1.Be upbeat. Convey that birth is safe. Begin each class with a brief outline of what you will be covering so students can know what to look forward to. End with time for questions and a brief preview of the next class. Always end on a positive note.
2.Use word of mouth advertising. It’s effective and inexpensive. Call and email your friends and family to tell them you are now teaching birth classes. Ask them to spread the word. If you have a related business (doula, pregnancy massage, prenatal yoga, etc.) call your past clients and ask them to tell others about your new business. If you have a nitch (twins, vbac, specific community such as Spanish speaking, deaf, lesbian, etc.) be sure to promote this aspect.
3.Start with a weekly series. They’re easier to prepare for than a weekend class and if you don’t know the answer to a question, you have a week to find out.
4.Be organized. Have an outline of everything you plan to teach so that if a question diverts you, you can get back on track. Arrive early so you can set up the room and have all handouts and teaching aids handy before students arrive.
5.Learn students’ names. Have a positive attitude about remembering names, it’s a learned skill. Review the class list ahead of time to familiarize yourself with names. Allow time for frequent rounds of introductions. Use name tags. Ask students to say their names when asking a question. Use names when greeting or referring to students. This will help to create a sense of community in class which will make students more comfortable asking questions, more likely to continue friendships when the series is over, and more likely to keep coming back to class.
6.Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. This happens to all educators. Tell the student you will get back to her or him next class, or if it seems to be an urgent matter that you will call them with the information. Make a note about the question and who asked it to remind yourself. Education for childbirth educators is always ongoing.
7.Get them moving. They will remember much more of what they do than of what they only hear. Have them practice comfort techniques, breathing, and labor position and role-play getting informed consent. Break them into groups to answer questions or go over labor scenarios.
8.Remember you can benefit from deep breathing, affirmations and visualization too. The skills you are teaching have life long benefits. If you’re feeling nervous take a few deep abdominal breaths to allow the extra oxygen to calm you. As you drive to class, visualize your class going smoothly. See yourself calmly greeting each student by name, effectively answering questions, using visual aids, and leading discussion. Choose an affirmation such as “I am a skilled educator” and repeat it aloud while you drive.
9.Appeal to all learning types. Use posters, handouts, and an easel or white board for visual learners. Pass around the doll, pelvis and placenta models, a bag of tools such as amnio hook, vacuum extractor, bulb syringe, for tactile learners.
10.Be confident. Remember you are trained and certified and you do know more than your students. Smile, it releases endorphins.
Julie Brill, CCCE, CLD owns and manages WellPregnancy in Bedford, Massachusetts. She has been teaching childbirth classes and attending births since 1992, and mentoring new birth professionals as a member of the CAPPA Faculty since 2003. She is also certified to present Peggy Huddleston’s Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster workshops. Her website is www.WellPregnancy.com.