Educating Educators!

TTR

Here, I’m making an important point about increasing student engagement…

I had the pleasure of working with a room full of Health Educators a few days ago for a training session I’d developed to help these professionals increase the level of engagement they have with their students.

No pressure, or anything, but when the title of your presentation is: “Teach to Reach: Six Rules of Engagement,” you’d better be able to bring it! Thankfully, I think I did. The evaluations were really positive: most attendees were wishing that the training had been longer, and I’ve already been asked to come back. So, that’s good.

I love doing presentations and trainings. There’s a reason why this is such a good fit for me. I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating – I am the most extroverted person I’ve ever known. So, getting up in front of a group of people doesn’t rattle me at all. I have no nerves in this situation.

In fact, the bigger the crowd, the more excited I get. The original number of people attending this training was supposed to be about 20. The day before, I found out it would be closer to 35. For some presenters, that might make them freak out. But not me – I was psyched! The energy from the audience totally feeds me.

The idea of being an “efficient communicator,” intrigues me. The larger the group, the more people receive the message I’m trying to convey at one time. Getting the most “bang for your buck” is a personal credo of mine!

And I really enjoy working with other educators, too. There’s a shared understanding of what it is to do group facilitation and to do it well. We communicate in the same “language” and can dive right in and get to work.

I’m especially interested in encouraging health educators to work harder at their craft because so much of our message we want or need to convey has the potential to be truly life-changing for the students in our classes. But not if they’re bored or checked out!

I started the training by asking participants to identify their greatest challenge as an educator. But I also asked them to claim ownership of their greatest strength. I think it matters as an educator, presenter, or human being, really –  that we take stock of what we’re really good at and then capitalize on that skill because it comes relatively easy to us and it also authentically represents who we are.

Participants shared that they were great listeners. That they had a lot of knowledge and expertise. They shared that they were able to connect well with their students. And my personal favorite, some felt they were able to make good use of their sense of humor while teaching. It’s a great feeling to be among such a strong group of professionals.

But there’s a little bit of extra pressure when you’ve been asked to train members of your own tribe. What if they already know everything? How can I make this information new and something they’ll actually be able to use? How do I keep them engaged and with me for two solid hours?

Turns out, these are the same questions we, as educators, should be asking about every class of students we teach, members of our tribe, or not. But, still – I knew that this particular group of people would be able to tell where the holes (if any!) were in my presentation and would be ready to point them out to me on the class evaluations. Which is why it matters even more that they were really positive.

My hope is that in some small (or potentially big) ways, what I offered this group of fantastic educators will help them get their messages out into the world with even greater impact!

If you’re an educator or work with educators who might benefit from having me present on this or other topics to increase student engagement and the impact of their message, please contact me here for more information.

Educating educators is just one more thing I love to do – it’s usually a lot of prep-work, but always a lot of fun!

PS – I’ve been asked to present at the ICEA Conference in Denver in the middle of October. My presentation there will be very Childbirth Educator focused and is titled: “Birth Plans: Helpful or Harmful?” I love getting the opportunity to be in front of my peers, create new presentations and content, and be a part of the conversation about topics that matter.

Lucky me!

Whether you’re an educator or not, take stock of your greatest challenges, but also remember to take stock of your greatest strengths! These are the ways in which you shine – let others see your light and bask in its warmth and glow! Claim your gifts TODAY!

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The Eyes Have It

Eyes

There’s an article that I just read from the BBC about a project called “One Day Young” from London photographer, Jenny Lewis, who for the past seven years has been capturing a stolen moment in time in the lives of new mother/baby pairs within 24 hours of birth. I encourage you to look at all of the photos she’s taken for this project. Then come back and read the article and see if you agree with what I’m about to say.

All of her photos are mesmerizing to me and I recognize my own self as new Momma in the disheveled hair, the still pregnant looking bellies, the exhaustion visible in every pore. I love that the photos are not retouched and appreciate that the photographer has really attempted to show a more realistic image of new motherhood.

