November 2008 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue
December 2008 Theme
Craftsman and Scientist
Cub Scout Leader Training
Bill Smith, the Roundtable Guy
Cub Scout Leader
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
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.
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
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
Did We Do the Job?
When the training is over, how
do we evaluate our training? A lot of our evaluations are superficial and
Did we start and finish on
Did the participants mostly
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
Are there more outings and
are they more successful?
Do den leaders feel more
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.
going to do now?
Go get ‘em. We need all the help we
best gift for a Cub Scout.......
......get his parents involved!
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