A Call to Warriorship

I have become increasingly frustrated with the rancor and dissention that pervade discussions around education and so many other issues of our time. I believe that casting blame is a form of aggression.

In the field of education, many cast blame on teachers, unions, society, parents and anyone else that is connected to schools and children.

Then there are those who react to this aggression with additional aggression. They cast blame onto the accusers and anyone associated with them. The favorite targets in these contentious discussions are politicians, philanthropic organizations, central administration, and the hierarchical structures of schools.

Finger-Pointing

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when we point one finger at  someone else…Three others pointing back at us!

When we engage in finger-pointing conversations, they can quickly deteriorate into vitriolic exchanges. And these exchanges only serve, as my friend Jessica Cuthbertson says, “…to keep the status quo in place,” and add to the aggression of our time.

Let’s not forget that as each side blames and shames the other, the kids sit idly by watching adults behave like, well, adults. (While it is tempting to use the old adage of acting like children, I am reminded of Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. #2 – Play Fair and #6 – Clean up your own mess).

When we react to aggression with additional aggression we leave no space for dialogue and the formulation of solutions.

Invitation

I want to invite those who are interested into a different approach—that of warriorship. Oh, I’m not talking about the type of warriorship that involves combat and aggression.  I am talking about  a different type of warrior, one that engages the human spirit.

In her book, So Far From Home, Meg Wheatley says, “The Tibetan word for warrior, pawo, means one who is brave, one who vows never to use aggression…You cannot tell who these warriors are by their appearance, they look like normal people doing regular jobs….they go into the corridors of power to dismantle the beliefs and behaviors that are destroying life…and serve this dark time as warriors for the human spirit.” (p. x-xi)

I invite those who seek solutions to do exactly this: vow never to use aggression while going into the corridors of power to dismantle beliefs and behaviors that are destroying life.

We can re-create what it means to be educated in the US. We can reinvent the ways in which schools and schooling are done. And we can imaginer a profession that is respected and empowering. We don’t, however, have to do it by responding to current aggression with additional aggression. We can stand in contrast to what is and create a new way.

Does this mean that we all turn away and pretend that the aggression is not happening?  No!

Does this mean that we stand by and do nothing? Of course not!

Does this mean that we ignore the inequities that are happening in our schools every day? Absolutely not!

Then, what do we do?

Action

We act in a way that brings more kindness, compassion and  understanding to the situation. It is from here that we can find and enact solutions to our most pressing issues.

What this means:

  • We accept what is and we become people who stand in contrast to what is, freed from aggression, grasping and the confusion of this time (Wheatley, p. 11)
  • We let curiosity guide us – rather than instant reactions and judgments – we become skilled in how to think about complex issues (Wheatley, p. 146)
  • We acknowledge what is and create solutions within our own sphere of influence. These solutions stand in contrast to what is and can offer a different way.

So, how does one begin on the Warrior path?

  • When something being said, written or done is upsetting to you, activate your observer and turn to wonder. Wonder about what is being triggered in you and why. Does that quality live in you?
  • Think about what your “normal” reaction would be. Would you normally react with defensiveness? Anger? Sadness? Would you “blow them up” with your thoughts?
  • Consider how you might choose differently. If you could suddenly take on the qualities of any of the peaceful warriors in history, how might this influence your reaction?
  • From this place, where is there a solution?

Contemplation

  1. In your personal life, how often do you meet aggression with aggression, either physical or mental? How often do you “blow people up” with your thoughts?
  2. How is this pattern the same or different in your professional life?
  3. What is one issue or topic in education that pushes your buttons and causes you to react aggressively? How might you shift your thinking (and actions) towards solutions, rather than anger?
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  • JulieHiltz

    Perspective of Time

    How I wish I could go back in time and give your post to 2003 me. I was a very emotional person when I was younger. I truly felt like every situation presented a hill worth dying on and my first tendency was to “fight fire with fire.” Well, that’s not completely true. I had more of a scorched earth policy. It felt good at the time to feel like I was getting ahead of the problem. In reality, I was just burning bridges with people. Now that I’m older I tend to distrust my first instinct about a problem- especially if it manifests as a strong emotional response. If it’s not life/death, I let it simmer for a few days and get input from others. I have found this approach to make me happier, healthier – and in the long run, more successful – both personally and professionally.

    • LoriNazareno

      Older and wiser

      Julie,

      I know EXACTLY what you are talking about. In my youger years I, too, was very “enthusiastic” about whatever I was passionate about. That enthusiasm, however, could sometimes turn an opportunity to learn something into something less-than-supportive. I finally learned that I need to define what I am FOR, not explain why I am against something. This has made my life much happier.

      Though I wish I could say that I am always in this “warrior” space, the truth is that I still get upset. In those times, I amke sure that I have let it pass before I hit the “send” button or respond to something from upset rather than compassion.

      • JessicaCuthbertson

        Yup…Getting Scrappy Vs. Centered…

        @Julie & Lori,

        Been there, done that! I’d like to think that I’ve become more centered and “wiser” as I age but sometimes (more often than I’d like) I feel that old familiar feeling — blood pressure spikes, cheeks flush — and I want to “get scrappy” instead of getting centered.

        The common theme I think for all teacher leaders — these feelings come from a place of passion, solutions and wanting to reach resolution and change faster! Now, I try to remind myself to breathe (literally and figuratively 🙂 and to “warrior up” in a smarter and more strategic way. Thanks for the tips and the questions to ponder! More tools for our teacher leader warrior toolboxes!

