The Parallel between Education and the Marine Corps.

Improvise, Adapt and Overcome Marine Corps phrase

My fiancé is a retired career Marine. He served our country for 23 years and did seven tours. I am incredibly proud of him and the sacrifice he made to serve and defend our great country. I listen to him talk about his years of service and he considers it an honor and privilege to have served. I can honestly say, I do not comprehend his sense of duty and commitment to defending the United States. Especially in light of what I have witnessed that once their service is done they are forgotten and left to fend for themselves. This needs to change soon.

This Marine phrase speaks to preparedness. I thought I would take this phrase and “adapt” it to our life as educators especially in light of all the changes that have occurred over the past year.


Improvise — according to the Marine Corp. phrase “the best laid plans last only until initial contact with the enemy.” First, I am not suggesting that students are the enemy! In education, teachers spend a tremendous amount of time planning lessons and in a lot of circumstances, the minute the lesson starts, a teacher must improvise and make adjustments. This is why it is important that teachers use plans as a guide not a word by word script. Improvise also makes me think of what has transpired the past year and all the changes that have occurred. The delivery of lessons has been changing from in person learning to distance/pandemic learning or a hybrid model of the two. Teachers have constantly been having to improvise and make adjustments quickly and usually without the necessary time or information for a smooth transition.


Adapt — “Things are going to be different from what you plan for. Expect this! Be creative, you might just find a new way of doing old things and see things with a new eye.” When I was teaching Reading Recovery we had a phrase — follow the child. When I was teaching in the classroom, that was always my plan. It is important during lessons to listen and follow what the students are showing or revealing about how they are taking in the information. As you monitor students it is necessary to make adjustments that need to be made based on blank stares or if the majority of students already know the material. In either case, it is not effective to keep plowing through a lesson plan that is not meeting the needs of the students just because it is what was what was written down. This skill to adapt on the fly is what master teachers are able to do moment by moment during the day.


Overcome — “Murphy’s law states anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Makes me think of using technology during presentations. The only thing I could always count on when I was traveling and doing presentations is some kind of technology glitch messing with the plan. It was important to be prepared by knowing what other options are available. Being ready to come up with a creative solution that will still meet the intended outcome. Overcoming is a willingness to accept that things are always going to be evolving and changing. A master teacher is one that is able to do this quickly with grace and ease and not another thought about it. It’s just part of what teachers do to utilize the time allotted and try and maximize student learning.

This phrase Improvise, Adapt and Overcome speaks to a flexibility and willingness to recognize that this is the norm more than we want to realize. I believe this is a good motto for the current state of education and what teachers are having to do on a daily basis. Teachers like Marines are soldiers fighting for the future of our country! Teachers are HEROES fighting a war for their students everyday!

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

The joy is in the journey!



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