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Merit Badge Counselors


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#1 Adamcp

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 05:35 PM

Do those of you in far and wide Councils have trouble with Councils regarding record keeping of Merit Badge Counselors? As in, trouble with the list of who is on Council's list of approved Counselors.

 

I'm thinking that a good basic class in Excel should suffice here, but we cannot get any list of counselors, other than a poorly Xeroxed paper copy (unsortable of course) 20 pages or so long that looks like it has not been updated in many, many years.  (I am not sure all of these Scouters still walk amongst us!)

 

And when we send in applications for new Merit Badge Counselors, we rarely (... almost never) hear anything back. Not "approved", not "not approved", not "pending approval". Nothing. For over a year.  When you call, they don't know who has the paperwork.

 

"Sounds like you're volunteering for the job," you say. Well, no, I am not, but one of my ASMs did. And they don't give him anything he can work with.

 

Maybe I am just venting, but we're starting to have real troubles, especially with Eagle required badges. Some of the guys we know are on the decrepit list (the list is decrepit, not the .... well, maybe a bit of both) are indeed getting up there in years and not all of 'em get around to us that often.  As SM, I often am at a loss for who I can refer the Scouts to, in the Troop or outside it in the larger Scouting community.

 

Like I said, maybe just venting, but does anyone have any ideas? 


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#2 Stosh

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 06:02 PM

I have signed on as a MB counselor for 10 MB's.  I kept it open to any scout in the council not just my troop. 

 

I have not received any notification that I am on anyone's list.

 

I have never been asked to do any of the MB's.

 

Once about 10 years ago I had a boy want to do the Bugling MB.  He came we talked about it, said to practice the various calls and what they were used for and he can then schedule a time to come back and demonstrate he could play them and know when to use them.  He never came back.  Had he been able to play them at the first session, I would have signed off right then and there.  I had a bugle available for him to use. That is the full extent of 20+ years of MB history for me in my council.  I'm thinking that most of the MB's are taken at summer camp, and MB days in the council and any partials are completed and signed off by someone in the troop without checking any signatures against any MB lists.  The scout has a signed card, that's the end of the process.  Who actually signed it is irrelevant. 

 

I'm thinking things are run pretty fast and loose in my council.


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#3 Adamcp

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 10:13 PM

Most merit badges do happen at Summer Camp, at least in this Troop since I've been a part of it. Hoping to give some different opportunities for the Scouts, especially for topics that do not have merit badges offered at camp. Thanks for your thoughts.
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#4 clemlaw

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 12:56 AM

When my son started Cub Scouts, I went to a "University of Scouting" event.  One of the classes was Merit Badge Counselor training.  I signed up for it.  The first thing they did was to have everyone introduce themselves, and everyone went around and gave their name and what troop they were with.  They also talked about merit badge experiences in their troop.

 

When they got to me, I told them I wasn't with any troop, and that I planned to sign up as a counselor for the whole district or council.  For most of the people in the room, that was the first they had ever heard of such a thing.  They didn't think it was a bad idea--they had just never considered the possibility.  

 

After I took the class, I found the application buried on the council's website, and sent it in.  I never did hear back one way or another.  I had volunteered for about 10 different merit badges, but I stated that I didn't want to do all of them, and asked them to assign me to one or two of my preferred ones, and if they needed me for the others, that they could use me for them as well.

 

I never was told which merit badges I was approved for, but a few months later, I got an e-mail from a local scouter who runs merit badge programs asking whether I could counsel one of them at one of his programs.  That was the first I knew that I was approved.  So I knew I was approved for that one (one of my optional listings), but had no idea which other ones I was approved for.  Eventually, at Roundtable, they made an announcement that they needed to update The List, and we should confirm that we still wanted to be on it.  I wasn't allowed to see The List, but they did finally tell me which merit badges I was approved for.

