Education Matters

Leadership through cadets: learning opportunities for boys

Posted by Trinity Grammar School on Apr 26, 2016 6:00:00 AM

Leadership through cadets: learning opportunities for boysLeadership, in many forms, is a sought after attribute. Whether leaders are born or made is incidental to the many learning opportunities for boys at Trinity are given to experience leadership. One of the most significant opportunities that our boys have to lead is through the School’s Army Cadet Unit.

There are several advantages for boys who experience leadership in the Cadet programme.

Boys are trained to lead.
A key feature of leading in the Cadet unit is that any boy can lead, whether or not he has a leadership role. Some boys without a formal leadership role will have a skill that is valuable to other members of the group and they will often have the opportunity to teach that skill. On some occasions sharing that skill will have a practical effect i.e., the group might not get lost on a navigation exercise or they might stay dry when the rain comes.

Boys who nominate themselves for formal leadership roles are required to attend a ‘promotions’ course before they can be promoted to a higher rank. During the promotions course boys are taught leadership skills such as planning, communication and modelling. The training is rigorous and encourages boys to extend themselves so that others can benefit.

Different styles and levels of leadership can be experienced.
As leadership can be understood in different ways, so it can be practised in different ways. This is one advantage of the Cadet experience. Our most senior leaders are Year 12 boys who can serve as ‘Cadet Under Officers’. These boys might be responsible for up to 30 boys in a ‘platoon’ for a week long camp. During that week they need to look after the boys under their command. They have to ensure that their group meets the training objectives that have been set, ensure that the boys’ health is looked after, monitor the relationships within the group to ensure harmony and that every boy is having a positive experience. Other Year 12 boys might manage those who look after the platoons or manage boys who work in support roles such as the Q-Store or Signals. Still other boys have the opportunity to lead the whole programme for over 400 boys. To see 17 and 18 year old boys exercise such intensive leadership in a competent and caring way is always inspiring.

Boys in leadership roles are mentored by experienced staff.
Whilst the student leaders are going about their tasks they are never completely alone. Adult staff who are experienced in leadership are always present to oversee the safety and conduct of activities. Staff mentor the student leaders in a number of ways. It might be a quiet chat, a gentle prompt, some advice, some practical assistance or encouragement to reflect. In any case staff typically stand behind the student leader to ensure that his practice of leadership is a learning opportunity. 

Student Leaders have real responsibilities.
Whilst staff are always ultimately responsible for the conduct of cadet activities the student leaders have to make it all happen. If a student leader doesn’t go about his work properly then he will have to develop some problem solving strategies pretty quickly. It might be that the group a boy is leading need to make a checkpoint on time to ensure that their next meal is served fresh or that they aren’t going to have to navigate in the dark. These ‘pressure points’ help the student leaders to lead with purpose, develop a sense of urgency and force them to look after their group. No leader wants to be responsible for a group of teenage boys not getting fed on time!

Student leaders have a real impact on those whom they lead.
Every boy who has been through Cadets is most likely able to talk to you about the older boys who led them. What is always a salutary lesson in humility is that it might not be the most senior leader who is remembered. The most junior leader and their section commander, a Corporal, is most likely the one spoken about. A leader who has shown compassion and demonstrated service is spoken of in glowing terms.

Leadership has a positive impact on the leader
At a recent Cadet camp one of our boys had been responsible for ensuring that his ‘company’ of nearly 90 boys completed a challenging task of ascending a ridge in order to camp overnight. The task had not been achieved satisfactorily the previous year. On being asked about achieving the task his response was that he was so ‘proud of my boys that they worked hard and achieved something significant’. This young man had exhibited that he had learned a great deal about leadership in that good leaders ensure that those who follow them will experience success and that should be the focus rather than any kudos for the leaders themselves.

To discover how our students are successfully navigating new learning opportunities every day, watch our Trinity in Action videos.

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Topics: Co-curricular activities, Cadets