On October 15th, TAISM’s middle school and high school students and staff had the opportunity to hear from Anisa Al Raisi about pushing our limits. Anisa works for Outward Bound Oman and was one of 11 women from Europe and Arabia to ski to the Geographic North Pole in April 2018. In our assembly Anisa described the challenges and hardships she and her teammates faced on their eight-day journey, as well as the personal growth and camaraderie that developed through individual perseverance and teamwork.
While our middle school and high school Discover Oman trips, in November and February respectively, will not involve the same level of challenge and hardship as skiing to the North Pole, these experiences often force our students out of their comfort zones and provide opportunities for personal growth. Anisa’s experience as an Outward Bound instructor and life-long learner allowed her to highlight and develop these connections, and to speak directly to our students about the responsibility they have for their own growth and development.
In particular, Anisa described a model for personal growth and development which requires us to step outside our comfort zone into our so-called stretch zone. Our comfort zone is our preferred way of doing things or responding to situations; our daily habits and routines. While our comfort zone is effective in getting things done and maintaining the status quo, it is not an effective way to improve, grow, and develop. The stretch zone is the region outside the comfort zone where there is unease, where new and unfamiliar experiences occur, and where the panic zone is sometimes encountered. It is in the stretch zone where we learn new skills, adapt to unfamiliar circumstances, think outside the box and innovate, and are challenged to do things we never thought possible before. The more we engage in activities that “stretch” us the wider that zone becomes, which allows us to be more flexible and resilient when there are challenges.
Before this expedition Anisa had never skied and had a fear of cold weather. She is now the only Omani to have travelled to the Geographic North Pole. In addition to the message she shared about personal growth, her spirit of adventure, strength of character, and drive to challenge herself inspired our students. Ana (grade 12) remembers most vividly how Anisa talked about the friendships she developed and the teamwork required for the success of the expedition. Anisa’s talk made Daniel (grade 11) think about school and learning, and to never give up when facing challenges. Casper’s (grade 12) biggest take away was the message that “you can overcome a lot if you desire to change.” His strongest personal connection is to being SCUBAcertified to dive at night, and the stretch that was required as he did his first night dive. Yasmeen (grade 11) drew connections to auditioning for a solo in the upcoming Choir concert, and the risks that she and her classmates took in that process. Manar (grade 11) identified with the setting of personal goals, regardless of what others might think, and described the adrenalin rush she feels when she is living in her stretch zone. She is also very curious about how Anisa (and the others) went to the bathroom at the North Pole! Jazmin (grade 12) talked about striving to overcome internal and external obstacles, and noted that there is always work to be done in developing our stretch zone. Each of the students I spoke with described, in one way or another, the combination of pride and humility they observed in Anisa and how this helped them connect with and be inspired by her achievements.
Anisa’s message is a powerful reminder that it is always worth it when we step into our stretch zone. Every day we have opportunities to take risks and push our limits, not just on Discover Oman trips. I am grateful for the opportunities that exist for us to learn from people like Anisa Al Raisi.
Richard Petersen, High School Principal
You can read more about Anisa’s expedition at the online Muscat Daily website here