After spending a week at Circle Ten’s Wood Badge course at Philmont over the summer, I can tell you this: Wood Badge lives up to the hype.
For new Scouters, it’ll jump-start your Scouting career faster than you can say “Be Prepared.” And the many BSA veterans on my course told me it recharged their Scouting batteries more than they ever dreamed.
For one of my five ticket items, I chronicled the lessons learned at my Wood Badge course (WB 102, held at Philmont Scout Ranch) in a series of posts called Wood Badge Wednesdays.
The five-part series is collected here for your edification and entertainment. I hope you enjoy reading these posts even half as much as I enjoyed reliving the Wood Badge magic.
Well, I gotta go! Back to Gilwell, of course!
Working at the Boy Scouts of America’s national office, it’s easy to feel a little disconnected from the volunteers who read Scouting magazine. That’s why we encourage and appreciate your feedback about what we do — and how we could do it better.
That’s also why it’s vitally important for us to get out into the field as often as possible.
Spending a week with some of the most caring, centered, and driven Scouters I’ve ever met reminded me why I do what I do.
Meeting these awesome Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, and Venturing leaders rekindled the fire, helped me drink the Kool-Aid, and did every other cliché you can think of.
Let’s just say that my Scouting knowledge was put to the test at the weeklong course. In fact, it was our whole patrol’s BSA proficiency on the line, but I spoke up more than I should’ve.
“I work for the BSA,” I thought to myself. “I got this.”
Turns out I was wrong. Three times in a row. Each time I pressed my luck, all I got was another whammy. From that I learned I have a lot to learn — about the BSA, about myself, and about the right way to receive negative feedback.
In that failure, I realized what the staff meant when they had explained the day before that “feedback is a gift.” The feedback wasn’t positive this time, but I learned that responding with defensiveness — my fallback approach — would only cloud my ability to accept the gift of constructive criticism.
Chalk it up as another way Wood Badge changed me for the better.
As anyone who’s watched Survivor can attest, grouping a bunch of people together and giving them a name doesn’t make them an effective team.
No, if you want to morph a collection of individuals into a cohesive group, you’ll need good leadership, willing teammates, and ample time.
That was certainly the case for the Owl patrol at the Wood Badge course I took in August at Philmont.
We arrived as strangers and left as lifelong friends.
I know, I know. I could’ve taken that line right out of a Hallmark card. But Wood Badge veterans know this is true: The course offers a better firsthand lesson in effective team development than anything else out there.
In Scouting, as in life, change is inevitable.
You’ve got new merit badges, new locations for campouts, new roles in your unit, new health and safety regulations, and more.
That makes change the only fact of life guaranteed to never change. And these days, both in and out of Scouting, change happens at a faster rate than ever before. Resistance is futile, but how you respond to it is entirely up to you.
Let’s say change is a bucking bull; do you: (A) Jump off and run away, (B) Hold on and try to survive, or (C) Grab the horns and steer. In other words, do you resist change, accept it, or lead it?
At Wood Badge, we learned how and why to try the third approach.
It’s amazing how quickly a whisper turns into a roar.
Take Wood Badge tickets, for example. Each one leaves a lasting legacy, but 50, 500, or even 5,000? That kind of impact reverberates across the Scouting universe for generations.
At my Wood Badge course in August, 50 Scouters each crafted five tickets. That’s 250 boosts to Scouting in North Texas from our course alone.
Some of you might be wondering: What is a Wood Badge ticket? Well, after the six-day course ends, participants aren’t done. To earn those iconic beads, a Wood Badger must complete five projects, called tickets. The tickets allow Scouters to give back to the program and to “realize their personal vision of their role in Scouting.”
That focus on Leaving a Legacy is a huge part of the spirit of Wood Badge.
I also wrote a feature for Scouting magazine’s March-April 2014 issue that encapsulates the experience. Read it here.
Contact your council to find a course near you.
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