Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lessons Learned as a Tiger Cub Den Leader

It's been a while since I've posted about being a den leader. Over this past weekend, we finished off the first year with our banquet dinner. It was your typical scouting function in which the catering service never showed, but the kids still had fun while the adults grew cranky, tired, and hungry. But truth be told, (at least some of) the adults had fun too.

Four of my five scouts at our year-end banquet.

Earlier tonight, I did the math, and it appears that my spur of the moment commitment to be Reese's den leader (for what I was thinking might be one year) may actually turn into a 10-year marathon of leadership. You see, Reese should be in Cub Scouts for five years (Tiger, Bear, Wolf, Web I, and Web II). The very next year after Reese graduates though, Will should be starting first grade--and his Tiger Cub year in Cub Scouts. Soooo...it'll be here we go again. But really, I'm not complaining, because I've had a great year for the most part, and I think it will only get better the more I get used to how everything works.

Today, I updated my LinkedIn profile to include my position as a Cub Scouts Den Leader. My hope is that I've helped the boys engage with the world a little more while having fun. I know that I've learned a lot about myself and others by leading these first graders through activities and field trips.

Here are some things I've learned:
  1. Volunteer organizations are well-meaning chaotic environments. The plan is always changing, things are always falling through the cracks, and balls are constantly being dropped. But it's not through lack of caring or effort. I've met a lot of truly caring individuals in my first year of scouting and though things can be frustrating at times, I know they put a lot of effort, time and energy into making things a little less chaotic than it could be.
  2. Leaders need lots of patience and adaptability. As mentioned above, things often don't go according to plan. So you can either get mad about it--and I'll admit I have lost my temper a few times--or you can focus on how to make the new reality work for you. The latter option is always preferable to the former.
  3. Leaders need to communicate effectively. Sometimes this means projecting my voice over a bunch of distracted 7-year-olds; other times, this means sending out e-mail newsletters to the parents of my scouts. I also had some ups and downs in communicating with the pack leaders, but see numbers 1 and 2 above.
  4. Leaders should ask for help. There were times over this past year when I tried to do things on my own, and there were times when I asked for help. Most of the time things turned out better when I asked for help. There's only so much one person can accomplish on his own. If you have resources that may be able to help, try and use them.
I'm really looking forward to my second year as a den leader. Reese and I are already going through his Wolf handbook and completing requirements toward his Wolf badge. And yes, I've already sent out a Den newsletter to the parents that lets them know things they could be doing with their scouts over the summer. And yes, I'm already trying to think of ways to improve for the second year. One year down, four (or nine) more to go.


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Of course, the above is what I've learned about leading scouts. If you're interested in more advanced talk on leadership, check these out:


Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

Asking for help seems to be difficult for some people. I think it is a good thing to learn for anyone at any age.

Does this mean if I ask Tammy for help, she'll be my devoted poetry partner? lol kidding.
How is she doing with the pregnancy?

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Tammy is doing great. Only 18 days until her due date!