McDonald Graham, Psychology At Work
  • Drs. McDonald and Graham

Courageous Educators / Everyday Heroes

After seeing my super-cool picture with Brené from the March training, Dr. Laura Fiveash, Director of Spring Valley School, asked McDonald Graham if we could bring the Dare to Lead workshop to her faculty and staff for two days of professional development. I jumped at the chance! I have referred families to Spring Valley School for years, because the school is dedicated to providing an excellent education for students with learning differences. These educators and staff are truly heroes to the students and families they serve. Teachers have been such an incredibly important part of my life, and I personally think they are the reason that most any of us are ultimately successful in the world. So, I really, really wanted this workshop to be a stellar experience for them. But, it was going to be my first time actually teaching the elements of courageous leadership from Brené’s research . . . and I was going to do it solo since Lisa would be out of town. So, I sprang into action.


In July, I set up my Dare to Lead central-command-preparation-unit in my home office (full disclosure: this mainly consisted of setting up a big table in the middle of the room so that I could spread out all my stuff. Oh, and a lot of sticky notes) and commenced putting together the workshop in a way that would be fun, informative, deeply courageous, and authentic. I recruited my favorite (and only) son, Max, who happened to be home for a few weeks from his summer internship, to help me. He wanted an official title, so he became my “production manager.” Side note: he loves this work as much as I do. He has watched Brené’s Call to Courage special on Netflix nine times and could pretty much quote her stories word for word.

The night before the workshop, I was doing some final review and prep when I ran out of steam at about 8 pm. I said to Max and my husband, “Well, I guess at this point, if there is something I don’t know, I will just have to wing it.” Max replied, “Mom, you have a 105 page, color and font-coded facilitator manual, with a full set of notes for every slide and activity that you have created. You have reviewed said facilitator guide multiple times over the past four weeks by yourself AND page by page with dad and me, you have watched each planned video at least three times, and you have been studying Brené’s work for almost 10 years. If that’s your idea of winging it, I think you are gonna be fine!” To be fair, he did have a point. But there was no way I was going into the “arena” under-prepared!


The workshop was everything I had hoped for and more. And, as an added bonus, the Dare to Lead #daringclassroom hub was launched three days before our workshop, giving me the chance to introduce the group to even more (free!) resources that they could use to continue their learning following the workshop. Believe me when I say this: the participants I engaged with over the course of the two day workshop are truly heroes. They go into their own classroom “arena” every day to help kids who have been bumped and bruised and discouraged in their attempts to learn.


I heard stories that were wise, tender, painful, and hopeful. They dug into the exercises and discussions, shared, struggled, laughed, cried, danced, sang, asked great questions, and supported one another. We consumed a fair amount of gummy bears and chocolate along the way and were, collectively, emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of Day 2. It was the good kind of tired, where you know you have been in the presence of powerful energy and feel something inside you shifting. I received a lovely thank you note at the end of the workshop, signed by all of the participants with comments like:


  • “Before this, I was anxious about the new school year -- now I’m excited.”,

  • “This has been life changing. I wish public schools would invest in this professional development”, and

  • “You changed my life.”


It gives me a lump in my throat, y’all.


I am eternally grateful that this was the first cohort that I got to train in the Dare to Lead curriculum. They made my time in the arena an exhilarating experience, and I think I learned as much, if not more, than they did. Thank you, thank you, Spring Valley School, for being the everyday kind of heroes we so desperately need! It was an honor to step into the arena with you.


-Dr. Julie McDonald








#BreneBrown #DareToLead #DrJulieMcDonald #McDonaldGraham

McDonald Graham, Psychology at Work, is a certified WBENC Women's Business Enterprise.
McDonald Graham, Psychology at Work, is a certified WBENC Women's Business Enterprise.