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Does the SPL Always Lead on a Campout?


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#1 doakley

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 02:13 PM

Hello, I'm new here. I am wondering if anyone else has come across this one. My son and I joined a new troop a year ago. I threw myself into it and now I am the next Scoutmaster. I've read everything I can get my hands on and listened to all of ScoutmasterCG's podcast at least four times now. I've never come across the standard practice of our troop. For each campout, a PL is designated for leading that month's trip. So all the trips logistics are on the PL and on the campout, everyone looks to this PL for direction. Our current SPL is fine with this practice, because it's what he is used to and alleviates any of his responsibility. We've had about five of these campouts since last September. In practice it stinks. It's like starting over with a new SPL every month instead of every six months or year. We had one trip ultimately fail because the PL couldn't get everything together in time. I think the PLs have enough on their plates managing their patrols rather than being responsible for the actions of the whole troop.

 

Full disclosure-the patrol method is a bit foreign to this troop and has been managed by the herd method in the recent past. The thought of eating, cooking, camping as a patrol is an uphill battle. Trying to reinstate the patrol method is my first and foremost task, but this will take time.

 

In my experience, the SPL should lead on campouts. I'm fine with a different PL helping to plan and facilitate the trip, but when on the trip, the buck should  stop with the SPL. Has anyone else come across with monthly revolving door in campout leadership?

 

Regards,

Oak

 


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#2 Oldscout448

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 06:45 PM

The SPL has the job of overall coordinating the patrols, helping the PLs, and planning troop campouts. He may / should enlist the help of one or more other scouts, but the ultimate responsibility is his. Exclusive of medical forms, driving etc. These are the adults to do. It is understandable that the SPL. is happy with delegating that's the easy way,but the job comes with that three bar patch. If he wants to wear it he needs to do the job. He will most likely need you to walk him through this the first few times
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#3 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 06:56 PM

Some troops still use the Service Patrol and Program Patrol. Service Patrol is responsible for set up and cleanup of the meetings. Program Patrol is responsible for running program including getting needed equipment and instructors.


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#4 qwazse

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 07:03 PM

No, but honestly, compared to your troop, I'm not seeng a higher " success ratio" with the SPL always on point. (And I was an SPL once upon a time.)

It sounds like if you want to transition to something more consistent with your vision, proceed gently. You've got boys taking on management challenges and about 3/4 of them are rising to the challenge.

Rather than focusing on the management strategy, start finding locations where the patrols can camp at substantial distance. I suspect as the PLs see you expecting them to maintain their responsibilities regardless of what they have to do for the SPL, they will consider electing their next one with an eye towards who might help them take up some of the slack.

Edited by qwazse, 01 May 2016 - 07:04 PM.

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#5 Beavah

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 07:21 PM

Hiya @doakley, and welcome!

 

Yah, sure, I've seen that sort of practice, eh?   It tends to be more common in Patrol Method troops that are more active.

 

I don't know where yeh are in your "reading everything", but one of da hardest things for us adults to get our heads around is Patrol Method.   It's always easier for us to imagine that da SPL is the Man In Charge Who Runs Everything, and then da SM just coaches him.   That's troop method, and while yeh can do it, it's not the best sort of Scouting.

 

In Scoutin' we use Patrol Method to break boys up into smaller groups where they have lots of opportunities to practice planning and leadership.   Instead of one boy gettin' experience being in charge, yeh can have 5 boys learning and plannin' and being in charge of their patrols.   In fact, the patrols can be doin' their own campouts and da role of da SPL can just be coordinatin' to make sure they tell each other what their patrol calendars are.   That way all those boys are gettin' experience doin' the things they'll need to do for an Eagle project, not just the SPL.

 

So I'd encourage yeh as Scoutmaster not to retreat back to Troop Method Scoutin'.   You'll like Patrol Method better, and it will be better for the boys.  However, if yeh find it isn't workin' then that's a time for you to put on your Scoutmaster's Hat and train your patrol leaders.   Get with your SPL and figure out how you're goin' to offer trainin' for your PLs on how to plan and run outings, whether it's their own patrol outings or if they're takin' a turn for the troop.   Then da SPL or JASM becomes the fellow who offers support and encouragement (and some kicks in the pants), so they're learning other sorts of skills of communication and management.

 

Yeh are buildin' lots of effective small group teams as a Scoutmaster, eh?  Not one big one.

 

Tell us a bit more about your troop and your current patrol structure, eh?  

 

Beavah


Edited by Beavah, 01 May 2016 - 07:28 PM.

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#6 King Ding Dong

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 07:24 PM

Are you currently the Scoutmaster or about to be?

