New Scouts/SM Conference LONG
Ian Ford (ianford@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Sun, 2 Oct 1994 00:21:49 +100
My first thought was if you have twenty new Scouts why not have THREE patrols
of seven, seven and six. That would enable more kids to rotate through
the leadership positions, and also make it easier on the Troop Guide.
Next, the job of the ASM (New Scout) is first and foremost to make sure the
Troop Guide is up to steam. Then he can guide the patrol. ( Personally I
would have preferred the title Patrol Guide as more descriptive, but
there we go ...)
We have had several very good troop guides. They work alongside the P/L
to get the patrols organised for camouts, and help with practical support,
e.g. on campouts the troop guide advises the P/L on setup, cooking etc. -
not taking over but " whispering in his ear " so to speak.
The Troop Guides ought, IMHO, to be experienced Junior Leaders who want
the job to help new Scouts, not because it is a position to qualify
for rank. The ASMs(New) need to touch base with the TG weekly and review
his plans. Maybe discuss particular Scouts, their progress and how they
are settling in. Identify kids who need extra help.
As for your questions about the Scoutmaster Conference ...
(a) to do this after dark and out of the way , even 2:1 is unwise and is open
to misinterpretation. 'Nuff said.
(b) the SM conference is <not> supposed to be an examination. If the ASMs
are competent they should be checking each requirement as they sign
it off. It is unreasonable to expect a kid to have " swallowed the
book " and be able to know every detail , particularly new Scouts.
Familiarity comes with experience through repetition of skills use.
(c) The conference is <supposed> to be a one on one thing, conducted in
relative privacy but according to YPG. This is covered on SMF 1&2 in
the video and I won't labour the point here. But it should be, again
IMHO , a positive experience for the Scout. The last SM conference
I did with a New Scout was actually with an older kid aged 12.5
who had been in the British program, so it was longer than usual -
about twenty minutes. But this included orientation to the troop
and checking what transfer of credit he was entitled to.When I do a
conference for a new Scout in the ordinary way it takes maybe 10/15
minutes max and includes getting to know the kid, his hobbies, interests,
why he joined, previous experience in Cub scouts , who his particular
friends are. Then we talk about the Oath and Law etc. and what being
a Scout means. Not testing , an exchange of ideas.
What follows is my " outline agenda " for each conference. The weight
I put on each area depends on the kid and the ciorcumstances :
For a Tenderfoot conference I would expect to take ten to fifteen
minutes. I go over the campout(s) he has attended, ask what he enjoyed
most/least , how he is getting on with the troop and patrol, what MBs
he has done / is doing / is planning , and what he likes about them.
I try to agree goals with the Scout. First Class in First Year is a
slogan not a goal IMHO. Some kids are self-starters and get there
faster, other are slower and need more time. I try to set a realistic
date for First Class. I do ask a few questions about particular skills
etc. but not as a re-test. At this stage the points I look for are an
understanding of the buddy system , knowledge of safety procedure,
priorities of first aid. Then I ask him about the Oath and Law and
why he thinks he has shown " Scout spirit " .
Second Class - 10 mins apx. Again, the first few minutes are to how he is
getting on in the troop. If he has held a leadership position how did it
go, if not what problems does he forsee. ( Telling kids the same age and
experience what to do is the favourite , and leads to some thoughts on
styles of leadership.) Then it's again a review of safe swim, drug and
alcohol abuse etc. Finally I may check out random requirements, just
one or two, to get the " feel " for if the kid is confident or just
scraping by. Again , a bit about Oath and Law and how it has applied
to his life. " What have you learned so far ? " and " Why do you
think I should sign you off ? " are interesting final questions.
First Class - This tends to be longer, about 15 minutes max. I
review his progress to date, with more emphasis on leadership ,
inter-personal skills etc. Run through the citizenship requirements
(in our case including being a US citizen overseas). What troop
activities did he like best /least and why ? Ask about campouts.
What does he think the troop needs to be doing ?
Again , review MBs especially Eagle required - what has he done and
what are his plans ? Again , set goals with dates " pencilled in "
for Star requirements. Promote things like JLT and special opportunities.
What does international Scouting mean to you ? What do you do that
gives other Scouts a positive example of the Scout Oath in action ? "
" What does Duty to God " mean to you ?
I try to make it a joint effort, we set goals together, and my job
is to offer encouragement , identify resources , motivate, maybe
inject reality if he's being over-ambitious or thinks too highly
of his own abilities. try to identify areas of weakness. " You seem to
have a problem with ... what can WE do about it ? "
As I say, this is personal view, and a method which I feel comfortable
with. Unless there are very special circumstances , such as major
behavioural problems or a clear lack of basic knowlege I would not expect
a conference to go beyond twenty minutes.
I'm not saying my approach is right - but I don't think it is that
I don't want to comment too much on the original question, because I
don't know the circumstances nor the dynamics involved. But is sounds to
me as though the kids had a negative experience , so by definition the
conference was unsatisfactory. There is some poor leadership somwehere
that needs to be sorted out, that's for sure.
Ian N Ford
ASM, BSA Troop 401, American School in London
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City