Discomfort Zone

This week’s Leadership Column is courtesy of Laura Koehler

Five o’clock in the morning, total darkness except for the mist that was visible above the swampy waters as we drove onto Parris Island, South Carolina to begin our Marine Educator’s Workshop. The bus was quiet as our tour guides explained that we would be treated as recruits from the moment we stepped off the bus. We stopped. Yellow footprints painted on the road; those were for us we inferred. The most terrifying woman I’ve ever met boards the bus and screams at us to run off the bus and line up in formation. “Four by four recruits! Mooooooove! Fix up my formation! Faster! I said MOVE!”


(On his knees a very unsure and confused Frank Roth, OMHS PPW!)

That was our introduction to the week-long (January 2017) Marine Educator’s Workshop hosted by Brigadier General Sparky Renforth at Marine Base Parris Island, SC. The purpose of the workshop was for participants to experience Parris Island as a Marine Recruit as much as possible to gain a better sense of a recruit’s experience at boot camp. To that end we marched in formation, ate “chow” with the recruits, visited the air field, and got to tour notable base sites such as the Parris Island museum and the pre-graduation celebratory motivational run.

We also got to do more intense marine activities like “Incentive Training” in the sand pit – that’s just a elaborate way to say you’re about to do countless jumping jacks and push-ups with about a million “up downs” thrown in for fun – all while standing in perfect formation and not wiping the sand off your butt or wiping away the sand fleas in your eyes. The “Confidence Course” (obstacle course) which did not build my confidence but did bust two of my toes! The gas chamber – I’ll leave it at that. And finally the Rappel Tower, self-explanatory and thrilling, but check out the picture of Lisa Drylie looking tough! The Marines even trained us how to shoot M16’s both in the practice space and on the live range.

marine-pic-2 “Incentive Training” (Koehler is far right, Frank is in the maroon sweatshirt!)

marine-pic-3 Drylie looking tough!

marine-pic-4 Getting lots of help here!

All of the fun aside, we also learned things that were not explicitly taught. It is alarming to be standing with a screaming drill instructor (drill sergeants are in the Army) in front of you and all of your similarly educated peers and not have any idea what you are supposed to do. This was truly unfamiliar territory; and it was not ours. Our professional rules and mores did not apply on Parris Island; opting out such as excusing yourself from a meeting when you don’t like what is being said wasn’t an option. As an assistant principal I’m accustomed to knowing what is supposed to happen next, what the procedure or rule is, or can predict what the outcome should be in a given situation and none of these skills were transferrable to this experience.

I don’t typically do New Year’s resolutions, but this year one of the things I’m focusing on is stepping out of my comfort zone. It took a lot of energy at Parris Island to be comfortable being uncomfortable. In this building we are trying new things every day. All of you have tackled Lighthouse and are working to be more responsive in your daily instruction. Additionally, some of you also have worked at SGI, digital learning tools, and the multitude of features on BCPS One. You have invited strangers into your rooms and met with Discovery Ed coaches and participated in Fame. You have spent the year learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Thank you for being my inspiration to step out of my comfort zone.






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