Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Challenge of Delivering a Quality Scout Program

In Boy Scouts, I have served on the Troop Committee as Advancement Chair for two years, with our former Troop in Connecticut. I have been involved in Cub Scout Pack leadership for five years and been a Scout parent for even more years. I have gone through various BSA leadership training courses. I have heard about the ideals and aims of Scouting (the utopian view of the model program that probably doesn't exist anywhere in real life). I have been asked to serve on the Troop Committee in my new Troop. I attended a full day of training this season, and got to meet a lot of local Scout leadership people from the Greater Houston area and hear their stories and struggles.

I've been involved with this Boy Scout Troop for six months, I'm green with this Troop but what I see here is not so different from what I saw in Connecticut. I think things are the same everywhere when you are talking about human nature.

I have volunteered at Cub Day Camp and at Boy Scout residence summer camp. I have been to almost all the Scout meetings held in the last eight years. I've seen a lot of real life Scouting.

In my leadership roles I have been involved with the planning and strategy. I have seen the goal and how it was brought to fruition and how reality doesn't always match up with the plans. (This does not mean one should stop trying, it's just how life happens.) I have seen where the ideals clash with reality. I have seen struggles to bring an ideal high quality program to boys doesn't always pan out. This is a typical "shoot for the stars and be happy you landed on the moon" scenario.

Part of the challenge with the Scouting program is you are working with flawed human adult leadership and you are working with flawed human kids. With Boy Scouting you have a big range of ages from ten year old pipsqueaks to seventeen year old big young men. There is a huge developmental difference between the kid in the second half of fifth grade and the high school senior!

One thing that has surprised me about Boy Scouting is the extent to which adult leadership sometimes gets to know the boy. You see sides of them that maybe their parents don't see. You also sometimes get to know the kids a bit more than you may have imagined if you thought of leadership as just planning and executing meetings. This must be what teachers deal with, but due to teachers being with kids for more hours every single week for a year they are bound to get to know the kids even better and to see both their struggles and their successes.

One of my goals in Scout leadership is to help deliver a quality program. I do not intend or want to be the source of a problem in any kid's life. I am not in this for a power game or to have a position of authority for some kind of personal gain.

Scout leadership positions can be stressful and they can be upsetting emotionally and sometimes heart-wrenching. I can't do things to prevent any negative thing from ever happening, because kids are kids and human nature is human nature, so the interactions with the kids happen even with good adult leadership supervising the activities. You can set up rules for good behavior but you can't guarantee that kids will obey every rule. A less problematic issue is that I can't prevent a kid from being bored sometimes (they have to learn to deal with it).

When delivering a program, you can't make everyone happy all the time. One boy said he thinks there should be no playing with balls in games before the meeting starts then the next kid said he loved the ball playing games. Merit badges have been offered at every meeting for the last few months but a Scout who had been absent complained that not enough merit badges are offered at the meetings. Talk about a disconnect! Another has not camped in seven months but said that he was annoyed that he didn't get some requirements done that are typically accomplished on camping trips. You are darned if you do and darned if you don't, you just can't satisfy everyone, that apparently is not just an adult thing, kids are that way too. That's how it is in life and it's that way with Scouting.

The best that volunteer Scout leaders can do it try to deliver a quality program. There is never perfection in a volunteer-run organization and probably also never one in a for-profit corporaton either. Even a normally flawed program can still be worthwhile and excellent. Nothing is perfect, not the kids, not their parents, nor the adult leaders. We're all imperfect together.

1 comment:

Desmond Sharpe said...

Scouting! Teaches principles in Action and how to do practical things in the process. Interesting article I still always say "bi Ullamh!" Be prepared in Irish certain things travel with you as you journey along.