Theirishscouter would never assume to tell other Scouters how to do their work.
Every group is different. Every Scouter is different.
However as a former scout leader who has had the immense privilage of having been involved in two hugely successful scout troops in recent years, one rescued from failure, the other founded from scratch, some lessons and learning have been picked up along that journey that might interest some (and might seem very familiar indeed to others). This is just part of what is in all likelihood a lifelong learning experience….
1. Running a successful scout troop is labour-intensive, time-consuming and actually surprisingly difficult to get right
2. When you get it right, it is better (in my view) than any other scouting experience you can have as a Scouter
3. In some ways, the less you know about the Scout section before you join, the better
4. Youth Participation is, quite simply, the single most important thing in a scout troop. Stifle the youth participation and you stifle the troop. Stand back and allow the scouts to run the troop and you simply will not believe the reward – it is breathtaking.
5. If youth participation is the most important THING in a Scout Troop, the Patrol Leaders are the most important PEOPLE. Is this elitist? Absolutely not. It is ESSENTIAL.
6. Set some ground rules and then give these people free reign. Give them some privilages. Give them unlimited access to you and anything else they need (funds, equipment, encouragement, an occasional (metaphorical) kick in the ass).
7. Support them unconditionally in public and in front of the troop. Challenge their plans with good nature in private (at PLC meetings – make these regular). Reward their genuine efforts (even mistakes) and hold them accountable for carelessness, lack of commitment or disinterest.
8. Occasionally, your life experience will tell you to calm their enthusiasm – but don’t stifle it. Use four parts praise to one part criticism. Only use your veto on a decision as an absolute last resort (once in ten years is probably too much).
9. Bear in mind that Youth Participation, if you do it properly, will be mildly terrifying in its early stages (for you). If its not, you’re not giving them space. Trust your PL’s – they will rarely (if ever) let you down if you believe in them.
10. Consider the role of Scout Leader to be that of ‘safety net’ and the Scouts are walking a tight rope above. In some ways, they should not realise you are there until they need you
11. Being a Scout Leader requires patience, time, passion and above all, a genuine belief in and a desire to bring out real leadership skills in the scouts in your care
12. If you do not genuinely believe in young people being in full control of the troop and are not geninely committed to facilitating them achieve this – either LEAVE NOW or do not join in the first place. Scouts in many ways is unlike any other section in Scouting.
13. Don’t worry about not being on top of scout skills. Use the expertise of others where you need it. Your primary role is to help the scout troop to be successful by nurturing and supporting the scouts leadership ability, passion and enthusiasm.
14. When it comes to weekly meetings, failing to plan is planning to fail. Drive a tightly planned, innovative and exciting meeting schedule though the Patrol Leaders Council. Support the PL team by sourcing training expertise and giving the PL’s the confidence to run the meetings themselves.
15. Scout Leaders should be able to walk out of the scout hall at any time and the meeting should continue (and even improve). If it does not, see point 5 above.
16. Expect setbacks with a new PL team. Be patient, supportive, constructive. RESIST the temptation to take over and do it yourself. YOU WILL do it better, faster, more efficiently. You will also kill the Scout Troop.
17. Encourage the Patrol Leaders to not just run meetings but to lead their patrols. Anyone can stand in front of a bunch of scouts. But can they LEAD the same group?
18. Patrol Corners, Patrol Challenges and especially Patrol Activites are of critical importance in giving your PL’s wings, but also play a major part in binding the patrols together. Patrol Leaders should not just be focused on running the scout troop, they should be seen as the leader and an integral part of their patrol.
19. Having a functioning troop that also has functioning patrols is in many ways the ultimate challenge. Each patrol should ideally have their own name and identity but should fuse together seamlessly once a week for a great meeting. Encourage patrols to meet for activities in addition to troop events. The APL role is the incubator for next years PL’s – encourage your PL’s to lean on the APL’s
20. Scouts turn into PL’s and will lead the troop tomorrow. Arguably the only people a Scout Leader really needs to know and work closely with in the troop are the PL’s. If things are as they should be, the scouts will see the PL as the PL see’s you.
Part 2 in a future installment of theirishscouter…..