The SPL is not supposed to be a member of a patrol, so what does he do on these campouts?
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#7 Stosh

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Posted 01 May 2016 - 07:39 PM

First of all, welcome to the forum!

 

It appears to me that if one is going to be the new SM of this troop, a goodly amount of training on the patrol method might be in order, especially if it has not been used in the past.

 

With the patrol method of my smaller troops size there is basically no need for an SPL.  Each patrol leader does his own thing with his patrol and takes lead on the operation of the boys under his care.  Each patrol is independent of the others and function according to their skill level and personal leadership dynamics.

 

I used to be part of an adult run troop wide operation where the SPL was supposed to "take point".  Basically it absolved the PL's of any and all responsibility and basically the adults eventually would step in and take over the activity.  It was a never ending battle between the boys and adults and I got tired of it and found a new troop.

 

If the troop is moderate to large in size one also has to take into consideration the skill level of and SPL.  Most professional educators have their hands full with 20-25 students in their class at one time and the SPL, with no professional training is expected to take on that many boys or even more?  That's a recipe for disaster in my book.  This is why I like the patrol method where each boy has a maximum of 7 other boys to take care of which is a number a budding new leader can handle without being overwhelmed.

 

My suggestion would be to browse back through the posts here on the forum for there has been a ton of discussion on the subject of the patrol method and with all the different variances one should be able to put something together for one's boys to be successful at.


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#8 Tampa Turtle

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 08:46 AM

Work the Patrol method. But yes it will be hard. How many scouts on the campout? If it is a small unit it may not matter that much.

 

I see that the classic span of control is true with scouts as in life: 5 to 8 persons. The SPL cannot 'run' 20 boys--he runs the patrol leaders. 

 

We have had individual older scouts plan and run specific campouts with mixed results--I think it undermines the Patrol Method (it was not my decision).


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#9 Krampus

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 09:36 AM

@doakley

 

Our SPL leads the camp outs WITH the PLs. The camp out is planned by the PLC. There is a camp out plan which the SPL and PLs execute. They meet at the PLC Friday night and Saturday night to discuss what happens the next day. Each month a program patrol is responsible for planning the weekly meetings. The PL of the program patrol manages that task are reports to the SPL.

 

Took a while to build this in to the process but it became the cornerstone of our movement to the patrol method.


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#10 doakley

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 10:39 AM

We have about 40 Scouts on paper and maybe 20+ show up for campouts. Troop meetings are probably in the average of 30. We are not strong in the Patrol Method and that's the first place I need to focus. Our troop is not used to patrols acting as a defined group that cooks, eats, cleans, sleeps together etc. We've been run by the herd method where patrols don't have any meaning. On campouts patrols always mixed because two would show up from a patrol. There was never any patrol identity. It didn't help that patrols were appointed by the SPL instead of letting the Scouts  form their own patrols. 

 

So yes it was painful to watch a 13-year old patrol leader try to mange the big herd. Many times it was a train wreck and left it inviting for the adults to step in.

 

We have elections coming up in June and I will taking over as SM then. My plan is to allow the Scouts to form their own patrols. Hopefully that will make them want to come on campouts and work as a group. Then I can the SPL work with the PLs. 


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#11 Krampus

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 10:47 AM

We have about 40 Scouts on paper and maybe 20+ show up for campouts. Troop meetings are probably in the average of 30. We are not strong in the Patrol Method and that's the first place I need to focus. Our troop is not used to patrols acting as a defined group that cooks, eats, cleans, sleeps together etc. We've been run by the herd method where patrols don't have any meaning. On campouts patrols always mixed because two would show up from a patrol. There was never any patrol identity. It didn't help that patrols were appointed by the SPL instead of letting the Scouts  form their own patrols. 

 

If two show up, that's your patrol. I wouldn't mix them just to make numbers.

 

The hardest thing I found was managing the expectations of adults that everything should go smoothly. Once they jump that hurdle and buy in to the fact that it may be a train wreck for a while, then you are halfway there.

 

The next step is to train the guys in patrol operations. How do patrols set up camp? How do they purchase and cook food? How do they clean up? Once they get used to those things then the rest should fall in to place.

 

Just like sports, you have warm ups before the game or practice. Getting good at patrol and troop operations is the key. Once those become second nature -- if even just for the older Scouts -- leadership will grow on its own. The adults just need to sit back and have that cup of coffee AFTER the boys have been trained.


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#12 Beavah

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 11:14 AM

Yah, what @Krampus said, eh!  That's exactly right.

 

As yeh go in to havin' the boys set up patrols of their own, yeh do need to give 'em some structure to work with.

