I graduated from college in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with that degree, but felt a huge sense of accomplishment for having earned it. I spent the year after college in Costa Rica, working, camping and living in the moment. My boyfriend, who is now my husband, brought me home and we road tripped around the western states before settling in a small town in the Washington Cascade Mountains.
After some time bartending, snowboarding, and playing the woods, I felt a pull towards education. I wanted to work with kids, which was not a big surprise considering all the time I had spent working at summer camps and babysitting. It had always been really easy for me to connect with young people and I felt as though teaching would be a good match for me.
By summer of 1999 I had earned my elementary teaching certificate and landed a great job teaching at a three room school in another small mountain town. That same summer I married my lovely husband and began to feel like a real adult...
Side note – up until this time, I was a bit of a half-asser. My inner voice had begun to develop and the message seemed to be "you could never pull that off! Who do you think you are? What makes you believe you could accomplish that???" Because I have allowed this voice a presence in my psyche, I am a bit of a procrastinator, and have found it difficult to take compliments and name my worth. Courage for me has been a journey in recognizing that voice, and using it as a stepping stone in knowing when I need to rise to the occasion.
My first school year began and I fell in love with my students, and felt as though the connections and relationships I was able to build with them and their families was quite transformative. Teaching in the small school was a dream – and it was clear to the team I worked with that we really were creating something special.
During my time in the classroom I worked towards earning a Master’s Degree in Education and really began to focus on building partnerships with families. Graduate school had seemed so daunting to me in the beginning… Was I going to be able to pull it off? Was I smart enough? My third year teaching I became pregnant with my daughter, and birthed her during my fourth year of teaching, January 19, 2003.
Having my first child really was a turning point in my career. There was no way she would be spending 40 hours a week in child care and I had zero options of family nearby to help me out. I needed to create a situation that worked for me and my family as well as the school. My principal and I wrote a grant to fund a preschool that would have a heavy focus on family involvement. And I would be bringing my then 7 month old baby with me each day of class.
This worked for that year, the families involved in the preschool were excited to participate and welcomed my baby during our preschool day… Each month, my daughter and I would do home visits with all of the preschool families, and monthly there were parent education nights that covered topics from nutrition to literacy. It was a really amazing program, and allowed me to not only be the teacher, but also the coordinator and manager. This was a courageous step for me, believing that I could pull this off. That year was also was my culminated project for finishing graduate school, which I finished that June.
By the time my son was born, October 30, 2005, I knew I would never be a classroom teacher again. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the 15-20 hours a week of prep time for my 40 hour a week job. I had two children to raise and chose to stay home with them. My sweet husband was very supportive of this (thank goodness) and we were able to live off of his income.
This is about the time that I started to look into parent education – my daughter, as an only child, had been easy. She spent most of her time in a sling close to me. When my son arrived, her world was rocked and my hip became a resting place for someone else. It pains me to think of those early years, the mama bear instinct that pushed her away as I got to know my new child… How confusing it was for her, how sad she was to watch her mama coddle and love on another child. My new mom brain didn’t really recognize what was going on… Even as I type this now, 7 ½ years later, my stomach tightens and my heart breaks a little bit. Bu the time my son was nearing 2 I knew I needed to figure some things out.
My first Positive Discipline training occurred in October of 2007. It was Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way and it totally blew my mind. Not only did it make complete sense to me, but it really helped me to shift the relationship I was developing with my daughter from one of hurt to one of love and connection. I saw immediate results in my own home and was deeply honored to share this program with other parents.
A few months later I was hired by my local YMCA to offer parenting classes a couple times a year. This slowly developed into a more steady position. The reputation of PD and my reputation as a facilitator grew in my community. I loved what I was doing. Teaching Positive Discipline is really my own social activism… Helping parents to raise a generation of children who know they are capable of love and contribution will change the world – what a blessing to do what I do!!!
Despite the voice in my head calling me a fraud, I knew I had a gift. Parents came to my class over and over again, appreciating my style of connection, my stories of mistakes and success. I keep it real. I am not perfect, I am in the trenches, doing the hard and messy work of parenting. I walk my talk and others are drawn to that.
By the summer if 2012, I knew it was time to break away from the Y and go out on my own. I had no business background, but how hard could it be? I would continue to contract my class a few times a year out of the Y, but I would branch out into other areas… It was time to promote my gifts and name my worth – scary!!!!! I had begun to read a lot of Brene Brown’s work about shame and wholehearted living and it was time for me to really shed my armor and live up to my potential.
This is the beginning of Joyful Courage. When people ask me about how I came up with that name I tell them about how all the other names I thought of were taken. What I have come to realize is that the list of other names I thought of weren’t right for my gifts. Joyful is a given, right? Joyful life, joyful parent, joyful marriage – it’s want we all aspire for… Courage, on the other hand comes from my mentor, who taught me that courage is the movement we take in the direction of being our best self. Wow, how dreamy is that??? Joyful Courage is what I aspire for, and what I want to help others tap into.
I went for it. I emailed all the school principals and counselors in the districts around me, I let them know that I was a parent educator. I contacted coop preschools and churches, offering free intro talks. It was a truckload of work and I wasn’t getting paid, but I was patient. I felt very brave, having faith that it was all going to come together. Brave felt good.
I knew I wanted to bring this work into classrooms. In the fall of 2012, I qualified to do the Advanced Candidate Training with the Positive Discipline Association and became certified to train new parent educators as well as classroom teachers. It was amazing – a deep dive into the pool of vulnerability as we were pushed to really deliver the work of PD to a fuller, more meaningful level. The four full days I spent surrounded by my cohort of facilitators filled me up with gratitude and pride in the work we were all doing. We are world changers.
In the months that have passed, I have stepped into the courageous facilitator role. I embrace the questions and concerns that parents have about what I teach, seeing those challenges as opportunities for me to guide them in digging deeper into their own beliefs about behavior and parenting. I have worked with teachers who have shared that I have helped them change the culture of their classroom. My inner voice continues to spew negative thoughts, but I am no longer pushed down by it.
So now, I wonder how I can get my gift of connection and the beauty of Positive Discipline to more families and teachers. I have been toying with the idea of writing a book – maybe and ebook? I would love to create some online products to support parents taking steps to create a PD home.
I am planning on becoming a certified coach through the Newfield Network, and know this process will be transformative for me. I want to coach others - parents, teachers, anyone who wants to grown from the inside, to recognize the power and strength that lies in each one of us.
Courage is available, all the time, we just have to choose it.
Whaaaa-la! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it :).