But to be sure, I see myself more in the faces of the women who have a slight smile on their lips, maybe a bit of a gleam in their eyes – those women who seem to be thinking, “I can’t believe I just did that! I’ve got a secret… I totally kick ass, and this baby is my proof!” At least that’s how I felt after the birth of my first baby and I’m pretty sure a picture taken at that time would have reflected my inner rock star.

Eyes2

(Photo by Jenny Lewis)

But the images that linger in my memory, are ones like this:

EyesHaveIt

(Photo by Jenny Lewis)

“I am not entirely sure who is to blame for the rose-tinted vision of motherhood. It doesn’t matter how many times someone tells you how tough it is to have a baby. Before you have one, you never quite get it. I often think about vulnerable mothers in tough circumstances and how they manage.”

Gitta Gschwendtner, mother of Til

There are photos in this collection where there are no Mona Lisa smiles. These are the ones that show a different set of emotions: “I have no idea what I’m supposed to think of you, let alone how to take care of you.” Or, “My birth was traumatic and I feel ripped off!”

You can sense the fear, anxiety or anger behind those eyes that are averted or avoiding direct eye contact with their baby. And while there are only a few pictures from the entire collection that have connected narratives in the original article from the BBC, they seem to complete one another perfectly. The image and words just fit for that baby’s first day of life, that woman’s first day of mothering.

But this leads me to ask a question… Oftentimes, new Mommas suffer from PMADs (Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders) in complete silence, their outside demeanor belying what hell they’re going through on the inside. How does this happen? If during those first 24 hours a photographer can capture these images, what are we missing? Because I’m sure you’ve seen the photos of women who’ve been struggling with a PMAD months after their baby’s birth and in all the pictures from that time, you’d have a hard time knowing it: they look joyful, happy, as though everything is wonderful – while inside they’re falling apart.

But in these One Day Young photos, the difference between the women who are suffering and unsure, versus those who look eager and excited to take on their new roles is obvious.

It’s purely speculation on my part, because I haven’t interviewed any of these women and have no idea about their medical history or how their births turned out, but I would be willing to guess that unmet expectations definitely played a part and contributed to their looks of disillusionment and overwhelm.

This is not their fault. Like Gitta says above, there’s a rose-tinted vision of motherhood that is pervasive in our culture and this doesn’t do anybody any favors.

Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life on every possible level. And we need to be sharing this message with more people and more often.

There might be naysayers who cry out, “You don’t want to scare them!” But realistic expectations are not scare tactics. Different aspects of parenting will be more or less challenging for each individual (as an example, for me,  it was the entire year each of my children turned three…) Knowing that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns allows women to understand what they’re getting themselves and their partners into.

Even though I’m just supposed to be talking about getting a baby born in my classes, I throw in some info now and again about the realities of life with a newborn, so that they’ve at least heard it from one person before the baby arrives.

This is going to be hard. There will be days that you hate it. There will also be days that you can’t believe how much you love it. You’ll be stretched to your absolute limit – multiple times. You’ll have a mirror held up before your face every.single.damn.day and even though you try your hardest to be the best version of yourself, oftentimes you’ll fail and be a version of yourself that you really don’t like that much. You’ll compare yourself to others, but why? You, your partner and your baby are unique and the only “right” way to parent your baby is the way that’s working for your family – today. Because, it’s not going to work a month from now. You will never “arrive” as a parent. Because it never ends. There will always be a new challenge to learn from.

The photos of these women in their first 24 hours with their babies are raw, they’re real, and these women have just gone through the most intense transformative experience of their lives and they’re not able to mask their true emotions and vulnerabilities.

And I think we need more of that. All of us. We need to put down our armor and share openly, first with ourselves, and then with those people we love, about what’s really going on inside. But then, that circle needs to expand.