 

Some thoughts (hopefully others will add ideas):

 

  • Patrols should be "permanent", eh?   Patrol Method works best when it's Once a Beaver, Always a Beaver!
  • Patrols should not "collapse" on outings, so make each patrol big enough that it won't be down to 1-2 guys on any outing.  That keeps yeh away from "combining" patrols or other silliness.  Keep 'em to four so they can hike independently.  
  • No patrols bigger than X.   I'd say 10 - 12 or so, dependin' on the first point which is more important.   If yeh get to higher attendance rates, then yeh can use smaller patrols.  Eight is usually too small if yeh have 50% attendance on average.
  • Patrols should be self-sufficient on outings, so that means yeh have to have some experienced or at least go-getter scouts in each.  Maybe PLs need to be 1st Class or above?  Yeh don't want to tempt adults into feelin' they need to "help".
  • Nobody should be "picked last" or made to feel unwanted.  The best youth leaders take the hardest personnel challenges... and the lads should know that :D .
  • If yeh have some dietary restrictions kids (like nut allergies), sometimes it can help to put 'em in the same patrol.  All else bein' equal, it makes things a bit easier.

 

I reckon with that, the lads can handle the rest, but other folks will give yeh other good ideas.  

 

Keep in mind, you've got a big Patrol Leader Trainin' task ahead, eh?  Start mappin' that out.   Maybe a special long weekend campout, followed by some sort of combined fun/learning monthly event just for PLs.   Make these practical, eh?  Think outdoors, not power-point.   Yeh want to jump-start their ability to do things for/with their patrols in da field, and yeh can't do that with paperwork.

 

If yeh haven't had a chance yet, go do Woodbadge.   Make sure yeh join da Beaver patrol.  Hard workin' loyal folks, those Beavers. :)

 

Beavah


Edited by Beavah, 02 May 2016 - 11:15 AM.

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#13 doakley

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 11:32 AM

Yes I've been planning on doing some sort of ILST that focuses on the patrol method. I've led ILST before with another troop that was in worse shape. I realize that the training doesn't stop with just one weekend event.

 

That's one of the parts that's been missing from current troop--any sort of training. It's just assumed that they'll figure it out and it's not working. Nothing works and it turns into chaos and not the good kind where the Scouts are managing it.

 

Beavah-I'm going to Wood Badge this weekend. I had my eye on Bobwhite, but maybe Beaver is more appropriate. 

 

Thanks for everyone's help.

 

Oak


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#14 Eagledad

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 11:45 AM

Adults and older scouts are the most resistant to change. Have you spoken to the adults?

 

In general, not always, but in general change comes from the youngest to the older scouts, not the other way around. 

 

Have you developed an explanation for the reason you want to change the present program? "Because I say so" never comes off well to the scouts or adults. You should rehearse your reasoning over and over in your mind until you can say a simple one or two sentence explanation that is as coherent to the 11 year old as it is to the adult leaders. It doesn't hurt to be able to reference BSA material as well so that you don't appear as some narcissist trying to prove your new mouse trap ideas of scouting. Your troop is doing it wrong, be able to show them why.

 

You say you have read everything, but have you read the PL and SPL handbooks? Instead of the SM trying to explain how patrols should work, let the books explain it for you with you working along with the boys as a student. As much as possible, don't push, follow along. In fact, make those handbooks required reading for all the adults working with the scouts so that everyone understands the direction YOU are going. 

 

You have our support and I'm excited to watch your troop progress.

 

Barry


Edited by Eagledad, 02 May 2016 - 11:46 AM.

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#15 MattR

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 11:46 AM

We are not strong in the Patrol Method and that's the first place I need to focus. Our troop is not used to patrols acting as a defined group that cooks, eats, cleans, sleeps together etc.

 

So yes it was painful to watch a 13-year old patrol leader try to mange the big herd. Many times it was a train wreck and left it inviting for the adults to step in.

If the PLs and patrols don't have experience with setting up camp, cooking, and cleaning on their own then asking a PL to do that for an entire troop is likely not going to be successful. I'd start with that and skip having a PL run the troop wide activities for now.

 

Then I'd work on getting patrols to organize their own activities outside of the usual cooking/cleaning. It could be that every patrol does roughly the same thing, as decided by the plc, on a campout but within that context each patrol might do something different. Different hike, different pioneering project, who knows.

 

Later on you can work on the problem of getting troop wide activities organized. Or maybe each patrol is having so much fun they want to do their own thing on all campouts.

 

BTW, very cool that you're trying to do this.


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#16 fred johnson

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 12:00 PM

I've seen it too where each camp out has a new effective SPL.  I don't mind the service patrol / program patrol approach.  It can work.  But the PLC is always the PLC and the SPL is always the SPL.  IMHO, rotating camp leadership or picking the next scout leader just messes things up the same way rotating the scoutmaster each month would mess up the scoutmaster position.

