Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Nurturing Warrior

A teacher's job is incredibly multi-faceted. And each year, those myriad facets increase, exponentially it seems, and nearly miraculously - after all, how many sides can one gem have?

We are: guides, dictionaries, accountants, therapists, editors, chemists, encouragers, soothers, challengers, architects, dietitians, collectors, creators, soldiers, encyclopedias, writers, problem-solvers, artists, nurses, advocates, advisors, psychics, cooks, explorers, collaborators, and even at times, parents. 

But no matter what our discipline or grade level, no matter what hats we don on what particular days, we all share one role from which we should never stray. We are, all of us, nurturing warriors

When I began thinking about the distillation of our jobs and the phraseology I wanted to use to convey the pure essence of what we do, I came naturally to that somewhat oxymoronic pairing of words, into whose definitions and interpretations I will delve momentarily. Little did I know (or remember?) that this same phrase was used to describe Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton by the New York Times in 2007, albeit in a rather tongue-in-check, practically insulting way. 

I specifically chose the phrase "nurturing warrior" not only because it encapsulates exactly what it is we do every day, all day, but also because it includes two words that, alone, are associated with specific genders: the nurturing female versus the male warrior. I chose words with these stereotypical gender assignments so that I could then strip away gender from the phrase in toto and apply both words to teachers without any sense of gender roles or identities. The best teachers, regardless of gender, display the traits of both the nurturer and the warrior.

The nurturer is caring, compassionate, comforting, accepting, and loving. This is the caregiver element in the teacher, the part that wants everything to be okay, oftentimes tries to make everything okay, and laments when things are not okay. The nurturer knows what he can and cannot accomplish, knows his strengths and limitations, and uses this knowledge to be supportive, protective, and always hopeful. 

The warrior, too, is hopeful, but with an eternal confidence and strength of spirit that is unbending. The warrior is aggressive when she needs to be, girded for whatever pitfalls lie ahead and for whatever battles she might have to fight, and uncompromising in her advocacy. The warrior element is one we most often put aside, for we fear that in our strength we will appear inflexible, antagonistic, or even cocky. 

The nurturing warrior uses both these elements not in isolation, nurturing here, being a warrior there, but rather, as a whole. Only when applied in tandem, and in equal parts (over time), can both elements be truly effective. Sure, there are times when one element or the other are dominant, but one without the other is not only dangerous, but wholly ineffective. To access one element requires the recognition of the other; the two are interdependent, valid and valuable.

In all that we do, at the very core of our professional beings (and perhaps at the core of our selves, too), this is what we are: caring and bold, supportive and strong. We are, at the core, nurturing warriors. 

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