We need to be willing to share with other new parents our highs and our lows of parenting. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Find your tribe now. Find that tribe of people who will celebrate your parenting successes, and listen to your parenting fails – followed up by sharing a few of their own.

Knowing just how challenging this parenting job can be and having realistic expectations about what’s to come, is empowering to new families. When they feel prepared and armed with realistic expectations about their roles, unfettered by rose-tinted visions, they’ll end up feeling less isolated, alone and incapable and more able to partner and parent with confidence: all the things we should want for our new families.

How can you bring more realistic expectations into the work you do with new families? If you are a parent already, how could you help expectant parents have more realistic expectations about this time in their life? If you are a new parent, how could you reach out to other parents to find your tribe?

ZUMBA!

Zumba

I arrived at my class this evening ready to teach. It had been awhile since I was last at this location, and with the recent “ice storm” I left early not knowing what traffic would be like at rush hour. It wasn’t that bad and I was happy to clock in right on time to start prepping my classroom.

This particular class meets in a conference room in a clinic. It isn’t the best set-up for a Childbirth Education class, to be honest. The space is a little on the small side, it can get really warm, and the lighting is either ALL ON or ALL OFF.

So to get around these drawbacks the class size is limited to eight couples only and more recently, a table lamp has been purchased. In my opinion, it’s all worth it if it makes life easier for these families to have this option as a closer location, or one that works better for getting their classes in before their due dates. And in any case, the people who work at the clinic are really nice and I love my job, so it doesn’t matter that much.

But I still appreciate having a little extra time to set up when I’m at this location. I usually have to haul tables around to maximize the room space and the computer is a little slow in accessing my PowerPoint slides. It’s nice to be there with plenty of time to feel settled before my families start showing up at 6:15 for their 6:30 class.

As I came around the corner around 5:35 this evening, I heard some really loud music blaring from my classroom and the door was closed. I turned to someone who works at the clinic and asked, “Do you know what’s going on in there?”

“Oh, it’s a Zumba class!”

Wait, what?

“Ummmm… I’m supposed to be teaching a Childbirth Preparation class in there for 16 people in an hour.”

“I think they’ll be done by 6 pm.”

Okay… Not what I wanted to hear. But I wasn’t going to interrupt the class, they were in full swing and I could here them getting down to some serious Zumba-esque tunes.

(If you’ve never done a Zumba exercise class before, you really should try it at least once in your life. It’s a complete blast! The music is always ridiculously loud, like rock-concert-level-loud and has a lot of Latin or Indian (think Bollywood) influence, plus it’s one of the best cardio work-outs of all time! You will sweat like you’ve never sweat before. I’ve taken it as an exercise class before and really enjoyed it. And a couple of years ago, a girlfriend of mine had a big birthday party where we were encouraged to show up up in 80s work-out gear (think Olivia Newton John in her “Let’s Get Physical” days). We drank lots of Margaritas and ate mountains of chips with guacamole and then we did a 90-minute Zumba class. Seriously, it was one of the best birthday parties I’ve ever been to! But, I digress…)

Despite my fondness for Zumba, what I’d just heard put me in a bind as I needed/wanted more than 30 minutes to set-up for my class. I texted my supervisor to let her know what was happening and asked that she try to get to the bottom of this so it didn’t end up being a regular gig, and started setting up as best I could in the hallway outside the classroom.

At 6 pm, I poked my head in the room and found that I had to holler above the outrageously loud thumping club music, “I HAVE TO TEACH A CHILDBIRTH CLASS TO 16 PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM IN 30 MINUTES!” A young woman turned toward me and said/shouted, “OH! I’M SO SORRY! I DIDNT KNOW THERE WAS ANYTHING SCHEDULED FOR THIS ROOM! WE’LL BE OUT OF HERE BY 6:15!” And then the door closed.

Well, shoot. (For the record, that’s not the word I was repeating over and over in my head at the moment.) That just cut my set-up time in half – again. I went from having an hour to get the room all set-up to having only 15 minutes.

