It's been a whirlwind week...after all of my training, the hard work now begins.
But I'll take a step back first and try to explain what has just happened to a group of volunteers. (Remember that - the 'volunteer' part is important.)
Back in April, 45 candidates and a staff of 16 trooped out to a place called Camp Norse in Kingston, MA. Even though we were all adult leaders of various experience, we started at the beginning. Each of us was assigned to a Cub Scout Den, and with our Den Chiefs, we spent the morning in various instruction and activity.
At lunch, we had our "Blue & Gold Banquet" and were graduated to Gilwell Troop 1, and I became a member of the Bear Patrol. Somehow, I managed to get myself elected first day Patrol Leader.
Now Boy Scouts, we continued on with many more demonstrations and presentations, only now our Troop Guide slowly began stepping back and gave us less and less instruction and more and more empowerment. Very soon, we had gelled together into a well-formed 'Patrol', despite the handicap of only having 5 members. (One gentleman had dropped out...and Baden-Powell himself decided that 8 boys was the ideal group size.)
Much of the so-called 'book learning' was old hat for me; primarily consisting of things like project planning, team building, goals, mentoring & teaching, and a large number of things that I routinely do professionally, or have done throughout my Scouting career. As I told Papa TriSec, it was a nice vindication that perhaps I've been doing it right all along.
In the intervening 4 weeks between campout weekends, we were to write our "tickets" and develop a patrol presentation that we had to put on for the troop, using all the methods we learned on weekend I. Once again, magic struck; of the 5 guys in my patrol, 4 of us work in the healthcare industry (including 2 actual M.D.s.) We decided to do our presentation on the importance of CPR and first aid training...which was greatly enhanced by the testimony of our 5th member, who had survived a heart attack!
Weekend 2 was a whirlwind...we had to set up a campsite at Camp Sayre (after marching out on a compass heading...can't remember the last time I did that!) and we were responsible for all the food and cooking for ourselves this weekend, too.
Once again, the Bears came through; the many challenges of the weekend were faced with aplomb, and many of the staff were amazed at how easily we seemed to be 'performing'. Even with our tickets.
The 'ticket' is the heart of Woodbadge...after all the weekend learning, we each write a personal goal consisting of 5 items, all of which must benefit our scouting units somehow. The Bears had the first ticket approved out of the whole weekend, and we were the first patrol with all the members to have approved tickets. With the pressure off...we had a great Saturday evening dinner and campfire (which consisted of the two pyros in the patrol trying to outdo each other, with the Doctor yelling at us to stop handling flaming logs.)
Alas...it was soon Sunday and time to break up and head for home. After one last visit to Gilwell Field to retire the colors, we headed for home. The last ceremonial part was the staff lining both sides of the trail, and saluting the candidates in review as we passed...something I don't think I've ever experienced in all of Scouting.
But all of that is not what astonished me on this course. The BSA pitches the woodbadge course as a "pinnacle" experience, with all the flashy "life-changing" descriptors. Maybe it was. No, I was honoured and humbled to meet an unassuming gentleman that had a hand in designing the program that I have devoted much of my scouting career to.
Mr. Neil Lupton, a resident of these parts, listed as our course Mentor, once was a member of National Council and chaired a board that was to investigate why scouts dropped out after the Webelos program. In time, they discovered that it was because the boys went from being the most senior and experienced scouts in the Pack to the newest and youngest scouts in the troop without a lot of support.
Mr. Lupton helped to design the entire "Webelos-to-Scout" transition program, which ended up transforming the Webelos program into the training ground that it is. Now the Scouts spend that last year learning scout skills, learning how to camp, going to visit the troop, attending troop events, meeting Boy Scouts via their Den Chief, and building and developing a support network so that when they graduate, they've already done some of the requirements and know the leaders and some of the Scouts.
Neil did this work in 1977....I was in the last class of Webelos that graduated to the troop under the old program when I was a boy. Since then, like I said...it's the part of the scouting program that I like the best....and I've been a Webelos leader for over 20 years now.
So now my own son is at the same point I was....he is looking at his last year as a Cub Scout, and next season will all be about the Boy Scouts. Part of my own ticket is to train Den Chiefs for the Pack, and I'm hopeful that our joint sessions with the Troop will result in a successful graduation for all my boys.
I was able to meet the man that came up with all that....and HE THANKED ME for devoting my time to his program.
Which brings me back to the very first sentence....None of us that gave up two weekends, including two days off from work, the staff, and all of the attendees, none of us, receive any kind of payment or reward for what we do. Indeed, we paid for the privilege of going out on this training. We're all volunteers. We all do this for various reasons, but perhaps there is only the one thing I said in the title of the blog. We're there to pass on what we have learned to the next generation of Scouts...and all I can do is hope that I did a good job.
If you'd like to read more about Woodbadge, try this link.Our course website is here.
And finally, Mr. Lupton's column is in this issue of Scouting.
Scroll up to the start of the article.