Darby Learns How to Teach about Childbirth
I spent this past weekend in Santa Rosa taking Connie Sultana’s Lamaze Childbirth Education class. Before I left for the class I was a bit concerned that I would not enjoy the weekend. I was a little worried that part of the class might go over things about childbirth that I already knew from all the other classes I had taken. But my bigger concern was that the class would assume that students had no experience teaching and I would be bored to death sitting through yet another class on how to teach. I have sat through many of these “how to teach” classes in the past since I have been a teacher in a variety of different spaces, from teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) to related classes in my PhD. I did my best to put these concerns aside and got on the train to my Airbnb in Santa Rosa.
After a wonderful first night in Santa Rosa and a lovely bike ride through a beautiful park, I finally got to class. Within the first few minutes I realized I had an entirely different concern: I had not yet thought out what type of childbirth class I wanted to teach and what direction my curriculum would take. Fortunately I don’t think I was the only one. Throughout the weekend I was delighted at the fact that all of my concerns were dismissed. Passion for Birth, the center that was hosting the class, believes strongly in what they call “Stomping out boring”. Looking back on the class I now realize that it did cover several elements that I already knew, it went over different aspects of the birth process including comfort techniques, and interventions that I had learned from my DONA classes and other classes I had taken. It also went over basics of teaching including ethics and learning techniques. I had even already taken a childbirth class with Connie as part of my DONA workshop so I knew some of the activities she used and was showing us. Fortunately the techniques I had already learned from Connie were dispersed throughout a variety of wonderful teaching activities, many of which I had never thought of before and all of which were designed to be very engaging. To add to my delight that I was learning was the fact that the other students in the class were wonderful people who I was more than happy to spend hours with (and very much look forward to the idea that I could spend more time with in the future!).
I am extremely happy that I decided to take a Lamaze childbirth education class over all of the other classes. Lamaze gives me the flexibility to come up with and teach my own curriculum, tweaking it over time so it never becomes boring for me to teach. I have met many teachers and professors over the years who only dream of having this much flexibility with their courses. As someone who has taught for several years before I knew I wouldn’t enjoy being handed a curriculum that was not my own, which is what I hear about many of the other childbirth education methods. The Lamaze name is also extremely well known throughout the country, which is perfect for me since I am interested in teaching here in CA as well as back home in NC.
The one concern I have remaining is from a discussion I had with Connie (who I am so thankful to have had as a teacher). After the three day course was over I spoke with some of the other students about the class and mentioned the fact that I thought some assumptions were being made about the students having already taken childbirth classes (DONA, midwife, obgyn, etc) and having already taken classes about how to teach. The other students agreed and we brought it up to Connie. She explained to us that Lamaze has recently changed their policies about becoming a Lamaze educator. In the past you had to complete the Lamaze workshop, observe a childbirth class, teach a childbirth class and have someone observe you, and pass the Lamaze exam. Now all we have to do is take the workshop and pass the exam. In my opinion this is extremely unfortunate because it means that it doesn’t matter how well you can teach, you can still become a Lamaze educator. Though there is a peer teaching portion of the Lamaze workshop, there is no consequences for the teaching. If you do a great job you get a certificate for the workshop and similarly if you do a horrible job teaching you still get the certificate. In the past those who weren’t very good at teaching at least had to put together, teach a class and receive feedback on how the class was taught. Without this observational component there might be horrible instructors who are Lamaze certified and end up hurting the great reputation Lamaze has (because of wonderful teachers like Connie). I hope to pass the exam and get involved in the organization more. Maybe I can try to convince them to change back to the old style of observation and feedback.