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Becoming a warrior

by Rebecca K. Oliver, SSWAA Executive Director

“If you are going to be a warrior you’ve got to be fit. Otherwise it looks like rubbish.” Graham McTavish

Many have become “binge watchers” during the last year+ of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you happened to binge watch “Outlander”, you may be familiar with Graham McTavish who plays Dougal MacKenzie. Graham is a Scottish actor who also starred in the Hobbit film trilogy. Graham is also a fitness guide with the iFIT training series. In a series of walks through the Scottish Highlands, Graham talks about his fitness journey and the regime he went through as an actor, getting into top shape for filming fight scenes and doing his own stunt work. Even though he was “just playing” a warrior in these films, he found that becoming fit was necessary. “If you are going to be a warrior, you’ve got to be fit.”

School Social Workers are a special kind of warrior. School Social Work is a mighty profession! School Social Workers show great vigor, courage, and might as they work for their students, families, and the profession. And, within the profession, becoming a true warrior involves becoming professionally fit. As discussed in our previous blogs in this series, professional fitness, like physical fitness, includes diet, exercise, and recovery. School Social Workers will benefit from feasting on a diet of quality professional development, exercising their skills and strategies through practice and evaluation, and prioritizing recovery with effective boundaries and self-care practices.

“Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do.” - Unknown

Turning an eye to statistics, we can gain some insight into a key component that impacts success in meeting fitness goals. Statistics show that a large percentage, often 50% or more, (sources indicate anywhere from 35%-95%) of New Year’s Resolutions are fitness related.¹ Sadly, the statistics also suggest that approximately 80% of people drop their New Year’s Resolution within 6 weeks.² Looking at my own experience and the experience of many others, the secret to success is often found in a fitness community. Achieving a preferred level of fitness often takes help. Many individuals who want to ensure success, hire a personal trainer, find a fitness partner in a friend or family member, or join fitness groups. This fitness community can help us in our journey as they offer advice, insight, and accountability. This community can also inspire us with their shared experiences and offer needed support as they provide a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. This fitness community can also provide “tough love” as they urge us on (i.e. holler at us when we feel we want to quit), cheer us when we are tired, and motivate us to keep going even when things seem too difficult.

One of the priorities of SSWAA is to connect School Social Workers with their professional community and to assist in building a professional village.

All of us can use a little encouragement. All of us can benefit from new ideas and viewpoints. So, how does SSWAA help you connect with a professional village? Here are a few ideas of how you might use your SSWAA membership and its benefits to build a professional village.

1. JOIN. If you are not a member of a professional school social work organization – consider joining! If your state has an association, consider becoming a member and build relationships with other professionals in your state. Want to connect with individuals from other states or regions? Consider joining SSWAA and engage with professionals from across the country!

2. RESPOND to a “call to action” from SSWAA. This might be an invitation to join a committee, an opportunity to participate in a social media discussion, or the chance to attend a town hall meeting. All of these opportunities will afford you the chance to interact with other School Social Workers, ask questions, and build useful connections with others in the field.

3. ATTEND an in-person conference or regional workshop. During our in-person events, SSWAA builds time into the agenda to network and connect with others. This is a great time to put down your phone and take the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with another School Social Worker. You might even go “old school” and share your business card!

4. PARTICIPATE. If you are a tier 3 member of SSWAA (Premiere, Student, or Retired Member), watch for information about a new opportunity called LOOP. SSWAA will be providing the opportunity to connect virtually with other professionals from across the country weekly. Tier 3 members will be invited to fill out a profile indicating areas of professional interest. After completing the profile, members will receive a weekly “opt in” email inviting them to be matched with another professional with similar interests for a 20-30 minute virtual conversation that week. What a great opportunity to share ideas, discuss strategies, cheer each other on, and support each other in the work!

In June, I took a challenging step in my physical fitness journey. I joined a women’s fitness studio in my town. I knew of one of the instructors through my husband, but really did not have a relationship with her. I reached out and asked her to coffee. We talked about our fitness journeys and I asked about the fitness center. I had to make myself vulnerable. I had to admit that I needed support. I had to embrace my discomfort in order to make positive progress.

I found a village; a group of incredible women. Women that do not judge each other for their shape or size or fitness level. A village that encourages each other, supports each other, challenges each other. It was not easy. It required risk, vulnerability, and intentional effort.

What steps are you willing to take to build a professional village? Will you step out of your comfort zone to connect with others that can support you and embrace you wherever you are in your professional journey? If you are looking for a village that will support you, encourage you, and challenge you, I invite you to grab hold of one of the opportunities listed above to connect with others in our great profession. If you need help finding an opportunity to engage with other school social work professionals, please feel free to reach out to us at We stand ready to assist as you train to become a School Social Work warrior!


Come flex your professional muscles AND BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL VILLAGE with us at SSWAA’s Regional 2-day Workshop, October 4 & 5: Professionally Fit & Fabulous!


Rebecca K. Oliver is the Executive Director of the School Social Work Association of America. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Mrs. Oliver served on the SSWAA Board of Directors and has over 20 years experience working as a school social worker. In her current role with SSWAA, Rebecca is able to support school social workers across the nation and advocate for the profession about which she is so passionate. When not working, Rebecca enjoys traveling with her husband Jon, singing, running, reading, doing home-improvements, and outdoor activities including walks with her two dogs, Abby & Buddy.

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