Cubmasters and Scoutmasters
Cubmasters vs. Scoutmasters
Practically everything the good Cubmaster has been doing is not what the good Scoutmaster should do. For example,
- Cubmaster leads the Pack in cheers, songs, and skits. She runs the pack meeting. The Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) is responsible for that in a troop - the Scoutmaster observes from the sidelines.
- Cubmasters keep the scouts in line and ensure behavior is appropriate and rules are followed. Scoutmasters train the SPL and the PLC team to keep order and he guides them to improve performance after a meeting.
- Cubmasters entertain and are usually outgoing and charismatic. Scoutmasters blend into the group and don't talk much.
- The Cubmaster is the MC of ceremonies and center stage for most meetings. The Scoutmaster makes the scouts responsible for presentations.
- Cubmasters lead scouts by saying, "Follow Me!" Scoutmasters lead scouts by saying, "Show Me the Way!"
Cub Scout aged youth need guidance of a direct and obvious nature. The figure of knowledge and skill embodied in an energetic Cubmaster gets them excited and involved. Cub Scouts are satisfied with following, having fun, and accidentally learning along the way.
Boy Scouts are breaking out of their follower mold and starting to try on new, independent, self-directed ideas. Rebelling against adults for no apparent reason is just part of that phase of life. To have adults step back and guide as mentors, advisors, and skillful experts while the scouts lead and direct the troop helps grow youth into citizens of character.
The most important step for an adult scouting volunteer to take is to complete training for his/her position. In most cases, the training provides a grounding in the basics of scouting and a description of duties for the specific role. In some cases, it also helps the volunteer unlearn skills and behaviors that were appropriate in past roles, but not in the new one. Probably the most difficult transition to make is that from Cubmaster to Scoutmaster (or Assistant Scoutmaster).
A Cubmaster needs to organize meetings, motivate other leaders, and keep young scouts enjoying their time in their dens. The skills of a Scoutmaster are much different. Even though organization and motivation skills are just as important for a Scoutmaster, he also needs to:
- understand the three Aims of Scoutings - Character Development, Citizenship Training, and Personal Fitness
- understand the eight Methods of Scouting used to achieve the Aims - Ideals, Patrols, Outdoor Program, Advancement, Association with Adults, Personal Growth, Leadership Development, Uniform
- believe that character is developed through life's experiences and be willing to demonstrate strong character to scouts
- guide scouts in handling adversity to grow their character towards the Ideals of Scouting as described in the Scout Oath and Law
- play the role of coach, counselor, mentor, and teacher, depending on the scout and situation
- have a "big picture" view of how troop activities will support the Aims and be able to guide scouts to plan appropriate activities
Possibly the most important skill for a Scoutmaster is the ability to guide scouts while the scouts lead. Asking leading questions rather than telling what to do, asking for clarification, and asking about incomplete plans are all ways to do this. Discussing what may happen in an upcoming meeting with the scout leader beforehand helps prepare the scout to be a more effective leader.
Here's a simple scenario, the SPL and SM chatting before a PLC meeting:
SM: Well, SPL, it sounds like your team has a great campout planned for next month.
SPL: Yep, the catapult building competition should be a lot of fun.
SM: That's for sure. How did you decide to make teams?
SPL: Each patrol is its own team. We figured there would be more team spirit that way.
SM: Great. Will the two new scout patrols know how to build a catapult?
SPL: Hmmm, probably not. But, they each have a Troop Guide to show them.
SM: That's true. Do the troop guides know they'll be with the new scouts instead of their own patrol and that they're expected to teach the new scouts all the knots and lashings?
SPL: I'll tell them at the PLC meeting.
SM: Sounds good. I was talking to the Quartermaster and he didn't seem to be aware that the troop needs extra rope for the campout.
SPL: Oh, I haven't told him yet. I'll call him right after the meeting.
The SPL made the decisions and followed the plan. The SM asked about possible missed points and mentioned items that may have been overlooked. Now, when the SPL starts the PLC meeting, he'll have his bases covered and be ready to move forward.
The Scoutmaster needs to know that character, citizenship, and physical fitness are the goals of Scouting and guide the troop's program toward fulfilling those goals. The scouts never need to hear those goals outright, but they should be experiencing implicitly in most if not all of the troop's activities. Notice that these three goals, or Aims, are concepts that grow or diminish depending on life experiences. A youth given the opportunity to make a good or poor choice will raise or lower his character depending on his choice. If he is interacting with others that have consistently demonstrated making good choices, he will tend to make the good choice and his character will strengthen. When a youth is actively involved in outdoors activities, his physical fitness improves. By taking on challenges of serving less fortunate neighbors, a youth's understanding of citizenship expands.
I believe every scout has it inside to overcome any challenge encountered in scouting. By guiding the scout along the path and ensuring challenges are appropriate for current skill and ability levels, a Scoutmaster can greatly aid in reaching the Aims of Scouting.
While the Cubmaster was a visible and obvious object of hero-worship by Cub Scouts, the Scoutmaster is practically invisible at times but her actions are always in the limelight. If an adult came into a troop and stood up front and led like a Cubmaster, most of the scouts would reject her and start plotting ways to mess up the program. Scouts are ready to lead and they only need guidance.
Though scouts are leading and building their self-direction, there is never a minute when the actions, words, or emotions of a Scoutmaster are not under their eyes, even though she is not 'on stage'. Every encouraging word, every discouraging shake of the head, every smile and frown are noticed and picked up by scouts. I expect that the influence a Scoutmaster has is probably the least realized part of the job. New scouts joining a troop look to the Scoutmaster as the next Cubmaster - until they realize that the scouts are running the show. After that, the Scoutmaster becomes a mentor and guide, possibly thought of similarly to a school principal, especially when it's time for a scoutmaster conference.
A Scoutmaster needs to remember that everything he does influences the scouts, either towards or away from the Aims of Scouting.
Finally, a Scoutmaster should realize that there is no Eagle Scout cookie cutter. Every scout needs to earn a certain number of merit badges, hold leadership positions, serve others, and demonstrate Scout Spirit in order to advance in rank and more importantly advance in the Aims of Scouting. An Eagle Scout doesn't need to be an outgoing, commanding leader. An Eagle can be a quiet, behind-the-scenes scout that encourages others and works hard as part of a team. Every scout should be allowed to set their own goals, have their own vision, and grow into the physically fit citizen of character that best fits their personality and abilities.
While a Cubmaster stands in front of scouts, cheering, encouraging, rewarding, and entertaining the pack, a Scoutmaster sits in the shadows while the scouts lead, cheer, encourage, reward, and entertain the troop.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, they will say: "we did it ourselves."
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