At this point, my students started showing up and I was forced to have them wait in the call center for a little bit, encouraging them to “get to know one another a little bit better.” To their credit, the Zumba class attendees sprung into action at 6:15, trying as best they could to help me set up the classroom. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do for me, but as I walked into the room I could feel the heat and – definitely smell the sweat – of about a dozen Zumba enthusiasts hit me full-force. I looked at the group of them assembled and begged, “Can you please find me a fan?” Which, thankfully, they did.

The students started filing in, and even though I was still taping things up and my classroom was not set up to my personal standards, class went off without a hitch. In fact, I actually covered more information tonight than I was supposed to, and so next week I have the luxury of being able to do some review and maybe even cover a little extra information at a more leisurely pace.

The reason I’m sharing this with you, is that I find it so interesting when I’m forced to “practice what I preach.”

I talk so much in my classes about how birth is too big to be planned and how you can’t really control it no matter how much you might want to – and that’s actually true of life.

You can set all the plans you want about how your day is going to play out, but in reality none of us has absolute control over any of it. We might leave early, in order to get somewhere with extra time to set-up and there’s an accident on the highway and you’re delayed by 30 minutes, or there’s ice on the roads and class needs to be cancelled, or there’s a group of sweaty people working out their Zumba-booties in your classroom when you arrive – and guess what?

You figure it out. You take a breath, realize that no one was trying to make the situation difficult for you, attempt to be as pleasant as possible (it makes it so much easier for everyone involved), suck it up and do what needs to be done.

There it is.

Birth, work, parenting, life – not as much control as any of us would like. And it’s nice sometimes to be reminded of this and realize that we have a choice to view any situation we’re in as either an opportunity or a challenge.

It’s not what’s actually happening that matters, but how you respond to what’s happening that matters.

Wow – very philosophical post today and written in one go right after my class ended, but a nice perspective to share: so happy that I’m still learning after all these years of teaching.

(And, of course, how could I reference ONJ without sharing a little bit of this goodness with all of you? I think it would make a really great song for a Zumba class, don’t you?)

It’s a Question of Quality

Quality

Of these 3 options, which one is most important in your work right now:

Quality of Life

Quality of Work

Quality of Compensation

This was the latest prompt on my Quest journey and it comes from visionary, Sally Hogshead. (There’s still time to jump on board for all the goodness that Quest 2016 has to offer for anyone who’s wanting to do business as unusual for the coming year. Join in. It’s fun, thought-provoking, and free!)

I’ve answered all of the Quest prompts so far, but most of them have landed on the private Facebook page set up for our group. All have asked me how or what I want to do differently in 2016, but I wasn’t sure my answers aligned with this blog. But this one does. I’m always trying to talk people into becoming a Childbirth Educator, because I feel my job hits all three options.

Quality of Life:

I work only evenings and weekends. To some, this might sound like a terrible schedule! But when you have four kids you need to get really creative about how you’re going to work so you don’t end up with a full-time job you hate – just to pay the childcare bills. My job allows me to have the best of both worlds: I am there for school drop-off and pick-up, I attend field trips (at least those that involve theater or dance performances), I’m able to have a presence at my kids’ school, but I still have outside work – which matters way more to me than I would have guessed. My own Momma was a stay-at-homer and I grew up thinking that parenting was the most important job a person could ever do (for the record, I still feel that way!) so I expected to be content with doing the work of mothering “only” – but I was mistaken. I very much appreciate having out-of-the-home work, too. That was a surprise. I have a job that allows for true work-life balance.