 

Today, one of the district's leaders is in our troop, and he has access to The List, and I've been able to confirm that my information is correct.  But The List is still regarded as a mostly secret document.  As far as I know, scoutmasters have no access to it.  So if Johnny Scout wants to do X merit badge, I don't really know what they're supposed to do.  I guess they need to call someone at the district who has access to The List.

 

Unfortunately, that issue never comes up, because I don't think Johnny Scout has ever been told that he can do any merit badge that he wants, just by making a phone call.  I guess it's best that he doesn't know, since The List is such a closely guarded secret.

 

Anyway, now that I'm an approved counselor, I sit by the phone waiting for scouts to call.  So far, that has never happened.  I asked other adults in my troop who are counselors, and most of them have never gotten a call either.  The one exception is a leader who counsels Environmental Science.  He apparently gets occasional calls from scouts in other troops who got a "partial" at summer camp and need to complete it.

 

So I would say that a 20 page out of date typewritten list would actually be an improvement in my district.  (Or maybe in my council--I'm still unclear on whether The List is a secret district document or a secret council document.)

 

So far, the only merit badges I've done have been where I put myself forward as a volunteer.  Those have been at district merit badge events and a local scouting museum.  Fortunately, two of the merit badges I counsel happen to be among the rare ones that work fairly well as a "class," where all or most of the requirements can be completed in one day (those are Radio and Signs Signals & Codes).  Other merit badges I counsel don't really work very well as part of a "class," and I've declined requests to "teach" those classes.

 

I'm doing my best to get the word out that scouts can do any merit badge, and many of them work best when the scout makes contact with a counselor from outside their own troop.  But I have to concede that it's not really done that way any more.

 

I suspect that there are a lot of people in the community who would love to be merit badge counselors and be able to share expertise from their job or hobby.  Before my son started Cub Scouts, I would have gladly volunteered if someone had asked me, but they never did.  Many of those people are former scouts, but there are probably a lot of people not connected with scouting who would be willing to help.  But nobody asks them, and if they are asked, their name is placed on a secret list that nobody's ever going to look at.


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#5 Adamcp

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 07:48 AM

I love that you capitalize The List.  It does feel like it is held in such mystery as to deserve such status!


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#6 Stosh

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 09:16 AM

@clemlaw  Obviously we are both from the same council.

 

Other than adult driven summer MB camps and MB school days, I have no idea how to go about setting up MB counselors.  The BSA policy is to have the boy contact the MB counselor, set up a schedule and do the MB.

 

The only glitch in the process is that the boy have no idea who is available to teach.  The "Secret List" is never made known to anyone other than scouters which in theory shouldn't have anything to do with the process.  This is just another secret process to allow the adults to have control of the MB world. 

 

Even if the boys did have access to the "Secret List" they would quickly find that unless the MB counselor is listed as their troop only, which why have the list if that is the case, the boys already know of a counselor in that circumstance.  So they call up and ask who's on the list for Auto Mechanics that is council-wide?  No one!  Scratch that one off the list of available MB's.  How about Welding?  Same thing, etc. etc. etc.

 

What one is going to find is that the only place to get MB's is at summer MB camp and MB school days and that the only counselors on the "Secret List" are those who have signed up with their troop only to be able to sign off on their boys' partials.

 

And how secret is the "Secret List"?  30 years of MB counseling for council-wide and one nibble start of a MB with a boy many years ago that never came back to finish it up.

 

With a track record like that it makes it really hard to try and talk our parents into being MB counselors and impossible to get them to sign up for council-wide.

 

It makes one wonder how many of these scouter counselors out there take the words, "help other people at all times" seriously.


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Stosh

 

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#7 Col. Flagg

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 09:23 AM

My council will print out a list if requested for my district. Anyone registered as an MBC from my district will show up on that list.

 

The PROBLEM lies in how folks register. For example, I'm an SM so I register each year as an SM. I am also an MBC, so I register as an MBC. HOWEVER, it appears, at least in my council, those are two different systems. Making things worse, they generated yet another BSA ID for me (despite providing my BSA ID on the MBC form). So in my.scouting I have to take YPT twice.

