A New Way of Teaching with Self-Paced Students

CCL Teaching couple, Colleen O’Rourke, shares her experiences of mentoring self-paced students using the CycleProGo App.

Colleen O’Rourke has been married to her husband Tom for 25 years and lives in Mason, Ohio with their 4 children, ages 15 to 22. Tom and Colleen have been teaching with CCL for 20 years, mentoring couples and teaching classes in person and online. Recently, Colleen has been mentoring self-paced couples in a new way through the CycleProGo (CPG) app. We sat down with Colleen to talk about her experience and how she thinks this could be an option for other teaching couples in the future.

FF: Colleen, you work nationally as the Director of all CCL volunteers, but Tom and you are also a local teaching couple in Cincinnati. Before we talk about your experience with self-paced couples and CPG, how do you think things have changed for CCL teaching couples over the past year with the impact of the pandemic?

Colleen: It has been an interesting year for many of us teaching couples. At the beginning of Covid, we saw a complete shift from in-person classes to LIVE online, obviously. That is beginning to change now. We are seeing in-person classes happening again, which is great. I feel like we have great teaching couples and they have persevered through the pandemic to continue to teach. Whether they have been offering in person classes or LIVE online, they have this great interaction with the student couples. It is wonderful and personal. Post Covid, we are still seeing an increased number of participants in the LIVE online classes. This can be tough for a teaching couple to offer the personal one-on-one help to new students. So, one change that is now offered with larger online classes is the assistance of a second teaching couple. They come on board to support, work with the students, and help with chart reviews. In that way, it does not become too many students for just one teaching couple. Another change that took place was with teaching couples who were not able to teach in-person because of Covid. They were now available to teach on- demand classes. CCL began offering on-demand classes for Perimenopause and Postpartum in 2021. If there is not a local or live online class available, a student can contact CCL to set something up with a teaching couple who is willing to work one-on-one at a convenient time for the student.

FF: Let’s talk a little more about your experience in Cincinnati with the self-paced online couples. It sounds like over the past year, the teaching dynamic has changed a great deal.

Colleen: Over the past year, we have seen more priests requiring engaged couples to sign up for NFP classes. This is happening now in Cincinnati. With the implementation of the new OCR system, each self-paced student couple chooses their teaching couple to mentor them. In the past, self-paced students would take the class online, get a certificate and their teaching couple would reach out to them to see if they have questions, but we would rarely hear from them. This past year, in August, we made a change to the self-paced program where each couple should at least have one touch point or chart review with their teaching couple (TC). In Cincinnati, and in many other dioceses, it is now required that couples take NFP over a period of a few months (one class a month), so that they can chart in between classes and thoroughly learn the NFP method. We have set up the self-paced online courses in this way as well. The sessions are spread out, taking one class a month, and allowing the couples to learn to chart in between classes.

FF: How do you use the CycleProGo app with the self-paced couples to mentor or teach one-on-one?

Colleen: Taking a step back, I have been using the CycleProGo (CPG) app for my own personal charting, since it was released. I personally highly recommend the CPG app because paper charts can get misplaced. One of the CPG app features I like is that Tom, my husband, can also download the app and be aware of what is happening. I use the app every day. At first, I did not realize that my students could connect with me as a teaching couple through the CPG app. Then one day, they did, and I discovered this opportunity to work with them personally in their own charting.

In my welcome email to the students that I teach, I encourage them to download the CPG app to chart and connect with me on CycleProGo. The students in the CCL self-paced classes get a free six-month subscription to the CycleProGo app. I have found that most couples like to communicate with me via the CPG app because it is easy, convenient, and immediate. When students connect with me through the app, I can follow their chart closely and I get automatic notifications when they enter distinct phases. I am actively mentoring 10 to 12 couples right now and I am following the charts of these women in all distinct phases. I will get automatic notifications on my phone almost every day about a change in a chart or a phase that I need to look at. Sometimes I will get notifications that a student needs to input more information to determine the phase. It is so helpful for me as a mentor because I can contact them and teach them to use the CPG app and learn the sympto-thermal method effectively. The app prompts me to really focus on what my students need when they need it.

FF: What are some of your favorite aspects of using the CycleProGo app with the self-paced couples?

To be honest, it makes it much easier to mentor. I can literally do it anywhere at any time. I will be waiting at the doctor’s office, and I can be looking over someone’s chart and sending feedback. For example, I have one self-paced student who was very new to charting and she was not inputting all the necessary data and was confused. I was able to see immediately what she was missing and let her know that she should be checking quantity and quality of the mucus, helping her distinguish why today was different than yesterday. We scheduled a quick phone call, and I was able to help answer her questions. As she was a self-paced student, in the past, I would probably not have had this type of opportunity to help her. With the CPG app connection, I was able to walk alongside her and mentor her through her first experience charting.

FF: For newly engaged couples or for couples new to NFP, do you find that using the CPG app with a mentor helps them learn the symptom thermo method?

Colleen: Absolutely. I think beforehand, when self-paced students would use the CPG app or paper chart on their own, they would get confused or frustrated. With someone observing them, especially for the first charts, it is an enormous help. I think many of the CCL teaching couples who are mentoring self-paced couples would be surprised at how using the CPG app to mentor is a gamechanger with their students. For new couples, using this CPG app charting dynamic with their teaching couple can make a world of difference in learning NFP in a few months.

FF: What about couples who are trying to achieve pregnancy. Do you use the CPG app mentoring to help as well?

Colleen: Yes, I have couples who are in self-paced classes learning the method to try to achieve pregnancy. I encourage them to use the CPG app and connect with me so that I can help them understand what is happening. Sometimes I will look at their chart and all the signs are there that they are expecting. It is so exciting to see, so I send them a message. I also minister and work with women who miscarry, and I can observe those signs, as well. I have one student who had PCOS, and I followed her charts on the app to help her achieve pregnancy. She had her first child and is now expecting her second. Mentoring through the CPG app has allowed me to be closer to my students and that is beautiful for me as a teacher.

If you are a teaching couple or self-paced student who is interested in learning more, contact Colleen O’Rourke and she would be happy to walk you through this type of personal mentoring using the CPG app.

Article by Colleen ORourke. Originally published in Family Foundations January 2022.