Quality of Work:

I love my job. It’s constantly changing. Each and every classroom of students informs me and makes me a better educator. I’ve been able to grow and evolve over the years, expand my repertoire in and outside of the classroom, and have gotten to the point of feeling ready to write about this subject that matters so much to me. I’m encouraged by my colleagues and students to pursue writing my book to have even greater impact in my field of perinatal and parenting education. Close to twenty years in this career, and I still haven’t experienced any boredom with the subject matter. Likewise, I’ve never stopped feeling like I couldn’t continue to improve my presentation and teaching skills. I think this is extraordinary!

Quality of Compensation:

Well, the “joke” is that you’ll never get rich being a Childbirth Educator. This is true. It’s hard for any CBE to be able to work this job only and be able to support her family. Thankfully, I have a husband who works full-time, carries our health insurance, and is a fantastic co-parent in the off-hours when I’m gone. I don’t have the same worries others do when their work is sporadic and part-time. I’m lucky for that. And all things being equal, I get paid a decent hourly wage. It’s my job that pays for all the “extras.” I pay for Summer Camps, dance and saxophone lessons, acting classes and soccer. Having four kids means having lots of extras and I’m happy to contribute in this way. I know how much these extras enhance the overall quality of our family life.

If I were to focus on any of these options for 2016, receiving more compensation for my offerings would be great!  But I need to focus on what those offerings might be, first.

I’ve done some one-on-one phone consultations for people who are not in the Portland Metro area. Is this something I could charge for? It’s certainly something I enjoy doing, and it would only positively impact my quality of life and work.

The book I’m busy writing – it would be nice to be compensated for this offering, but this is unlikely to bring in much income in 2016. There’s still much work to do, as my focus has shifted and I’m more realistic about the timeline. But what offers ancillary to the book could I be working on that might bring in some form of compensation?

What about presentations and trainings? I love to give presentations and I’m good at it. Is this an area that I can expand, maybe even outside of my own field, and be compensated for it? I love to train new educators. How could this be rolled into my toolbox of offerings that would continue to feed all three options: quality of life, work and compensation?

All good things to consider as I move into 2016. I feel like this year I’m finally ready to take the necessary steps forward to increase the quality of my life, work and compensation.

How about you? What are you doing now that supports these options? What might you do differently in 2016 to better support one or more of these options?

Ready or Not?

Ready

As the couples file out of the classroom at the end of my Childbirth Preparation series, I usually ask them something: “Are you ready?” This might seem like a loaded question, and it is. I’m hoping that I’ll hear something along the lines of, “I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” or “I’m not sure you can ever feel completely ready.” If that’s the response I’m getting, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

That might surprise you. Shouldn’t they walk out of the room feeling like they’re completely ready to give birth and become parents? I don’t think so.

I hope they feel a sense of increased confidence in their ability to meet the challenges of birth head on. I hope they feel more prepared for what might or might not happen. I hope they’re broadening their expectations of what a positive birth story looks like. I hope they’ve come closer together as a couple during their de facto date nights with me. But do I want them to feel completely ready? No, I don’t.

I spend a lot of time encouraging my families to lean into their feelings of vulnerability, to explore what it feels like to have the earth shifting below their feet, to be okay with not feeling ready. Because, there’s no way any one of us has every truly been ready for the transition to parenthood. I taught classes for two years before I had my first baby, was I completely ready? I may have had more information than most, but no way did I feel completely ready.

I think all of us who work in this field of prenatal and parenting education need to take our jobs seriously and try our hardest to prepare our families for the realities of birth, breastfeeding, and new parenting.

I think we need to remember that it’s okay to help them set realistic expectations of themselves, their partners and their babies.

I definitely wish there was more time devoted to adequately address the postpartum period (I’m hatching some new ideas and curriculum to address the ever-widening gap that exists between what expectant parents are willing and able to take in prenatally about that 4th trimester and what they will actually be experiencing in those first days, weeks and months after their baby arrives. Stay tuned).

But I’m okay with their honest assessment after my classes end that, no, they are not completely ready for this life change. This doesn’t worry me at all. Quite the opposite – it makes me feel as if they were really taking it all in and coming to their own conclusions that they’ll probably never feel completely ready.

