As thanks to her burgeoning military-style program, the tenants of discipline, teamwork and self-control are being drilled in- one piercing command at a time.
The school chaplain and youth support coordinator from Queensland’s Mabel Park State High School says calls to action and marches in perfect unison are just the beginning for her Mabel Force cadets.
“… so we do military ceremonial drill, we do a lot of teamwork activities, so the kids get to know one another and they feel like they belong to something.
“A lot of our physical [exercises] we do using teamwork, so it might be little sprints and building make-believe radio phone towers out of styrofoam cups, and relay races, thing like that,” Henderson explains.
Initially designed to arm students with the mental and physical acumen to make the Australian Defence Force recruitment cut, Mabel Force has blossomed into something quite unexpected.
“We’ve got some kids that are refugees and have only been in the country a few years, we’ve got kids from the inclusive learning program, so we’ve got some autistic kids, we’ve got kids from all varying backgrounds because Mabel is a very diverse school…” Henderson says.
United in their mission to nail commands, the educator says students have quickly learnt to toe the line.
“Coming from the military myself, self-control and self-discipline isn’t something you can sit down with someone and teach it to them, a lot of it is learnt behaviour.
“But when it comes to military drill … it is a matter of listening to an instruction and being able to complete that instruction, not just as an individual, but as a whole group,” Henderson reflects.
Henderson says the effects of the program are already beginning to trickle into classrooms. Because for the Mabel Force cadets, disengagement or misbehaviour is simply not an option.
“I say to them, ‘every teacher … has seen what you are like in Mabel Force’. I expect the same [discipline and respect] to transfer into their classrooms, into their homes.”
Earning the right to sport the squad uniform is a special rite of passage, and with weekly uniform checks and a ‘best dressed’ award up for grabs, the incentive to pay attention to detail are high.
“One parent said to us ‘my son went home and ironed all of his shirts and wanted me to buy ironing aid'. Another young Year 12 fellow used hair-spray because he wanted to get a crease in his shirt but he didn’t have any starch at home,” she laughs
“…so they are wanting to present themselves well.”