Baloo's Bugle

November 2008 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 15, Issue 4
December 2008 Theme

Theme: Holiday Lights
Webelos: Craftsman and Scientist
Tiger Cub
Achievement 4


Cub Scout Leader Training

Bill Smith, the Roundtable Guy

Cub Scout Leader Training

There has been a lot of discussion in the last year or so about the quality, quantity and effectiveness of Cub Scout Leader Training. This month’s column is mostly directed to members of our district training teams but much also applies to those who staff Roundtables, Pow Wows, Universities of Scouting and other Scout training arenas.

On just about any of the Cub Scout email forums, when a leader presents requests help for a particular problem there will be several answers recommending that the questioner should go take one or more training courses. As members of the BSA we seem to have great faith that training will cure all ills.  Too often, it turns out that the questioner has already attended training and still has the problem.

What went wrong?

How really effective is our training? Does it really make dens and packs better? How do we know?

What does a good Cub Scout leader really do? Do good den leaders and Cubmasters do things differently than other leaders? Could you tell they were good leaders by just watching them perform? Did they learn to do these things in one of our training courses? If so, which ones?

I was with a group of trainers who played a game where we pretended that we were aliens from another planet who were instructed to contact a good den leader. We needed a list of things to look for in order to identify one.  We then compared our list to what we were teaching at our training sessions. It was an eye-opening experience.

Will the people who attend your training sessions do these things? Now that we have a new Cub Scout Leader Specific training that does a great job of addressing what goes on at Cub Scout meetings, we should do our best to make our training effective.

Part of our problem is that the folks who give the training and those who take the training are often marching to the beats of different drummers. Pack leaders come in with their own unique sets of needs and wants that often times don’t quite match up with what we think they need or what we think they want. They have their agendas and we have ours. We follow our manuals and outlines and think we have communicated. They leave remembering only that their concerns were not addressed. Any good or useful stuff we did cover was lost somehow.

Trainers who take the time to ferret out the questions and concerns that leaders bring with them usually find that they run way over time or cut a lot of corners.

It would certainly be helpful if we knew before hand what were the concerns and question people had before they came.

My wife Shirley and I traveled to Europe once armed with a National BSA Letter of Introduction that got us into a lot of interesting places. At Gilwell in the UK, we were able to spend the better part of an afternoon with two of Britain’s top Scout trainers. During the conversation, they told us of a weekend training where this came up. People arrived on the Friday evening at different times so the evening program was one long cracker-barrel session where the staff mingled and ferreted out just what the participants expected and wanted from this training. After lights out, the staff reassembled and then essentially rewrote the training course to comply with what they had learned at the cracker-barrel. They told us that it worked but it was sort of hard on the staff.

There should be a better way for trainers to get some handle on what our pack and den leaders want or need to get from training. In every district, there are district folk who are in contact with pack folk. Commissioners, RT staff, Pack Trainers, membership and finance people all get to talk and interact with those in the Cub packs. They see a lot, they hear a lot and they are aware of what is needed to steer packs in the right direction. It would certainly help if the district team worked  ….. well, like a team and that their goal was to improve the program in the dens and in the packs rather than just put on training.

What happens in the den and the pack is much more important than what happens at the training.

Former Scout Executive Dennis Cook put it very succinctly:

It appears that we have lost track of who is responsible for supporting whom.  Unit support becomes the primary job of the whole district.  This idea would require districts to communicate directly with their units prior to setting the district calendar and to find out what the unit’s needs are.  Knowing in advance what their needs are would allow us to plan activities that would help better support them.

When applied to training, those district people who are in contact with units – the Commissioners, DE, membership and Roundtable staff – will be aware of questions and problems in the packs. If they make the district training staff aware of what goes on in the units then the trainers are in a better position to adapt their training to better help the pack leaders solve their problems and improve their programs. Too often a trainer can be sandbagged by an innocent sounding question where an ill prepared answer opens up a can of worms that disrupts the training for all concerned. It is difficult sometimes to foresee what experience is behind any question.

It is part of the duty of our district training staffs to learn as much as they can about the people whom they are going to train and it is the duty of anyone who can, to help them prepare. I would guess that many Pack Trainers should have very valuable advice for the training staff.

Did We Do the Job?

When the training is over, how do we evaluate our training? A lot of our evaluations are superficial and self-serving.

Did we start and finish on time?

Did the participants mostly stay awake?

Did they know the locations of the wash rooms?

Did we follow the manual?

All very nice but they miss the main point: Will the programs in the dens and packs improve or was this just a pleasant social get together? After all, that is why we train. Our only purpose as members of the district team is to make Scout units more successful. How can we possibly measure this? Training objectives should be attainable, relevant and – especially – measurable. We should be more concerned with:

Are the boys having more fun?

Are more parents involved?

Is attendance at pack meetings up?

Are there more outings and are they more successful?

Do den leaders feel more successful?

Are they doing the things that good leaders do?

We could ask people who would know – like Pack Trainers and Unit Commissioners - to do some follow up for us. They should be able to tell whether or not the leaders we train are becoming more successful. We haven’t really completed our job until we communicate with those who regularly observe the leaders we train.

In the long run we can use metrics like advancement and membership to ascertain the effectiveness of both training and the entire district team’s efforts. These numbers tell us just how successful are our packs. And that is our job: to make packs better.

What are YOU going to do now?

Go get ‘em. We need all the help we can get.

    The best gift for a Cub Scout.......
                                     ......get his parents involved!

ü  Also, be sure to visit Bill’s website

to finds more ideas on everything Cub Scouting.

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