 

You'd think they could just go in to the membership system, check the right boxes and delete the extra account. Nope.

 

Our Unit Solution? We get the list from Council, have a few volunteers contact the MBCs to see if they are still active. Input that data in to a Google spreadsheet and update that once a year via email. This allows *us* to keep a list by name, MB and email. Anyone who does not want their name on that list we take off.


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#8 DuctTape

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 09:32 AM

I wish not only would troop only mb counselors not be allowed, but that counselors are forbidden from signing off for scouts in their own troop. The boys lose out on so many opportunities by having everything done "in house". I am almost certain this will never change.
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#9 Col. Flagg

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 09:36 AM

I wish not only would troop only mb counselors not be allowed, but that counselors are forbidden from signing off for scouts in their own troop. The boys lose out on so many opportunities by having everything done "in house". I am almost certain this will never change.

 

Our council always tells us there's no such thing as "troop-only" MBCs. Now, policing that they don't do. So folks on the MBC list *should* be available to all. In actuality they simply say "I'm too busy" when they mean "I do my troop only."


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#10 Adamcp

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 11:17 AM

 

 

Other than adult driven summer MB camps and MB school days, I have no idea how to go about setting up MB counselors.  The BSA policy is to have the boy contact the MB counselor, set up a schedule and do the MB.

 

 

 

Interesting, Stosh.  The way it was always said to me was that the pathway went like this: "Ok, Scout. If you want to do a merit badge, first go to your SM and ask the SM for a blue card. The SM will then connect you to a Merit Badge Counselor (which means give the name of the Counselor and the phone number). Then, Scout, you call the Merit Badge Counselor and ask them if they will be able to serve as the Merit Badge Counselor for your Merit Badge."

 

Is that different from your experience?


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#11 CNYScouter

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 11:21 AM

This sounds like our MB list until a few years ago.

Keeping a list of MBC's is a function of the District Advancement Committee.

 

Our council also no longer allows "Troop only" MBC's.

It also limits a person to be a councilor for 7 MB's.

I was told this was due to there were Troops that the SM was registered as a MBC for every Eagle required MB and the Scouts in that Troop only earned earned those MB's from him.

 

The person who was on the committee that was keeping track of MBC's just stop doing it.

A new person was recruited and he spent months calling/emailing people on the list to see if they still were registered (or alive)

It took awhile but he finally got a pretty accurate list of MBC's

 

I am a MBC for a few MB's and every May I get a letter from him showing which MB's I am a registered for and he asks to be called or emailed if I wish to continue being a MBC.

It's a simple email or quick phone call telling if I want to continue or not

 

This seems to work really well in our District


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#12 Stosh

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 11:29 AM

Interesting, Stosh.  The way it was always said to me was that the pathway went like this: "Ok, Scout. If you want to do a merit badge, first go to your SM and ask the SM for a blue card. The SM will then connect you to a Merit Badge Counselor (which means give the name of the Counselor and the phone number). Then, Scout, you call the Merit Badge Counselor and ask them if they will be able to serve as the Merit Badge Counselor for your Merit Badge."

 

Is that different from your experience?

Yep, the "normal" routine in the units I have experienced are like @CNYScouter indicates and have SM and ASM's all sign up for the Eagle MB's and maybe a few more, and then the boys only take those, unless they pick up the others at summer MB camp or MB school days.

 

In all the years I have been a SM, no scout has ever needed to go the route suggested by BSA.  This may be the reason why the "Secret List" really is such a low priority it may not even exist anymore.  I would assume that I am the exception to the rule by having registered as a full council available MB counselor.


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Stosh

 

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#13 Col. Flagg

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 11:33 AM

This sounds like our MB list until a few years ago.

Keeping a list of MBC's is a function of the District Advancement Committee.

 

Our council also no longer allows "Troop only" MBC's.

