2019 Brave Writer Staff Retreat
by Jen Holman
“Oh my gosh!” Julie rounded the corner with a platter of cookies in hand, looking stunned. “It sounds like a sorority in here! I could hear you laughing from the entrance!”
To which of course, we laughed.
We were sitting in the dining room of the empty retreat center in Cincinnati, the night before the Brave Writer Staff retreat. Yep, we were loud. And only 5 of us had arrived.
The next day our delightful coaches and staff —you know them, those funny, smart, engaged women who interact with you and your kids every day—would begin to trickle in. Some drove with families in tow. Others took a solo journey for the first time since their kids were born. Some coaches traveled together, relishing in the chance to catch up and chat on the way.
Laughter multiplied. Hugs exponentialized. Joy overflowed. We all have a really cool internet friend we wish we could meet in real life—this was like that, except thirty times over! Coaches and staff greeted each other like old friends, despite being the first time they were meeting in person.
But you should know, our coaches and staff didn’t just come for a good time. These women came ready to dig deep! They’d done their homework (literally). They were ready to share and learn and grow.
Since we only had a few days together, we started that very night. We shared our work experiences and the strengths we bring to teaching. We talked about our Brave Families and what they need. (That’s you! We talked about you, the whole time. <3 )
That first night I could already feel the STRETCHING taking place in the room. New connections, new perspectives, new approaches were being shared.
Believe it or not, Saturday took us even deeper. Kirsten Merryman navigated us through practical coaching strategies and how to keep growing in our teaching. We got “on the ground” feedback from coaches about what they see happening in our classrooms (oh, how you and your kids amaze us!). We discussed how to represent ourselves and our values at work in a way that makes our feedback richer, more impactful and helpful. We renewed our dogged determination to bring writing relief to families.
We got to learn from our fearless leader, Julie, as she walked us through Brave Writer history, its evolution to now and through to the future of what she sees ahead. Along this path she showed us again and again how nurturing actually does lead to a college-ready education in writing. We nodded along in mutual commitment to take fledgling writers from uncertainty, resistance, intimidation to pride, power, and proficiency. Our mandate.
There was some down time. There was Graeter’s ice cream. We laughed, we cried. In true Brave Writer fashion, there was freewriting, as well as Poetry Teatime. And sometimes dancing.
Our last morning focused on self-care (do your stretches, ladies!) and how to use our retreat experiences to inspire growth in our “real lives” back home. Reluctant farewells came too soon, as one after another we left for our cars, Julie’s backyard, or the flight rescheduling desk at CVG.
I’m already nostalgic over the whole experience! It’s quite something to have been in the company of a pride of lions, even for a little while. Or maybe we’re more of a bevy of swans, as one coach said. It’s impossible to come up with the proper metaphor here because I have to tell you: these women are ALL that. Strong and fierce. Graceful, eloquent, and kind. Committed and brave. We’re so proud that they work for Brave Writer. And that they spend their days working for YOU.