That’s life, yes? Always changing, always evolving, always keeping us a little off-guard.

And just when we think we’ve discovered the pattern to perfect parenting, our babies will remind us that they are not automatons that prescribe to one and only method. They’re forever changing and evolving as well. We all are.

Are you ready for that?

How ready did you feel to become a parent? What could we as professionals in this field have done to help you feel more ready? Do you think it’s okay to not feel completely ready for this life transformation?

“Childbirth Education in the US is…”

Childbirth in the US is

“Childbirth Education in the US is…” This was the monthly question posed at my NACEF meeting just yesterday. NACEF – Northwest Area Childbirth Educators Forum – is a nonprofit group that I’ve been a Board Member of since I began my career as a Childbirth Educator almost 16 years ago. NACEF’s purpose is to further the quality of childbirth education through strengthening the bonds between educators, family members, care providers and the organizations they represent. These monthly questions are how we begin each meeting by way of introduction and settling in for the work at hand.

After answering this question in the meeting, it stuck with me and wouldn’t let go until I wrote about it. Here’s what some of the other Board Members had to say in answer to this question: “Childbirth Education in the US is… disregarded, underserved, important, evolving, myth-busting, still imperative, complicated, and status quo.” I came in a few minutes late and didn’t get to hear the full discussion of what others had to say, but for my part I answered this question by saying: “Childbirth Education in the US is underrated and inconsistent.

Childbirth Education is underrated in the US today because there are so many ways that expectant families feel they can educate themselves about the birth process. Maybe they feel like they don’t really need to take a whole class about the subject. There are a gazillion websites with information available about pregnancy, birth and postpartum. There’s lots of books out there as well. And if you Google “Birth Videos” you get 338,000,000 hits in .23 seconds! That’s a ton of information, my friends. There are too many expectant families that feel they can get all the information they need off the internet – and that way it doesn’t really impact their already jam-packed schedules.

In my opinion, unless you know how to search the web for evidence-based, scientifically backed and researched information on what you are wanting to know, you risk getting only one-sided, biased information that doesn’t give you the full picture. Or worse, your search results gives you false and misleading information. We have a tendency as humans to seek out information that supports what we already think we know about any given topic. No one wants to have their opinion or set of beliefs challenged – but that’s exactly what needs to happen sometimes. Not enough people have the skills fully developed that encourage them to read both sides of the story and make adjustments when necessary (I would note that not all educators are adept at this either! This is a life-long skill that is challenging for almost everyone.)

Childbirth Education classes, when evidence-based and backed by science and not bias, can really help expectant families plow through all of the information that’s out there. The classes can also encourage them to use their B.R.A.I.N. to determine what is the best course of action for their individual pregnancy and birth experience. (B = Benefits, R = Risks, A = Alternatives, I = Intuition (what is it telling you?), N = Do Nothing at this time) There’s also the extremely important aspect of taking a class as a way of building connection and community. This generation of expectant families may think they’re super connected given all the ways that we’re able to be in contact with others via social media, but it is in the actual face time spent with one another in classroom discussion or even chatting at snack times that real connection can be formed and a sense of community can be established. Being with other people who are going through the same thing as you at about the same time as you is so underrated yet so very important when we’re in the midst of a huge life transition – like becoming a parent.

I think Childbirth Education in the US today is inconsistent. And by that, I mean both in content and style. I don’t think it’s fair to our students to only provide them with half of the information. We may very well want to emphasize that birth is a normal, healthy, biological event in a woman’s life. And it makes complete sense to present birth as it would ideally evolve without any additions to the process. Here’s what birth looks like, sounds like, and feels like if we add nothing to the mix, no medications or interventions. But to stop there and not discuss potential interventions, medications or Cesarean Birth does not adequately prepare a woman or her partner for what might happen during their actual birth. It’s been my experience in working with women over the years that the ones who are most devastated by the unexpected interventions that became necessary in their births are those who never considered them even a remote possibility. They either did not pay attention to this information or purposely chose classes where this information was not discussed thoroughly.