        • LoriNazareno

          Respond vd. React

          Jessica,

          While I know that I have become more enlightened with age and experience, there are still more moments than I’d like where my initla response is to want to respond in kind. The difference now is that I notice and more carefully chose my course of action. Gut reactions and emotions are part of the human experience. It’s how we interpret and act on those that make the difference.

  • CourtneyPrusmack

    Thank you

    Lori-

    All I can say is thank you—in Salinas, CA where I previously taught English and ELD at Alisal High School, I was a memeber of ourself-titled cohort WARRIOR TEACHERS. You have eloquently summarized in your blog the reasons why I identify with that name-Warrior.

     

    Courtney

    • LoriNazareno

      Warriors unite!

      Courtney,

      Love that you are connected to this concept and I know that there a LOTS more of us! I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Tell me more about the Warrior Teachers!

  • CherylSuliteanu

    passion without blame

    Blame is the root of all evil.  

    Any argument requires differing perspectives. Every argument represents an opportunity to express one’s opinions – how we go about doing that is what determines the outcomes.  As with all of us, our passions drive us – using our passions to promote positive, solutions-oriented, strength-based dialogue is the way we can accomplish our goals.  Blaming someone is focusing energy on the negative, keeping everyone stuck in the past.

    Unfortunately, last year I experienced a personal attack on my professionalism and integrity. While the individual was focused on blaming me for something that took place, I remained calm, not revealing my inner feelings. I made a concscious choice not to allow my feelings toward her cloud my professional judgment.  I remained focused on moving past the problem, and moving forward even in the heat of the moment – and we have. 

    If we each view the world through positive assumptions, discussions about education would be focused on what we CAN do, not what has/hasn’t or can’t be done. Blame hurts everyone, and helps no one. We have a choice about how to handle pressure, and about how we express our passion for our beliefs.  Being passionate about what we do is the driving force of why we do it – it should not also be our downfall when we are faced with negativity.  

    Easier said than done, and definitely a learned response… older and wiser has never been more true!!

    • LoriNazareno

      Cheryl,

      Cheryl,

      I applaud your ability to move past that hurtful situation, that is definitely not easy to do!

      Your brought up an important point about arguing and blame. While we can and should be advocates in areas where we are passionate, not all interactions between people with different positions have to degrade into arguements. Frequently when they do, some was, or felt as though, there was blame attached.

      One of the interesting points that Meg makes in this book, is that so many of us now have the ability to watch, read and interact only with those who agree with us, that we are losing opportunities to learn by engagin in respectful discourse. As I reflected on my own behavior, I found this to be true. I was onyl watching “news” programs that had a particular bent. This was also true of what I read, the things I “liked” on FB and more. While I find it chllangeing to watch and listen to programming of all sorts “from the other side” I have started doing so albeit in small doses. This has been an interesting exercise for me as I am learning to put my judgement aside and turn to wonder.

  • zacharyrupp

    Timing is everything!

    This post couldn’t come at a better time-LOL.  I have been fortunate enough to not have dealt with TOO much hostility in the workplace.  I am currently helping colleagues involved in difficult situations where everyone has VERY different ideas of how to handle situations that we are up against.  It is proving very difficult to operate within, due to polarizing issues.  A few of my colleagues have come to me recently and voiced how much they’ve appreciated my ability to stay calm when emotions are flying high and blame is definitely the “game”, and I am able to ask questions and focus us back on “what is important” and bringing others back to the “middle” (far from an easy task in-the-moment) and reminding everyone that each has a different way to achieve the goal, if the goal is understood and agreed-to.

    I feel like the most significant opportunity to exercise this way of “responding versus reacting” was through opening a school, and facing very challenging situations both internally, and externally.  I still want to throw things, light things on fire, run screaming through the hallways while punching people in their face, but I have definintely learned the precious value of “Stop, Take a deep breath And Relax” as well as “presuming positive intent”.  Empathy plays a HUGE role in all of this.  We have to recognize where we are, and where others are coming from.  I am often reminding myself “[they] believe this is a way to fix [it]”.  As much as you may dislike someone, something, or a situation, you have to treat things that seem like obstacles as an opportunity to learn about yourself and others, then go from there.

    I’ve learned alot from you over the years, Ms. Nazareno 😉

     

    • LoriNazareno

      Empathy is Huge

      And I have learned much from you my friend!

      “Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” does much to help shift our perspective. Very few people actually set out to hurt others. Trying to see the world through their eyes can allow us to understand.

  • ReneeMoore

    A New Generation of Warriors

    Lori, 

    Your piece really touched my heart because you capture the spirit and the teachings of the U.S. civil rights movement. As you know, there have been many “50 year” observances related to civil rights such as the 1963 March on Washington, or the famous struggle against segregation (led by children!) in Birmingham, Alabama, and many others. My husband, a grassroots veteran of the CRM, was recently lamenting that it seemed many of the gains of that era were being overturned, and he was concerned that not enough of today’s young people seemed to even interested in carrying on the fight for positive change. I showed him your piece as evidence that these principles are not just the stuff of history. 

    While it is necessary to “speak truth to power,” it is equally necessary to extend hope and vision of what could be. As Dr. King, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others have shown us–how we wage the battle determines not only whether we win the war, but also whether the world will be worth living in once the war is over.

    What you’ve captured here is vital; thank you for bringing this discussion to the frontlines.