When Life Interferes with Teaching

Inevitably, your personal life will conflict with your role as an educator at some point. Illness, injury or another situation can happen unexpectedly. If you don’t have a plan for how to manage your classes or client services, the stress can pile on. 

While you can never plan ahead for every situation, there are things you can do to anticipate and make managing unexpected events a little easier.

Have Backup

Getting to know other birth professionals in your area can be beneficial for many reasons, but especially when you are in need of support or when you might need a substitute for your classes. When forming backup arrangements, it is best to be as clear and open as possible in advance. Have conversations with potential backups/subs that include:

  • Dates/times your classes are held.
  • Details about your class location.
  • Known potential schedule conflicts (vacations, important family events, etc.).
  • Compensation for serving as a back-up, including whether payment is expected for being on call or only in the event they are needed.

The more you get to know other birth professionals, the easier it will be to turn to them for help. Schedule monthly or quarterly meet-ups and/or make an effort to keep in touch regularly though text or social media.

Have clear and comprehensive lesson plans

It is important for your backup to be able to follow a general plan for the class that they will be teaching. Having a clear outline of the topics, activities and other important details makes it easy for others to fill in (and helps you when you’re teaching the class as well).

We recently spoke with a customer whose story inspired this article (and who gave us permission to share her story). A few months ago, Tiffany’s husband was hospitalized from a car accident. She was supposed to teach her childbirth class that evening and turned to her backup, Annie, for help. Annie was available and willing to fill in, but Tiffany quickly realized that she didn’t have access to her lesson plans to share with Annie. Her class materials were in a binder 30 minutes away.

Even if she could leave the hospital to retrieve them, her lesson plans probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Annie as they were filled with scribbled notes and reminders. The information and flow of topics had changed a lot since she wrote her outline as a new educator three years prior.

She quickly texted a few suggestions to Annie and recommended filling most of the class by showing a few videos (rather than the engaging and interactive format she usually followed in her classes).

This experience made Tiffany realize that her current approach to teaching wasn’t ideal for herself or anyone she might need to rely on for help.

She didn’t have the time or energy to spend hours writing new lesson plans so she reached out to us for help. We discussed her needs and made some suggestions for resources that could be beneficial. She decided to purchase the Childbirth Education Curriculum because it included lesson plans and activities that fit perfectly with her three-week class.

She emailed us a few weeks later and shared that the first time she used our lesson plans, she saved two hours over her normal prep time and felt so much more confident and prepared for her class! There were no awkward pauses where she tried to read her scribbles and her class was the most engaged group she had ever taught. 

Bottom line, aim for lesson plans that are:

  • Organized by class sessions
  • Accessible on any device and shareable with others
  • Have short, easy-to-follow bullet points and reminders
  • Easy to update as your teaching evolves

Have Clear Policies

If you need to cancel a class or service, it can be a source of stress for both you and your clients. When you have clear policies in place, you can eliminate some of the uncertainty. To create policies, start by writing down how you would handle the following situations:

Unexpected class cancellation

  • Do you do a makeup class? When will it be scheduled?
  • What is your refund policy should you have to cancel one or more classes?
  • Who can you call on to be a substitute and what information will they need to know before class (class roster, lesson plans, etc.)?

When students miss a class

  • Can students attend the same class in another session?
  • What information can you share so that they can learn on their own outside of class?
  • What happens if they miss more than one class or ask for a refund after the first class?

Once you have thought about these questions, draft a policy statement that you can make public that includes details regarding how these situations are handled. It is a good idea to include your policies on your website so that parents can be aware of them prior to enrolling in your class. Then, if a question or situation arises, you have information ready to go.

With a little forethought and planning, unexpected situations can be a little less daunting. Do you have a store or suggestion to share? Leave a comment below or contact us! 


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Plumtree Baby, LLC


  • Julie

    Thanks, Alicia! We’re glad this info was helpful. :-)

  • Alicia

    Thus is GREAT information! I’ve never thought about this before. I’ll definitely be implementing the suggestions made here.

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