 

IMHO, do simple things that promote patrol method and let the SPL oversee the PLs and the other positions.

 

What few simple things ?  

 

Never combine patrols. ... or as never as possible 

  • I cringe agreeing with Stosh and Beavah but it's one of the key points.  "Once a ####, always a ####."  
  • It's the only way to promote patrol loyalty and spirit.  Forming patrols on the fly for a camp-out subverts the patrol method big time.  
  • If one scout is on a camp out, he gets to bring his own food.  If he doesn't like that or if it happens too often, he can choose to switch patrols because his patrol mates are not supporting him and he can choose to be a different patrol.  It's a learning lesson for everyone.  It also promotes having that scout encourage his patrol mates to go on the camp out.

Always have the SPL lead the big group.

  • Switching or taking over just subverts the SPL and will frustrate the SPL.
  • The SPL needs to be in-charge continually to become used to standing up in front of everyone.

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#17 doakley

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 12:04 PM

Adults and older scouts are the most resistant to change. Have you spoken to the adults?

 

In general, not always, but in general change comes from the youngest to the older scouts, not the other way around. 

 

Have you developed an explanation for the reason you want to change the present program? "Because I say so" never comes off well to the scouts or adults. You should rehearse your reasoning over and over in your mind until you can say a simple one or two sentence explanation that is as coherent to the 11 year old as it is to the adult leaders. It doesn't hurt to be able to reference BSA material as well so that you don't appear as some narcissist trying to prove your new mouse trap ideas of scouting. Your troop is doing it wrong, be able to show them why.

 

You say you have read everything, but have you read the PL and SPL handbooks? Instead of the SM trying to explain how patrols should work, let the books explain it for you with you working along with the boys as a student. As much as possible, don't push, follow along. In fact, make those handbooks required reading for all the adults working with the scouts so that everyone understands the direction YOU are going. 

 

You have our support and I'm excited to watch your troop progress.

 

Barry

 

Barry,

 

Yes I have read the SPL and PL's handbook and freely give them out to all. You're right though, not all the adults are onboard yet and I'm still not the acting SM. It's true that the only ones that can affect change in a troop is the SM, COR and CC. I have to be patient while trying to steer this aircraft carrier. I'm dealing with years of "this is how we've always done it." I expected push back from adults, but I was really surprised when I spoke to the PLC about Scouts choosing their own patrols. They looked at me like people who were just released from a gulag after 50 years. No one has ever tried that before-it can not be done. 

 

Since the patrol method is probably the most important method, I thought that was sufficient justification. But you're right--I have to sell it to the Scouters and Scouts to whom the patrol method is completely foreign. I must practice patience.


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#18 Eagledad

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 12:25 PM

I have worked oh probably about 10 troops that decided to make the same change you are making and not one of them had their older scouts (14 and older) fully sold on the idea. I guess we develop our minds believing that our program is THE program for scouting, even if we don't like it. Anyway, every troop included the older scouts into the change plan, but all of them eventually split their program where the young scouts made the troop change and the older scouts were allowed to do their thing, whatever pleased them. And I guess the joke is on them because that is kind of the patrol method anyway.

 

NOW I'm not saying to expect doom and gloom with the older scouts, I know someone will figure out a way to get older scouts on board.  I'm hoping you are that person and will teach us so that we can spread the word. Give a try for a while, but if the older scouts become a hindrance to progress, give them their program they want. Funny thing, the older scouts don't leave, they just do their thing until they age out, most earn their Eagle. 

 

Just a heads up. Not trying to suggest a course of action.

 

Barry


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#19 Eagledad

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 12:30 PM

Oh yes, and about that patience thing; there is a reason why it is the first trait to describe "Love" in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7


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#20 qwazse

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Posted 02 May 2016 - 02:17 PM

... Since the patrol method is probably the most important method, I thought that was sufficient justification. But you're right--I have to sell it to the Scouters and Scouts to whom the patrol method is completely foreign. I must practice patience.

Try not to think of one method as more important than the others.

 

Usually the most important one at any given time is the one they're not good at. If a patrol is going out every weekend and deftly robbing liquor stores to buy drugs under the association of some adult thugs ... ideals is the most important method. (Sounds extreme, but if you read some of the early press releases about scouting, the notion that boys would organized into groups of friends is taken for granted, but the purpose for peace and good in the world is highlighted.)

 

Regarding ILST, I would suggest you have the SPLs (incoming and outgoing) lead it. And have them think of the most entertaining way to deliver it. (Some troops like a campout, others an afternoon before a bowling night, others as part of consecutive meetings, etc ...)


Edited by qwazse, 02 May 2016 - 02:17 PM.

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