A lot of people learn NFP and fall so in love with it that they find themselves getting certified to teach NFP to others. Problem is, you don’t have to have an education degree or be a master of public speaking to get certified. That can make for one nervous new instructor. Fear not! Our friend Lauren who is a pro, has some great tips to help you get past those nerves!
The knot in your stomach, the sweaty palms, the pounding heart…it’s your first NFP class! You’ve trained and studied and prepared for this day, but to have it finally arrive brings all the anxieties flooding in: will you sound competent? Will you remember to cover everything? Will you be able to answer their questions? Will you be able to hold your lunch down?
Having taught NFP for 6 years now, and having trained a couple dozen women and couples to teach NFP, I’ve learned some tips along the way that can help minimize the stress of your first class and help you avoid common pitfalls. And by common, I mean, I’ve done them myself! Someone should benefit from my mistakes, after all! So from my own experience, here are 7 things to do or remember:
Practice does indeed make perfect! Get those Powerpoint slides out, get your teaching notes, and get VERY familiar with all of it. The more familiar you are, the less nervous you will be about this part. Start several weeks in advance, and do several mock presentations. If you can find a friend or family member to be your audience, even better! Doing so will allow you to get the kinks out ahead of time. It will make a huge difference in the quality of your presentation and your confidence level when it’s the Real Thing.
2. Get a Mentor
Someone should supervise your first series of classes. No ifs, ands, or buts. If the method you teach does not require this, then you’ll need to get proactive about this one. Request a personal supervisor or mentor through your organization. If they are not able to provide one, look around locally to see who is already teaching NFP in your area. Ideas include (in order of importance): someone who teaches the same method, someone who teaches a different method (ask them to critique you on teaching style only), or just someone in a position of leadership who can give you pointers for how to give a presentation. Get this person to sit in on your first series of classes. Make sure they are brutally honest with you about what you can improve upon.
The method I teach requires trainees to send in all documentation back to their supervisor, including all charts, notes and correspondence. This can be a cumbersome job, but this is really where the rubber meets the road in terms of learning, and it should not be left to the wayside! For those diligent trainees that stay on top of this, they get wonderful feedback from me about what they’re doing right, points they might have misunderstood, and areas to improve upon. Getting a mentor will do wonders for you, not only a practical level with all the feedback you’ll get, but how supported you will feel, knowing you’re not doing this alone.
3. Keep it Comfortable
Think about the atmosphere of your meeting place, and brainstorm some ways you can help make everyone feel a little more at ease. You will be discussing very personal information, and anything you can contribute to the atmosphere will help them to feel more comfortable with the subject matter. Are you able to provide beverages, even a light snack? How is the lighting, and can it be adjusted? If you have a group of more than 2-3 couples (don’t go above 4 for your first class), you’ll need to stand, but smaller groups of 1-2 couples may benefit from you sitting down with them as you go through the material. Remember to smile and make eye contact. Find some humor to inject. Laughter goes a long way!
4. Admit Your Limitations
It may actually happen – a question you can’t answer. It’s important that we don’t inflate our capabilities, and it’s important to be prepared with a response when it happens. If you’re looking at a chart that you’re really not sure about, the best thing to do is to say, “Is it okay if I look this over with my supervisor before I respond? I want to make sure I give you the correct information and this one needs an expert eye.” Yes, this means they’ll know that you might not be able to answer all of their questions. You’re human, after all! But when you come back to them with a thorough response, they will appreciate the extra mile you’ve gone for them, and they’ll know that you’re someone that works hard to get them accurate information. You’ll feel more comfortable knowing that you only need to work within your own capabilities. They will expand with time!
5. Get Personal, But Not Too Personal
Plan a time during some part of your first series to share your personal story about how using NFP has worked for you and your spouse. Be sure to share not only the benefits, but the challenges, and how you have worked through them. It’s important that we don’t sugar-coat the NFP lifestyle. We don’t use NFP because it’s the easiest thing to do. We do it because we know it’s the healthiest and the best thing for us, even if that sometimes might mean a little more work (diet and exercise are great examples of this). When you make NFP personal, they know that you can relate to their initial struggles, and they will feel more supported.
On the flip side, don’t get TOO personal. It is equally important to be not only relatable, but professional. It can be tempting, upon finding a woman in the same boat as you (postpartum is common for this) to project your own experiences onto them. The reality is that the postpartum experience can be as varied as there are women out there, not only on an emotional level, but on the practical level as well. It’s important to stick with what you’ve been taught, and not try to inject your own experience into what they’re going through. Things that were a struggle for you may not be a problem for them, and vice versa. Sharing all the details of your experience may also imply that this is what they should expect, when that may not be the case for them. Remember that you are teaching NFP based on sound research, not your own charting history, and they will appreciate that level of professionalism.
6. Document Everything
It’s tempting to think that you will remember every last detail about a couple and their charting history when you first start teaching. But several months later and perhaps 10 couples down the road, you’ll find yourself going fuzzy on what exactly you said to who and when, and who had problems with what part of this point. Just assume you won’t remember and write it all down! You’ll thank me later. The method I teach includes charts with carbon copies in the client packets so that teachers can easily keep a copy of those first few charts. If this is not an option, see if there is a copy machine available by your meeting place. It’s important to keep those charts, not only for your own records, but to send them back to your supervisor for discussion! If your method does not provide a way to document what you’ve covered with clients in private follow up, develop your own system. What you’re looking for is a way to note what a client easily understood vs. what they didn’t, so that you can review those points in the next follow up.
7. Don’t Forget – They’re Beginners Too!
It’s easy to forget in your own nervousness that clients are nervous too! Consider that they are learning a new language – one that takes time to understand. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed with all the details as a beginner. A common mistake I observe, especially during email correspondence, is that a teacher trainee will be sure to be thorough to point out all mistakes to the client, but forget to coat it with encouragement. Find something that they’re doing well with and point it out! Injecting a praise for effort both at the beginning and end of an email will make a big difference in a client feeling like persevering.
This is just a short list of helpful tips, and I am only one teacher. I know that others probably have great experiences to share as well, so I hope to read other tips in the comments! But one last thing as I heed my own advice to give encouragement: you are to be commended for the bold step you’re taking. I know that it might seem daunting and scary and there will come a time where you may think you’re in way over your head. But persevere. You are most likely filling a void in your area, and you’re providing the tools to help women and couples treat their fertility as a gift and not a burden. There WILL come a day when someone will earnestly tell you, perhaps with a quavering voice, that what you taught them was life changing. And then you’ll know: this has all been worth it.
Lauren Fuller is the NFP Coordinator for SymptoPro Fertility Education. She is a New Orleans native, but now calls Portland, OR her home with her husband and 4 kids. She is passionate about women’s health, fertility, pregnancy, children, and cajun food.