By Melanie Wells
Maggie Lear, in her third year as a PIA facilitator, finds that “good facilitation is so much more of an art than a science.” Maggie notes she is “enjoying” it, and recalls that she first learned about PIA after attending a school meeting. “Having the opportunity to connect with other parents that night was so welcome and helpful,” says Maggie. “The facilitators were extremely helpful and watching them inspired me to get more involved.”
Asked what drew her to the idea of becoming a facilitator, Maggie explained that she had received a Masters in Social Work but hadn’t worked in the field for many years. “After attending meetings in my kid’s schools,” she notes, “I was so appreciative of the safe space that PIA creates, where parents can talk about what is on their minds.”
Recalling the facilitation training experience is anther area that elicits appreciation and praise from Maggie. “The training was wonderful. Laurie Freeman does an awesome job teaching the practicalities and the nuances of facilitating meetings,” she said. When asked how she felt the first few times out as a brand new facilitator, Maggie admits, “I was nervous during my first few meetings. I spent a lot of time listening and getting the lay of the land before I was truly comfortable talking.” Noting the value of pairing two facilitators to work as a team, Maggie said she appreciated “having a co-facilitator that I can both learn with and learn from.”
PIA parents will be pleased to know that Maggie finds facilitating a rewarding experience. “What I appreciate most about being a facilitator,” she says, “is seeing just how beneficial the meetings are for parents. Even in the tougher conversations where there are no simple solutions to the problems being addressed, there is so much value in simply coming together as a parent body.” And since there is no expectation to reach consensus around issues, “everyone is free to share their own approaches and experiences.”
Further, said Maggie, the benefits of facilitated Parent Talks extend beyond the immediate experience of any single meeting – both for the parental network, and for the facilitator. “The greatest reward of being a facilitator is seeing how the meetings build community. Because no two meetings are alike, we always have to be open to refining and deepening our listening and guiding skills,” says Maggie.
Asked what she would say to a parent considering becoming a facilitator, Maggie offered a most positive and enthusiastic message: “I am always singing the praises of PIA. I have learned a great deal about the techniques of facilitation through this practice, but every meeting is unique and there are always opportunities to learn more. I would definitely encourage parents to dive in if they are interested in becoming a facilitator–there is so much to gain through this work! It is an enriching and a rewarding experience, every single time.”
As enriching as Maggie finds the work, it is PIA and our network of parents who are truly enriched. Facilitators with the dedication and interest that volunteers like Maggie show, are what make our Parent Talks effective, and our community grateful! Thank you Maggie!