Author: Karen Copeland
Last night, I had the honor of participating in #YVRIgnite hosted by the Discovery Education Network. Ignite is a 5 minute presentation – you get 20 slides, and 15 seconds to talk about each of these. No pressure!
My story was titled “Finding My Courage, Becoming A Champion”. I shared the story of how and why I found my voice to a room full of very well respected educators in British Columbia.
Listening to the other presenters that evening, and hearing the conversations that happened in the room, was inspiring to me. We really are blessed to have such passionate educators in our province, who are committed to the transformation of education and they are doing some really amazing things because of this belief. I will post a link to the presentations when they become available.
My gratitude to Discovery Education Network for giving me the opportunity to share with you last night.
I have an amazing twin sister. It is important for you to know this, because as I was growing up, I didn’t need to use my voice. I had someone who could speak for me. So speaking up was not something I learned how to do until much later in my life.
I want to talk about my family for a moment. My husband has seen the best in me and the worst in me, and he still stands beside me and supports me. My daughter has a tremendous capacity for empathy and compassion, and she is just thirteen. It is astounding. My son, he teaches me something new each and every day.
When we think about what families are involved in, we typically think of school, sports, doctor appointments. It is time consuming, but it can be manageable and not requiring a whole lot of thought. It is different for our family. First, we needed to try and figure out what was happening for our child, and believe me, everyone seemed to have their own opinion. Then we had to start seeking out different services that might be available to support our family, figure out how to access these and then try and get them to listen to us!
It was very overwhelming and isolating. We often felt like we were the only family that was going through this. We also felt judged as parents. Like, if only we parented our child differently, we wouldn’t be experiencing all these challenges.
It got to this point….
I decided I really didn’t like feeling this way, and determined that I needed to make a change. But where to start? I had to shift the way I was thinking about our experiences.
Instead of looking at our experiences as impossible, I had to start looking at them as opportunities. For reflection, for growth, as the starting point for change.
To get from where I was, to where I wanted to be, I had to make the jump. In that gap in between was my voice. I had to start using my voice. I wasn’t always good at it when I first started out, but with time, patience and guidance I got better at it, and for that I am thankful.
Most importantly, I needed to start believing in myself! For so many years I had questioned everything about who I was as a parent and as a person. So it was critical to start believing in myself.
When I did, something beautiful happened!
I began to feel more confident about myself. I felt like I was capable and valued. I started connecting with other families and learned that we were not alone on this journey, there are so many of us out there who are struggling. And I decided I wanted to do something more! So I started standing up and speaking out.
People often assume that I am standing up and speaking out on behalf of my family. But that is not the whole truth. I stand up and speak out for all those families who have not yet found their voice, so that when they do, people might be more willing to listen!
I started a facebook page where I share information about mental health resources. I am active on twitter, and I have started this blog, where I share our experiences in the hopes of providing people with a slightly different perspective about families.
If there is one thing I have learned on this journey, it is that we often do things in isolation from one another. This needs to stop. We need to start coming together and learning from and with each other if we are going to have any kind of impact.
To do that, we need to come from a place of curiousity. We need to throw out all the assumptions and judgements we have about each other, and start asking some critical questions. What is your story? Where have you come from? Where would you like to be? and How do we get there, together?
I am so thankful I found my courage and I found my voice. But don’t think for a minute that I don’t have days where I feel uncertain. Where I think “what the heck am I doing?”. On those days, I check in with my own champions, and they encourage me and inspire me to continue moving forward.
If you had told me ten years ago that I would speaking to a room full of well respected educators about my journey, I would have said “um. nope. not happening. ever.” But here I am, and I truly believe, this is right where I need to be.
Thank you to all my champions who have been a part of our journey. Welcome to all the new champions who might join us in the future.
I know that together, we will make a difference for children, youth and families in our communities.
I would be happy to come speak to your organization or group to share more about the family experience and navigating systems. Please see my “About” page for more information and how to contact me.