There’s a way in which we, as Childbirth Educators, can continue to promote birth with as few medications and interventions possible but still introduce the concept of how to determine if and when a medical intervention would make the most sense at any given time. Providing our students with accurate, evidence-based information allows them to have knowledge, which can be a very powerful tool in being a decision-maker in their own births. And this can lead to a feeling of strength and empowerment – even if medications or interventions become necessary for their baby to be born.

Childbirth Education can be inconsistent in its ability to engage and promote others to consider taking classes. I taught this past weekend and one of the couples hung back to chat with me after class had ended. They said they’d gone to visit friends who’d recently become parents and told them they’d just signed up to take a Childbirth Preparation Class. The new father responded, “Good luck with that. It’s like sitting in traffic school all day long.” I was so relieved when the couple from my class said, “Your class was definitely not traffic school. It was so much fun! And we learned a ton of information.” But whenever I hear someone complain about their Childbirth Education classes being boring, or too long or a waste of time – I get really upset!

Teaching Childbirth Education, to me, is a vocation and when I hear of any other educator that’s teaching a class that is anything less than engaging and worthwhile, I feel pained by those statements almost as if they were being said about my own classes. If we’re going to be able to compete with all the internet information available to expectant families and then expect them to register, pay good money down and either take an evening class for 4 weeks straight, or give up a full Saturday – then we have to provide them with something that they feel was worth their time and money. I’m well aware that my audience is a tough crowd! Half of them are pregnant and wish they were in more comfortable chairs and wearing their PJs after a long day, and the other half are their partners who might feel invisible during this pregnancy and are convinced that this will be just another situation where it’s all about her.

My hope is that every Childbirth Educator understands what an amazing opportunity we have when we’re up in front of a class of expectant families. These are people who are hungry for any information we can provide about how to get through the rest of their pregnancies and give birth with confidence. The amount of motivation that this group of people have to be open to messages that go way beyond the day of birth is profound and to not grab that motivation and run with it in the first 5 minutes of class is a wasted opportunity.

Teaching, of any sort, is a full-contact sport. Your audience will engage with you as much as you engage with them. If you provide solid eye contact, they stay off their phones and pay attention! If you teach with humor – especially around the more awkward or challenging parts – they’re able to stay open instead of shutting down. If you take into account how best the adult learner actually learns and try to mix up your curriculum to include lecture, AV, small group discussion, hands on activities, etc. they will take in all the information and make the best decisions for themselves. If you remember that every segment you’re teaching should have an objective – a reason why this is important for them to know – and provide a clear opening, body and closing with plenty of time to answer questions, then your audience stays with you from beginning to end.

I realize as I’m writing this that I’m a little bit agitated and my blood pressure is slightly elevated. I think the reason why is that I love what I do so very much. I feel like we have a fantastic opportunity to create real and lasting impact for the families we serve. I want this profession to not just survive, but thrive. I want the status quo of a small percentage of expectant families attending our classes to change. I want our classes to be something that people are clamoring for because they know it will make a real difference for them if they do. I want people to leave their Childbirth Education classes and tell all of their pregnant friends – and maybe even some pregnant strangers in the elevator – “Have you signed up for a Childbirth Education class yet? It’s awesome information, lots of fun and you’ll get to meet a bunch of folks who are going through the same things you are. You’ve got to take these classes.”

I would love for Childbirth Education in the US to be: relevant, important, honored, consistent, engaging, current, community-building, professional, necessary, evidence-based and fun.

What words would you use to fill in this sentence: “Childbirth Education in the US is…”?

“Doodlers Unite!” I have joined the revolution…

Sacred JoyI’m writing today in response to yet another great prompt in my Quest 2015 project. There’s still time to get involved. You will not regret taking on this challenge. There are some amazing, brave, talented people that are questing with me and you will be inspired by them and their individual quests for 2015.

