, so you are going to learn together. Never take the lead, never stand in for the youth leader to direct their scouts. In our troop, adults never put up the sign first, we always wait for a scout to take control and then support him by responding with out sign. Let the scouts lead and let them struggle enough so that the you and the scout can discuss how to handle it better next time. Be cleaver, when things start to look bad, figure out how to help the scout without stepping in. As the scouts gain confidence in their leadership, the adults keep stepping back. You will find this actually works pretty fast, so get out of the way.

 

One other thing I suggested to newer young troops was getting copies of the PL Handbook and SPL Handbook and work out of those books with the scouts instead of the SM Handbook. In fact, I gave new SMs these books and told them to put the SM Handbook away for awhile. When the troop runs into issues, have the SPL or lead PL pull out his Handbook while you pull out yours and come up with a solution together. Most troops can function successfully with just those two easy to read books.

 

You are doing OK, you just got too much going on. It's more work than fun for the scouts right now. Make it fun, plan a simpler troop meeting that is more action than talk. Even games are better than lectures. Likewise plan fairly simple fun campouts. Surely there is a park nearby where the scouts can camp and ride bikes all day. Pretty easy. As they see how it was to plan and execute, let them take more lead on the next one, the fishing or hiking campout. Keep it simple simple simple for the next few months. Then push for them against their comfort zone.

 

I know it seems hard right now. I try to tell adults that for boy run troops, adults have to work harder and learn faster than the scouts so that they don't get in the scouts way. Once you get in that habit, you will say to yourself "I love this scouting stuff".

 

Barry


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#16 qwazse

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Posted 07 October 2016 - 06:59 AM

Welcome to the forums!

The first thing you're doing right is listening to the boys.

 

So, your older boys want to hang together. That's a positive. Being small, you can flex with that. The younger boys will now need to pull themselves together, master a few skills, and on occasion beat the older patrol at their own game.

 

Fun fact about autumn: your new boys aren't that new anymore. And soon you get newer boys.

 

So who gets to lead those crossovers? Well, if they are tight buddies, they might be best in pretty much their own patrol. If not, they might best be folded into existing patrols.

 

In either case, you assign them a Troop Guide from your batch of oldest boys. He's still a member of his preferred patrol, but he is responsible for keeping tabs of this group of boys, either in coaching them to form their own patrol, or making sure they're fitting into the newest patrol. An average guide will use the advancement method as a planning tool and check boys through as they master individual skills. An excellent guide will be a true big brother to all these boys and let PL's know what's going on with them.

 

It's like a box of chocolates, you'll never know quite what's inside until you put them to the test.


Edited by qwazse, 07 October 2016 - 06:59 AM.

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#17 Beavah

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 12:57 PM

I'm the SM for a small Troop.  10 Scouts (a new one just joined on Monday).  2 Patrols: The Merlins - 4 Scouts, 16, 16, 15, 15 yrs old; & the Ghosty Goats - 6 Scouts, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11, 11 yrs old. 

 

3 out of the 4 Merlins are active, we see the 4th ~once a month - he just finished his Eagle project & then he's done; 6/6 of the Ghosty Goats are active.

 

Yah, hmmm...

 

To my mind, at this size a troop should either be one patrol or two mixed-age patrols, eh?

 

So instead of havin' a young/old divide, yeh have two patrols where there are a pair of older scout leaders and instructors, and a second-year scout or two, and a first year scout or two.   Patrol competitions then become possible, harder outings supported by da strength of older scouts become possible, and real servant leadership by the older lads becomes possible.  Bein' a PL becomes a cool thing that older, competent boys do rather than a popularity contest among same-age peers.

 

In that case, da 4 older lads become a PLC and work together on troop trips, pushin' each of their patrols to be the best (Go Goats!!!).  They also can run some PLC-only trips if they want for some older boy adventures.

 

Plus, that way the older lads are gettin' da POR/leadership opportunities they need for rank advancement.

 

I don't think yeh need to do da SPL thing at this size.    Wait until yeh get to 3-5 patrols and the boys decide they need someone to organize da PLC.

 

Beavah


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#18 Tampa Turtle

Tampa Turtle

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Posted 13 October 2016 - 08:41 AM

I agree the tipping point should be 3 or more.


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