Friday, January 30, 2009

Scoutmaster Mike: Going Back To Gilwell, Weekend 1

Last weekend, I had the chance to spend time with my fellow Wood Badge Staffer compatriots in our first “On The Hill” Course Development Weekend. Since I’m a first year troop guide, this is my first experience at this particular rodeo. Granted, I was a participant back in 2007, and I had a great time doing it. After I completed my projects and received my beads, I was surprised somewhat to get an email shortly thereafter to ask if I would be willing to serve as a member of the staff for the Spring 2009 “LDS Friendly” Wood Badge Course. After checking the schedule and bartering with Christina to see if it was doable, I finally said “Yes, I’m game, I’ll do it”.

To give you a little idea what a Course Development Weekend is all about, it’s where the staff comes together (for an entire weekend) once a month, usually six months in advance, and starts modeling out and practicing the presentations and blocking of the course. The syllabus for “Wood Badge for the 21st Century” is *HUGE*, and it’s a training event that goes from sun up until sundown (and later) for six days. In our area, these courses actually break up to be two full days and one half day over two weekends, with a break in between. That means that, to make sure everyone knows what they need to do and to schedule and plan everything correctly, these Course Development weekends are *critical*!

I arrived up at Boulder Creek after a moderate rain and the sections of Skyline and Hwy 9 that I drive to get there being encased in fog and cloud cover. To say I white knuckled it to get there would be an understatement. Still, all that washed away pretty quickly as I got in to the kitchen at Boulder Creek Scout Reservation and was greeted by my compatriots and we all sat down to a well cooked meal by our own “4 Bead Café” staff. Not only are the people who run the 4 Bead Café great cooks, but they all are former Course Directors for Wood Badge (not sure how many other areas that put on these trainings can say that  ). After we had dinner, we all took our gear and put it into our tents we’d be staying in for the weekend, and from there, we got down to business.

The most important thing for a first Year Troop Guide to do is get comfortable with making presentations, because as a Troop Guide, you will be making a *lot* of them! We had a bunch of the staff sit in on our presentations, and then we listened to feedback related to our presentation style, our content, our overall approach and the tools that we used. To say that this could be unnerving is quite the understatement (LOL!). Imagine standing in front of a bunch of people who have been doing this stuff for years, and you are the greenhorn giving his first practice presentation to a group of longtime vets! Add to the fact that my presentations were still on my computer, and had not been made into flip-books yet (as is Wood Badge custom) and I pretty much felt like I was standing in the middle of a six lane highway with my pants around my ankles. Fortunately, these old pros were there to help guide me, not rip me apart, and they also made it clear that they had all been in this exact same spot at one point, and knew what it felt like. After a round of presentation practice and some talk about other logistics, we all turned in late.

A hallmark of schedules for Course Development weekends is the fact that there is a lot to do and almost no time to do it all, so there’s very little down time. You’re marking or practicing or critiquing or being critiqued just about all the time, with breaks for meals and hitting the bathroom the only diversion. It’s a lot of work, but amazingly, it’s never dull. In many ways, but the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, I was amazed at how quickly it all went. We then said our goodbyes and drove home, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who thought to themselves “wow, that was a lot of work… I’m pretty tired… I can’t wait to get together and do it all again!”

See, I’m convinced that I’m weird and crazy, because I actually like this whole Staffer thing. What’s also great is that I feel like I’m really getting to know these other staffers, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call many of them second family. I’m sure that for the veterans, they have those feelings on an exponential level. So I’ll be biding my time, practicing my presentations, changing things up here and there, and thinking about what I need to do so that I can make the most of my time “On the Hill” when I “Go Back to Gilwell” :).

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