Guest Post: The First Day of Class
The old expression that you never have a second chance to make a first impression is certainly true in the classroom. I have tried several first-day-of-class strategies, ranging from briefly introducing the course and dismissing students early to spending the entire time reviewing policies and procedures. But students are never more attentive than they are on the first day of class, when they’re eager to determine what kind of professor they’re dealing with.
I make a point to be the first one to arrive and then personally greet the students as soon as they choose their seats. Instead of standing at the front of the room and calling their names, I introduce myself and ask them to tell me who they are. This also gives me a chance to ask students their nicknames as I add them to my seating chart, conveying that I am not merely taking attendance but am planning to converse with them. As I work my way through the class, I inevitably end up chatting with students, which helps put everyone at ease.
After I’ve greeted the students, I provide them with two handouts that reinforce the impressions they are forming about me and the course. The first is the course outline, which defines the course objectives, assignments, and schedule. The second describes my teaching philosophy, provides a rationale for every component of the course, and contains practical information, such as what to do if they miss a quiz.
Now I’m ready to begin the day’s lesson. I begin by writing 10 words on the board, my carefully chosen “Top 10 in 10” list, which we cover in 10 minutes. I use this opportunity to convey to my students that I genuinely love my job. I then tell them that instead of merely talking about the course, we’re going to actually dive into the material and that they’ll be actively refining their skills in every class.