Spotlight on Facilitators: KATHERINE WEBER

01 Feb 2017

Ask Katherine Weber about facilitating, and it’ll be clear her enthusiasm is as strong now, after five years, as it was when she was first drawn to the work. She happily notes that the rewards of facilitation are “many,” including the chance to “pick up new ideas and strategies” she can use in her own parenting.

Katherine recalled her first contact with PIA, attending grade meetings when her children were in Kindergarten: “It was a great way to meet other parents, especially when everyone is new to the community. It was reassuring to hear that other parents were dealing with similar challenges, and enlightening to learn how other parents handle things,” said Katherine, adding that she picked up some “great practical tips” from fellow parents. “You don’t always agree with everything you hear in a meeting,” she said, “but it’s always thought-provoking, and everyone is coming from the same place of love and support for their children.”

Facilitators decide to take the training for a variety of reasons. In Katherine’s case, “I was impressed by the facilitators who led our meetings, and I thought the work looked interesting. I signed up for facilitator training when my children were in middle school. At that point, I had done many years volunteering inside our school, and I was looking to mix things up a bit and devote my volunteer time to a new kind of work.” With PIA facilitating, Katherine noted that, though still working inside schools, she now enjoyed “the wider lens of working with parents in many different schools.”

We asked Katherine how she felt about the training process; her response was genuine and enthusiastic. “I cannot say enough good things about facilitator training! It is truly superb. The training is professional, and you go through it with a class of new trainees so there is a built-in support group.” Years later, she can “still remember who was in my training class, and it’s fun if we find ourselves working together in a meeting.”

For Katherine, learning to “facilitate others’ conversations, learnings, growth” is a valuable skill that she “had never developed, and now that I look back on it, a huge blind spot! As a parent, I’ve found this skill set extremely valuable! I think I am absolutely a better parent and person with these tools in my kit.”

Katherine recalls that her first time out as a new facilitator did involve some trepidation. For “maybe the first year” after training, she admits she was “still a bit nervous” in meetings. “I hope it didn’t show!” she added. “But you’re always paired with another facilitator, so you are a team, and that provides a huge amount of support and confidence. Over time, you get comfortable, and it’s fun to be in a position to be the ‘old’ facilitator paired with a new trainee.”

Asked about the rewards of facilitating, Katherine listed first the facilitation skills she’s gained, which she finds “super valuable and useful in so many aspects of life – with my teenagers, in other kinds of meetings and groups.” Secondly, it’s “the people!” she said. “PIA facilitators and volunteers inside the organization are some of the most thoughtful, engaged, smart parents you could ever hope to meet. How often do you get a chance to tap into that community in such a broad way? I have met the most interesting people through this work, and added a few good friends to my life.”

Finally, Katherine noted “the chance to peek inside the parent communities” at other schools. She likes the opportunity to facilitate meetings for “parents with kids my own ages or a little older. It’s a great way to learn what’s ‘coming down the pike,’ and I pick up new strategies and ideas at every meeting.”

What would she say to someone who is considering becoming a facilitator? Katherine had two simple but unequivocal words of advice: “Do it!”

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