 

How do they enforce this? I'm curious because this is a rampant issue. Most MBC's who want to be troop-only hide behind the "I don't have time right now" excuse.


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#14 Stosh

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 11:34 AM

How do they enforce this? I'm curious because this is a rampant issue. Most MBC's who want to be troop-only hide behind the "I don't have time right now" excuse.

 

Easy, they just ignore the Scouter's BSA Oath where he/she promises "to help other people at all times."


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Stosh

 

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#15 gischibeads

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 11:53 AM

In Dan Beard Council (Greater Cincinnati) we are fortunate that somebody took the time to compile a very thorough listing. Organized by districts, merit badges, anyway you want it really. I suspect it simply takes somebody willing to put in the time and effort. Easy enough to maintain once it is first in place.


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#16 CNYScouter

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 12:13 PM

I don't think they actually enforce the "Troop only" policy

 

At one time you could specify that you were a "Troop only" MBC and it showed that on the MBC list.

 

You can no longer specify this.

Our council has a form you fill out to be a MBC.

It basically asks why you are qualified to be a MBC for a MB.

It also says that you must be able and willing to see Scouts from outside your unit.


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#17 vclose

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 12:47 PM

Our council limits counselors to 15 merit badges, only 6 of which can be Eagle required.

They also eliminated the "Troop only" stipulation last year, although in the notice that went out announcing that fact, they simply said you can just decline to work with someone outside your Troop if asked.

Like CNYScouter, our council has a form you fill out annually.  The renewal letter we get every July lists all the badges we are registered for, and whether we want to make any changes.  We have until August 15 to return the form.  They ask for your qualifications, but to my knowledge, they'll take just about anything as far as qualifications go: vocation, special interest, "I just like the subject", etc.

For Climbing, Rifle, Shotgun, Scuba and Whitewater, you must submit your up-to-date certifications in order to be counselors for those badges.

 

Our Scoutmaster was just discussing MB counseling the other day, lamenting on the days when Scoutmasters were automatically counselors for all merit badges.  I'd never heard that before, and my Scoutmaster growing up was never a counselor for every merit badge by default, so I'm not sure the veracity of that statement.

 

Outside of Summer Camp, I don't think any of the Scouts in my Troop now have done any merit badges with counselors outside the "troop counselor" list.


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#18 Adamcp

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 12:58 PM

Wow. I always thought that our merit badge counselor issues were just due to our own Troop limitations and weaknesses. It is amazing to hear how many others have similar experiences. Frankly, I am having a hard time understanding how something so central to Scouting could be such a mess.

 

Well, I guess not THAT much of hard time .....

 

But still


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#19 Col. Flagg

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 01:09 PM

Wow. I always thought that our merit badge counselor issues were just due to our own Troop limitations and weaknesses. It is amazing to hear how many others have similar experiences. Frankly, I am having a hard time understanding how something so central to Scouting could be such a mess.

 

Well, I guess not THAT much of hard time .....

 

But still

 

Have you logged in to my.scouting during recharter to check your members' training history? 

 

If so, this should be no surprise.  :D  ;)


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#20 TAHAWK

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Posted 03 February 2017 - 01:31 PM

All the factors are identified above: summer camp MB mills; troop lists; looking for the easy way out (Did anyone mention district or Council  "Merit Badge Midways" or the like?  :( )

 

I have been a MB Counselor for a long time, and the work gradually dried up. 

 

I have never had to do YPT more than once every two years despite holding multiple unit, district, and council jobs.  ( The online version testing for YPT screams "slapdash."   Which of the correct or which least incorrect answer are they looking for? )

 

BSA's decision to sharply restrict access to MB counselor lists on the grounds that MB counselors would be offended by being contacted by candidates is just nuts.  Furthermore, the imaginary issue would be solved by having the counselor paperwork contain his/her agreement to the publication of the list and receipt of contacts from candidates.  Once again, the people in the "risk management" "bubble" are operating without regard to the "business" as a whole.


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