Update 9/11/2007: Cub Master Chris did a podcast based on this article with some additional feedback from a more experienced leader. If you find this helpful, his comments should be even more so. End of update
I just finished my first tour of duty as a Tiger Cub Scout leader. It wasn’t a horrible experience, but it was way more stressful for me than it should have been. Here are my lessons learned so that hopefully others can benefit.
First off, don’t let anyone guilt you into being a leader. I wasn’t guilted or coerced, but I definitely felt a measure of “you really would be good at it” pressure. Unfortunately, I allowed that to fester into a bit of resentment as the year went on. Not good for me. I sure hope the boys didn’t notice.
Next, the first week is absolutely critical to an easy-going year. Here are the things I would recommend you do in the first week after you commit to being a Tiger cub leader.
- Make sure you have the home, work, and cell number for the Cub Master (if possible) so that you can consult with them as needed, which unfortunately might be at the last minute.
- Find your council and district website, and get registered for the next Cub Scout leader training. This will provide you with materials and ideas that will make your life much easier. The sooner you take this training, the better you’ll make use of it.
- Put the district round-table meetings on your family calendar. Plan to go to them religiously. Seriously. The people you meet and the advice they can offer will be priceless.
- Find an assistant from among the den parents. Call the cubmaster for a recommendation if necessary. You won’t be able to do everything or attend every meeting, so having a number two will help ease the burden greatly.
- Plan your first meeting. The 5D Den Activity (leaf rubbings) is an excellent fall activity, and is easy to prepare (paper and crayons) if there are trees near your meeting location. If you don’t have trees near your meeting location, make it the second week’s activity and tell the boys to bring leaves to the next meeting. Be sure to get contact info from all the parents at the meeting if you don’t already have it.
- Find, make or buy an Attendance/Requirement roster. The cheapest way to do this is to find a spreadsheet on-line. Google is your friend here. The Scout Shop in your area will also sell a poster sized tiger cub advancement chart which is a great visual for the boys. This roster would be great if you could leave it in the meeting area.
- Find or make a parent skills/talent survey. Google is your friend here. Print plenty of copies and ask the parents to fill it out at the first meeting.
Some tips for running a meeting:
- Enforce some level of meeting structure: always have an opening (pledge of allegiance, recite cub scout oath/law, etc), and always have a closing (my personal favorite was the Living Circle Closing)
- Have a craft or requirement fulfilling activity. Sometimes it might take two of them to fill the time, depending on the boys in the den. If you prepare more than you use, that’s OK because that will make next week easier.
- Plan for a game after the craft. My favorite site for game ideas is here.
- During the closing, talk about a scout value: some aspect of the oath, or the motto, and ask them to practice it during the week. During the next week ask them how they did with it.
- Don’t stress too much if you run out of things to do. Let the game run longer, or play another game. Who’s Got the Ball is a perfect time killer that can be played indoors or out.
- Do your best to include the parents in every step of every project. If you don’t say to the boys “Ask your adult partner for help.” or “Work with your adult partner…”, then it is likely the parents will just sit in a corner.
- Mark the acheivements on the roster.
After you’ve run your first meeting, its time to plan the rest of the year with your assistant. During the week after your first meeting:
- Get the pack and school district calendar if you don’t already have them. This way you’ll know which weeks are pack meetings, special events, or school holidays.
- Meet with your assistant and plan which requirement will be met in every meeting during the year. Brainstorm which parents to ask for help on each requirement. The talent survey will probably help here. Once the requirements are laid out, fill in with electives.
- Call the parents and get someone to organize the first go-see it on your calendar.
If you put this planing off for too long, you’ll get into a habit of planning the meeting the night before (or worse, the afternoon before).
That should get you started and make the rest of the year easier. Meet periodically with your assistant to touch base on plans. Make sure parents organize the go-see-its.
Other miscellaneous thoughts:
- E-mail doesn’t seem to work well for asking people for help. A personal conversation during the meeting or phone call afterwards is much better at soliciting help.
- Some people swear by the Cub Scout program helps. I found them marginally useful. You can get two months at a time (free) here. Otherwise you have to pay for them at the scout shop.
- The Scout shop has “meeting in a box” resource kits. I didn’t buy any (they seemed pretty expensive to me) but others might find them worth the money.
- Ask for help. When you need it, ask for help. When you want it, ask for help. When you think the parents should be more involved, ask for help. This, for me, is the toughest lesson.
Good luck. It should be fun for you and the boys.