Kate Edwards, SVP, Efficacy & Research at Pearson: “Why I chose to tell this story.”
At face value, what I’m sharing is a story about efficacy in medicine and what can be learned and applied in the field of education. It’s about the power of focusing on outcomes and what can be achieved by a diverse team applying evidence in the service of delivering those outcomes. It’s also a story that tells another tale. It’s the story of someone, me, who at the time felt they had personally and physically failed — and what they went on to do next.
With that in mind, it wasn’t an easy decision to share my story. I am not someone who lives a life of self-disclosure. In fact, however seamlessly presented this narrative appears, its sharing has been grounded in a lot of fear and self-doubt.
I was afraid. Afraid I’d jumble up events, misrepresent things or people, forget important medical things. I was afraid others would judge me, or the sharing of it, as inappropriate. Scared that it would be interpreted as giving advice when I don’t presume to have any to give. The story is my family’s experience of extreme premature birth. It is also a story that is not ‘over’ for us, we are still living with the effects of what happened.
Why did I choose to do this? Living through that experience, I learned that it’s the moments when you think everything is going wrong that a strange alchemy can take place. One that transforms the disaster into a renewed and purposeful journey. I chose to share this story not because of the experience of failure, but because of what I learned next, and what that’s helping me to go on and do.
The twists and turns that learning took me on, taught me that straight roads are conducive to a speedy arrival at your destination, but they don’t necessarily make skillful drivers.
Over the course of the 116 days we spent in hospital I learned things about myself, about others, about resilience in the face of adversity, and about what you are capable of doing in the service of the things you care most about.
After we left the hospital and returned home, a very wise man (Pearson’s CEO, John Fallon) who was reflecting on his own personal challenges said,“I’ve learnt that it is not what happens to you in life, ultimately, that matters, but what you do about it.” John’s words have stuck with me. Over time, and with the support of other colleagues at Pearson like Tim Bozik, Kate James and my team, the words gave me the courage to build on what I learned. I have come to understand what it means to show-up as myself, not just in private, but at work, and as a leader. Ultimately, to paraphrase researcher Brené Brown, I learned that the courage to be vulnerable can help you transform how you live, love, parent, and lead.
On the 16th of November, it will be two years since my daughter’s scheduled delivery date. November 17th is World Prematurity Day. To personally mark these poignant milestones I agreed to write about my experience. I wanted one or two of the parents of the 15 million babies born prematurely each year to know that they are not alone. I also want to remind you that we all have these stories that go into the making of who we are and how we show up. It’s by feeling the fear, choosing courage over comfort, daring to be brave, sharing and listening to stories of persistence, and using what we’ve learned to make a difference (however big or small) that change can come: in our personal relationships, our families, our workplaces, our communities.
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