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Unraveling the mystery and misery of an Eagle Board of Review

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It was a cold Thursday and I l sat alongside a handful of other scout leaders in a dimly lit basement. At the end of the table stood a young man who was shivering in fear, he could barely get his own name out, let alone the Scout Oath and Law. Welcome to your Eagle Board of Review. This particular young man, was in my troop. I remember him as a shy 11 year old and watched him grow into a strong leader and confident young man. But he was so fearful of the process and the finality of it, he nearly made himself sick. At that time in our district, and I would assume in many others as well, Eagle Boards of Review were a stressful thing. There was an aura of mystery about them and we had one guy who was the gatekeeper for all things Eagle. And if you didn’t do things exactly his way, no applications were being signed. Eventually this volunteer stepped down and an entire committee of "eagle coordinators" emerged, including myself. We have worked to take away some of the stress for…

Recognize your adults ... I’m knot kidding 

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As was often the case, on the floor of the dusty science lab that we had out weekly Tiger Den meetings. I was in very simple turns explaining one of the methods of scouting... uniforms. Particularly I was convincing a group of six year olds that after spending a full school day in a Catholic school uniform that they should spend another hour in a different uniform. Honestly I was just looking for them to wear uniform shirts, their blue school pants were close enough for me. The parents were all on board and were in the process of getting uniforms for the boys. If I have learned anything in all my years as a scouter is that you can’t get a kid to come to a meeting in uniform if you don’t wear yours. So each week I would wear one of my uniform shirts (since we were a belt up den). Then as we sat there one of them asked if they would have all the patches on their shirts that I did. I told them that there would be some patches that would be the same, but most of these patches I earned. An…

Youth Protection ... for kids

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By the time this post goes live most of the volunteer leaders of the Boy Scouts of America will have taken or will be scrambling to take the new Youth Protection before the October 1st deadline. Which is a really good thing, Youth Protection had not updated in many years and for many long time scouters (like myself) it became something you could just flip through, take a quiz and be covered for two years. I’ll be the first to admit that the execution of the new training is not great. It doesn’t depict enough youth and adults in scouting environments. But that is beyond the point, there is a lot of good information and I learned a few things. So we are flush with leaders, merit badge counselors and parents (who occasionally help out) who are filled with all these great concepts ready to keep the scouts safe and know of the warning signs to look out for. But no one has explained it to the kids. They don’t know why we do the things we do and don’t do. And yes there is the pamphlet in the…

The methods of Scouting - the patrol method 

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When I was a scout our troop had a very strong patrol structure, we had traditional names, wolves, eagles, arrows, and ravens, among others. At the time a patrol had mixed aged scouts. My first patrol had other boys in it that were in high school while I was a very timid sixth grader. As guys aged out or moved on the scouts of my generation started dominating the leadership positions in our troop. The patrol leader of the Ravens became SPL, the wolves patrol leader became ASPL, the two patrols merged, I was the patrol leader, and after a few guys left the troop I had two guys in the patrol who were also serving as troop guides. When we camped the SPL and ASPL camped with us, we were in essence a senior patrol. Then one of our Assistant Scoutmasters had a great idea, let’s form a pseudo varsity patrol. We would still provide leadership for the troop, but also have separate more mature adventures on our own. Our troop really didn’t have a culture of patrols doing things totally separate…

What about the young Assistant Scoutmasters?

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It was December 18th 1992, a Friday night at Troop 327 was having it’s Christmas party/parents night. That night our scoutmaster Lee handed me a few merit badges (that would never be seen to a sash) a Life patch (that would only be pinned on my shirt for a Troop activity that Sunday ) and the one patch that I was really anticipating and would be on my sleeve for the better part of the next 15 years, my Assistant Scoutmaster patch. Sure, I wouldn’t be 18 till the next Monday, and my application hadn’t been sent to council but by the next time we met as a group, I would be an Assistant Scoutmaster. The last few months I served as junior assistant scoutmaster during my first semester in college, the troop leaderships was easing me into my next role. I was ready. I took trainings, starting going to round table meetings, volunteering for district jobs and helping lead my troop. Eventually I would be called upon to be scoutmaster. My most important role during those early years was often as…

Can a scout be an atheist? 

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I was in a small basement meeting room teaching Den Leader specific training when the subject of religion came up. I think in reference to how we present the religious portions of the program to scouts of different faiths or ones whose families don't practice any particular faith. And then someone said that you “can't be in scouting if your not religious”. I quickly shut down the conversation because it was getting contentious, I needed to start talking about what makes a good campfire story and I was pretty sure if I didn't agree with that point. Fast forward a few years to the Fall of 2017, a week prior the Boy Scouts of America had just announced the family plan, and the Wood badge course I was staffing was just starting weekend 2. One of the participants had quit scouting because of the decision and there was lots of chatter from staffers and participants alike about the situation. Then someone said something that was kind of stunning and really stuck in my head “the n…

Leader Burnout

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I remember walking in to a large red and black auditorium. The tables and chairs were set up in a large horseshoe. A short plump man in his signature polo shirt and scout pants leaned on a wooden podium chit chatting with others as he waited to start our monthly roundtable meeting. At this time I had already been an Assistant Scoutmaster for about six years. I started going to roundtable in the months before I would be elevated to scoutmaster at the tender age of 24. As a side note I don't know any 24 year olds who are mature enough or ready enough to be a Scoutmaster. I know I wasn't. These meetings were usually just robust extensions of conversations started at OA chapter meetings and probably at a plenty of other meetings I didn't know about at the time. A semblance of a program, announcements about upcoming events and perhaps some cake. One month, when there was nothing planned. The roundtable commissioner, still leaning on a podium asked for suggestions for upcoming t…