Today’s prompt comes from visionary, Sunni Brown. Who asks: “How could you make moments of joy a sacred priority in 2015? What forms will such moments take? Doodle, draw, photograph, or write your way into these questions and share your responses.”

I sat on this for a bit and was reluctant to share anything because I have always considered myself a non-artistic kind of gal. As my drawing clearly shows, I have never gotten beyond stick figures. I was more than slightly embarrassed about sharing this – especially when many of my fellow Questers are artists, for real, it’s how they create and make a living in this world. (Gulp.)

Before I could even consider writing into this prompt, let alone drawing into this prompt, I needed to see what Sunni and her “Doodle Revolution” was all about. So, I watched her Ted Talk, “Doodlers Unite!” – and you should, too. It’s short and sweet but very powerful especially for me as an educator. She says people who doodle retain 29% more information than their non-doodling counterparts. Doodling helps you maintain focus, not lose it. Sunni talks about how doodling helps to engage all 4 types of learning (visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic) at the same time.

In order for information to be retained, you must engage at least 2 of these modalities at once or 1 modality coupled with an emotional response. Sunni says that when you add doodling into the learning process it engages all 4 modalities with the added possibility of an emotional response! Whoa – game changing moment for me here!

As an educator, who has a class of very engaged and motivated learners, I need to afford them the opportunity to doodle at every learning point. I don’t need to have structured writing assignments in my classes, I just need to give them paper and pens and tell them doodling is not only accepted – but encouraged.

I’ve been providing the partners in my classes with little 3 x 5 notecards for years as a way to engage them in the learning process. I encourage them to take notes if they are wanting and willing to do so, in their own handwriting and their own words so that it makes sense to them as they support the laboring woman through her birth. I collect these cards every week and add to them so that by the end of a series, every partner in the room has a little take-home “notebook” on a keychain that can fit in their back pocket for labor and delivery.

Every time I collect these cards, I’m amazed at the level of doodling that goes right along with the information they are capturing. But not every partner is a notetaker. I’ll bet many more of them are doodlers! From now on, I’ll be handing out these little notecards expressly encouraging them to doodle throughout the class – recognizing that they’re not being rude or ignoring me, but instead increasing their amount of learning and retention overall. I am really excited about this discovery and I look forward to seeing how it changes things up in my classroom.

Thanks again to Sunni Brown for this prompt and the Tracking Wonder team for creating the Quest 2015 program. I thought I’d be digging deep for my own benefit, but to discover fantastic new ways of working things into how I do business not-as-usual is a complete bonus!

For the record, (and as narrative to my primitive doodling…) I plan to appreciate the moments we get to spend as a family even more than I do right now. Our schedules are unbelievably crazy – but somehow it still works. I’d love to see us really prioritize our relationships not just as a family unit, but also in the way we interact with each another as individuals. So there will be some good Mommy/Kiddo dates coming up in 2015 for sure. I intend to prioritize my relationships with my “framily” here in Portland. I need to carve out more time to spend with the members of my immediate community as they are so important to me and nothing shows that more than the gift of time. I need to reach out to my family that live in Indiana, North Carolina and Puerto Rico more than I have been. I’m an independent person and those who know me and love me best, accept this without question – but I need to show them how much they mean to me and how much I love them back. Actions speak louder than words. And I’m always looking for and wanting to develop new connections. I will allow myself to be open to the possibility of creating new connections that help me thrive personally and professionally in 2015. I want to write more and read more in the coming year. Lastly, I feel like nature feeds my soul. And I want to stand in awe of the natural world more frequently. So some trips to the Oregon Coast will be a priority for 2015.

What about you? How will you make moments of joy a sacred priority in 2015? I would love to read your responses and even see a few of your doodles if you’re so inclined.